Today’s topic comes from a tweet from @erlendur in a conversation he was having with a pilot about having multiple overview tabs open in separate windows:
So that is the topic this month: The Overview. Is it sufficient? If not how can it be improved? Is there some way to replace it? Does it give too much information, or not enough? Please be creative and specific as the overview currently is the heartbeat of the GUI.
This was part of a longer exchange. I think you need to read the whole exchange to understand what CCP Explorer was getting at. I’ve placed the whole thread to the right here so you can refer to it. The last tweet from CCP Explorer isn’t what I consider the key comment. THe key comment is the previous one, though it’s completely contextual and wouldn’t spark a blog banter by itself. It was the encouragement to “think outside the box” that was important about this exchange.
The community has talked and talked about the overview for years and… well, I’m frankly tired of hearing it talked about. In all the talk over almost six years, very little has changed. The overview is still that spreadsheet thing that got EVE Online the notorious nickname of spreadsheets in space. I think the one difference in this discussion in particular is that encouragement to think outside the box. To me it says, “if you could start from the beginning and make a tracking system from scratch, what would you want?”
Now, if that’s really what CCP Explorer was getting at, I’m in. Let’s forget about spreadsheets in space. Let’s have something totally different. I’m all for that. So what would I want? I’d want an intelligent, pre-programmed, real-time delivery system for information relevant to me at the moment. The first thing that would need to happen, besides the current overview box getting ripped out of the code, is for Aura to get a lot smarter.
What I really want is an Artificial Intelligence that exercises that intelligence according to rules I specify. Rather than have an overview setup that is nothing more than filters on a list, I want a hierarchy of triggers created by me and constantly evaluated by Aura. They would include settings like, “Notify and display in flashing red on the HUD any criminal that comes within 200 kilometers of my ship.” Aura highlights such a ship directly on the screen in a heads up display (HUD.) If the ship is behind or to the side and out of view, there would be a small arrow on the side of the HUD next to an indicator showing what direction the ship is in. The size of the HUD would be set by the pilot. If I wanted, it could fill the entire monitor screen. I could also make it a small area anywhere else. In full screen mode, there would be no lines, no box, nothing to indicate it was actually there until an environmental condition tripped a trigger. In reduced mode, it would take a 3rd person viewpoint showing the space around my ship out to a distance I specify. It would look a lot like the tactical display looks now but be smaller and placed where I could see it at all times, but also see the rest of the screen. It would be most like a three dimensional representation of the direction scanner.
Basically I’m talking about taking the current overview setup dialog and turning it into a set of programmable conditions that would determine what Aura displayed on my screen from moment to moment. The system would allow me to add secondary information to anything displayed on the HUD, much like an air traffic controller’s radar screen displays relevant information on inbound aircraft. There would be conditional triggers for this secondary information as well. Just as now, if I target a ship I want to see the shield/armor/structure stats as they currently are. But I also want to “see” the speed, transverse velocity and anything else currently made into a column on the spreadsheet, right there on the target icon and at my discretion. And rather than have the target icon in a static location, I want the option for the target information to show on the HUD as the target itself. It would move when the target moved. And let’s not use numbers that are difficult to take in at a glance when there are dozens or even hundreds of potential targets. Let’s have a vector line that points in the direction the ship is travelling and is proportional to the ship’s speed. Let’s make it color coded on a red-shift type of system to indicate traversal. How excellent would that be? The faster the ship is moving the longer the line is. If it is moving away, the line becomes more red. If the ship is approaching, the line is more blue. If the ship is coming right at me or straight away from me the entire tactical icon would tinge blue or red as appropriate. That could appear inside the current red haze targeted indicator, and have a red or blue circle inside it to give an indication of velocity. The size of the circle is analogous to the length as before. At maximum transverse velocity, a white line indicates the ship is running at right angels to my course.
That’s what I see the combat HUD looking like. But the HUD would be a multi-configuration display. If I was mining, I could configure the HUD to display mining pertinent information like asteroid distances, richness, ore remaining, etc. AND, if a hostile triggers an alert according to the parameters I specified, the HUD would instantly shift from the mining overlay to the combat overlay. That would get my attention! In essence I am talking about how the current tabs get converted. There would of course be a hot key for switching the HUD from display to display, but there would also be automatic conditions where Aura knows she must alert me to danger. And there would have to be fine control programmed into the options. I wouldn’t want to switch to a combat HUD just because some rats show up in the belt. I’d only what Aura to take note if one of them started to shoot me. And notice I said Aura, not that I wanted to take note. Why couldn’t I program my AI to automatically launch drones, deal with the rats and recall them – all without bothering me? I mean really, if I was a mining foreman that’s what I’d do. Rats don’t pose that big a threat to a well prepared mining operation. However, if Rixx Javix showed up I’d want the combat overlay thrown up immediately and sirens to go off all over the ship!
And since I’m trying to think out of the box, let’s take some of the EVE: Valkyrie coolness and transfer it to EVE Online. Create a Occulus Rift display for EVE Online. With the color coded HUD in full screen mode, a capsuleer could simply look around him to see all the ships in space arrayed in their actual location relative to his view-point. I get shivers when I think of that experience. Who has to fly a fighter to have a virtual reality experience? Think about the command center on a Minbari War Cruise in the show Babylon V.
Imagine hunting miners with a three-dimensional asteroid belt arrayed around you like that, even if it is a bit of a 3rd person view. There is room in a “make it so” oriented experience for that sort of love, is there not CCP Explorer? It is something CCP should at least consider. After all, it worked for Captain Sheridan.
No doubt though, my preference for a more visual HUD like experience will not appeal to everyone. There are actually some players out there who like the current overview. The only thing they lament is that it takes up valuable screen real estate. That seems to me a contradiction in desires. They want the overview because it gives so much information, but they also want to “see” what’s going on around their ship. That’s a bit like having your cake and eating it too. But I discovered an interesting feature of Uplay while playing Assassin’s Creed IV. With Uplay, you can transfer your West Indies map to a secondary device. For those who like the list of ships, I could see that being offloaded to a secondary device like a tablet of a smartphone. It wouldn’t be easy, but CCP integrated Twitch so how about having a look at integrating some of our other devices too? But in the end, the visuals are all up for negotiation though I really think a mini-tactical display and HUD could go a long way toward dispensing with the spreadsheet. Nevertheless, what I really, really want is a more intelligent AI even if all it does is auto-switches tabs. One that I can program with my preferences. And because of that programming, it would automatically know when it has to change without me taking precious seconds when I can least afford them to tell it to change. That is at least a good place to start on all the rest.