A Heads Up for U and I
In a recent article on IGN “Gonzales hinted that EVE’s overly complicated user-interface (UI) may get an overhaul, but that it was down the track and would require a lot of work“.
EVE’s User Interface is both a boon and a curse for many EVE Online players. For some it is remarkably complex and daunting, especially when you start to delve into the complexities of Corporation Management or Overview settings. For others it is this very deep and intricate design that embodies the ‘style’ of EVE and which is what makes it such a compelling MMO.
Of course many other MMOs allow for a considerable degree of user control over the UI allowing legal and some ‘illegal’ EULA breaking additions and customizable options. For EVE Online however there is comparatively little room for manoeuvre. Indeed its only been quite recently that players could move the ships HUD display or adjust the location of targeted ships about their screen.
For new players the UI is just one of those areas that’s really not especially well documented and this can be a cause of frustration. It is not just hapless noobs though – even today (having played since 2006) I occasionally come across some button or sub menu I didn’t realise was there.
My biggest complaint against the UI for EVE though is predominantly a stylistic one. While CCP have gone to tremendous efforts to spruce up the environs of EVE (new ship models, planets and effects) with astounding results it is becoming all to apparent that our new 21st Century EVE has a 20th Century dashboard.
Nothing can be as much of an immersion breaker as firing up the power systems of your Tech II Force Recon replete with sophisticated E-War and weapons systems only to have to pilot it through a clunky excel speadsheet of drop down menus and a smorgasbord of windows.
Assuming our trusty capsuleer is just up for a spot of small gang roaming he or she will be faced with a face full of windowed information: Local Chat, Corp Chat, Fleet Chat, Alliance Chat, Intel Chat, Fleet Notifications/broadcasts, watchlist, Overview and quite possibly a drone bay. Squeezed somewhere into all of that may be the ship our capsuleer is flying.
The end result is that all the efforts of CCPs art department is largely wasted as you cannot see the vastness of space for the even vaster clutter of windows that obscure it. At the same time of course a capsuleer needs to be able to interact with the universe around him in a huge variety of ways – from checking market orders, scanning asteroid belts for potential targets to planetary interaction.
So where does CCP proceed? Well judging by the ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahhs’ coming as a result of the more recent trailers CCP could do worse than follow the futuristic look or ‘skins’ shown there. Just on a purely aesthetic basis something along these lines might indeed be quite welcome. I think though most would agree CCP need to go a bit further than just a splash of cosmetic make up. One line of progress might be to deliver ‘context based’ GUI – a UI that adapts to and is based upon the nature of the activity you are undertaking. The Universe Map, PI and the System scanning interface are the closest I can get too here. So if under attack or engaged in combat you UI morphs into a combat UI, minimising or removing entirely non essential functions or information.
Alternatively we could imagine combining certain elements of the UI – for example being melded and colour coded (for example you would see various ‘chat’ in one singular window, with hot buttons to select which channel you are ‘chatting too’. The Holy Grail of course is to see something along the line of an integrated intelligence suite – predominantly icon based (rather than text based) which could be interpreted at a glance to provide information such as the number of hostile targets in local, deployment and status of probes and wider constellation data like high gate traffic.
Impossible? Maybe, it would certainly require a concerted effort on CCPs part and might even be termed as an expansion in its own right. The benefits however could be enormous – making EVE more accessible to new players and more immersion for older players.