A Graphical User Interface to manage a Nation
Last time we took a look into how Supply and Demand works in Particle Nation, which is a core component of the simulation. For this post we are going to be sitting around the drawing board, as I’d like to share the latest on the UI for Particle Nation.
Please note that all drafts in this article are illustrative only, and are bound to change.
Countries are huge. So large it is highly unproductive to rely on a gigantic map with hundreds of power plants and hundred of thousand of residences scattered all over the place, trying to click on every single object to inspect what is going on. Grouping is necessary to compress data in a single place.
The national view represents each simulation component with an icon with a circular progress when applicable, and a more graphical representation of it’s quantity & types.
Data layers at the bottom right allows us to inspect the current state of the Nation, indicating how this resource is affected or affects each component, a supply/demand indicator on the bottom left corner, with one or two graphs on the side for historical data.
This makes it easy to see how each component affects the other, how much energy a sector consumes vs another, or where are our biggest expenses or tax income coming from, as well as the tendency over time for each of these.
When clicking on a simulation component, we can see data related to this component with greater detail, and in the case of government facilities, also interact with them (i.e: begin the construction of a new building).
While graphs are the best way to represent information, they are definitely the least user friendly types of displays. They are quick to read but require previous knowledge on how to use them. A good example of trying to cater to both the casual and power user within this game, is the Population view.
On the left we can see the Generational graph, which can also display a data layer on it, such as Health or Education by age segment. This graph is extremely simple and useful, yet it requires for the user previous knowledge to understand how to read it.
On the right, we can see the same type of information represented on a much more user friendly way. Population is split into the three key groups, and information is displayed on them as simulation components (circular progress, numbers on top).
This way is easier to read, but more complex to look at and provides less information since data is either summed or averaged.
My hope is that players with less understanding can get started with the information on the right, and slowly start to rely more on the graph on the left as they start to relate both and learn how it works.
The goals of the UI
A deep simulation is meaningless if you cannot see it. The goal is for the UI to be as transparent as possible to the simulation behind, for the player to easily analyze the current state of the Nation, and be able to use the provided tools to change it for (hopefully) the better.
It has to remain simple, as it should be user friendly, work on the constrained real state of a mobile phone, and also not be a major budget sink.
And at last, since it is a UI-based game, it has to provide the user with the visual richness that you may find on a map-based game, although this step comes much later in the development roadmap.
On the next episode…
So many interesting things to talk about. In example, currently there is a lot of development effort being put into the Policies engine, which is allowing to really configure how a Nation work (i.e: change the retirement age and adjust the pension they get). Policies are great customization and solution tools; as much as I’d like to talk about them, we might dive on other topics first.
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