Preview: Aloriah, Tauriworld

I’ve added a few more to the list of games. Some interesting ones include new OSG’s Aloriah and Tauriworld.

Aloriah

Aloriah is currently in beta. The game is a lot like Travian at its base, but also emphasizes heroes wandering around the world and exploring. The world itself is quite interesting and the end-game revolves around getting to the center of the map and slaying the Mother Dragon. It’s also one of the first OSG’s I’ve encountered with an opening video. I just started yesterday. but hope to have an actual review in the near future.

Tauriworld

Tauriworld is Polish game with its own intro video. It’s a steam-punk themed OSG with some interesting ideas, including an island theme like Ikariam and troops that have a specific range. Unfortunately it sufferes from poor UI and I can’t figure out how to construct a new building. I seem to have met all the requirements, but there’s no button that says build! Hopefully they’ll be able to clean that up soon.

I found the name “Tauriworld” pretty interesting, as Tauri is the word for the humans of earth in the Stargate universe, though apparently it was also the name of a people south of the Ukraine. Asgard Heroes also drew from Stargate. Interesting…

Cheers,
Oliver

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UI Rant

Yesterday I mentioned pop-up windows in Evony’s user interface as one of my pet peeves, and felt I should elaborate.

My first problem with pop-ups is the wasted space. Note the red scribbles on the image. When a player is in the barracks clearly his goal is either to recruit new troops or check on what troops he already has. The image of the city is completely irrelevant and when cropped like that is converted to visual clutter. The pop-up UI completely wastes that space which should be put to better use, even if just to make the barracks window a little bigger.

Second, pop-ups run the risk of covering up important information. Note the yellow arrow on the the image. Under the pop up is where the player’s current resources are displayed. This information is very important when upgrading a building or training troops, so why would you hide it? I’ve often found myself clicking on the barracks, then having to close them to check on my resources before going back to the barracks and issuing some training orders.

Finally, pop-ups can confuse the scroll wheel. Not all the possible troop types fit on a screen, and so a scroll wheel is necessary to browse through them. However, it only works if the player’s mouse is over the barracks window. Should the player wander over to towards the resources the scroll wheel switches back to zooming in and out of the (still irrelevant) city view.

The alternative to all of this is to use Travian and Ikariam’s strategy of just opening the building-specific screen as the main window. This wastes no space, ensures the main UI bar is always visible, and the player can scroll down from wherever they chose.

Of course, maybe there are benifits to the pop-up scheme that I’ve overlooked. It’s certainly useful in a lot of situations, especially when the pop-up is pretty small. For example, if you mouse-over any of the troop types in Evony you’ll get a pop-up over the pop-up that shows how many resources it costs to train one. Pop-ups are great for displaying context-sensitive information or options, but once the pop-up window reaches a certain size it seems better to admit you’re no longer dealing with a quick context-sensitive menu and convert the whole thing to a main view.

Hah, I’m probably the only OSG player who’s spent so much time complaining about user interface, but I wager it has annoyed plenty of Evony players, even if they haven’t realized it.

Cheers,
Oliver

OSG UI

I’d like to take a look at some UI from a few browser based massively multiplayer online strategy games and see if we can learn anything. In general, all of these games need their top UI to communicate the same information to the player: how many of each resource the player has and the links to the main pages of the game – these generally include a “city view”, a map or world view, a page for in-game messages, and a few more depending on the game.

Each of these images are screen captures from the top of the browser to the bottom of the maing navigation bar. The first image is actual size, the other three are at 70%.

Travian

Imperia

Kings Age

Ikariam

Which of these examples is the best? Which is the worst? Which game looks the most fun?

The Travian UI is very simplistic. The graphics play a very small roll, but the game communicates the necessary information, and only the necessary information, very clearly. The large circular buttons are easy to find and have a bright roll-over effect.

Imperia has some very unfortunate UI. The actual information is very small and hard to make out from the background image. What boggles my mind, is that they have plenty of room to make the icons 4x bigger, but apparently feel that tiled brick pattern is more important.

Kings Age is attempting to communicate a lot of information. They half-fall into the same trap as Imperia, dedicating nigh on half their nav bar to the giant “KingsAge” crest a some clouds. They also have the difficulty of having to convey a load of information / links, but they make everything the same size. Because nothing really stands out, everything visually blends together into a messy table.

Ikariam faces the same problem as Kings Age, having a lot of information to get across, but is far more successful. The white links across the top are hardly used during gameplay, and are rightly smaller and out of the way. The core information – the resources and different views (world, island, town, and the advisors) – is quite prominent. The advisors themselves are a brilliant addition, making the game very friendly to its “casual gamer” audience. Ikariam also makes use of changes to the same space. i.e. the numbers next to the amount of resources change color based on how close to capacity they are, which saves them from having to print the actual number. The advisors also turn gold when a plus account is active, again communicating more information without taking up more screen space.

Overall I feel the Travian and Ikariam UI’s are very successful. Travian’s is definitely cleaner, but Ikariam does a great job with the amount of information they have to get across. It’s no wonder that those two are the more successful games, but it is perplexing why Imperia and Kings Age haven’t learned from their competition.

Cheers,
Oliver