Combat ship placement mockup

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The Silent One
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Combat ship placement mockup

#1 Post by The Silent One » Wed Nov 29, 2006 5:22 pm

IMHO, the v0.4 design pad ( http://www.freeorion.org/index.php/0.4_Design_Pad ) contains enough information to begin the combat interface design. I've made a first mockup for the ship placement phase:

Image

At the botton of the picture is the ship placement bar where you can browse through your fleets, select individual ships (red border) and place them in the proximity of planets or star lanes (blue blobs). A circle indicates the avaiable area for placement. Once a ship is placed its icon is faded out. Right-Clicking ships removes them from the combat screen and they can be placed again.
As soon as all ships are placed, the placement is finished by clicking the 'done' button.

Suggestions?

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Geoff the Medio
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#2 Post by Geoff the Medio » Thu Nov 30, 2006 4:52 am

Avoid planning to use the right mouse button for a primary function. It's fine for context menus or popups, but (for example) right click to remove a ship from the map isn't very intuitive. (And some users don't have multi-button mice.)

Otherwise, is breaking down ships by fleet necessarily the best way to organize them? It might be better to have a big list of them, which can be sorted or categorized by ship type (of whatever classification is deemed relevant, eg. size, weapon type, etc.). If the ships of a fleet aren't going to be kept together at the start of a battle, which you seem to assume is the case, then why is what fleet they were in on the galaxy map the primary organization criteria?

If we did require ships to be placed with the rest of their fleet, there would be no real need to place individual ships. In this case, we'd just list fleets to be placed, not ships (though would provide info about the ships in the fleet, to aide deciding where to place the fleet).

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#3 Post by The Silent One » Thu Nov 30, 2006 11:53 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:Avoid planning to use the right mouse button for a primary function. It's fine for context menus or popups, but (for example) right click to remove a ship from the map isn't very intuitive. (And some users don't have multi-button mice.)
Left-Clicking again would be another possibility. (Note that moving fleets is also done by right-clicking.)
Geoff the Medio wrote:Otherwise, is breaking down ships by fleet necessarily the best way to organize them? It might be better to have a big list of them, which can be sorted or categorized by ship type (of whatever classification is deemed relevant, eg. size, weapon type, etc.).
Something like this?

Image
Geoff the Medio wrote:If the ships of a fleet aren't going to be kept together at the start of a battle, which you seem to assume is the case, then why is what fleet they were in on the galaxy map the primary organization criteria?
The reason why I made the original fleet the primary organisation criteria is that the player may have put together the fleet with their tactical role in battle in mind. Nonetheless, I agree that a list might be a more efficient way to organize the players forces.
Geoff the Medio wrote:If we did require ships to be placed with the rest of their fleet, there would be no real need to place individual ships. In this case, we'd just list fleets to be placed, not ships (though would provide info about the ships in the fleet, to aide deciding where to place the fleet).
Since you will be able to control individual ships, I assumed it might also be appropiate to place ships individually. Maybe we can get an official decision on this?

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#4 Post by utilae » Thu Nov 30, 2006 6:31 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote: (And some users don't have multi-button mice.)
If they don't have a mouse with two buttons they can go out and buy one.

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Re: Combat ship placement mockup

#5 Post by Geoff the Medio » Thu Nov 30, 2006 7:59 pm

The Silent One wrote:At the botton of the picture is the ship placement bar where you can browse through your fleets, select individual ships (red border) and place them in the proximity of planets or star lanes (blue blobs). A circle indicates the avaiable area for placement. Once a ship is placed its icon is faded out. Right-Clicking ships removes them from the combat screen and they can be placed again.
As soon as all ships are placed, the placement is finished by clicking the 'done' button.
I'm unclear how this would work. After you select a ship, presumably by clicking on it in the list of ships, how do you place it on the map? One possibility is to select the placement location first, then click, double click or check a box to indicate all the ships you want to place at that location. Another is to manually drag the ship icon from the list onto the location on the map where you'd like it to be deployed. You could also drag the ship from one deployed location directly to another, or back onto the list of ships to undeploy. Double clicking or clicking a remove icon next to the ship icon on the map or on the list could also work.
Something like this?
That's roughly the idea, though seeing it, I'm again reminded that such lists are rather unattractive. I'd like to use icons or actual rendered images to represent ships, if possible, particularly if dragging and dropping will be the primary means of doing deployment (you need something iconic to represent the ship to make dragging intuitive). Icons make it difficult to give much information about multiple ships simultaneously though. We can show details about the selected ship in a separate detail panel similar to what you've done, but comparison between several ships isn't so easy. Likely we could have both the text/numbers list, and icons... If the player dragged a list entry, it'd turn into the icon similar to what would be dragged from the icons view. We can also depict some information in the appearance of the ship's icon, particularly with regard to size, and likely damage and some basic weapons systems info, and can sort the icons similar to sorting a list, according to various criteria.

Nitpick: I'd call the first two columns "Ship" or "Name", and "Fleet", not "Fleet Name".

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Re: Combat ship placement mockup

#6 Post by The Silent One » Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:45 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:After you select a ship, presumably by clicking on it in the list of ships, how do you place it on the map? One possibility is to select the placement location first, then click, double click or check a box to indicate all the ships you want to place at that location.
I'd say the player first selects the ships by clicking and then clicks on the desired location on the battle map again. In contrast to drag&drop, you don't have to hold the mouse button down while you choose the ship's location.
Geoff the Medio wrote:That's roughly the idea, though seeing it, I'm again reminded that such lists are rather unattractive.(...) Likely we could have both the text/numbers list, and icons...
I agree, that seems to be the best approach. Here's a mockup with a list that looks visually more appealing, but at the same time keeps its functionality:

Image

Still, all this is pretty useless if we place fleets as a whole.

[EDIT]

And here's an alternate version with less information:

Image

Line breaks could divide fleets (so in this example, fleet1 and fleet2 would consist of 8 ships).

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#7 Post by eleazar » Sat Dec 02, 2006 2:52 pm

It seems pretty obvious from the decisions stated in this thread, that there's a practical limit on the number of ships the player will be able to independantly control. Therefor there will either be an artifical limit on the number or ships in battle at any point, or (more popularly) ships will be conbined into fleets.

I would strongly recommend that the player can reassign ships between fleets or "create" new fleets at will as part of the battle set-up. Otherwise you strategy will be too much constrained by the groups in which ships happed to arrive in a system.


I don't think only one view mode will be adequate to present the relavant information, make it easy to rearrange ships between fleets, and to lay your team out on the battlefield.

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#8 Post by Impaler » Sat Dec 02, 2006 7:12 pm

How about this idea, the player can place some number of "fleet markers" on the battlefield equal to this control limit (how ever that limit is determined, be it a hard cap or some other value it will be a known value at this phase). The markers just apear as circles with numbers on them and at first do not contain ships. (Orforse for convenience throwing a raw ship on the map will create a marker if any are avalible, if none are avalible raw ships cant be placed this way)

The players ship pool can be much in excess of the number of fleet markers they control. All ships must then be assigned to a fleet-marker which can be done by either drag and drop onto fleet-markers or pop up window along the lines of the current fleet-managment which also allows viewing of the ships currently in each marker. The whole marker and all ships in it can be moved around or merged at will and markers can be removed/deleted which returns any ships assigned to it to the common pool. The player is free to use as many (up to the cap) as they desire. Once all the ships in the common pool are assigned the confirmation button is activated and the player may end the placement phase.
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#9 Post by eleazar » Sat Dec 02, 2006 10:19 pm

Impaler wrote:How about this idea, the player can place some number of "fleet markers" on the battlefield equal to this control limit (how ever that limit is determined, be it a hard cap or some other value it will be a known value at this phase). The markers just apear as circles with numbers on them and at first do not contain ships. (Orforse for convenience throwing a raw ship on the map will create a marker if any are avalible, if none are avalible raw ships cant be placed this way)

The players ship pool can be much in excess of the number of fleet markers they control. All ships must then be assigned to a fleet-marker which can be done by either drag and drop onto fleet-markers or pop up window along the lines of the current fleet-managment which also allows viewing of the ships currently in each marker. The whole marker and all ships in it can be moved around or merged at will and markers can be removed/deleted which returns any ships assigned to it to the common pool. The player is free to use as many (up to the cap) as they desire. Once all the ships in the common pool are assigned the confirmation button is activated and the player may end the placement phase.
Some good ideas, but i don't see the benefit of being able to create empty fleet markers. It seems more straight-forward to create them (up to the max limit) by placing fleets or ships on the map.

Don't forget that most ships will already be members of fleets. Much of the time these fleets will be the ones the player wants to use in battle.

Perhaps to avoid confusion we need different terms for the control-groups in the battle screen, and the groups of ships thrown together to make moving them around the galaxy convenient. It may be even be good if a travel-group can contain multiple battle-groups.

I think "fleet" should indicate a group that travels together, and "battle-group" (or something better) should indicate the individually controllable aggregate of ships in battle.

I might configure my invincible armada of conquest before hand into battle-groups. Then i throw them together into a fleet, and cruise toward the enemy, with one action. I might need to reassign ships between battle-groups to compensate for losses, but for most battles the set-up will be quick and efficient, as i strike down system after system. :twisted:

On the other hand, in the desperate defence of a core world, i'll probably be bringing in small groups of ships from numerous locations. There may be more fleets than allowable battlegroups, so a heavy reorganization will be neccesary, if i'm to have a chance. The resulting battle-group may have no resemblance to the original fleets.

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#10 Post by Impaler » Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:00 pm

Orforse for convenience throwing a raw ship on the map will create a marker if any are avalible, if none are avalible raw ships cant be placed this way
THe player dosen't have to create empty groups unless they want to (presumably their planning ware to deplay and are selecting the location before they deside which ships go ware). The player could simply throw down their giant SOD fleet at the map and it imediatly becomes a "battle-group" press Done and start fighting. Fleet groupings exist before the placement phase and continue to exist after the battle. The player can chose to drop each fleet on the map as a battle-group or break them up and do various combinations. In any case the Battle-groupings dont effect the underlying Fleet assignments, the two groupings are totaly independent. After battle the ships return to their original fleets for galaxy map movment and the battle-groups esentialy disapear (their might be some means of "saving" the grouping for re-use though)
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#11 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:15 pm

I don't see any need to place battle-groups separately from ships... it could be done automatically:

* Ships are moved around and assigned to groups by drag-dropping.

* From the list at the bottom, multiple ships or a single ship can be selected and drag-dropped to the desired location.

* Simialarly, multiple ships or a single ship in an existing group can be selected and dragged out of their existing group.

* Dropping in a location where there are no other ships / groups creates a new battle group containing the dropped ships.

* Dropping onto a preexisting battle group adds or transfers the dropped ships to the dropped-onto group.

* Dragging onto the list at the bottom of the screen removes ships from their current group and puts them back into the list-limbo.

* Dragging all the ships out of a group removes that group.

Regarding drag drop vs. multiple clicks, I think drag-drop is easier and more intuitive. You get a better sense of physically moving the ships around, rather than clicking and having them jump instantly. I also don't see how clicking twice is less work than drag-dropping, and we already move ships around in the galaxy map fleet windows by drag-dropping, so it would be consistent.

There should probably also be a list of battle groups at the bottom, which the player can add or remove ships from by dragging. Perhaps it should also be possible to drag a whole battle group off the map without destroying the battle group. The group could remain on the list at the bottom, ready to be redeployed instantly as a whole, and still able to accept new dropped ships, which are dropped onto the group icon at the bottom.

There should also be a battle group contents display at the bottom, so that if a battle group is selected, on the map or on the list of battle groups, the ships in it are listed. This could also be indicated right on the list of ships, by grouping them according to battle group, as I believe has been suggested, though a separate list of groups might be useful...

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#12 Post by eleazar » Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:40 pm

Geoff: Lots of sensible and practical points.

I would like to refine the following ideas:
Geoff the Medio wrote:There should probably also be a list of battle groups at the bottom, which the player can add or remove ships from by dragging. Perhaps it should also be possible to drag a whole battle group off the map without destroying the battle group. The group could remain on the list at the bottom, ready to be redeployed instantly as a whole, and still able to accept new dropped ships, which are dropped onto the group icon at the bottom.
I think it would be simplest, if all available ships stayed in the same list. Ships and groups that haven't been placed would be "greyed out" or indicated in some other obvious way. So a player can drag and drop directly from and to different parts of the list. I think one of the view modes should be a list of fleets/battle-groups with the contents revealable or hideable in the same list. The player may want to see the contents of two battle groups to more easily swap ships between them.

Edit: i'm afraid i'm describing the list very badly. I'll have to do a comp latter.

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#13 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sat Dec 02, 2006 11:47 pm

I'm thinking of something similar to the galaxy map fleets window, except we'd put ships into battle groups instead of fleets.

Dragging only within a single list can be problematic if there are too many ships to fit on one screen. This requires scrolling while dragging, which is either impossible due to engine limitations, or cumbersome for the user. Thus having a separate list of groups, like the separate list of fleets on the fleets window, is preferred.

Is it necessary to have ships be assigned/unassigned? We could just have all ships always be in a group, similar to how ships are always in a fleet in the fleets window. We could also start the deployment process with the omni-group already deployed, so that the player can just hit "OK" immediately if so desired, or go about dragging and dropping to make new groups.

We could also allow the player to set up rules to pre-group his/her ships, rather than always defaulting to a single big group at the start of deployment. Rules could be to group all ships of a particular "type" together, or into groups of size X, or into Y groups total. There could also be preconfigured types of battle groups with 2 of ship A, 4 of ship B, 1 ship D, etc. which the enginge would try to make as many of as possible.

Having fixed (not autogenerated from available ships) preconfigured groups that are distinct from fleets sounds good, but I'm skeptical it could be done well. If fleets are always moving around to different systems, groups that combine ships from different fleets are going to be awkward at best. Thus some sort of automatic grouping rule system would be better, as above.

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#14 Post by eleazar » Sun Dec 03, 2006 2:19 am

Remember i believe that there should be more than one way to view the fleet for precombat set-up. I'm not suggesting that any one type of list is best in all situations.
I don't have time to do some mock-ups now.
Geoff the Medio wrote:Having fixed (not autogenerated from available ships) preconfigured groups that are distinct from fleets sounds good, but I'm skeptical it could be done well. If fleets are always moving around to different systems, groups that combine ships from different fleets are going to be awkward at best. Thus some sort of automatic grouping rule system would be better, as above.
I'm not proposing that battle-groups be independent of fleets, but that they be subdivisions of fleets. The battle-groups configured in pre-battle should (assuming survivors) persist afterwards and be viewable/configurable in the current galaxy-map fleet window. Of course, an entire fleet (which theoretically might be a single ship) could also be a single battle-group.

I suspect that many a good battle-group will be composed of various types of ships, especially with advanced players. Therefore i'm skeptical that an automated grouping rule system is the best way to create battle-groups, though it may be useful, especially if the player has hundreds of ships.

I didn't propose that fixed battle-groups should be unchangable or would never need to be changed. But if, the player carefully configures his battlegroups a certain way, conquers a system, and then moves on to the next, there's no sane reason the game should make him reconfigure the battle-groups again each turn as long as the fleet lasts. The previous battle-groupings of a fleet should be the default for the next battle, as much as possible.

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#15 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sun Dec 03, 2006 2:29 am

eleazar wrote:I'm not proposing that battle-groups be independent of fleets, but that they be subdivisions of fleets.
Does that imply that battle groups can't contain ships from more than one fleet?
The battle-groups configured in pre-battle should (assuming survivors) persist afterwards and be viewable/configurable in the current galaxy-map fleet window. Of course, an entire fleet (which theoretically might be a single ship) could also be a single battle-group.
The survivors issue is a reason I want to have autogenerated battle groups, rather than groups that persist between battles that contain specific individual ships. The idea would be go have the group defined in terms of certain numbers of certain ship types, and the game would create the group according to those specifications, taking from all available ships in a battle, regardless of what fleet they're from. This way, if in a battle a group loses half it's ships, those ships are automatically regrouped into equivalent new battle groups for the next battle without the player having to do so manually.
I suspect that many a good battle-group will be composed of various types of ships, especially with advanced players. Therefore i'm skeptical that an automated grouping rule system is the best way to create battle-groups, though it may be useful, especially if the player has hundreds of ships.
The autogenerated groups would use rules that allow more than one type of ship in a group. It's not just groups of X number of ships, all of the same type.
I didn't propose that fixed battle-groups should be unchangable or would never need to be changed. But if, the player carefully configures his battlegroups a certain way, conquers a system, and then moves on to the next, there's no sane reason the game should make him reconfigure the battle-groups again each turn as long as the fleet lasts. The previous battle-groupings of a fleet should be the default for the next battle, as much as possible.
This is essentially how I'm envisioning it to work, except that the battle groups wouldn't contain specific individual ships, but just certain numbers of certain types of ships. The available groups would be created dynamically according to specifications for what types f ships should be in a group, according to how many ships are available. The player wouldn't have to reconfigure anything, as the game would autogenerate as many battle groups of the composition requested on its own.

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