Update 2022-03-28: Comment from CCP Junison.
There are many occassions where functionality is deemed more important that looks. Business software for example. The pirmary concern here is that it works and can be efficiently used by a human. Looks are nice, but of secondary concern.
With entertainment software like video games that’s a bit different. The UI is also what potential customers will see in videos, screenshots, and marketing material. If that doesn’t look good, it may turn off potential players. #spreadsheetsinspace
At the same time the best styled button and most fancy pop-up doesn’t help if the interface is a pain to use.
When I want to go to the workshop building my wood-projet, I’d put on different clothing than when I’m going out to socialize at a bar. Eve can not change it’s inteface like we can change our pants. And to stick with the clothing metaphor: A sandbox game needs to provide an interface that can be used by players of every profession. But at the same time it needs to be customizable enough so people can tailor it towards their niche usecase.
I built my interface around a pvp-oriented playstyle. It often includes a lot roaming around in gangs. Mostly in nullsec and sometimes wormholes. That means d-scan, bookmarks, local chat, and the fleet-window are extremly important for me. They show vital information I want to have always available at any given time.
This means quite a number boxes that want to be arranged on a limited screen: 1920 x 1080 pixels.
Opt Me In!
Recently CCP announced that players can now opt-in to test new features on the Singulartiy test server.
So, let’s have a look at how the changes would affect my personal way to play.
For easier comparison, I tried to mirror my layout between live- and test-server. The screenshot of the current UI will be on the 👈 left (with a Proteus), and the Photon UI on the right 👉 (with a Paladin).
ALL SCREENSHOTS FROM TEST-SERVER
CHANGES MAY HAPPEN
One literally big problem here: The headers of each window suffer of gigantomania.
Why not scale down the UI to 90%? Yeah, It tried that. But that doesn’t fix the problem with the bulky borders.
Especially the Fleet-window needs some urgent adjustments. In the current form I can see around five boradcasts in the history tab. In the new incarnation, I can see two… Now that’s not the most important metric. The last three broadcasts are usually enough if you don’t need to backtrack broadcasted locations. But it shows well how much space is taken up by the other elements of the window. Especially the header. Alone it takes up as much as the current one needs for header and menu-tabs combined.
Meanwhile the boradcast buttons are as tiny as ever. gg, wp.
You can see the same problem with the local bookmark window: The list shrinks from four to two entries at the same window-height.
Or with d-scan: With all these margins and paddings going on, it reduces the list-entries that I can effectively see without scrolling quite a bit. This can be deadly in pvp.
If a new UI hinders me to use it efficiently compared to it’s old version, I rather keep the old one. It may not be looking as nice, but especially when it comes to vital information, functionality trumps fashion. Period.
The context menu is also bigger. But you know what? I like that, despite I will have to move my curser further around the screen. Especially the icons beside certain options help making things clear. I think the spacing here actually helps.
Just a “lol” for the Notepad. I guess it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Eve’s UI, but I know a bunch of people who use it. Probably just not adjusted yet.
Also why does the Probe Scanner has such a big border of nothing at the bottom?
Show Info & Character Notes
Again a demonstration how the same sum of information requires more space to be displayed. So effectively that’s a loss of available space to the player.
Why is that relevant to me? Because believe it or not, but I’m bad at memorizing resistance profiles of most ships. Then I like to open up the info panel and quickly check what might be the best ammunition to shoot. This often happens during or shortly before active combat. During that time I rather have less of my screen covered with windows and rather see more of the current grid.
In short: The more space I lose to windows being big, the less awareness of the grid I can have.
Or if you do other activities: The more windows, the less you can see of the pretty space pixels.
In fact, I want to have as little UI as possible.
I wanted to add this screenshot because it shows nicely how the borders and margins have grown in the current version of Photon UI.
Also a thing almost everyone uses a lot without thinking much of it: The market. The new UI doesn’t change too much here… Usually shopping also isn’t a live and death-situation like spamming d-scan in a wormhole while being chased by pirates and carrying ten times more than your Astero is worth.
The most interesting part here is probably that Photon UI doesn’t offer as much color variants as the current one does. I’m especially missing a dark tone like my current favorite “Dark Matter”.
However, the increased line-height in this particular window actually improves the readability of the individual elements. And frankly there it’s absolutely fine. In other places, it’s just not fine at all.
Some Good Stuff
But let’s also have a look at some nice things: One of it is local chat. You can actuall scale it so that you end up only with a list of names. I just wish you could reduce it’s width even a bit more.
There also seems to be a bit of betterment in performance when first opening the asset window. But that might or might not be related to the UI changes.
One more nice detail I noticed: When you hover over the buttons in the stations menu your cursor has a bit of a spotlight on it. That makes it much easier to see where your cursor currently is.
I have to admit that I would like the overall look and feel of the Photon UI. The flat design with selectively added glow would be cool – if there wasn’t that much unused space again! Argh! (╯°□°)╯︵┻━┻
In one sentece: Wasting space with style.
I agree, it looks and feels nice and crisp. Bigger text is easy to read and especially great for people who can afford a larger screen. But is CCP ready to alienate people (again) who can only have a FHD display?
Or maybe it’s me. Maybe my usecase is such an extreme one that I have to bite the bullet and invest in a larger monitor?
Even if so, I don’t think outsourcing the solutions to UI-problems to the users is a good idea.
Photon UI has potential to be good, maybe great even. If some of the oversized stuff can get dealt with. You got it right with local chat – don’t ruin that with making me hate using d-scan, please!
I can only hope CCP makes changes that address these points before it’s pushed to Tranquility. But with how long it took for the skills sheet too be somewhat reasonable after that went live, I don’t dare to believe. 😐 I’d partly blame communication here. A ton of feedback was given, but nothing was heard ever again.
If you want to give your feedback directly to CCP, I’d suggest to check out the changes on Singularity first. And then head over into the subsection in the official forum. Please try to be nice, CCP seems to be serious about this when they make a whole new section in their forum for us to post in.
1 thought on “First Look: Photon UI”
Selfishly, I am pro bigger fonts… but I am old and play on a 34″ monitor where even the largest fonts in the current UI require me to go get my reading glasses.
On the other hand, I am with you on the wasted space front. Designers seem to love injecting more empty space into UIs. Even Firefox did an update where they decided that some more space between items on a drop down menu would look better… and now my Bookmarks menu involves a lot more scrolling up and down because the added space means it shows half as many items in the same space.
As you note, CCP doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to taking feedback from things on the test server. We shall see. Changing UI without giving us more functionality… or worse, changing it and reducing functionality… has always been a hazardous path for CCP.