This thread is to discuss different UI features and organization ideas. Strategy games are all about the UI. A good strategy game with a less than amazing UI quickly can become a mediocre strategy game. UI needs to be able to show the player enough information to let him understand what is going on without having too much that would cause a new player to become frustrated.
I am going to focus mostly on screens, rather than things like tabs or stuff like that. But Iwant to encourage anybody that has ideas to post. I know when I look at what others say I sometimes forget that I have an opinion too and don't post anything. If you have something to input, please go ahead. I want discussion here ! (I'm swinging my forum troll stick)
One idea for this game is having several worlds between which the war of magic can be waged. Several turn-based strategy games have had multiple maps at the same time. Master of Magic in particular had very strong multi-map features. Another good example is “cave wars” which had many different levels that could be burrowed between using giant drills. Having multiple world is nothing new. It has been done. However; a particularly good UI for multi-world display certainly has yet to be made. I saw somebody else talked about a tab system for the multi-world display.
My first major idea is multi-screen support. Many powerful PC users have two monitors.
I can only think of one other game that features strong multi-screen support, and I think that this game should be the second. This is especially the case if there are multiple worlds. Players with more than one screen should be able to set the other screen to different views. I’m going to break the ideas into 2 sections: Overland and battle UI ideas (at least for my post. Other people please post your own ideas)
Another forum member by the name of “Vandenburg” mentioned in a post I made about multi-world ideas that “They always have one significant flaw, you can't have both of them on the minimap/main map/whatever, at once”. I can think of several choices to fix this.
Exact same screen position, but different world: This will be easier to do visualization. There should be a second glowing point to show where the indicator is pointing on the other map or something similar too. As I am going to talk about later on the page, sometimes it is hard to visualize exactly where something is located on the corresponding plane. So when one screen moves, the other moves as well.
Different screen, maybe different world: This is more like how supreme commander does it. You just operate the two different screens independently. Not much to say here, look at supreme commander. This is useful for organizing troop movement. Move one screen to where you want everybody to go and the other you can move around to find all your guys. One of the most annoying features of some games is the fact that to view a unit you must move the screen to them, but then you have to go all the way back to where you want to send them. But with this feature you can move one screen to the destination and use the other screen to make sure you are selecting the right army to move. There should be a lock button or option that switches between the options. I cannot imagine one is more complex to program than the other, and certainly system requirements would be the same.
Unit/city details. Sometimes you want to be able to look at the map while making your building or character choices. Not much else to say.
Single or multi-screen UI indicators
There should be an indicator where the cursor or center of the screen can be found. I remember back in the day putting a pencil eraser on my screen and switching maps so that I didn’t lose where the center of the screen was. So I knew where my guys would teleport into the other map if I cast a plane-shift spell or something similar. It was not too bad in heroes of might and magic, at least not as bad as Master of Magic and cave wars (it was very bad in cave wars. I would become angry because I would touch the edge of the screen on my way to the switch maps button and the screen would move subtly, then my builder would appear in the middle of a crystal or something that I wanted to come up beside). I should not have to use a pencil or something to help me keep track of something on my screen. Especially if multi-screen support is heavily considered, there should be a feature to help show where things exist cross-plane. Either a semi-transparent outline of where a guy is effectively on the current world in relation to where he is on the other. This could at least be available when players are picking which world into which the army should plane shift.
Another alternative to the split screen support
Another option would be to display the other worlds in a semi-transparent overlay. Like if you pick to plane shift (setup a cross-dimentional drill, prepare to slash with the subtle knife, or whatever would be appropriate) a bubble could appear around the character (drill, tower, or whatever). Everybody supports an alpha layer these days, right? So there shouldn’t be a problem.