Another IF UI Idea

Posted: April 6, 2010 in Blogroll, interactive fiction, Textfyre
Tags: ,

Updated: 11pm

Inspired by the outreach panel at PAX, I came up with the following design idea.

There would be a very sparse color-border container for the main window. We would eliminate the status line and possible move that information to the right side or somewhere else. Commands would be entered on the right. Help text, command lists, and other items could be retrieved by clicking one of the friendly color buttons. When clicked, the UI would transition smoothly to one of the new views (help, map, about, or ?).

The entered commands would still be embedded in the transcript, but I haven’t nailed down if I would highlight them or add them in with the standard “> open mailbox” reference.

Previous layouts can be seen here and here.

I moved things around for a second pass. Buttons on the right or in between the input bar and main window. Help screens would slide in and out like the iPod Touch/iPhone.

New thoughts?

  1. ashground says:

    I think moving the input to the side creates a couple problems.

    I’ve always liked to think of interactive fiction as a collaborative story told between the player and the computer. When you have the input inline, it appears as part of the narrative. I like that — it’s like you’re writing the story as you go. If the input is entered at the side, then inserted into the game’s text, it creates a layer of abstraction between the interface and the story. I think it would result in a feeling of manipulating the story from the sidelines rather than actively engaging with it. It’s like passing a book back and fourth with a friend, each one of you writing a line of the story, versus your friend holding the book and you passing him notes saying what you want written in it for your turn. Does that make sense?

    • I used to feel the same way, but I’m not sure that isn’t nostalgia. This is an experiment for new players and the goal is to offer a control panel that keeps them involved.

      I know a lot of IF discussion has been about emersion, but I’m wondering if that’s at the expense of usability.

  2. georgek says:

    I think keeping the vertical format is a better idea. Consider mobiles and tablets — while you could create a custom UI for their vertical orientation, I think it would be better to have a more consistent UI across platforms.

    I would keep the input bar at the bottom, but you could then have a UI bar going up the right hand side. Those buttons could either change the view in the display box, or better yet, overlay their own box on top of the main running text box.

  3. georgek says:

    I think that second iteration with the buttons on the side is an improvement, however I would integrate the input line into the border of the display box. You could set it off with a slight pinch in the border, but eliminate the double border between the top of the input and the bottom of the display box, which looks awkward in my opinion.

    Starting to look like a custom IF reader. Time to get a Kindle and a soldering gun! 😀

  4. IF URLs says:

    […] “Textfyre Times: Another IF UI Idea” “PAX East: More Miscellany” […]

  5. […] some games, a graphical layout with menus or buttons for verbs — Dave Cornelson has very recently been proposing a variation on this — but in many cases I find that approach ugly, and it tends to take up an unpleasant amount […]

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