February 22, 2009

Run my little penguins, run!

For the next release of snowballz I'm trying to simplify the user interface for two reasons; So it's easier for players to learn and secondly (and most importantly at this point) it's easier for me.

One issue I've always had with controlling the penguins is the run mode. In versions 0.9.x, by middle clicking you tell your penguins to run without stop, regardless of enemies, to where you send them. A great way to get your snowballers behind enemy lines. Apposed to if you were to just right click, in which case they would stop and throw snowballs at enemies.

The one problem I've had with this method is that it isn't obvious. No-one would ever discover it, which could be frustrating.

That's when I remembered hearing about an article talking about networking RTS games. One interesting thing that the article mentioned was to filter out rapid clicking; As players tend to repeatedly tell their units to go to one spot as if it made them get there faster. Thus saving network bandwidth (it was an old article written when most people had dialup).

So why not use this behavior to do what the player expects? So I got rid of the confusing middle click and set it so that when a player rapidly tells their penguins to move it adds a double arrow to the move icon (which specifies run mode). And their penguins will run through the middle of a snowball fight without stopping until they get to where you sent them.

And there we go. The run feature will be discovered just by playing. It doesn't have to be in a tutorial or tips & tricks. Now let's see if I can get the rest of the interface like that.

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