I'd put a comment up on the Discord with respect to my complaints about the cloth map and Schism guilted me into throwing up a post here also. Hopefully it will generate some discussion.. It'll be a general re-hash of my issues outlined there.
I REALLY dislike the cloth map presentation. I feel like I can't see ANYTHING
What's going on with these planets? - are they defended, are they rebelling, etc?
Is there anything BEHIND these huge floating planet icons? It's super difficult to ever tell?!
What exactly is going on in the above image? It just looks like a huge cluttery mess to me! This picture points out that the problems with the cloth map aren't just a result of the terrible planet floaties, but rather the icons for map items drastically exceed the size of their hex. Notice how the ships and starbases appear roughly 2x the size of their hex - so when they're next to each other they overlap. If there are settings to address this in the 'game settings' menus, they are completely unintuitive (at least for dumb people such as myself).
I might note also that the icon sizes and zoom clutter is a lot better before you discover the first subspace stream. For whatever reason the zoom level reset after finding the adjacent quadrant defaults to very bad settings.
What about these overlays, how are they at all helpful?? And if they're not helpful, why are they there? When do I ever need to know a planet name? - I'd say somewhere next to "never". Maybe ( MAYBE ) an argument could be made to need a planet name floaty above a core world, but colonies are so unimportant that it's unclear they should even have names... Who cares about colonies? Also, notice how the Xeloxi trade ship/freighter is roughly 3-hexes in length. Also notice that the floaties are roughly 2x8 hexes in size. In a game where EVERY HEX IS IMPORTANT and THERE COULD BE SOMETHING GOING ON IN EVERY SINGLE HEX that's 16 hexes that are obscured around every single planet! -- it should be noted that most of the action in the game takes place near planets so it's unlikely that these are 16 hexes will not be important throughout the game..
I mean, just look at the floaty-spam. It's honestly SO ANNOYING! - if there's a ship parked around these planets, well.... good luck seeing it!
There are other problems with ships/starbases/etc even showing up on the cloth map if you're not zoomed in/out juuuuust right. So I constantly have fleets pop up that I should've noticed a long time ago, but just didn't. Notice in the very first picture the "2". That means there's a 2-ship fleet there. Without the "2" I wouldn't see anything at all.
I dunno, it needs some love. Everything's tailored to look awesome when you're zoomed way in (and it does). But honestly, with GC I prefer to play cloth map UI 98% of the time. The huge floating planet overlays look cool, yea - but they provide no utility. Furthermore, the fact that they cover stuff up and give no indication of important planetary statuses (defended, rebellion, under seige, etc) provides a clear negative-utility compared with the presentation in GC2 and GC3.
Just my thoughts, but it's been really bothering me as I play GC4, and it seems totally bizarre to me that no one else is complaining about this (apart from when the floaty-presence was reduced in one of the first big updates (the fact that it's still so bad merely points out how egregious it originally was)). GC4 is fun in spite of the bad cloth map - but the new overlay is a negative to my play experience personally..
Now compare this with a random screen grab from GC3. Even though the icons overflow their hexes it is not in an intrusive way. Look how anyone can glance at this image and have a clear idea what EXACTLY is going on. It's clean, concise, displays all of the relevant strategic and tactical information (you can see all of the ships for example (none of them are hiding or not displayed due to zoom settings/quirks), you can see exactly which assets are defended (admittedly few in this game as I was steam-rolling), the fleets with commanders are clearly identifiable, as are stacked ships, etc) if one of these planets were in rebellion I would know about it. Similarly I can easily just look and see what's defended and not defended and it's immediately obvious where all the ships even are, etc.
Now compare it with a screengrab I tried to take at a similar zoom-out level in GC4. It looks cleaner and more austere sure, but it also fails to show any useful information at all. One of the above pics is zoomed in on the center planet cluster (the one surrounded by all the starbases) and look at all the stuff in that picture - they don't show up on this zoomed out version - what if they were invading fleets - how would I know they were there!?
Here's another GC3 screen grab. Notice how even while zoomed ALL THE WAY OUT it's still immediately apparent what's going on everywhere that's on screen. There's no way that I could claim that for GC4 at its current UI configuration..
So.... I'm a HUGE proponent of a "form follows function" design philosophy. From which I have 2 main areas of input:
- Zoom Levels
- Planet Floaties
Zoom levels - honestly I think these just need to be tweaked to make the presentation cleaner. I'm not sure /how/ specifically, but it's self-evident that they do. Something to create a cloth map utility on par with GC3, at least.
Planet Floaties - I feel like they're a cool idea and the dev team got married to the idea because it was seductive, whilst not necessarily a great partner for life. Before suggesting what to do with the floaties to make them better, I'd first ask what they're even for? What are they designed to accomplish? I don't even know what they're supposed to do so I cannot assess if they're even doing that. Frankly the planet presentation in both GC2 and GC3 were much better. If we HAVE to have the snazzy floaty UI and it actually provides something useful at all could we PLEASE consider some sort of hybrid system where the planet presentation is similar to GC3 where pertinent information is intuitively and succinctly presented at a glance and if a player wants more information about a specific planet there is some sort of mouse-over floaty that provides more detailed information instead? Perhaps there could also be a feature where pressing 'Tab' or something could bring up all the floaties if there's really something important on them that players would actually want to see on all planets at the same time.
Thanks for reading folks. Sorry if the write-up got a little long-winded, but as I mentioned it's something that's been bothering me as a player since the very first alpha. GC4 is shaping up to be a really great game and I would hate for it to be set back by something as simple as a cumbersome UI.
I would REALLY love to hear other people's opinions on what I've written as it really would surprise me if I'm the only person feeling this way.
Cheers & have a great weekend,
edit: OMG my editing and beautification skills are SO BAD!! hopefully it's better now.