So Iâ€™ve been working on the Knights Province HUD redesign lately. It is a two-fold endeavor – design and programming. Hereâ€™s how it goes:
Some terminology first – typically, HUD is a short for the Heads-Up Display – GUI elements that pop up over the â€œworldâ€ view, showing some general information and/or the selected objects info. Here and below I will be specifically referring to the in-game objectâ€™s HUD that appears when an object gets selected (a house, a unit, a tree, etc).
So basically I’m quite content with the current blocky HUD. It was always planned to be a temp solution. Something that can be slapped together and work. Grey at first, recently it got nicer with colored background textures and subtle shadows, but still – it is a temporary solution. It serves its purpose of being a “sketch/prototype” very well. I’m glad to have it functional and would like to keep it that way. However changes are due.
What was the push for the change? Fences and sheep!
Looking at other games (specifically Age of Empires) I always liked the idea of being able to select every major object and trees to see its info. Now with fences it is doubly important to be able to select them and view their details (e.g. player ownership).
HUD design and coding is one part of the endeavor. Object picking in-game is another one. Suffice to say – it took some noticeable amount of time and effort, but now it seems object picking is working rather well and is future-proof (with improvements already queued).
Back to the HUD topic though. Being able to select more kinds of objects meant that the HUD needed to be updated to show the new objects in a pleasant way, or, even better – redesigned! Being so used to the existing design I would not be able to radically change it without taking a long break from the game development and coding, so I have had to hire a freelance artist to help. Just_bu stepped in. Below are just some of the sketches (ideas) she has made:
You may notice they have an odd style and gamma – this is intentional. On this stage we were generating UX/UI layout sketches. Seeing what needs to go together and what can be moved. Checking out the balance between form and size.
Unfortunately, Just_bu had to move on to a higher priority project some days ago. Now Iâ€™m posting the vacancy description once again, hoping to get a new pair of hands on the case. Important to say – Patreon donations helped to cover the costs. Big thank you, patrons!
After running some research and seeing different UI ideas, I saw that Knights Province UI tended to gravitate towards certain structural layouts. Being reasonably sure about that, now Iâ€™m starting to update the game engine too. Refactoring old â€œrigidâ€ forms into more flexible â€œmodularâ€ design. Here are some modules I have isolated as example in the old UI:
And after some extensive research I was able to create the following table, that covers most of the in-game entities and the HUDs they need (a fragment):
It contains the entities (rows) and modules they need (columns). Pretty straight-forward. With just minor complications arising from allied/enemy states and cross-module dependencies. No road-blocks though – just a lot to code and refactor! xD
One of the bigger and nicer HUD elements I wanted to cover in more detail is an object’s avatar. It is going to be a central piece of the new HUD. Iâ€™ve chosen to reuse the in-game 3D model for it (instead of hand-drawn graphics), to speed up and ease up the development. The model gets rendered into its own texture and post-processed with a nice glow effect.
Avatar being rendered into its own texture with glow and antialiasing is somewhat performance costly, but Iâ€™m hoping to optimize that later on, when it becomes accepted (cos who knows, maybe new UX artists will bring in superior HUD ideas that do not involve avatars).
Hereâ€™s another wip example – Store HUD getting â€œmodularâ€ overhaul – wares module is now common between it and the Camp, Fort and Barracks (all houses with â€œa lot of waresâ€ stored inside):
Objects HUD redesign is a â€œsoft-ballâ€ of sorts. If it goes well I plan to redesign other in-game GUI elements (minimap, build menu, etc.) later on (maybe in Alpha 13). Main menu redesign is lower priority (think Alpha 14 or later).
Once the big HUD overhaul/refactoring is stabilized I will be able to release new Alpha 12 wip build (with beta sheep and better fences and waterfalls and other nice features). So, armed with that, work goes on!
P.S. And as always, I’m happy to read your comments and discuss on Discord 🙂