Monday, 20 December 2010

Crimes against UI Design: Global Agenda

Sometimes games just don't seem to care when it comes to the UI. Take Global Agenda, for instance, an otherwise pretty decent mmo/rpg/tps/thing.

Lets start with the equipment screen, as it's generally one of the more used menus in the game - along the bottom you have a list of categories and item slots that belong to the currently selected category.

To the right you have a list of available items that can be equipped in the current slot.

For some reason, the developers have decided it's a good idea to only display item stats when the mouse cursor is hovering over the icon of an item. At the very least the tooltip could have been displayed when the cursor was over any part of the item's inventory listing and not just the icon.
But that's tackling the problem from the wrong angle, what would have been a much better solution would have been to display the important stats in the inventory listing, rather than the tooltip, so that you can quickly and easily compare the various items you have at your disposal.
I don't think "Generation 1" is particularly important information to know at-a-glance (and "Assault boosts" is just plain redundant information, since I know that I have selected the "Boost" item slot and that my character is an agent of the Assault class).

You'll notice a little spanner icon beneath some of the item slots, this is how modifications are applied. I had to seek help when I first wanted to install a weapon mod because I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to do it. Surely I should be able to click on a mod in my inventory and select "apply to slot x" from a drop down list or something similar? Nope, I must click this tiny little button, select "modify" (the other option being to repair a damaged item) and then find the item I want from a secondary inventory view.

Buying and selling in the NPC shops doesn't fare any better. Immediately you'll notice that there is a difference in how the items are displayed between your inventory and the shop's.

It's actually quite hard figuring out which items of yours you want to sell, given that you have to hover the cursor over the icons to see what it does. The only information you are given at-a-glance is the colour of the text, which indicates how rare the item is.

There is no value listed with an item in your inventory (even if you hover the cursor over the icon), you have to click the sell button to see how much you'll get for it.

A lot of the items you receive whilst playing the game have no function in and of themselves and are just building blocks for crafting items, unfortunately there's no way of telling if these components are something you want to keep when you're at this screen.
Though having said that I'm not sure if many games provide you that kind of information when you're at a shop about to sell them, so it might be asking a bit much - but it's definitely the kind of feature that should be considered when implementing a crafting system into a game.

The auction house is another example of just how little information the UI gives you.

When you first open it up you are presented with a blank screen. If you attempt to search for something, you are told to first select a category. Of course, that by itself isn't enough: you must select a category and then hit search to actually display anything at all.
Which seems backwards to me, the auction should by default display all things currently for sale (or at least the first page or so). The category listings on the left should then be used to filter the items on auction and then, if you so require it, you can use the search to narrow it down further - with or without a category selected, who's to say you know which category the item you have in mind belongs to?

It's also very unclear as to how bidding actually works - surely the developers have seen ebay? That's a great source of inspiration when looking to develop some kind of in-game auction system!

Like I said at the beginning of this post, the game itself is perfectly fine, it's just got a horrendous menu system that clearly wasn't given the attention it deserved during development.

1 comment:

  1. Everything you've mentioned is the same in most mmo's. If memory serves, even the highly praised WoW has these same issues without add-ons. I'm not sure how long you've played MMO's and RPG's but you don't get every tid-bit of information unless you hover over the icon. And frankly, the more information on screen just clutters it up and makes it more confusing. Even the tool-tips get irritating if you know what the item is and want to get it quickly. It's a nice feature if a crafting item actually tells you what its used for, however, that is a rare trait in games and it never tells exactly what can be crafted with it unless the item is the only thing that can be crafted. That's a part of the game. In RL, you have an item that can be used for crafting, say wood. You can't just give it a description "used to craft boats" because its used to craft much more than that. Its the same IG. Certain materials may be used for nearly every craft skill in the game, such as wood, yet you wouldn't want or need to be told this on pickup. In a lot of games, they don't even tell you whether the item is NPC trash or a crafting material, they depend on you to know that if its gray its trash and if its white its not. That in itself makes it clean and simple. As far as the upgrades or enchants, be glad you don't have to search out one particular NPC in a very crowded town to do it. If you can upgrade or enchant on the go, that makes it worth the clunkiness of the UI. I'm sure I'd have to actually look over the UI myself to make any real decision, but from your description, you make it sound similar to most mmo/rpg games.