Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Improving Usability

It’s pretty clear from the tons of great feedback I got that GSB has an initial-learning curve and usability problem regarding designing ships and seeing the effects of them. I’ve already been trying to address this with adding damage feedback indicators to the game (see here). I think that will make a big difference. It’s also clear that the ship design screen could do with some work. One of the ‘improvements’ has been there for ages, but it’s not very well promoted, so you might have missed it. And if you played the original beta or demo, it wasn’t there, and you really should try it again:

Here is a screenshot showing recent changes:

A) Shows that a lot more modules are now locked at the start of the game. People found the choice overwhelming, and to be honest, you aren’t going to absolutely need an EMP gun or light plasma launchers to beat the tutorial, so they are now locked. When the game patches, it will now lock those modules, but existing players will have plenty of surplus honor to re-unlock them right away. This should make things look less scary for people trying the demo or just starting out.

B) Is the feature that has been in for ages but isn’t well known. Its the module-comparison dialog. Clicking any line of data about the selected module will open this window, with a sorted list of every module with that attribute, and highlight where the current module stands. Great for working out whether this modules missile speed (jnt his case) is slow or fast relative to other module choices. This feature is really handy. Its also launchable from other screens where the same module data is visible, like the unlocking screen.

C) Is a new item on this ‘ship stats’ window at the bottom. (In lower res layouts, this is a seperate pop-up window launched by a button in the corner of the blueprint). This shows shield resistance, as well as strength. These are very different things, and you may want to pritoritize resistance over strength, in some cases.

D) Tooltips! These explain those stats, which are probably confusing everyone. This stuff is in the manual, and hinted at in the tooltips for module data, but it’s much more useful to have it here, when you can see those numbers next to the design that they apply to.

This isn’t the end of usability improvements, I aim to add a bunch more, although they will probably be quite minor, and relate to tutorial windows and so on. Hopefully, by the time the next patch (1.41) goes out, the game will be far more attractive to new players. I’m kind of playing a ‘long game’ with GSB. I normally move on to the next game quicker than this, but I love working on GSB and I’d like the game to reach its full potential.

12 thoughts on Improving Usability

  1. I have indeed overlooked B). It’s a shame it’s not a little more obvious/intuitive for the player. It’s not rocked science but it does seem easy to overlook. I’ll definitely make use of that feature now that I know it’s there. :)

  2. Love to hear about such improvements. I bought GSB back when it was beta, but couldn’t progress much due to the steep learning curve. Now that I know the next update will be much more playable, I would definitely try again.

    Keep up your good work. I admire your ability to work on updates non-stop yet still having time to communicate with your customers.

  3. THANK YOU! I’ve been looking for this comparison sheet for ages, but never found it. Now that I know… it will be REALLY useful… but wait a sec, when I get the new patch, will all my ship designs that use some of the locked modules get deleted? I worked hard on those things ;_;

  4. More accessibility is always good. Sounds like asking why people don’t buy things is something that games companies should do more often…

    Also, yeah, if people didn’t see it then it isn’t obvious enough :)

  5. I don’t think any designs will be deleted, you just wouldn’t be able to re-use those modules in new designs until you unlock them.

  6. Yeah your designs dont go away but the modules wont be selectable, got me a bit baffled cause i hadnt played for a while.

  7. Subject: Hull selection.

    I’m still waiting for the hull selector to be filtered by the currently selected race. It’s getting increasingly absurd that I have to scroll up and down a lot to browse an increasingly large list of ship hulls.

    Icons for ship hulls instead of text would help too. As would filtering by hull class. The Modules, Fleet HQ unlocks and completed hulls for selection in fleet deployment all use icons. Why is the ship hull selection still a text list?

  8. It would be nice to have filtering for race, both in designs and hull selectors.

  9. While we are talking about usability .. another suggestion …

    Is there any way you could allow the font size to be scaled up at higher resolutions ?

    I like to play GSB on my TV in full high def glory (1920×1080), but at that resolution it’s very hard to read the fonts.

  10. Is it just me or is B, C not available in the demo?

    Also you mentionned adding more end-game stats to GSB in your blog (, yet, in the demo, I was never able to get to see them… O_O’

    Big cheer for you for trying up to improve your game by listening to the user’s input!

  11. What about armor?
    Rename “average armor” to “[initial]armor resistance”.
    And add armor strength that shows armor total hitpoints like shields.
    what you think?

  12. I discovered B, the comparison dialog, by accident one day, and have been addicted to it ever since!

    One specific suggestion: Remove obsolete module designs from the choices. When you unlock an “advanced” module, get rid of the “basic” version. After all, today’s modern space marines don’t fire yesterday’s muskets!

    Make that change would also introduce a mini-tech tree effect and give players a feeling of progression as they move through the campaign and gained more honor.

    I’m really glad to see you’re working on the ship design screen. The choices can be overwhelming, and it’s only later — after deploying the ships and witnessing the results of the battle — do you get any idea whether the load-out was effective. Reducing the length of that feedback loop will go a long way toward making the game more playable.

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