Wednesday, February 12, 2014

BB#53 Tin Cans Sharing Tables

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.
Strangely enough the topic of the Overview has been on my mind a lot the past couple months.  Eve is one of those games which looks awesome, and really goes to the effort to make things look good.  But it is also a game built on calculations, equations, and having the necessary intelligence available.  I find it striking one of the questions offered in this month's blog banter has to do with the Overview giving too much information.

I'm not sure how many people think the Overview shows too much but I for one find it to be a very sadistic piece of work.  As I mentioned Eve works hard on providing a beautiful playing experience and then you have the Overview allowing you to do stuff and interact with the universe.  One is a table with columns and characters, the others is a depth inducing background with little cans floating in a sea stars.  (I know graphics aren't everything, I do play Dwarf Fortress.)

Now I enjoy tables and columns as much as an accountant but I want my star sea full of cans as well.  Unfortunately Eve makes it quite difficult to have both.  The art of positioning your Overview in a way which allows you the use of its vital information and not consume your whole screen is something everybody is still struggling with today.

What kind of info does the Overview provide?  Well it has the potential to provide 14 columns of info not counting the dozens if not hundreds of little check boxes further in.  I'd make a challenge for someone to fit all 14 columns on their screen while also being able to see at least 30 rows if not more.....If you actually just tried right now you'd discover that Eve has suddenly disappeared and you're looking at an Excel spreadsheet.

Because of this type of conflict a lot of people cut down the number of columns to ones they find important.  I'm guessing we can at least drop the 5 columns dealing with in-game info available elsewhere.  But this still leaves us with 9 columns we have to trim down even further!  I personally try to keep my columns down to about 4-5 and that's with cutting a few of them in half so I only see the first word or string of numbers.  Now let's add in chat windows, fleet, watch-list, hud, target icons, weapon icons, D-scan, and whatever else people like having open so they have the right info on hand..........

While this is not optimal, it is a necessary evil.  Over time I've fallen into wondering why the heck I can't do more with my Overview.  

I believe the Overview is a great tool for allowing one to know what's going on.  It just doesn't provide the functionality it should.  For instance I get 5 tabs, but if I change the columns on any of them it changes on all of them.  Sort order is pits, because sometimes you can get a TON of junk showing up.  I've been in situations where I have hundreds of rows and icons I need to scroll through before I find what I want.  Don't even start wondering why tabs are limited at 5 or that you can't pop them out and make different sizes and transparencies.  There is a lot which people would want to be able to accomplish with the Overview.  I don't think moving more icons into space is going to help much because you end up with the same problem of screen clutter.  (Don't even get me started on the fething can spew of exploration which for shaking hands like mine is hell or when I click on the container I want but because there were 4 others in the same grouping it just picked the one it liked best........and there I go rambling.....)

While I don't see CCP letting us pop the overview onto a separate monitor anytime soon, a few changes I believe would make it far more useful and enjoyable would be to allow multiple overview windows which are independent, make each tab independent of the others, and allow custom sorting options for example, I want to sort by ship class and then by distance or velocity or name or any of the other columns.

I'd need more time to think of a more ingenious method to give the player the same amount of information without ending up in the same situation as before.  Because throwing more brackets and icons into space is just a more disorganized Overview.

I mean how often have you been doing something and wished for a second Overview window?

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