New Devlog: 1.2 UI Improvements Preview
The UI strike team I told y’all about in my last devlog is nearing the end of their first month together. We’ve been really busy and have lots of fancy new stuff to show off in the 1.2 patch you’ll be downloading soon. Read on! (Also, click on the thumbnails to see regular-sized versions of the pictures.)
One of the areas we were most excited to start fixing up was the chat system. We know you’ve been struggling with its… idiosyncrasies… since launch, so it was our first priority. We still have a few more ideas for the future, but the improvements in the upcoming patch are really awesome:
After reading forum threads like this and this, we decided to bend to your collective will and add chat bubbles to the game. This is a contentious issue, as people seem to either love chat bubbles or hate them with the fire of one thousand suns… so before anyone starts yelling, let me say very clearly: Yes, you can turn them off.
You’ll have the option to turn chat bubbles on for local chat, group chat or both. By default, they will be turned off. For those of you who won’t ever turn them on, this is what you’ll be missing:
When we first got the bubbles into the game and working, we invited FLS staff to log in to an internal server to see what they looked like. Action Frank, one of our hilarious SDETs, thought he’d show us what happens when chat bubbles attack:
Luckily, real players don’t usually clump up like this and send paragraphs of text every half-second. When we watched players use chat bubbles during recent playtests, they were a big hit. We hope you like them as much as we do.
New chat box art
For those of you who like your chat in a box, we’ve got something good for you too. All too often, we’ve heard that the old chat box was big and clunky. To jog your memory, it looks like this:
Our UI artist extraordinaire, Kevin L, kept the words “slim” and “minimal” in mind when he created a lovely new chat box and tabs. He also improved the tab notification so it would be more noticeable and clear when you get a message on another tab. The box itself is more transparent, too.
I present to you, Chat Box, 1.2:
Another major problem with chat was the amount of system-generated “spam” you had to see, and the lack of control you had over it. Previously, most of the messages from the game itself came into the chat window over a channel called “Town” or one called “System.” There was really no way for players (or devs!) to discover what sort of messages the Town and System channels contained. The kinds of messages I’m referring to here are things like loot rewards, auction transactions and combat logging.
Fixing this problem was a complicated task. It took super-Dev Mike B and I hours to untangle all the different flavors of messages being displayed on those two channels… but we did it! After much discussion, we managed to group all these messages into six broad categories, which you’ll be able to toggle on and off in whatever tab or window you like. The category channels are:
• Notifications: messages about you in the world, such as mission text, PvP status on the open sea, etc.
• Rewards: displays XP gained, loot awarded, level up messages, etc.
• Records: confirmation of things you’ve done, such as learning a skill or joining a society.
• Combat: the nitty-gritty combat details, such as the amount of damage done by a broadside.
• Auctions: confirmation of auction house actions, such as listing items and bidding.
• Auction Alerts: auction notifications such as sales and expirations.
Tabs and customization
We’re also resetting the default channel arrangement for the tabbed chat box. Pretty soon we’ll be expanding what you can do with tabs, because we know you want more options there. But for now, you’ll still have three tabs.
The “Main” tab will have all the player accessible channels (Local, Nation, Group, etc) turned on by default, as well as Notifications, Rewards, Records and Auction Alerts. The Auction and Combat channels will be on the third tab, called “Log.” The middle tab will start out empty, so you can customize it however you want.
You’ll be able to customize that middle tab, and all the other tabs, by using a handy button on the chat box. We did away with the right-click customization menu for two reasons. First, we noticed people often right-clicked in the chat box by mistake, so they had to deal with the big channel menu when they didn’t mean to. The other reason was to accommodate another new feature:
Spam reporting (and other goodies) in chat
Now, when you right-click on a message from a player in the chat box, you’ll get a small context menu. From this menu, you can report a message as spam or ignore the sender. You can also add the sender to your friends list or invite them into your group. It looks something like this:
Chat focus and control
The rest of the chat improvements are subtle, but incredibly important. The goal here was to fix some of the most annoying quirks that made people want to scream at their chat windows.
You’ll be happy to see:
• Focus won’t be pulled off the chat box whenever, say, a message box pops up on screen.
• Each tab will remember the output channel you have selected in the dropdown menu, even after you’ve switched to another tab and back.
• If you speak into a channel that is set to display in another tab, the chat box will automatically switch to that tab so you can see the message you sent.
We didn’t stop at chat, though. Here are the other goodies to watch for in 1.2:
Avatars now have floating names above their heads, so you can see who they are without having to click on them. As you walk away from someone with a floaty name, the name will fade out and eventually disappear, to keep too many names from cluttering up your screen.
As with chat bubbles: yes, you can turn them off. By default, you’ll see names displayed for yourself and for other player characters, but not for NPCs. If you turn them off right away, this is what you won’t see:
Improved social UI: society and friends list
We wanted to give you more information and easier interactions with your friends and society members, so we jumped at the chance to improve the social UI. To start, we made the whole thing wider so it could show more information, even when localized into German, French and Spanish. We also re-worked the button controls and polished the fonts.
For society member lists especially, you asked for the ability to sort by level, career, rank, character name and location. You also wanted to be able to view more members at once and filter by online/offline status. Well, we gave you all of that. The new sortable columns were so great, we had to have similar functions for the friends and ignore lists. We’re still polishing the art and fixing a few bugs in this stuff, but it’s just about ready.
This first picture is a society leader’s view. The second is a regular member’s view.
The other big change we made was to the Looking for Group (LFG) system. Many players didn’t even know they could use the group search to find other people to play with. To make it more discoverable, we gave LFG its own tab in the social UI. On that single tab, we streamlined the process and made it so you get more feedback. We also added helpful instructions to show you how to use the system. We’re still working out the kinks, but this is vaguely what you’ll see when you’re LFG:
As I reflect on all of these improvements, I’m struck by the massive amount of work we’ve done in such a short time. We still have to test all of these new features thoroughly and smooth out some rough edges, but all of this work is pretty much done and ready for you.
We hope we’ve hit a few of your favorite UI gripes, but if we haven’t, stay tuned! Starting next week, we’ll be finishing up a few more chat features, fixing the mission list and the delivery mission interface. For now, keep playing and keep visiting the Playability Lab forum to give your feedback.