About Tech Tree GUI

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Oberlus
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About Tech Tree GUI

#1 Post by Oberlus » Tue Apr 23, 2019 1:46 am

I thought this particular issue, which requires discussion but is not dependent on whether we are going for 5 or 20 themes, can be separated from the rest of the thread on tech tree fundamentals.
Vezzra wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 1:51 pm
Two things I guess will be absolutely necessary so players can handle the massive tech trees: you have to be able to hide/display entire trunks in the UI (the same way you can now hide/display the categories), so you can hide the themes/trunks you're not interested in. Because with either model we're going to have tons of techs which the player ususally will only be interested in a small subset of.
em3 wrote:
Mon Apr 22, 2019 11:11 pm
As far as UI is concerned, let's make one thing clear: there is no reason to display all the themes on a single screen. They should be accessible as separate screens, using tabs or icons or a list. That is true, whether we adopt 3 tech themes or 20.
Ophiuchus wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:02 am
Of course in principle there is reason to display all themes on a single screen - an overview of what tech exists and what is already researched and available and in process. I think that is KISS UI and beautiful. Only supports a small number of techs though.

I think tabs are horrible GUI. You wrote you prefer 8 to 10 themes. Having to go through 10 tabs to find that information sounds pretty bad.
Different players have different needs or preferences. We must try and get a GUI versatile enough to please everyone. I think it's doable.

The GUI should be able to show all techs at once (for overview), a subset of themes, a subset of techs related to a given function regardless of the theme (say armours), and a selection of techs related to a given function within a subset of themes.
Each tech could have two kind of tags (instead of category): theme (whatever they are in the end) and function (weapon, armour, stealth, production, space engineering, etc.).
The GUI could show two sets/bars of selection buttons (instead of the current one for categories): one for the themes and one for the functions. Several buttons could be selected/highlighted at once.
Whenever only one theme is selected, the view could be set automatically to a fixed zoom with no vertical scrolling, as commented some time ago. And when there are more than one themes selected, there would be vertical scrolling to see all themes, and the option to zoom in/out.
Selecting functions could just highlight the relevant techs within its themes (so that you see the whole structure of each theme with its tiers and apps, there is no space saving and you have to scroll vertically if there is more than one theme selected) or all non-selected functions could be actually hidden and only show (apart from the selected functions) the theories (so you see the theme tiers).
Additionally, if someone finds it useful (I think I don't) a different form of display that also hides theories (and so also the theme/tiered structure) and only shows the selected functions as floating, independent techs showing its relevant information (including theme, tier, function, etc. and links to visualise such themes/functions without having to select and deselect the corresponding theme and function buttons).


What do you think? Would that please everyone?

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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#2 Post by The Silent One » Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:34 am

My impression is that this is overly complicated. Firstly, I don't think a "function" button is needed; the icons before the application will make clear what function an application has. Secondly,
Oberlus wrote:Whenever only one theme is selected, the view could be set automatically to a fixed zoom with no vertical scrolling, as commented some time ago. And when there are more than one themes selected, there would be vertical scrolling to see all themes, and the option to zoom in/out.
that would be a compromise, although imho tabs will do a good job to switch between categories/themes. If we do stick with the plan of having 5-6 "main" themes, most of the time the player will just stick with one or switch between two of them.

And lastly, let's focus on the structure of the "tech tree" for now, and discuss the UI once we have fleshed it.
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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#3 Post by em3 » Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:53 am

I like these ideas.
Oberlus wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 1:46 am
Additionally, if someone finds it useful (I think I don't) a different form of display that also hides theories (and so also the theme/tiered structure) and only shows the selected functions as floating, independent techs showing its relevant information (including theme, tier, function, etc. and links to visualise such themes/functions without having to select and deselect the corresponding theme and function buttons).
The alternative view could be replaced by queryable table/list of technologies akin to objects window.
The Silent One wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:34 am
My impression is that this is overly complicated. Firstly, I don't think a "function" button is needed; the icons before the application will make clear what function an application has.
Agreed.
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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#4 Post by Oberlus » Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:05 pm

The Silent One wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:34 am
I don't think a "function" button is needed
Ophiuchus raised a fair objection to this. When you are relatively new to the game (or have short memory for 300+ techs) and want to locate all the (say) armour techs in the whole tech tree, having to go tab by tab, scrolling horizontally on each tab, and looking for the icons, seems like a burden that should be alleviated if possible. And with a bidimensional functional/thematic selecting scheme it could work. If you are trying to decide between several themes to pick up, and you are interested mostly on (say) weapons, production and supply, you could deselect any other function-button and see an overview of all themes for such functions, then deselect the themes that seem less interesting and explore in deep the few themes that seem best for your purposes. I think such a GUI functionality would be great and very useful for certain styles of gameplay.
The Silent One wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:34 am
tabs will do a good job to switch between categories/themes. If we do stick with the plan of having 5-6 "main" themes, most of the time the player will just stick with one or switch between two of them.
But only "most of the time". And if we go for 15 themes it's a different story.
The Silent One wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:34 am
let's focus on the structure of the "tech tree" for now, and discuss the UI once we have fleshed it.
There is no consensus yet on the number of themes. We can forget about the GUI part for now, but my point is different tech tree structures will influence the GUI and its usefulness, and some players will prefer a given structure depending on how pleasant can be the GUI. For example Ophiuchus, if I've understood him well, he would prefer as few as possible techs because he gives much importance to simplicity on the research window. On the other hand, I'd prefer as many techs as possible, because I like the research stuff to be an important part of the game not only during early/mid. I do like "wasting" time on thinking such things and the game becomes boring for me when I already know in advance what to do. So if we can get a system to please all players in their "visual" needs, it would be worth all the extra complexity it could bring on the GUI (as long as it is implementation complexity rather than poor readability for the players).

em3 wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:53 am
The alternative view could be replaced by queryable table/list of technologies akin to objects window.
Good idea.

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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#5 Post by Ophiuchus » Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:35 pm

Oberlus wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 12:05 pm
There is no consensus yet on the number of themes. We can forget about the GUI part for now, but my point is different tech tree structures will influence the GUI and its usefulness, and some players will prefer a given structure depending on how pleasant can be the GUI. For example Ophiuchus, if I've understood him well, he would prefer as few as possible techs because he gives much importance to simplicity on the research window.
Yes, that is true. I want good UI for answering the questions one has when looking at the tech tree (what should i research next, what is my research queue, what tech do i already have, what tech is in reach of my oponents...). And the number of techs and the structure does matter.

E.g. if we make each empire fixed on a single theme without the ability to research techs from other themes, tabs would make a good UI and it would support a large number of themes and a probably a huge number of techs.

On the other hand it is impossible to do a good UI for a huge tech tree with lots of complex interdependencies.

So if we have a look at an UI design we know more or less how many themes/techs it will support well. If we can design our techs to stay in that number range, we know we are able to do a good UI in the end.

If we cant fit the strategies in that number range, we should have a look for tricks and balance what is more important. If some techs only add fluff but not really depth of game or strategical options they are probably not worth a worse UI. So this is about tradeoffs.

Having main and side themes is such a trick (in most cases you do not need full info on the side themes). Also if you use side branches, you do not need the theme UI overhead (e.g. no separate tier tech) and they be shown more tabular than main themes.

Another trick is refinements (show a single number), having the same RP cost for all techs in a tier (only show that number once), also making multi-main-themes more expensive (you can by default minimize unused themes or move them further down).

Besides the big sortable and filterable table of everything (or the object list like query interface), I would expect a theme-focussed UI.

One way for that theme-focussed I would imagine with themes from top to bottom (and below the main themes the list of side-branches) and six tiers from left to right. You can focus on a single main theme (?or toggle multiple themes focussed/unfocussed?) . Focussed theme shows all techs of that theme. Unfocussed themes only show researched tech.

TLDR;
i think saying "we do the content first and later on the UI" is like saying "we do the software functionality first and later think about security". Usually does not work out well (for the UI).
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Furthermore, I propse... we should default to four combat rounds instead of three ...for the good of playerkind.

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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#6 Post by em3 » Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:12 pm

The Silent One wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 11:34 am
And lastly, let's focus on the structure of the "tech tree" for now, and discuss the UI once we have fleshed it.
Others have addressed this already, but I would like to point out, that one of the reasons for the current design discussion regarding research is that the old model is hard, if possible, to visualize and conceptualize.

I don't think we should be deciding on precise colors or icons right now, but figuring out how the themes and technologies will be laid out is important. I mean, this whole change is very much UI-related.
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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#7 Post by Oberlus » Tue Apr 23, 2019 3:26 pm

Ophiuchus wrote:
Tue Apr 23, 2019 2:35 pm
it is impossible to do a good UI for a huge tech tree with lots of complex interdependencies.
Right.
However:
- We are going to keep interdependencies to a minimum. Little complexity will come from there.
- It is impossible to have many interesting choices in a tiny tech tree. Moreover, it's impossible to have a tiny tech tree with many mechanics/functions.

IMO, as a player, I think FreeOrion would be worse if it had less mechanics or even just less techs. Having many techs to research (with different results depending on what you research first) is an important part for me in this kind of games. For example, I would not enjoy having a Civilization game with 1/2 or 1/3 of the techs just to simplify its visualisation, decision making, learning curve or ease of description. In fact, I do like having long learning curves as well as frequent and not too simple decisions to make, otherwise it becomes mechanical and boring. What's the point of a puzzle if I can tell from start where goes each piece? The fun comes from the problem solving.
I understand that other players do not appreciate this part of the game an enjoy more the tactical part of it (choosing what ships to build and where to send them in order to defeat your enemy). Tactics alone can make for a game that you could never grow weary of it (e.g. Chess). But the mix of both dimensions makes up for way more epic games IMO. Starcraft, for instance, has a lot of tactics and a fair amount of research, and I've been playing it for the last 25 years.
My point is, if we can find a good compromise to help visualise a huge tech tree without restricting its structure (like imposing maximum numbers of techs per theme/branch or maximum number of branches), that could allow for the best experience for all kind of players.

This said, Ophiuchus, what do you think about the OP's proposal for tech visualisation? Would it be good enough for your gameplay preferences to have ways to highlight or hide techs of different themes and functions? Would that emulate enough simplicity of the tech tree to not make it unpleasant browsing it?

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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#8 Post by The Silent One » Wed May 01, 2019 6:40 pm

Simple UI suggestion: can show several/all themes at the same time, can hide or show specific application types.
Can scroll tiers from left to right, can scroll themes from top to bottom.
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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#9 Post by Oberlus » Wed May 01, 2019 7:51 pm

The Silent One wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:40 pm
¡¡¡Love it!!!

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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#10 Post by labgnome » Wed May 01, 2019 8:59 pm

The Silent One wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:40 pm
Simple UI suggestion: can show several/all themes at the same time, can hide or show specific application types.
Can scroll tiers from left to right, can scroll themes from top to bottom.
That looks amazing.
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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#11 Post by Vezzra » Sun May 05, 2019 4:39 pm

The Silent One wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:40 pm
Simple UI suggestion: can show several/all themes at the same time, can hide or show specific application types.
Can scroll tiers from left to right, can scroll themes from top to bottom.
Yep, that looks promising.

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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#12 Post by o01eg » Sun May 05, 2019 6:45 pm

The Silent One wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:40 pm
Simple UI suggestion: can show several/all themes at the same time, can hide or show specific application types.
Can scroll tiers from left to right, can scroll themes from top to bottom.
How dependencies between different categories will look in this UI?
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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#13 Post by Oberlus » Sun May 05, 2019 7:04 pm

o01eg wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 6:45 pm
The Silent One wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:40 pm
Simple UI suggestion: can show several/all themes at the same time, can hide or show specific application types.
Can scroll tiers from left to right, can scroll themes from top to bottom.
How dependencies between different categories will look in this UI?
The circles at the end of each app slot. In the mockup you can see different kind of requirements: an spice special, species (the jerboas/jumping mice), and the kraken monster icons. The same for techs. If more than one requirement for the same app, the icon could be a generic one that shows a floating tooltip with all the requirement when hovering or clicking on it.
But we will try to keep inter-branch requirements to a minimum, as well as refrain when possible from having multiple requirements for the same app.

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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#14 Post by Ophiuchus » Sun May 05, 2019 9:06 pm

The Silent One wrote:
Wed May 01, 2019 6:40 pm
Simple UI suggestion: can show several/all themes at the same time, can hide or show specific application types.
Can scroll tiers from left to right, can scroll themes from top to bottom.
Looks quite nice.
Left-right scrolling still is bad and will suck big time on some laptops. Could you mock up a version with the suggested six tiers on a single screen (in order to get a feel for the relative sizes)? And also a version where you show the scroll controls to see what exactly you envision?

For horizontal space savings i suggest a filter which shows for most themes the currently researched techs only, BUT shows all the techs of a single focussed theme.
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Furthermore, I propse... we should default to four combat rounds instead of three ...for the good of playerkind.

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Re: About Tech Tree GUI

#15 Post by The Silent One » Mon May 06, 2019 4:22 pm

Ophiuchus wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 9:06 pm
Left-right scrolling still is bad and will suck big time on some laptops. Could you mock up a version with the suggested six tiers on a single screen (in order to get a feel for the relative sizes)? And also a version where you show the scroll controls to see what exactly you envision?
I don't think there is a way to display six tiers next to each other. Is it necessary? I imagine usually the player will pick only techs from say tiers n and (n+1), having tier (n-1) mostly or completely finished and tier (n+2) not unlocked yet. So displaying only 2-3 tiers at the same time should suffice. There could be a button that hides finished and/or not yet unlockable tiers to reduce use of horizontal space.
It would be possible to add a horizontal scrollbar for each theme, although dragging with the mouse should do (which is the current method to move through the tech tree).
Ophiuchus wrote:For horizontal space savings i suggest a filter which shows for most themes the currently researched techs only, BUT shows all the techs of a single focussed theme.
Do you mean vertical? The drop-menu button could get three states: closed (don't show any techs), semi-open (show only researched tech like you suggested) and open (like the bio theme above).
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