Sliders. Sliders everywhere!
Meme out of the way, Sliders are an important component of many management games, and it’s very easy to fall in the trap of putting down lazy sliders.
Sliders in Particle Nations
Sliders are one of the most important means to configure your Nation. You will use them for Taxes, Budgets, and setting certain restrictions or behaviors.
- Setting the tax for a sector like Dirty Industry, to promote or hinder it’s desirability.
- Setting the budget for Power, to push the boundaries of the current infrastructure, or bring it down to prevent wasting budget on unused power.
- Setting the retirement age of your population, to trade your citizen’s lifespan for economical strength.
Serving so many purposes, it means our Slider must be super versatile, but most importantly avoid being lazy by dumping a bunch of numbers and wishing good luck. We must show the user what it means to pick a certain percentage or value in that Slider.
Let’s take a look at the evolution of the Sliders, from #1 to #4. Bear in mind these are drafts and information is not meant to be accurate on them.
Slider #1 is pretty much a stylized yet standard slider. It gets the job done but in a lazy way. All you see is percentages. How much is right? Which consequences can I expect? No answers are given. Unfortunately many games I like leave it here.
Sliders #2 and 3 still have the same problems, but allow to define labels, which are useful on some cases, like the Anti-corruption agency budget. Still not clear enough, specially for defining taxes. And another problem arises: labels run out of space quickly.
Slider #4 attempts to gain more real state by using snap points with centered labels. The extra space is welcomed, but can still become a problem later if we need many steps.
So I took Slider #4 (seen again at the top of this second mockup) and made variations 5 to 7.
Slider #5 has many steps whose labels simply cannot fit in. Therefore, they get hidden, keeping captions on the sides to provide range context. How close in our current selection are we to one side or the other?
Slider #6 adds a new feature, which is a popup explaining the true effect of our selection. While a label is a good replacement for raw numbers in some situations, they may still be not descriptive enough. These popups give us room to write a clarification or multiple effects.
Slider #7 is essentially the same, but using Dirty Industry tax as example to show how important this popup can be on some cases. Also, it’s been shrunk because – guess what – it would otherwise block the money estimate when picking items on the right.
Note this slider is still a mockup and may evolve further down the line.
Don’t let it get in the way
I always think of the UI as the interface we have to use because we can’t stick our hand into the screen and manipulate the universe behind it, The Matrix style or so.
That’s why I always demand from my own or other UIs to just not get in the way. Don’t block information that’s relevant, don’t obfuscate information, don’t make it hard to click, don’t make it hard to play around with.
The best UI is one you can’t tell it’s there. It’s a UI-based game so that’s gonna be a stretch, but as long you feel you spend more time deciding than guessing the interface, I’d consider that a victory.
Bonus track: status update
A lot of work is being put in every area: front end, server infrastructure & simulation, UI design, game balance and game design. I’m still trying to reduce the scope on the go, which has led to put Culture on to the side in order to focus on other features that are easier to implement/balance and have way more synergy with the current simulation features. About that, I hope I can talk about it soon, once it’s implemented.