Depending on their size, ships in Triverse can have 2-7 part groups, which typically consist of weapons. These groups allow players to select a subset of parts with a single click, which they can then fire or target on enemies. Groups also provide the basis for auto-targeting and I hope to use them as gunner slots in multiplayer. As a ship is modified, groups are automatically updated to provide sensible coverage around the ship (e.g. one group is the forward-facing weapons, another has the ones in the back or the side, etc). The player can also configure groups manually (with no extra screens!).
Group visuals have long needed an update. Until recently, I’ve just used the primary weapon type as an icon, which is terribly ambiguous given the build bar below it using identical icons, albeit in a different color. Type icons also provide no information about where the parts are located within the ship. So I prototyped a few variations in Inkscape before choosing a new kind of icon that captures the spatial distribution, although unfortunately no type information.
Before, with groups on top:
After, with groups on bottom with new icon style:
The sections within the icons indicate rough regions of the ship that contain a part in the group, a bit like Talairach coordinates without having to unfold gyri. Hopefully the icons aren’t too abstract given the huge variety in ship layouts.
Aesthetics Versus Usability
I also ran into a design problem. Previously, the group icons were on the top bar, pointing downward. In the new scheme, it would be unintuitive to show icons representing the ship upside-down. I’d also tentatively planned to put gunner status information close to the group icons, so I didn’t want to put them at the very bottom of the screen. So the choices were:
- Keep the orientation upside-down. Not good because forward is intuitively up.
- Swap top/bottom and move both bars to the top of the screen. Not good because virtually every game has status on the top and buttons on the bottom.
- Change from the interleaving teeth layout so both rows have point up. Tried some variations, but the layout is something I want to keep.
- Swap top/bottom and figure out status later. Not ideal, but the other choices were worse. There’s another slight complication because I’ve mapped number keys to the build bar and function keys to groups, and those keyboard locations previously matched the UI positions.
I went with the last option. I’m not keen on seeing the build bar/icons upside-down now, but they don’t need to convey spatial information.