Author Topic: What do you expect from a good GUI?  (Read 13153 times)

Skio

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What do you expect from a good GUI?
« on: 07 Aug 2004, 21:51 »
I was wondering.
What makes a GUI good? I always thought functionality is the secret and I believe you will agree, but what does it mean?
I think of functionality as the minimization of necessary clicks and mouse movement. The LEC GUI, for example, was really versatile and thorough, but a bit uncomfortable. The SIERRA GUI (the default of AGS) is also a bit annoying since it requires a lot of right clicks (especially if you accidentaly pass the desired command).

If I took an example from AGS games, I think the GUI of 'Uncertainty Machine' was the best (I created and use a templatebased on this), with '7 days' following. On the other hand I found 'Devil's Shroud' very annoying.

Another thing: Do you think a status bar (you know, 'USE KEY ON DOOR') helps the player or just makes the game easier?

What's your opinion?
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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #1 on: 07 Aug 2004, 22:07 »
one the best GUIs Ive used so far is the MI3, I liked that, Im working on a fully functioning template right now. I also seem to remember enjoying GK1 GUI, but I cant remember it X_X

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #2 on: 07 Aug 2004, 23:20 »
Any GUI is instantly made 100% better with the addition of a "punch" verb.

Seriously, GK1's GUI was cool cause you had different icons like "open" and "move." They weren't really used to their full potential IMO, but they weren't useless like the smell and taste icons in SQ4/SQ1VGA.

There's a fine balance between having too few options and too many useless ones. Plenty of people find "interact" or "use" too broad a function, but also, how many times did you actually use the "turn on" and "turn off" verbs in The Secret of Monkey Island?

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #3 on: 08 Aug 2004, 00:10 »
I don't think that some things are necesarily made better with a different GUI itself because gui is just a graphical representation of what you can do.

I like a visible GUI, one that you can look at your inventory and commands at all times, and something that's not intrusive. That GUI in apprentice is kind of annoying, specially because the Herculean Effort thought it was a great idea to have various exit at the bottom of the screen, where the gui pops up!

Speaking of Interact and Punch, I believe that it needs to be a command that only does what you expect it to do. Like if you click on a door, then it will open the door. If you click on a switch, it will turn on/off the switch, and so on. If you want to punch the door (for some reason or another) then have a punch button.

I'll give you a better example. say you have a football in the ground and you want to "Interact" with it. I, as the player, expect my EGO to pick it up, right? What if he kicks it instead? well, that was unexpected. Wait, I wanted to use the ball to solve some other puzzle! Now what do I do... why did I kick the ball? If you had a kick button you could have been able to kick the ball and pick it up. What if you really needed to kick it? maybe there is a reason why you can't pick it up, like some kid doesn't let you leave the location with the ball or something (in other words, avoid "I can't pick that up!"... unless you're not able to not carry it in your pants, if you're making a physically correct game, and explain why you can't pick it up, please).
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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #4 on: 08 Aug 2004, 00:29 »
Nice! I was just about to start a similar topic myself.

In his book 'Games Programming' (1984), Eric Solomon describes adventure games as games where the object of the game is to figure out the interface (discover the verbs that perform the desired actions). That was only ever true of the worst text adventures, and the adventure genre has come a long way since then. Still, that kind of thing is what bothers me most about some GUIs:

In my opinion, the primary goal of an adventure game interface should be that the interface is never the reason why the player is stuck.

So an interface should make it easy for people to do what they want to do. That means all features of the GUI should be readily apparent, and it should be clear what they all do (which I don't think was the case for 'The Uncertainty Machine'). If I can't bring up the options panel, or don't know that I can examine items in my inventory, that's not a good GUI. Some games use completely incomprehensible icons instead of command verbs (I seem to remember 'Flight of the Amazon Queen' as one). Very, very bad.

Minimizing number of clicks is less important, but still worthwhile. LEC-style interfaces should always, in my opinion, support keyboard shortcuts. Neat little features like that really smooth out the gaming experience. Here are some I wish were used more often:

 * Double-click "walk to" on an exit, and the character goes immediately to the next room. (From 'The Dig')
 * If the character is walking somewhere to perform an action, it can be interrupted by giving it a new command. (TSOMI)
 * The ability to  change text speed and skip a line of text with any button and skip a whole conversation with ESC.
 * Changing the walk speed. (Sierra)
 *(For LEC-style games) Keyboard shortcuts. Default verbs on the right mouse button.
 *Replay conversations. (Gabriel Knight)
 *Hotspot indication. (Sierra games seem to rely on the absence of this feature to compensate for having fewer interaction modes. That, to me, is cheating. It only makes puzzles harder if players can't find the interactable objects, and hunt-the-pixel is not an interesting challenge.)

I'm undecided about a "show all hotspots" feature (Simon the Sorcerer). It solves the hunt-the-pixel problem, but it also ruins the illusion by showing visually how limited the interaction is.

I do think hotspots and objects should be labeled, though. Especially if the graphics aren't the most brilliant. A status bar doesn't really matter, it doesn't really make the game any more playable, nor does it ruin any puzzles.

Some general principles:

 * If things in your inventory change on their own without direct interaction (e.g. ice melting when you walk through a reactor core), the game should explicitly tell you that. The same goes for things appearing in your inventory.
 * If there are exceptions to how things work, a demonstration/example of the principle at the beginning of the game is required. (LSL7 with the text-entry.)

I can't think of anything else right now. I would like to hear about other small but important interface innovations.
« Last Edit: 08 Aug 2004, 00:31 by Snarky »

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #5 on: 08 Aug 2004, 17:15 »
Also, if you do anything REALLY out of the ordinary, (like 5DaS's stupid right-click save menu) it should be optional.  It really wouldn't have been that hard to implement a minimal sierra OR lec GUI in that game, even if just to be less annoying.  Oh well, Yahtzee never visits anymore anyways.
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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #6 on: 09 Aug 2004, 19:38 »
* Double-click "walk to" on an exit, and the character goes immediately to the next room. (From 'The Dig')
 * If the character is walking somewhere to perform an action, it can be interrupted by giving it a new command. (TSOMI)
 * The ability to  change text speed and skip a line of text with any button and skip a whole conversation with ESC.

1st. Full Throttle also. I find this very usefull, in big dull rooms especially.
2nd. I'm working on this style, I find it really usefull too.
3rd. I have 1 and 2 in every game I have made, very usefull features as they are. About 3, I'm not sure if you can do this with dialogs which have options in AGS, but read-only dialogs can be skipped, if the author bothers to make it so. It's not hard.

* If there are exceptions to how things work, a demonstration/example of the principle at the beginning of the game is required. (LSL7 with the text-entry.)

Any relation to in-game help?

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #7 on: 09 Aug 2004, 19:59 »
I think the Handiest GUI I've ever come across was Lure of the Temptress, Which was like a personalized Verbcoin you clicked on something and to the left up came a Menu with appropriate actions, It allowed you to do a lot more.
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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #8 on: 09 Aug 2004, 22:10 »
Re: status bar

I think a status bar that just tells you what buttons you've pressed ("Use switch", "Use knife on wall") is mostly pointless, but when it has some variety ("Throw switch", "Carve name on wall") it can add to a game, even if only in comedy value (III Spy's "Fumble with locked door" is a favourite of mine).  Either way, it's an optional extra, rather than a necessity, unless your interact/inventory graphics are particularly incomprehensible.  ;)

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #9 on: 10 Aug 2004, 19:05 »
I think the Handiest GUI I've ever come across was Lure of the Temptress

I didn't like Lure of the Temptress's GUI at all I'm afraid it was over complicated. The only GUI worse than it was the one in that classic of classics Return to Zork. But that game allowed you to throw all of your inventory into a river.

I'm also not a particular fan of the status line except for comedy purposes, as Bagpuss pointed out.

And when Bagpuss goes to sleep ... All his friends take his stuff

I think the most important thing is to make the interface intuitive. A freeware game called TeenAgent has the right mouse button as activate/talk and it feels really unnatural.


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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #10 on: 10 Aug 2004, 19:52 »
i think the best AGS interface i've seen so far is the one in 7 days a skeptic. almost every other AGS game i've played isn't anywhere near as good as this.

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #11 on: 10 Aug 2004, 20:16 »
I thought not necessarily the actual GUI in LotT but the Idea of it, It had lots of potential to increase the amount of possible actions, Would be murder to script or everything though.
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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #12 on: 11 Aug 2004, 10:21 »
One thing that I consider very important, is allowing the user to click through text. I remember that I deleted Cirque de Zale because it doesn't allow that, and it gets annoying really fast if you have to wait for the character to finish speaking every time.

Similarly, use StartCutScene whenever the player has to wait more than ten seconds for anything.

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #13 on: 11 Aug 2004, 15:06 »
Huh? o_O Cirque de Zale DOES allow clicking through text.

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #14 on: 11 Aug 2004, 15:53 »
I think the best GUI was in the QFG series, because you could sleep, cast spells, run, sneak, tell what time it is, and then all the basic ones like walk, do, look, and talk.
The second best would be the SQ4 GUI, becuase you could taste and smell. ;)
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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #15 on: 11 Aug 2004, 16:14 »
I think the best interface has few options. When you have identified the object you want to interact with you shouldn't need to try different verbs for something to happen. I'm pretty pleased with the GUI I made for my game, the Crypt. left MB = walk, right MB= look/examine and Doubleclick left MB = interact/use. What I could have done better would be to use a status bar indicating what objects were clickable and not instead of just making the pointer flash as I did.

The exit on double click is a sweet function, long transportation times between places sucks arse.

Can anyone explain the benefits of the verb coin GUI? I find it very annoying, atleast when it's made like in FT and MI3 when you have to hold the mouse button pressed. I remember slipping on the mouse button causing "talk to/eat" instead of "pick up/use" and so on. Is there any games using a verb coin that stays up until the mouse leaves the GUI area?

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #16 on: 13 Aug 2004, 16:24 »
Huh? o_O Cirque de Zale DOES allow clicking through text.

Oops, I must have meant some other game then. I downloaded about a dozen to try out, then deleted most of them, and am still playing Garfield and Larry Vales.

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #17 on: 13 Aug 2004, 17:50 »
mätzyboy, instead of having left click walk and double-left click interact, simply let single left click do both. If you click on nothing you walk, if you click on something you interact. This obviously means you must ditch pointless hotspots such as walls or chairs you can't do anything with anyway, and must provide a feedback so the player knows the mouse is over a hotspot.

Broken Sword 1 and 2 used this method and it works great.

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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #18 on: 13 Aug 2004, 19:06 »
A few related Peeves from me:

    -No Custom Cursors and Character art

No matter how good the rest of it may be, these things seperate it from a great game, and a game that didn't have a lot of effort put into it.

    -Like it's been said before, no-skip speech.

I read really fast. :P

     -(Big one) Having a long, non-skipable intro before you reach the "Load-Start" screen.

Aaackkk, now I know the real Perils of Poom!

mätzyboy, instead of having left click walk and double-left click interact, simply let single left click do both. If you click on nothing you walk, if you click on something you interact.

matzyboy:
If you want to do what Esseb said,  I made a script for someone that I still have.  I could give it to you if you are interested.

Oops, I must have meant some other game then. I downloaded about a dozen to try out, then deleted most of them, and am still playing Garfield and Larry Vales.

radiant:
Were you thinking of No-Action Jackson?

I think the best GUI is 7DAS.  I'm trying to figure the scripting out right now :P
« Last Edit: 13 Aug 2004, 19:12 by releasethefrogs »
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Re: What do you expect from a good GUI?
« Reply #19 on: 13 Aug 2004, 19:10 »
Probably not as you can click through text in it.