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Author Topic: UX: How to make Fortress Mode approachable to newcomers  (Read 1963 times)

jimrandomh

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UX: How to make Fortress Mode approachable to newcomers
« on: March 06, 2013, 12:59:24 am »

Dwarf Fortress is awesome, but has a famously difficult initial learning curve. I was thinking about this, and it occurs to me that there are some relatively small changes that would make it easier. So here are my thoughts, aimed at the things that tripped me up when I was learning and that seem to trip other people up, in roughly descending order of significance.

The first thing is figuring out what's going on, and the best solution I can think of is to revamp the loo(k) command. Make it so that while in the default state (no command active), hovering over a tile shows the look-list for that tile, above the commands list (which can be bottom-aligned instead of top-aligned). There's room for it now that most people are using big screens instead of 80x25. Then, take as much information from other menus as possible, and move or copy it into the look-list: eg show container/building contents indented under the container, show dwarf inventories indented under the dwarf (with hauled items and weapons sorted to the top), show a dwarf's current job and mood under the dwarf, show a workshop's current job under the workshop, show a tile's dig-designation if any, show forbid/dump/melt flags, show any burrows the tile is part of, show the stockpile, and show if the tile is a restricted area or has other non-default movement settings.

Then if the tile is clicked while in the default state, pause and go to look mode. While in look mode, pressing enter with a dwarf selected should go into (v) view unit mode, and pressing enter with a building selected should go into (q) building prefs mode, and enter with a stockpile selected would go into (p) stockpile mode. Clicking on a different tile would move the look-cursor to that tile, and clicking the same tile would be like pressing enter on the top item (so that double-click is a shortcut into the right menu). This obsoletes the 't' command.

The next thing that seems to confuse people is that the commands list has a lot of things in it, and it's not clear which ones are important and which ones are less-frequently used things that can be ignored at first. This can be solved by rearranging the menu, so that instead of being alphabetical, commands are sorted into approximate order of importance, and arranged in groups. I imagine it looking like this:

b: Building      d: Dig
u: Unit List     k: Look

p: Stockpiles    i: Zones
a: Announcements r: Reports
m: Military      s: Squads
h: Hauling

o: Orders        z: Status
j: Job List      w: Burrows
n: Nobles and Administrators
c: View Civilizations

N: Points/Routes/Notes
q: Set Building Tasks/Prefs
v: View Units   H: Hot Keys

Tab: Move this menu/map
?: Help    ESC: Options
;: Movies  D: Depot Access
l: Artifacts

Space: Resume .: One-Step


Then you can say: don't bother with the second block of commands until you've figured out the first, and so on. (Note that I dropped the 't' command, which a better look command makes unnecessary, and the 'R' command, which I've never found useful. I also changed the description from "designate" to "dig", which is a little less accurate but clearer.)

In the dwarf labor screen (v-p-l), skill levels should be shown next to each labor (or the highest level in the category, for categories), as a number. And if you go from the (u)unit list to a dwarf, then pressing esc should bring you back to the unit list with the same cursor position, the way it is when you pick view-creature from there; that would go a long ways towards mitigating the need for Dwarf Therapist, by letting you go through the dwarves systematically to set their labors. The labor menu also probably ought to be more prominent; currently it's buried two levels deep. I'd split it out from the (p)refs section so that it's (v-l) instead of (v-p-l).

Over in the (b)uild menu, the entries which are categories (workshops, furnaces, traps/levers, siege engines) should be sorted on top, and things which can't be built because their requirements aren't met (eg beds when you don't have any) should be colored differently.

None of this will stop new players from having their Urists run into the goblin horde for a sock or flooding their fortress, but it should keep players from getting too frustrated before they have a basic fortress up and running.
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Putnam

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Re: UX: How to make Fortress Mode approachable to newcomers
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2013, 01:02:17 am »

I like this. It shouldn't affect veteran players, either, because most of them have probably memorized the keys for the UI anyway :P

HavingPhun

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Re: UX: How to make Fortress Mode approachable to newcomers
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2013, 03:45:57 pm »

I like this. I don't really want the loo(k) key changed. Since I can just press k or v or q. Maybe I read it wrong.
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Waparius

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Re: UX: How to make Fortress Mode approachable to newcomers
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2013, 07:35:01 pm »

Honestly, it would have been a lot simpler for me starting out if the "designate" menu was called "orders" and the "orders" menu something like, "standing orders" or "decrees", and the "build" menu called "place furniture".

But then a few of the items in the various menus such as the D->O menu wouldn't make sense and would have to be shuffled around.

If they're where they are for assorted programming-related reasons - eg, the Zones menu, where I'd expect to put burrows and traffic orders, does things very differently to the designations menu - would it be easier to revamp the weird menus when the workshop-zone stuff comes in, since that's going to be altering a huge chunk of how gameplay works?
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xcorps

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Re: UX: How to make Fortress Mode approachable to newcomers
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2013, 03:06:05 pm »

My two cents:

Standardize the placements and entry keys for menus.

Once time it's uhkm, then it's -/+, then it's UDLR arrows, then it's -/= then it's enter draw enter, then it's uhkm, then it's a choice...

Make it all the same or make an option similiar to what you can do with zones. (rectangle, flow, floor flow) for everything that can be drawn out.

Navigating the embark menu is simple. Left then up down, or right then up down. Why are some menu's =/- AND up/down?

Why aren't there search strings for everything, like in the orders menu and embark/new menu?

Long option menu's like animal types for pens and stone types in a dump should have a {page 1 of 4} or similiar designation so that someone can see that there's more stuffs. It's easy to lose track of where you are and where you have been in the menus and can make it very hard to accomplish a simple task.

Seed gathering should be reworked and automated. Either have the dwarf who has left a seed automatically pick it up and take it to the seed stockpile or program the planters to ignore non stockpiled seeds until there aren't any left in the stockpile. It's too confusing to have 200 seeds in a stockpile 1 square away from the farm plot and constantly get "can't plant, no seed" spam.  It doesn't make any sense and makes the player wonder what's going wrong and spend too much time trying to figure out what the spams all about.

There should be an option to have the manager warn you of impending food/drink shortages. Ideally a book keeper should report to you how long current stocks will last with current population based on precision.

Have an option for Moods.
Artifacts shouldn't start to occur until a certain wealth created threshold has been reached, not the first caravan.  Children and dwarfves without 10 ranks of skill shouldn't be taken by moods.




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Putnam

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Re: UX: How to make Fortress Mode approachable to newcomers
« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2013, 03:08:15 pm »

It's supposed to be +-, like your number pad.

Di

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Re: UX: How to make Fortress Mode approachable to newcomers
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2013, 06:20:30 pm »

while in the default state (no command active), hovering over a tile shows the look-list for that tile, above the commands list (which can be bottom-aligned instead of top-aligned).
look(k) implies cursor presence on screen. Current no command state doesn't. The cursor moves in one-tile steps and doesn't move screen until its edge (almost) is reached, screen moves in five or ten-tile steps per button pressing and moves immediately, which is convenient.
show container/building contents indented under the container, show dwarf inventories indented under the dwarf (with hauled items and weapons sorted to the top), show a dwarf's current job and mood under the dwarf, show a workshop's current job under the workshop
This is going to be one hell of a long list. Each dwarf can have a dozen or two of clothing items, there can be more than one dwarf on a tile, there can be one container on the tile as well (if built) or a dozen (if they're dumped bins or barrels).
It could probably be addressed by splitting that list in two so that containers (and dwarfs) are listed in top and the contents of currently highlighted container are listed bellow (dump\melt indication goes here).
However this would require the addition of third (thricondary? thirth?) selector which doesn't simplify things. And there are still
ambiguations like whether empty containers should be moved to bottom list or how to depict containers in containers (yo dawg) or hauled ones.
show a tile's dig-designation if any, show any burrows the tile is part of, show the stockpile, and show if the tile is a restricted area or has other non-default movement settings.
Currently designations are always-visible. Burrows and traffic designations aren't that important most of the time. There probably won't be much place for them in large item\dwarf\workshop list. Still, they could be moved into another cursor mode for troubleshooting.
Then if the tile is clicked while in the default state, pause and go to look mode. While in look mode, pressing enter with a dwarf selected should go into (v) view unit mode, and pressing enter with a building selected should go into (q) building prefs mode, and enter with a stockpile selected would go into (p) stockpile mode. Clicking on a different tile would move the look-cursor to that tile, and clicking the same tile would be like pressing enter on the top item (so that double-click is a shortcut into the right menu). This obsoletes the 't' command.
I'm not sure about this, right now 'q' and 'v' allow you to adjust dwarfs and workshops without hunting down their exact position. Otherwise you'd need to scroll through dwarf\container\workshop(stockpile) list every time. The mouse could probably help a bit, but it's full support is an eternal suggestion by itself.
commands are sorted into approximate order of importance, and arranged in groups
The order and grouping are debatable.
And if you go from the (u)unit list to a dwarf, then pressing esc should bring you back to the unit list with the same cursor position, the way it is when you pick view-creature from there; that would go a long ways towards mitigating the need for Dwarf Therapist, by letting you go through the dwarves systematically to set their labors.
The u-v combo is used not only for setting up labours but to simply check up on a dwarf as well, in which case being thrown back into list isn't really desired. And I doubt that'd reduce need for therapist (or dfhack's manipulator) since those allow to see a bigger picture and still allow easier labour switching than your system would.
In the dwarf labor screen (v-p-l), skill levels should be shown next to each labor (or the highest level in the category, for categories), as a number.
The labor menu also probably ought to be more prominent; currently it's buried two levels deep. I'd split it out from the (p)refs section so that it's (v-l) instead of (v-p-l).
Over in the (b)uild menu, the entries which are categories (workshops, furnaces, traps/levers, siege engines) should be sorted on top, and things which can't be built because their requirements aren't met (eg beds when you don't have any) should be colored differently.
With this I'm wholly in agreement, just as with the most part of xcorps' post (well maybe except the seeds rants).
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Bumber

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Re: UX: How to make Fortress Mode approachable to newcomers
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2013, 10:29:26 pm »

This is going to be one hell of a long list. Each dwarf can have a dozen or two of clothing items, there can be more than one dwarf on a tile, there can be one container on the tile as well (if built) or a dozen (if they're dumped bins or barrels).
It could probably be addressed by splitting that list in two so that containers (and dwarfs) are listed in top and the contents of currently highlighted container are listed bellow (dump\melt indication goes here).
However this would require the addition of third (thricondary? thirth?) selector which doesn't simplify things. And there are still
ambiguations like whether empty containers should be moved to bottom list or how to depict containers in containers (yo dawg) or hauled ones.
You just need to be able to eXpand the list like with material selection. "Tertiary" is the word you're looking for.
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