Category Archives: Game Impressions

Shogun 2s User Interface, Bottom Right

Bottom Right UI Element
Bottom Right UI Element

The bottom right UI element is located in a circular image that suits a dial design. It balances well the circular dial located on the opposite side of the campaign map page. The UI element can be split into two major parts.

First is the management dial which contains the vast majority of this UI elements functionality. Secondly is the resource pane which includes an overview of the most important resources used in the game, money and food.

Management Dial

Management Dial
Management Dial
  • Blue – Technology.
  • Green – Turn.
  • Purple – Clan Management.
  • Red – Finance.
  • Yellow – Diplomacy.

The UI element is compact, containing a number of icons that are representative of their function. There is though a small risk of accidentally hitting the turn button given its size and position.

  • Diplomacy (Yellow) uses a bowing person which appears to be an envoy.
  • Clan Management (Purple) uses a Clan flag which is the best representative of a Clan, and since the image is used in many other places in game the player is familiar with the image.
  • Finance (Red), uses an abacus looking instrument which is a tool used for accounting, as well as images of the currency to associate the button with in-game money.
  • Technology (Blue) uses a picture of a sword and another item representative presumably related to technology.
  • The turn button (Green) reflects the season as well as the year written clearly in black.

Management Pages

A standard used throughout the management pages is the location of the help and exit buttons. The help icon is located on the top right, and the action buttons are centered at the bottom of the page. Perhaps the help button would have been better located on the top left to coincide with the position of the help button on the main campaign map page.

Clan (Purple)

On pressing the purple icon a clan management page opens that has a number of tabs.

Summary

The summary tab is the default tab that opens. The page includes several clan related thematic elements namely the clans symbol (Blue), the name of the daimyo and an in game image (Green).

shogun_2_interface_clan_management_summary

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Shogun 2s User Interface, Top Right

The Top Right UI Element in Shogun 2s Sengoku Jidai Campaign Map consists of three primary elements.

Top Right UI Element
Top Right UI Element

Map & Global Effects

The first element is a Map of Japan. Known clans territories are marked with a representative color (e.g Purple), and clicking the elements of the map takes you to that element on the 3-D map.

In addition selecting the Map Tabs results in icons appearing on the map e.g Navy, and Army symbols which when pressed take you to the unit. Certain symbols are given different styles depending on whether they are ‘active’ or not. An example of an inactive symbol is the trading post (Yellow), an example for active is the symbol used for the city of Kyoto which has been captured in this Campaign (Green).

shogun_2_interface_top_right_map

  • Blue – Expand Button.
  • Green – Active Icon Style.
  • Purple – Multiple Clan Colors.
  • Red – Minimize Button.
  • Yellow – Inactive Icon Style.

The Map can be expanded and minimized with the button in the top right corner (Red) of the Map (placement follow a standard for window closing making it more intuitive), and expand (Blue) is located in the bottom left corner which makes sense given it expands in that direction.

Map Resizing: Expanded(Top)/Default(Middle)/Minimized(Bottom)
Map Resizing: Expanded(Top)/Default(Middle)/Minimized(Bottom)

The space difference when resizing can be somewhat judged by the above diagram. When expanded the Map takes up approximately a quarter of the screen, when minimized it disappears completely leaving only the Map Tabs and Global-Effects.

Global Effects
Global Effects

The second element is a list of Global Effects located at the top left corner of Map. This area displays an icon for each Global effect e.g. Master Builders which reduces construction costs. Perhaps leveraging perceptions of color, positive effects are displayed with a green background.

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Shogun 2s User Interface, Top Left

Top Left UI Element
Top Left UI Element

The Top Left User Interface (UI) element of Shogun 2s Sengoku Jidai Campaign Map consists of three equally sized icons. Pressing these icons open up the Game Menu, Total War Encyclopedia, and Game Menu UI elements.

  • Blue – Adviser Toggle.
  • Green – Encyclopedia.
  • Red – Game Menu.

The Top Left UI Element is never hidden, and when large elements appear in the interface from the area underneath this UI element, this element often overlays the larger element which was likely done given that this UI element has a higher priority function.

Adviser Toggle (Blue)

The Icon for the Adviser Toggle button (Blue) was likely chosen because one adviser looks similar. The functionality of the Adviser pane can be changed to either appear when using a feature in the Campaign for the first time or, considering more experienced players, can be set to not appear at all.

Pressing the icon from the UI element at the top left of the screen opens the following pane.

Adviser Pane
Adviser Pane
  • Blue – Advice Toggle.
  • Green – Advice Subject.
  • Orange – Advice Details.
  • Red – Character Image.

The character image (Red) serves a thematic purpose, the arrows (Blue) are for cycling through Advice, and are grouped with the character image to avoid getting in the way of the Advice description space.

The Advice Title (Green), and Text (Orange) are positioned in a standard way for reading. The Advice description takes the most space of all the elements, and can expand if necessary in case of text overflows. The cancel button (Purple) is placed in a commonly expected place for exiting which is the top right.

Encyclopedia Icon (Green)

The Encyclopedia Icon seems to be a Japanese style lamp with a question mark on it. I interpret this to be a symbol for a lamp that illuminates the unknown represented by the red question mark. It also leverages the commonly known iconography for help by using a question mark.

Encyclopedia Title
Encyclopedia Title

To reinforce that this is actually the Total War Encyclopedia, the icon is prominently displayed on the start page of the game, and is constantly visible in the game Encyclopedia with a clearly visible label.

Start Page Encyclopedia Icon
Start Page Encyclopedia Icon

Options Icon (Red)

Start Page Options Icon
Start Page Options Icon

I’m not exactly sure what the Game Menu Icon (Red) is. I’d hazard a guess, and say it looked like a face that was wearing glasses, and had a Japanese castle like hat?

In the Start Page of the game for displaying the Options Icon they used an image of a sword rack with multiple blades. That icon made more sense to me as I interpreted it to mean an option of swords to choose.

Perhaps they could have used the same image for consistency? Perhaps it was an issue of space?

Shogun 2s User Interface, A Study

The purpose of this project is to further my understanding of good UI design by studying various elements of Shogun 2s User Interface (UI) used in its Sengoku Jidai Campaign Map.

This post will serve to discuss the Campaign Maps UI layout, and be an index post in a multi-post project of non comprehensive personal observations of Shogun 2s User Interface.

Disclaimer: The User Interface (UI) is not quite in its Vanilla form due to having the Steam mod by Radious installed at the time of the study.

Shogun 2s User Interface Screenshot
Shogun 2 Campaign UI

The focus of this piece will be mostly on the 2-D elements of the interface such as menus, tabs, pop-up, and icons NOT the ‘3-D’ campaign map itself. So lets start with the general layout of the the Campaign User Interface.

General Layout

We can abstract Shogun 2s User Interface into an approximate layout with the following areas:

Shogun 2s User Interface General Layout
Interface Layout – Not to Scale
  • Dark Blue – Help and Options.
  • Green – Screen Center.
  • Light Blue – Map Lists.
  • Orange – ‘Selection’ Dial.
  • Pink – Description Popup area.
  • Purple – ‘Selection’ Banner.
  • Red – Map and Global effects.
  • Yellow – Management Dial.

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Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy – An Overview

Recently Humble Bundle had on offer a Star Wars Bundle which included an awesome entry from the Star Wars’s Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy.

jedi_academy_logo

I’d bought a physical copy of Jedi Academy years ago, and the memory of it was so endearing I thought I’d give it another play. This time with the difficulty set to max, and an eye open on elements of its design.

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Darwinia – An Overview

darwinia

I recently finished the single player mode of Darwinia, and here’s a brief impression of it.

Good

  • Interesting game design. In particular I enjoyed the design of the Dawinians and how their management was handled well through the user of officers units.
  • Smart choice of aesthetics. The chosen look is simple and suited to both the environment and story. If there was a lacking the artistic department in terms of time/money/ability their choice covered it all nicely.
  • Enjoyable game play. The overall goal, and game play matched up nicely as it felt that you were cleaning up Darwinia due to the self-replicating nature of the virus.
  • Good use of sound. Behaviors and actions are clearly accented such as the sound of fear/fleeing of Darwinas, and the satisfying explosions of rockets.
  • Impressive file size. Clocking at a fantastically low 30MB makes this game very download friendly. In countries with fast internet this is a non-issue but with my slow internet, it makes a great difference.

Bad

  • UI was fiddly at times. I became frustrated with the gesture based interface, and fortunately a tab based interface was available as an alternative, but even there I faced some issues selecting what I wanted.

Conclusion

I enjoyed this game very much, it has great game play, and just enough story to go with it. Sad though that Multiwinia was just a ‘multiplayer’ expansion. I was hoping it would include another single player story that focused on Darwinian on Darwinian action with some additional complexity, as by far my favorite part of the game was the fighting between good and bad Darwinians on some of the final levels.

Overall an awesome little gem. Definitely worth checking out.

Supreme Commander 2 – An Overview

I recently completed the single player mode of Supreme Commander 2, and here are some brief notes on it.

supreme_commander_2

Good

  • Good in-game visuals. Top notch in-game animations in particular unit explosions.
  • Improved micro-management. Appreciated the removal of engineer and factory tiers from the first Supreme Commander, as well as being able to repeat build orders on factories allows one to focus on the fun part; commanding armies.
  • Game ran smoothly on my dated computer. I played the game on my fairly old laptop on the Medium graphics setting and it ran smoothly as well as looked good.

Bad

  • Pre-rendered cut scenes didn’t look good. To be fair though the game was released half a decade ago.
  • Single player mode was short. Supreme Commander one feature three seperate campaigns Supreme Commander 2 felt like it hacked together three half campaigns.
  • A weak story. The primary flaws with story are its underdeveloped characters, and a loosely strung together plot. It tries to have its ‘moments’ but unfortunately they fall flat given the lack of story depth.

Both

  • Smaller scale. Though the maps are smaller in scale, in some ways this is a benefit as you don’t have units travelling for ages to get to a battle, thus there is less time between ‘action’. Yet the point still stands that the overall scale of the battles have been shrunk, and with it the feeling of being the Supreme Commander.

Conclusion

Overall I enjoyed the experience. Supreme Commander 2 definitely has some improvements from the first game, though I get this feeling that the game is less that perhaps it intended to be. Perhaps due to time/budget constraints?

Nevertheless if  you enjoyed the first Supreme Commander the second is certainly worth checking out.