27/06/2020

Broken Window

This week's patch was a medium-sized one, with one major new feature (the swoop racing event) that's not actually going live until next week. The rest of the changes were mostly small things, and I was thinking about doing a sort of summary post to talk about my favourites among them, but there was one addition that stood out from the rest above all others: that damn welcome window.

Basically, Bioware decided to replace this:


With this:


No big deal, right? I mean, I guess those icons are somewhat less intuitive than having the actual words there - I'm not sure anyone would know intuitively that the magnifying glass stands for the current planet or the flag for your guild - and it's a bit bigger than before, but it's not like... dramatically different, right? I've heard some people complain that it's the "wrong" shade of blue and that the rounded corners don't align with other elements of the UI, but frankly that's too "graphics designer" for me to care much.

Oh, did I mention that it also suddenly expands into this?


Note that big ad for the Cartel Market deal of the day and you'll have one reason why people are grumbling about this. More advertising for the Cartel Market! Money grab! Etc.

Personally, I actually don't mind this particular inclusion as the Cartel Market deal of the day is often quite good and I've occasionally kicked myself for missing a nice one simply due to never looking at the place. Somehow I find it easier to briefly expand the social bar once per day and look than to actually open the whole Cartel Market window; I'm not sure why. Maybe it's just because it's new.

I also suspect that, however much pressure there might have been to give the Cartel Market more exposure, Bioware genuinely wanted to promote the other two items in the window as well. The first shows your current main story quest, and the second shows the current week's Conquest event. They call the whole thing the "welcome window" because it's supposed to give (I'm guessing especially returning) players an idea what they can do.

My impression from reading other people's blogs and such is that returning players definitely struggle with finding their way back into the game sometimes, despite of the story missions being highlighted in the quest log and tracker, and many MMOs feature similar, often much bigger windows these days that shout about the best features to check out the moment you log in. I've always kind of enjoyed discovering content more organically, but I can understand why this is a thing.

Anyway, I don't think any of this would have been a big deal if the new social bar had simply replaced the old one in the exact same location - but for some reason Bioware decided to implement it as being located in the centre left of your screen by default, where it clashes with pretty much every UI setup under the sun:


You can move it, but only if you have "enable movable secondary window" selected in the UI editor, and only if you manage to "grab" it by the thin light blue border just so. Also, it won't necessarily remember this setting on all your characters - it seems quite erratic in that it will sometimes appear in the "right" place (where you moved it previously), or in the default position, or disappear altogether. Also, it's not part of the UI editor proper, so you can't hide or resize it. I've seen someone ask on the forums whether none of the devs know how to code for the UI editor anymore, as apparently a lot of newer UI elements have this problem.

I think all of this is pretty bad, but again, to be honest I think a lot of players wouldn't have noticed (or at least not immediately) if Bioware hadn't decided to put the bloody thing in the middle of the screen by default. As it was, both general chat and guild chat on Wednesday evening were full of people cursing about that damn window/bar in the middle of their screen and asking how to get rid of it.

And if all of this wasn't enough, this new window had also been on the PTS prior to this, with Bioware specifically asking for feedback about it - most of which was negative. The fact that the feature still made it to live with most issues unaddressed just makes it look like they didn't even listen.

It's weird because changing a small part of the user interface is such a tiny matter in the grand scheme of things... but this just goes to highlight the importance of a good UI: it needs to give the player everything they need to know to navigate the virtual world while also being as minimalistic as possible so as not to be distracting or annoying. I feel Bioware definitely violated the latter principle here and it just goes to show how much a misstep in that area can disrupt players' experiences.

14 comments :

  1. It's also annoying if you move the new window to the top left corner above the chat windows. If you use the mouse wheel to scroll through chat to see messages you might have missed, that stops working when the new window is above it. :sigh:

    I suspect they just hide the expanded area of the new window instead of properly resizing the whole thing. That would explain why you can't scroll. There's an invisible window in the way.

    I've taken to just dragging the silly thing to the top of the screen and to the left of the little toolbar at the top. (I can't remember its proper name, at the moment.) Hopefully they'll fix the issues sooner than later.

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    1. Yeah, I've read about that bug and some guildies have mentioned it, but interestingly I haven't been able to reproduce it despite of also having my bar in the top left corner.

      Apparently it also gets you kicked back to the character selection screen if you open and close the window too many times in a row, but I haven't tried that for myself either.

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  2. I think the "It's different! I hate it!" reactions are inevitable and natural, but as we get used to which icon means what we'll all move on. In truth the new guide isn't that big a change, and directing new players to the quest log or conquest or, yes, even the Cartel Market is not a bad idea. However it does seem like they are updating the whole interface piecemeal, but this time the new element really clashes with the old both in style and interaction with our old UI and the editor. SWTOR's Interface Editor was a terrific addition to the game and it's disappointing that they're barely trying to get new elements to work with the old.

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  3. I think this is more than an "eww, it's new" reaction. That is an absolutely terrible place for it to be by default.

    I like the idea behind the actual revamp. Though much less intuitive than the previous one, it has more information in the same space. The information that it shows if you expand it also seems like a good idea (it keeps me from having to check the daily specials directly in the cartel market).

    Regardless, asking for feedback and then completely ignoring it is not a good look. For whatever reason tons of MMO developers do this. The default placement, I am just completely baffled by.

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  4. Honestly, if it wasn't the awful initial placement, we may get over it... Now, adding that on top of the rest, just makes it very hard for ppl not to be bitter about it...

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    1. Yeah, I feel this is something they really could have avoided very easily by not having it be so obviously in your face and in such an annoying position to begin with.

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  5. Does anyone know if there's any way to turn it off or reduce the suze of it?

    I can't seem to disable or modify it in the interface editor, and I don't use any of the features on it. I've tried moving it off into the corner for now.

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    1. Nope, like I said in the main post, it unfortunately can't be resized or hidden. That's just one reason many people are so annoyed with it.

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  6. Yeah, the new UI feature isn't great, but I don't know if it's worth *quite* as much fuss as is getting kicked up on the forums.

    Personally, I'm more intrigued by the fact that the new merc/commando heals set shares a name with an existing general set... how'd they miss that? ;)

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    1. Yep, I mention that in my next post... which I'd already pre-written by the time this comment was posted. ^^

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  7. I really don't know, how people come to their conclusions.

    I saw a post on the forums, and the guy demanded an emergency shutdown of the servers to reverse all changes.

    I just don't see the big fuzz about it. I had to change the location once. And that's it. I moved into a corner and there it is. I never looked at it again.

    First time i heared about it, i thought, i had to minimize it everytime i log into a toon. But no, it stays closed by default. I see absolutley no change to the previous display. All i miss is the "Coruscant", name of the planet, when i look at it.

    Sure, drag and drop works only, if you enable the move secondary window thing,...but heck...it's just this one time you have to do it. "I demand emergency server shutdown"...ja, how about no.

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    1. That is of course a silly overreaction, but I disagree with "it's just this one time you have to do it". Like I said in the main post I've repeatedly had it jump back to its default location and had to drag it back. We'll see whether it'll be any better behaved after today's patch.

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    2. I never had it jump back. Sure...i use more than one layout for my UI...when i swap from my DPS-UI to my Healing-UI, i have to adjust it a second time. But as far as i can see, it saved the new location. I'm pretty sure, if i swap to Tank-UI, i have to change it again. And then i'm done with it.

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    3. It wouldn't have anything to do with that as I use the same UI on all my characters.

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