Frozen Synapse UI Improvements

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Paul
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Location: Oxford

Frozen Synapse UI Improvements

Postby Paul » Wed Jun 15, 2016 2:53 pm

Hello,

We're looking at trying to make some improvements to the Frozen Synapse UI in FS2.

This is a difficult topic: Frozen Synapse is a very complex game; some elements of UI design are subjective; making changes to our UI is difficult and time consuming.

So, please don't take it as a negative if we don't manage to incorporate your feedback.

I'd like to know what you find difficult to do in the game, both in-game and in the menus, what you find fiddly especially. Feel free to post anything you want, but in general flagging up problems is a lot more useful to us than suggesting solutions.

Thanks for taking the time to do this.

I'm sorry we haven't been active much on the forums - a lot of our attention has been on the Steam Community recently - I'm trying to rectify that at the moment so please bear with us.
Paul Kilduff-Taylor

Mode 7 Games
Gandalf8
Posts: 45
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2014 3:14 pm

Re: Frozen Synapse UI Improvements

Postby Gandalf8 » Tue Jul 19, 2016 9:44 pm

Hi Paul,

hmm, still no reply to your question after more than a month? Maybe you paid too much attention to the Steam Community -- and too few to this forum ... :( ... moreover, it may not have been the best of motivations to start your call by pointing out that you may not incorporate the feedback, though that is quite natural. :)

That said, back to your request. I'll start with the menus; will try adding about the game handling later. So what's "fiddly"? What is "difficult to do"? What can be improved?

  • First of all, the usage of the available screen space. Everyone's got a wide screen nowadays, but FS sticks to 800x600 resolution. This waste of available screen space makes most menus unnecessarily crowded and unclear.
  • Some windows cannot be enlarged, or it is not obvious how to do it. The chat window, for instance, is ridiculously small, which makes typing and following a discussion difficult.
  • The colour scheme may look stylish at first, but the plain blue & white look doesn't provide much help for the human eye. Spending some additional colours may improve the look greatly.
  • There's no clear menu structure in your UI. Buttons seem to be everywhere where there was some screen space left over, instead of always at the top, or always at the left.
  • Almost the entire interface is labelled; you have to read everything. Some icons might help a lot here.
  • Scroll bars, like all other controls in your interface, are narrow resp. small and thus hard to hit. The mouse wheel helps in many cases, but not always.
  • Apart from the "overall" help button in the top left corner of the screen, there's no help at all. No tool tips on mouse over, no context help, nothing. If you're uncertain what a control does, you'll have to find out by using it.
OK, that's it for now. Next time, I'll try adding some typical use cases that aren't supported all too well.

Regards, Gandalf8
User avatar
Paul
Posts: 685
Joined: Fri Mar 24, 2006 8:33 pm
Location: Oxford

Re: Frozen Synapse UI Improvements

Postby Paul » Wed Jul 20, 2016 10:28 am

Thanks for this - yeah, users have generally moved over to the Steam forum - we're looking at ways to improve this one as well.

We'll certainly have a larger min res for FS2 and I'm looking at using icons with mouseover more in the menus in order to save space.

Anyway, thanks once again - that's all noted.
Paul Kilduff-Taylor

Mode 7 Games
Gandalf8
Posts: 45
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2014 3:14 pm

Re: Frozen Synapse UI Improvements

Postby Gandalf8 » Sat Aug 13, 2016 9:11 pm

Hi Paul,

as announced previously, today I'll start with listing other things which are difficult to do in Frozen Synapse. I'll do this in a "use case" driven approach, i.e. strictly from the user's perspective. Topics will be listed without any particular order, just as they come to mind.

Use Case #1: Watching games from someone else's match history
Motivation: Learn about people's play styles (know your enemy :) )

This is an astonishingly time consuming process. After login, you have to
- click the search icon;
- enter the player name, then click the search button;
- click on "Match History";
- in the list of games, scroll to the one you want to view, and finally
- double click the list entry to actually view it.

So far, so good. But if you want to view the next game of the same player from his history now, then what? You actually have to start over, i.e. click on "Main Menu", then follow the same procedure like before. The only thing that is preserved is the player's name you typed in before. The game list just blinks, then disappears; you have to reload it from the server (depending on how busy it is, this may take a while). When it is finally there again, you have to scroll back down to your previous position. The further down (i.e. the farther back in time) you go, the more tedious this becomes.

Things that cannot be done at all in this context, but seem quite obvious: Filter the list by a couple of criteria. OK; you can filter by "Favourites" (usually yields an (almost) empty list) and "Active". But what about "Game Mode"? What about "Opponent"? What about "Score"? All of these "natural" candidates for filtering options aren't available. By the way, had you used any standard toolkit for your interface, then this feature would most probably be available for free, because then the table would be sortable by clicking on any of the column headers. Clicking it a second time would reverse the sort order; clicking a third time might remove the sorting again. Oh, but I'm already talking about solutions; you, however, wanted problems. :lol: So I'll stop here ...

Regards, Gandalf8
Gandalf8
Posts: 45
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2014 3:14 pm

Re: Frozen Synapse UI Improvements

Postby Gandalf8 » Tue Sep 06, 2016 10:30 pm

Hi Paul,

Use Case #2: Order a unit to penetrate a wall
Motivation: Take the shortest route possible during combat

OK; obviously, a unit can not walk through a wall. Unless, of course, it will be blown away in time by a rocket (the wall, not the unit :lol:). If that rocket was fired by myself, I will be able to predict exactly when this wall will disappear, and can plan my unit's path accordingly.

Due to FS's automated path planner, which automatically circumvents all obstacles that are still in place, this again is quite a difficult task.
You have to
- walk the unit towards the wall;
- place the target waypoint on the other side, and finally
- delete all the intermediate waypoints generated by the automatic path finding algorithm.

With this procedure, you'll end up with a path that actually leads through the wall. Difficult enough. However, if you want to adapt the path later on, the pathfinding algorithm will interfere once more, and you'll have to repeat the aforementioned procedure to restore the desired trajectory.

Idea for a potential solution: Shift-clicking resp. shift-dragging a waypoint might disable the automatic pathfinding algorithm.

Regards, Gandalf8
Gandalf8
Posts: 45
Joined: Fri Apr 25, 2014 3:14 pm

Re: Frozen Synapse UI Improvements

Postby Gandalf8 » Sat Oct 22, 2016 1:17 pm

Hi Paul,

Use Case #3: Order a unit to execute a sequence of commands repeatedly
Motivation: Peek around a corner while keeping moving

In close quarters, I frequently want some of my units to execute a sequence of commands repeatedly, like e.g. peeking around a corner, firing (if someone is in range), then flee back into cover. FS currently has no comfortable support for doing this; you have to click the desired sequence of commands over and over again. The shorter the ways are, the more often you have to do it in order to fill the five seconds turn time limit. In close quarters, this becomes increasingly painful, because waypoints stack over one another, making it difficult to access individual parts of the "loop". Introducing layers doesn't really help, either; they partly help in distinguishing the loops, but a) don't prevent having to repeat the commands and b) are not particularly easy to handle, either. Very often, I end up with an impenetrable mess of waypoints and have to start over.

In this situation, introducing some kind of "loop" concept would help: Basically, two new commands (namely "Start loop" and "Stop loop") would do the job; in this way, the given sequence of commands would be carried out indefinitely (usually until the end of the turn). Optionally, introduction of a loop counter would perfect the extension.

Regards, Gandalf8

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