From a Scrolling to a Static User Interface

Posted: March 3, 2011 in Blogroll, interactive fiction, Textfyre
Tags: , , , , , , ,

As I work through the minor technical issues of Zifmia, both client and server, some questions have arisen that seem important to how one might develop new games….specifically for the web world.

First of all, we intend to remove scrolling output from the web client paradigm and replace it with paging. Every time you interact with the game engine, we’re going to store the response. Within the UI, you will then be allowed to “page” backwards (and then forwards) through the entire history of your play. Unlike a scrolling UI, the UI stays the same, only the content changes. One of the interesting changes this has on your perception is that the most important aspect of the screen is the current setting (or location). Well, that was important in scrolling too, but my experience is that the setting change and non-change turn over turn is much more impactful. If you’re interacting in the same setting for a number of turns, the static UI feels much more that you have not moved than in a scrolling UI.

I’ve also been toying with the idea of polling for responses of non-movement and non-setting changing commands. So for every in-scope object, we’ll do an examine and search, store those responses in a data structure, then pass them to the client every turn. This means that the user can interact with all of the scenery without using a single turn. This adds to the perception in the static UI that the world is stable, grounded, and more realistic.

If we continue down this path, I envision having background art for each region in a game, further solidifying the realistic look and feel of the setting.

I’m sure there are more interesting observations coming as we experiement with Zifmia and client/server IF, but these are some of my initial thoughts.

  1. Dannii says:

    While I’m interested to see what you come up with, all of those things seem possible with traditional IO systems.

    • Well those aren’t the only features I’m crafting, but I agree, anyone can hack any system to do most of the things I’m doing….it’s just that channel IO makes it pretty easy.

  2. Michael says:

    One problem with scrolling UI is that when the player enters a command to change locations, he gets a text-dump that scrolls up from the bottom of the screen and his eyes tend to automatically jump to the bold text of the new room’s name that heralds the beginning of the description for the new location. This means that if the writer has included some prose describing the transition from one location to the next then the player could very easily miss it. I know this has happened to me with several pieces of IF. Maybe your static UI would help out with this?

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