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Impatience and Interfaces

July 4th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Ask anyone who knows me and the adjective “Patient” will likely be one of the top five that they use. It’s mostly accurate, too. I am patient with people to a fault and will forgive many faults. I don’t hold grudges, don’t get angry at service people, etc.

But when it comes to games, I find myself getting more and more impatient with poor interfaces. The increasing power in computers has meant that designers can put more and more information in easily accessible places so that there are few mysteries about how you do anything in a game.

But now that I am playing Crown of Glory, which has been in development since the late 90s, I find myself getting irritated with the lack of clear information sheets, absence of most rollover tooltips, menus on top of menus on top of menus….

The thing is, I never used to be like this. I used to love plumbing the depths of menus until I could fine tune my economy or military as I liked. The epithet “spreadsheet game” has likely been around as long as there have been strategy games, but I didn’t mind it all that much.

I’ve been spoiled, of course. There are more games out there for me to play and less time for me to play them all so I lean towards stuff that either gets me up to speed very quickly or just reuses mechanics from title to title. There must be left select and right move, the right mouse button should be alternately used for information panels, there should be graphic overlays to reveal territory attributes, and lots of icons.

Interface has become a major factor for me in how much enjoyment I get out of a game. But technology has also allowed designers to put more stuff into a game, so my plea for more intuitive interfaces comes head-to-head with a push to make deeper and deeper strategy games. Sometimes the struggle results in a tasty nut that resists cracking (like Crown of Glory) but as often it ends up being a conflict between my “need to know” side and my “not that badly side” (like Supreme Ruler 2010).

The sad consequence of this is that I find myself drawn more and more towards real-time strategy resource harvesting games. There is a default interface that everyone uses, what you see is generally what you get and the goals are pretty obvious. It helps that there are a lot of good RTS games out there and that this similarity of interface does not mean that every game ends up feeling exactly the same.

But the deep and rich strategy and wargames that I love so much require more study than I find myself willing to invest these days. (Of course, if the title is for a review, I put in the time. It ends up being less than minimum wage, if I get paid at all, but there is a professionalism to this sort of thing.)

Being the kindly person I am, I will be patient with myself and see myself through this long, dark teatime of the soul. Somehow I will figure out the relative importance of diplomats in Crown of Glory and be able to keep my struggling French economy going. But it sure could use a tutorial. Or big flashing arrows.


One Comment so far ↓

  • Michael A.

    True words indeed. Crown of Glory is one of the few titles that I’ve been looking forward (since its premise seems very similar to I:ROR), but the initial reports of interface trouble have caused me to put it off for a little while. I have enough to do in my life that I don’t wish to spend hours fighting with a game’s interface.