How Would You Like It To Work?

On December 1, 2011, in King Machine, by bateleur

I spent last week fixing my pooter, which was generating pretty regular blue screens of death thanks to a dying motherboard. I'll spare you the details. Suffice to say it works again now!

This week, I've been improving King Machine's basic building UI.

Building a fence in King Machine.

This is a process I've left much longer than I should have done for the simple reason that the old UI worked. I could build more-or-less anything I wanted with it. As a result, improving it didn't seem like a priority. Also, perhaps more relevantly, improving it was less fun for me than designing levels, making machines, creating artwork or coming up with new machine parts.

The problem is, there's a big difference between being able to make something with the old UI and the process actually being smooth enough to be fun. Players in King Machine will need to build a lot of stuff and if that process is fiddly and demanding it's not going to make for good gameplay.

So what have I changed?

The main difference now is that there's no need to use the menu at all to line up objects in basic ways. Clicking on the edge of an object will align the edge of the object you're holding with it and pull those two edges together. This makes it far, far quicker to build walkways and surfaces your bot can travel along. Clicking on a face of an object will align the closest face of the object you're holding to it and pull those faces together. This makes it much easier to build complex structures with all the relevant parts lined up correctly.

I'm also experimenting with automatically switching between grab mode and build mode. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's quite common to grab something, carry it for a while, then want to build with it at the far end. On the other hand it's annoying to have the game switch modes when you didn't want it to. I'll probably need to wait for playtest results with this feature to work out if I want it.

Next step is to rethink how wiring and logic work. These are the aspect of the game most strongly tied to earlier versions of King Machine, so I've been reluctant to mess with them. On the other hand, you know what they say about sacred cows.

They go "moo".

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3 Responses to “How Would You Like It To Work?”

  1. Aeronic says:

    Rather then have a context sensitive build/grab mode, perhaps you could just have it on a hot key? Keep it on grab mode by default, and while holding down the proper key, you go into build mode and once releasing the key, it reverts back to grab mode. I figure you'd use grab more often then build in the general situations, and if you can switch them on the go, then I'd personally rather have manual control of it.

  2. bateleur says:

    Yeah, that seems like a good plan. I'm not sure about hold and release, because the build process isn't always quick, but a toggle key might work well.

    I certainly do want to support keyboard shortcuts for common operations. The thing I'm trying to avoid is a situation where you need to know 10+ shortcut keys to have a good play experience.

    It's a bit like Diablo-II's spell powers in a sense. The game is played by making heavy use of the function keys to switch powers, but while you're learning the game you can select them with the mouse, which works well enough as an easy-to-learn starting point.

    That said, it may be the case that grab-to-build is so fundamental that encouraging the player to use a key right from the start is worth the complexity.

  3. Paladin says:

    As already hinted, hotkeys aren't the best way to deliver a newbie-friendly experience, but a requirement for an efficient one. That's why I'm advocating for both a GUI toggling button and an alternative keyboard shortcut.

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