Baby Killin’ – Trying to keep emotional attachment out of design decisions

Today I’ve been working on a bunch of UI stuff as Uffizi’s core features are more-or-less finished. However, I’m caught in a bit of a dilemma which I thought I’d share. The problem I’m having is a great example of detrimental emotional attachment or, colloquially, Baby Killing. Now, before you call the police and warn them about your neighborhood game designer, let me explain what DEA/baby killing is.

Emotional Attachment

Getting emotionally attached to your product and features is a dangerous habit. This applies to TONS of industries, especially creative ones, and in Game Design it’s no different. You can fall in love with your ideas, but when you implement them or complete other features, you realize that your original idea is no longer as effective as you thought it was. But you love it. You can’t get rid of it, right? All that work for nothing! It’s still an amazing feature, even if it isn’t perfect anymore… right?

This is where you gotta kill dem babies! Becoming emotionally attached to ineffective ideas and solutions (they’re never BAD ideas, they’re just not quite right anymore) is really dangerous because you end up sacrificing other parts of your product to try and get it to fit in. You start trying to fit the square peg in the round hole by shaving off the corners of the peg, important corners that are vital to the game.

Where is this effecting Uffizi?

Here’s the dilemma I’m having now, with Uffizi’s Noble/Quest UI. The game is still in very early stages, so please ignore any weirdness (namely busted timers and the huge empty space below Machiavelli’s name where a beautiful picture would be)…

This UI is where the player will see quests given to them by the Nobles. They can view the noble's happiness and complete quests through this menu
This UI is where the player will see quests given to them by the Nobles. They can view the noble’s happiness and complete quests through this menu

I think this menu isn’t bad. It gets the relevant information across…

  • Quest requirements
  • Quest deadline
  • Noble’s happiness level and the rewards associated with it

The problem is that you’re opening a full screen menu to get this information, which is a click to open and a click to close just to check if they’ve met the quest requirements.

That’s a bad user experience. The more clicks and menus a player has to go through, the more difficult it is to compare information you’re receiving.

To combat this, I added the Noble Preview area (The little info panel next to the Noble Portrait). This displays the request timer and happiness bar. When the player mouses over the panel, it will open this UI…

This menu will popup when the player mouses over the small noble info panel, next to their portrait.
This menu will popup when the player mouses over the noble preview area, next to their portrait.

Just from mocking this up (it’s not implemented yet), I’m seeing a lot of benefits

  • It requires no click to open or close. It’s a superb user experience with zero friction.
  • It fits all the quest description in and technically has even more room for quest requirements than the full-screen UI
  • There’s still empty space in there, which I could probably insert happiness into…

The question I’m posing now is;

Why have the full screen menu at all?

I like the full screen menu a lot because it has space for an image and I can have descriptions for the Noble’s current opinion of you. Both of these add charm and personality to the game (which is pretty important for a low-budget indie game). But is the charm worth the negative user experience?

Right now, I’m going to keep both in. So you can click to open the full screen panel and hover to see this UI. I’m sure this is very inefficient for the size of my code. It’s keeping a redundant feature in the game (and all the data that goes with it) and it could even waste money if I commission panel art for each noble.

Should I kill this baby?

Right now I’m going to see how well it does in playtesting before making the final decision, but this whole experience is definitely teaching me a lot about what’s important in the game. If players are hooked by the charming pictures and noble’s opinion pieces, then it might be worth keeping the full screen… if not, then there’s no reason to have it and I should remove it from the game to avoid confusion.

In other news, tomorrow is my non-coding day so I’ll prepare a bit of an official announcement of the game and explain what exactly I’m working on!

Have a great Monday!

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