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User Interface Development

I've mentioned in a couple of threads on the messageboard, as well as here in the newsposts, that we have some new UI features under development. Unfortunately, it'll be at least a week before any of this shows up in production, but to help sate people's curiosity, I'm posting a few development mockups with explanations of the general direction. Keep in mind, these are not screenshots, the interfaces won't look exactly like this, but they'll look similar.

Ray and I are currently working on the implementation of what I've long referred to in my head as the "PDA system". The concept of a place where a lot of data that's relevant to the user is available.. and is always kept available, regardless of whether the user is docked at a station or not. This area will encompass all the current in-flight interfaces (the "u" users in sector menu, the "k" to see character info menu, the "n" nav menu) plus a lot of the current commandline functionality (groups, guild commands, etc).

The actual accessibility of the menus (like hitting "u") will not change at all, it'll still behave the same way.. hitting "u" will bring up the interface and also banish it. But, you'll optionally be able to also click over to other parts of the interface from within the conceptual "PDA" area. (Calling it a PDA is kind of lame, but it's stuck for now).

When you dock with a station, the "PDA" will still be available, and still in its place as illustrated in the mockups below. The station tabs will simply appear on the same tab area. This way, all info, mission data, user-create notes, or whatever else.. will always be accessible.

To illustrate, here's the Nearby Ships menu, aka "u". It allows you to sort based on name, faction, ship-type or distance, by clicking on the heading of the particular column. In this way, it's my hope that people will be able to easily sort through a large number of ships in a sector (like say, in a major battle) and find the one cap ship they need to go defend.. or whatever else. You'll also notice a "Proximity Warning" option at the bottom, with a distance. If enabled (it's a toggle) this will trigger an audible/visual alarm if a ship crosses that proximity threshold. In the short term, this'll be everyone.. but it's my intention to expand/change the functionality of Radar and such in the near future, so "stealth" type countermeasures will allow this feature to be bypassed by the evil pirate types.

Here's the new Mission Logs panel, which will show a history of dialogue and objectives for missions (current and past.. up to the last 32 or so). Thus, if some NPC during a mission should tell you some interesting tidbit about where to mine a particularly rare kind of ore, you'll be able to look back at your logs to find that dialogue.

For user-created notes, here's the new Mission Notes interface.. which for the moment will be a simple dialogue box in which the user can type text. The text will be saved (not exactly sure where yet, probably client-side) and available at all times.

There's a lot of other functionality to be defined here, for all the various and sundry different interfaces, but this hopefully gets across the basic idea. I intend to flesh out the "PDA" interface, then change the HUD around a bit, then redo the station menus again. For HUD changes, for instance, we'll scroll a small "m" in on the side of the HUD when a mission update occurrs, so the user can check their mission log. Voting will go into the PDA too, so if a lower-threshold is passed for voting to mute a user (say, five people) it'll appear on people's huds and they can hit some key to pop up an administrative interface. The little letter indicating the hotkeys will eventually fade out, and be as unobtrusive as possible, while hopefully still helping newbies figure out what's going on.

An all-new tutorial interface is also part of this reconstruction effort, in fact one of the more important aspects.

Next week we'll hopefully see the first implementations of this, with more appearing as we move forward. If anyone has any comments, they're welcome to post them to the messageboard here.