The Overview. Is it sufficient? If not how can it be improved? Is there some way to replace it? Does it give too much information, or not enough? Please be creative and specific as the overview currently is the heartbeat of the GUI.If I hadn't promised myself about 18 months ago to do every blog banter, I'd probably skip this one. ;-) But since I did make that promise to myself, I won't. But I'm keeping the promise despite the fact that I can hardly think of a more risky post to write from an :nda: perspective.
After all, I'm on the CSM just now. I've attended two CSM Summits. I've talked -- fairly extensively! -- with the UI team in those summits, in after-hours conversations, and on Skype. I assure you you cannot do those things without the Overview coming up, and coming up pretty significantly. As Kirith correctly states, it's the heart of the UI... the very thing that launches and reinforces the "spreadsheets in space" meme that has surrounded EVE for more than a decade. Oh my yes, it's come up. And I'd be lying if I said I haven't seen mock-ups for things the UI team was thinking about doing to it.
How do I comment on it without letting some of that slip? Answer: you don't. It's impossible.
But I can address the topic from a completely different direction. EVE's Overview (whatever its form) should at its heart do five things:
- It should be attractive, both eye-catching in and of itself and pleasant to look at.
- It should be immediately intuitive... something that can be taught to a new player in just a few minutes.
- It should present all the information that the EVE player needs while in space.
- It should not present information that the EVE player doesn't need. And...
- There should still be a means of manually filtering information quickly based on player needs.
The thing you have to understand is the Overview today does two things very very well: it is hugely information dense but at the same time it is still pretty easy to teach it to new players. And those two things make the current Overview a really terrible-for-you, but highly addictive drug. It's the nicotine of EVE. And any attempt to wean EVE players off of it -- particularly the hard-core EVE players who also tend to be the most vocal -- is going to be met with screams of rage.
Let's look at the very first goal: making the Overview attractive. Rixx Javix went out and found examples of five or six screen-caps of modern UI design. They're just lovely, lovely things. And all of them have poor information density, are really non-intuitive, or both. You could make the Overview prettier. It wouldn't even be that hard. But most of us aren't interested in pretty when it comes time to pull information out of the Overview. We need to know that the enemy has 20 ships at 10km, 15 at 40km, and 10 hanging out at 100+. Right now, I get that information at a glance because each line of the overview is only 18 or so pixels tall, each separated by a single pixel line. Make the Overview prettier and I guarantee a scroll bar becomes involved. And scroll bars are evil. Matter of fact, I'm trying to remember any other game I've played... ever... where a scroll bar was involved.
Similarly, right now the Overview presents it all: information the pilot needs, doesn't need, doesn't care about, and... the information that is absolutely critical. And it's all mixed together and chances are you're using a lot of it even if you're not conscious of it. So let's say a pretty Overview is the solution if it's also "smart." To which I say: define "smart." If I'm skirmishing in my Rapier, I might care that 20 Thoraxes at 40km have me locked up. But I guarantee you I care more about those two Crows moving at 4000m/s 65km away closing from my left and right flanks. I've learned that through experience and instinct. Let's say you're doing The Blockade against Blood Raiders. Who do you care about more? The battleships at 10km or the elite cruisers about to drain your cap dry at 45? Is a smart Overview going to be able to make the same determinations? That'd have to be a pretty freakin' smart Overview.
And that brings me to filtering. EVE players are going to demand the ability to filter even what a smart Overview presents to them. The ability to spot dictors and heavy dictors is critical for a super-cap pilot for instance. The ability to sometimes ignore everything except loot can be hugely lucrative. The ability to spot bombers quickly is sometimes the difference between your ship living or dying, whether in 0.0 or in an incursion site.
While EVE players bitch about the current Overview, will the bitch louder if these capabilities are taken away from them for a prettier, more modern, smarter Overview? I don't know about you, but I'd estimate the chances of it are roughly 104%. But that's just a planning number.
CCP has been known -- from time to time -- to push something through they know will be unpopular when it speaks to their long-term development goals. But this is something that is going to have to be looked at carefully, planned carefully, and changed even more carefully. Because if you're gonna do a heart transplant, you only get one chance to do it right.