What's next?


Time to start thinking and implementing what will be in vex alpha 0.75. I think that for each alpha I should basically take a double-edge approach, first and most importantly in evaluating areas that users felt were lacking or had difficulty with, and then in adding new features/fleshing out. In this respect, I think the single biggest area I should improve on is navigation. That is to say, I need to make it more obvious which planets a player should visit, and where on that planet they should try to go. The following should address that:

1- Show some kind of population indicator on the system map (i.e., the one that shows planets). Perhaps clicking on a planet should show how populated it is, what cultures live there, how many cities, etc., and planets that are populated should be coloured differently on the system map (perhaps a white dot in the center). The general idea is when the player sees the system map, they should immediately have some idea which planets to visit! Remember, we aren't trying to encourage the player to explore every nook and cranny, rather, we are trying to get them to feel that they CAN'T do so, even if they wanted to, so that they have to be smarter in their exploration. To this end, I think making it obvious which planets you can visit will make things easier.

2- Similar to the above, but for the system chart. I really want to redo the system chart, into more of a starmap-style thing. The list is just a bit boring. So anyhow, maybe this should just be redone with a 2D map of stars, where there is some kind of data next to each star showing whether or not it is inhabited, and by what cultures.

3- Improved planet map, planetary navigation. In particular, I have to make it more clear how to follow the crosshairs when you are navigating a planet, and I have to show different icons for different cities. Also, the planet map has to tilt further because when cities are too close to the poles they disappear. Most of this can be accomplished by using better icons, I think, and also changing their sizes depending on how populated they are.

4- Improved city map. Again, ultimately I just don't like the list-format. Navigating lists just isn't that fun! I'd rather have a dot/icon beside each building you can visit, as well as some kind of information about the building. Very important, will be to show how many "generic NPCs" are inside each building. Houses sometimes for instance may have 2 or 3 people living there (or none). When you click on a house, it should say immediately how many people live there, and if you have met them before, what their names are as well (maybe this can pop up when you click the question-mark indicator).

So basically, I am going to add some improvements to all of the navigation interfaces. The biggest ones are definitely 2 and 4, but even so I don't think they need to take that much time. Other miscellaneous improvements will be nice too, for instance showing the name of the planet you are visiting on the planet map, same for system and city map.

Most of the meaningful feedback I recieved from the demo was that it was hard to find anything to do. These improvements should make it a lot easier!

2004-05-05


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