Freitag, 19. September 2008

Klaus: UI development

Hi, I'm Klaus Meyer, one of the programmers at Egosoft, mainly involved in interface programming for X3: Terran Conflict. I've been a great fan of the X games since X: Beyond the Frontier, and started working for Egosoft in 2002, during the development of X2: The Threat. Almost at the same time I also started studying computer science, so my working times have been pretty irregular since then. Ironically, a few months ago I had to suspend my work on the user interface to take an exam on user interface design. But don't worry, that doesn't mean that the UI in Terran Conflict is only half-finished. ;)

The new UI concept that you can see in X3: Terran Conflict was designed by one of our artists, Christian Vogel, and implemented by Michael (aka BurnIt!) and myself. At first we were unsure if we should implement it since it's a radical change compared to X3: Reunion... but after all, X3: Terran Conflict is more than just an add-on, and the improvements over X3: Reunion are so enormous that we just had to try it.

In X3: Reunion there are three separate menu systems that have evolved over time: The big standard menus, the so-called quick menus at the bottom, and the icon menus in HUD and in the sector map. For X3: Terran Conflict the standard menu system has been overhauled and the rest has been replaced by the sidebar and context menus. You will also find that there is no such thing as a big "ship menu" or a "station menu" any more, which have been rather central menus in past X games. Now ships, stations, and other objects "only" have unified context menus, which allows for much quicker interaction.

Another important change is the new mouse control. You can steer your ship by pressing the left
mouse button in space and keeping it pressed while the ship turns towards the mouse cursor. This steering method is known from the game Freelancer and works very well - that way it's possible to play the game almost completely with the mouse: The scroll wheels adjust the ship's speed, and you fire your lasers with the right mouse button. The lasers will even fire towards the mouse cursor! But on the other hand, in this case you'll have to live without the Auto Aim feature. If you don't want to keep the left button pressed all the time, you can turn the cursor flight mode on and off permanently with the space bar. (Some playtesters prefer the scroll wheel button - of course you can customize the controls.)

It's still possible to disable the mouse cursor and steer the ship directly with the mouse as in earlier X games, this is what we call the classic mode. In this mode the left mouse button is also available for control mapping, in case you want to fire with the LMB.

I guess that many of you are just reading these lines in the hope of an answer to THE question: "Can I remove the sidebar?" This question pops up in many comments on in-game screenshots, so here's the answer: Yes if you play in classic mode, and optionally in cursor steering mode. Or if you disable all HUD elements for nice screenshots. You can still open the sidebar with the keyboard then - but if you play with a mouse cursor, it's always there so you can click on it. Just give it a try, it may be better than you thought.

1 Kommentar:

Karl hat gesagt…

The big question I have is, can you select muiltible units in the sector map and give them all the same command? I.E. tell a bunch of fighters to guard a M6 while the M6 is patrolling?