Monday, February 17, 2014

BB53 - Blast it, Wedge, Where Are You?

Welcome to the continuing monthly EVE Blog Banters and our 53rd edition! For more details about what the blog banters are visit the Blog Banter page.

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Today's topic comes from a tweet from @erlendur in a conversation he was having with a pilot about having multiple overview tabs open in separate windows:

So that is the topic this month: The Overview. Is it sufficient? If not how can it be improved? Is there some way to replace it? Does it give too much information, or not enough? Please be creative and specific as the overview currently is the heartbeat of the GUI.

Right. The overview. Where to start? Its very complicated!

In fact doesn't that just sum up Eve? Its very complicated. When I started thinking about how we could improve the overview I realised that it wouldn't be easy simply because there are so many play-styles. Everybody needs a different overview for each style of play. My overview would be no use to a logi pilot or a ratter or a cap pilot or a miner!

My overview is actually very simple... to me. Rats and space junk are off. Blues, corp, alliance and fleet are off. Neutrals, bad standing, war targets and same militia are on. That may surprise some but current overview settings are "Same Militia/Allied Militia". Therefore if I turn Gallente off I also turn Minmatar off. With many Minmatar 'anti pirate' and with me being, well, security status challenged, I need them on the overview! I have stations, gates and the sun on, planets and moons off.

But I don't do logistics on Drack, I have an alt for that if needed. I don't fly supercaps so don't need an overview showing only battleship and bigger. I very rarely get involved with fighters or fighter-bombers. So don't need them on either. But others do. Asteroids? Well they certainly don't need to be on there for me. But they are utterly essential for other players.

But that is just the object types. For the things I want to show on my overview what information is required? What do I need to know as a minimum when murdering important internet spaceships?

Transversal Velocity

Range is obvious. Is the target is weapon/point/web/neut/drone range? Either I am attacking or I am running. In either case I need to know! But I need to read and understand what the overview is telling me. 16km? So he's in range of my point, 60% over optimal of my guns and well out of web range.

Speed is also obvious. Are they AB or MWD? How soon will they be in or out of range of my offensive modules? Am I gaining on them? Am I getting away?

Transversal velocity is important for me to know as it shows how easy the target is to hit with guns.

Militia lets me know if they might not attack me (Gallente), might attack me (Minmatar), will attack me (Amarr) or may be attack me or more likely cloak up or run away as they are triple stabbed (Caldari).

How can we make all this more simple?

Here is the issue. The overview needs massive customisation ability to suit all the play-styles, but needs to be simple to use. How the hell can we do that? Well maybe we can simplify some of the overview text or numerals.

My car (a Honda) does not have a rev counter. I have a coloured bar. When I am driving at low revs its green. When I put my foot down it changes colour to let me know my revs are getting high/ my fuel economy just went through the floor. Could something like that be used for Transversal velocity verses the tracking speed of your guns. Green means that your guns can track fine, say 90%, as it progresses to orange (60-75%) when its getting more difficult to track them and when its fully red (10%) you might as well use harsh language because you aren't going to hit them with those guns!

Militia could be faction symbols. OK its not a massive change but you don't have to read what's there, just glance. Could point, web, neut and gun/missile range be highlighted similarly? If the point symbol is green its in range, if its orange its within overheated range, it its red its out of range.

Distance is a very important thing on the overview. But why? We want to know if the ship is in point range, web range, scram range and weapon range. Could icons be used to highlight these distances so you know at a glance? Your offensive modules appear as mini icons in the overview line. Bright means 'In Range' and washed out means 'Out of range'.

Less reading? More glancing?

Mmmmm after mocking that up I'm not sure actually. But it is a start on a train of thought. My graphic skills are poor, but that's sort of an idea. Icons rather than spreadsheets with just numbers?

*And yes Wedge was the original I remember. If you are thinking Biggs, then you have been 'Lucased' by the enhanced edition.... also Han shot first!


  1. I don't have transversal visibile because I don't know tracking values of guns. If the value was colored green-orange-red depending on well my active guns can track this I might be more interested in this.
    Or if my gun tooltip showed tracking I'd eventually start remembering this value.

    1. I use transversal as a guide. Its too complicated, but 200m/s most guns can hit. 3000m/s no point etc

  2. I'd like to have a multi overviews. So you can have your main combat overview set by closest or ship type and then have a 2nd overview set by distance reversed. Then you can at a glance see what warps in or cynos in while focusing on the close stuff.

    1. I don't have enough 'screen real-estate' personally. Would that be an issue to most users?

  3. I was a bit surprised by the UI when I came to Eve from [mostly] Everquest. Not by how simple/complex it was, but by the fact that it wasn’t modifiable by the community to suit their particular needs.

    I’ve no idea how practical it would be in Eve, but in EQ it’s possible to have a modified UI to suit your personal play style. Want colours instead of numbers, or a crafting/industrialist focus, or PvP, or circles instead of squares, klingon instead of english, or… whatever? Sure, you can have whatever you want, just install your overlay, and don’t build in any automation.

    1. Excellent point. You are spot on, I wonder what would happen if the Eve O community had the power to implement custom GUI's?

    2. Yeah... I was a bit surprised at this myself. I've had arguments with friends in the past about whether a re-skinnable/scriptable UI was a necessity for a modern MMO. I was arguing it was, and frankly, 6 months playing Eve has done nothing to shake that position.

  4. Hey Mate, Just wanted to say six weeks ago I stumbled across your blog by accident and enjoyed the post so much I went back to the start of your blog and read every post. Just caught up this afternoon. I really enjoy your perspective and particularly your Fiction on Fridays. Just wanted to say congratulations for a fantastic blog and keep it up mate.

    1. Wow! That is 430 posts! Sir, I salute you :) Comments like this always bring a massive smile to my face.

  5. Colors would be bether for the fleet grunt.
    But Fc's do want the range in numbers, that would be much harder to do, if the fc screen needs to take into account all the other players, and multiply that by 'insert big fight' ... .

  6. The trouble with the "colours for tracking" idea is that your ship can have a mix of guns on it. Bad practice, yes, but you're allowed. So if you have a blaster AND railgun fit, which tracking speed should be used? I agree the overview needs to be easier to use, but it's going to be tough to find a re-design that works for everyone :)

  7. It would certainly be nice to see the overview become less of an eyesore and I totally get what you're driving at with your mock-up. I definitely like the traffic light system for trackable targets, that could be quite revolutionary.

    But I'm in two minds about just implementing those kinds of changes in the existing overview concept. Would replacing a table of text with a table of colours and icons just be a different kind of visual noise? I'd sooner see those elements redistributed onto the rest of the screen.

    Lists are for shopping, programming and massive fleet engagements. For the rank-and-file pilot, solo and small gang specialists, explorers and travellers, I'd like to think there's a more elegant way that doesn't involve the overview at all.

    1. I read yours earlier Mat. My thought was "Yes!" for small gang and solo but for a decent fight we need our shopping list. When you have 200 hostiles and you are sorting by pilot name, or ship type that list is invaluable.

    2. Definitely. Not everyone needs the shopping list though. The level of detail required could be delivered by other means to the rank and file. Certainly the decision-makers (fleet/wing/squad) and scouts would need a higher level of intel. Let the grunts fly blind and have faith in their leaders unless they wanted to sacrifice a weapon slot.