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

unit deployment and undocumented features

There is one big usability failing in Gratuitous Tank Battles that I need to address. It’s something even as the designer that I notice mid-battle, so it must irritate a lot of players. It’s the unit deployment bar at the bottom of the screen. It works great with 10 or less units, and functionally, it handles hundreds, because it has a scroll bar and you can also rapidly zip through it using the mouse-wheel. But it has two issues:
1) It has no specific order to the units.
2) It shows you ALL your units, you cannot filter them.
I am investigating possibly strategies for improving the usability of it, maybe including some filtering options, allowing you to ‘hide’ units on it before a battle, maybe a system that lets you put together ‘armies’ of units that you can select pre-battle, I’m not sure yet.

More interestingly, I get the impression that hardly any players have realised that you can just mouse wheel anywhere over the bar and it will scroll. I obviously need to promote that more, but I think I have fallen foul of a popular designers dilemma, which is assuming the player thinks like I do. Family members always ask me how their DVD player / ipod / camera etc work, even though they have the manual and I do not, because they know I can work it out instinctively in seconds. I am a GUI ‘explorer’ and a usability geek. I am in the tiny percentage of people who have actually read ‘the design of everyday things’. I’m that sad.
What that means is, I need to remember that I am far more experimental and make far more assumptions and guesses about how GUI’s work that the player. I need to draw more attention to stuff like that.

9 thoughts on unit deployment and undocumented features

  1. Personally, I would like to have filter toggles to show things with a bonus vs armor/shield/infantry and for units that are those things, for a total of 6 different filter options. 7, actually, since we’d need support units too maybe.

    The list itself should probably be ordered by cost?

  2. I would love folders for my unit designs, I always got overwhelmed by my creations in GSB but I never really wanted to delete them

  3. Did you read “Programming as if People Mattered”, by Nathaniel S. Borenstein? It’s dated, but funny and interesting nonetheless.

  4. – Folders for our designs would be nice (and folders that we can make for AI armies).

    – I was thinking it’d be really cool to have different deployment bars that the player could call up using the 1 through 9 keys and allow players to designate which number the unit is assigned to in the Unit Design screen. Then the player could press “1” to bring up a list of their infantry, for example, “2” for ballistic turrets, or however they wanted to assign them.

  5. I found the scroll wheel functionality, but I am a developer.

    What I would like to see as a filter is only those units I can buy right now.

  6. Like Jeff, I found the option to scroll using the scroll wheel, but also like him, I’m a developer too. For the filtering, I would love it, I have about 50 or so units already and its not the easiest to go through them. Also, like in GSB, I build templates for lots of units/towers that have somethings already set but other things empty that way I know the exact calculations for those units, but I definitely don’t want to see them in the list when I’m in-game. I think maybe a way to sort units by folders or something similar for now would be great (with the ability to hide them of course) and then in the future implement something like what quill said in an update by way of auto-folders that take all units of one “type”.

  7. I found the scroll wheel function and I am not a developer, I just assumed it would work for some reason.
    As for filtering units… I think filtering by type (mech, infantry or tank), price, or a user defined range would be great. A 2nd choice would be setting “armies”, while it adds another layer of strategy it is limiting. I already have too many experimental models to keep straight during a battle.

  8. I have used so many applications and programs where lists with sliding bars can be scrolled with mouse wheel so when I started playing GTB, it came naturally to me that I could use mouse wheel to scroll across the unit selection bar in the same way as in any other program.

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