- Re-treat the User Interface.
- Emphasize pretty where it counts.
1. Re-treat the User Interface:
I’m fixing to put out a hit on the guy who did our UI: Want to go halvsies on a double-kill?
EQ2s UI is perfectly functional, but it really does look like bad coder art.
The color scheme is lackluster, it uses ultra-simplistic straight-line decorations. The little help ‘scrolls’ look apathetic and dull.
The font probably looks sexy in a font viewer. One of the main things that kills my enjoyment of EQ2 is that I can never bring myself to read any of the text on screen because that font is aggressively unreadable: the font doesn’t produce nice, even lines of text, they look like you’re having difficultly rendering the text in straight lines.
It’s even worse when you’re talking to an NPC and the text is floating in a speech bubble. For a start, you have that same uneven effect, but now it’s bolstered by the fact that the speech bubble bobs up and down with the NPCs idle animation and as it wanders off.
The speech-bubble presentation also has the effect of making it seem disconnected. Even before I played WoW, I didn’t like that. I really think you should consider giving NPC dialog it’s own local window – if for no other reason than consistency with what happens when you interact with a banker or a vendor etc.
But you could start by finding a decent font.
I haven’t played EQ2 in a while. I figured that firing up my 3Ghz Core i7 with GeForce 280 would probably be able to play at slightly higher settings than my old 1Ghz AMD with a GeFore 8800.
For a while there it did. And then it didn’t. I had to tone it back down to balanced and then manually shuffle some settings down. Possibly a leak of some kind or possibly just the number of people in the game world at the moment. But I took a few screenshots for comparison with my original EQ2 experience and … I was actually treated to better visuals 3 years ago than I was with this new box.
And you have WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY too many performance settings. I’m an advocate of tweakability, but that many settings … People are gonna screw themselves by trying out a slider in one area and everything seeming fine, and then tweaking another, until they find something that makes a noticeable difference. Then they’re gonna get hammered the next time they zone or get into a fight.
With about a half hour of tweaking, I was able to make the mid-to-far distance look quite splending, but …
3. Emphasize pretty where it counts.
3a. The back of your toon.
EQ2 toons look like they’re wearing painted latex. Even with all the fancy fiddly options turned on, the moment you zoom out far enough to see anything more than just your toons’ asses, the armor just looks … noddy. Now, I realize this is the starter gear, and no I’m not talking about it popping to a low LOD.
I’m saying you could afford to make things look a little less pristine – especially the starter gear, so that it doesn’t look like a failed “Tron” gitup.
3b. The ground (especially nearby).
They say emulation is the greatest compliment, but I’m begging you to stop complimenting Battleground Europe’s “up close” ground appearance. The near-distance ground polys are sharp and angular and thus ugly looking. Even with fauna turned on.
It’s great that you can look out at spectacular long-range vistas; those vistas make fabulous “farewell” screenshots as long as you zoom out far enough that the area immediately around you isn’t showing.
3c. Other people.
In WoW, when things get too busy, people warp around. That’s one thing. In EQ2 people 15 feet away skate and slide and dance the robot. IT IS HIDEOUS. We’ve only recently discontinued 56k dialup support, but even then with more people in vis range than you are displaying, our player animations were smoother and cleaner.
3d. Other models.
Really? You have to go to extreme quality (which I’m not sure there are any systems that can run in) to get more than yourself and the creature you’re fighting in anything higher than “ugly” LODs? That’s kind of a shame, since the back of my toon isn’t all that interesting and my toon is generally obscuring the creature I’m fighting, which means I’m left looking at a bunch of low-poly models skating around on my screen…
[Edits to expand on the above following exchange with Bhag below]
It’s definitely the “old” EQ2 UI. I know there are some layout changes, but I’m talking about the styling: the simplistic line-drawing element decoration, etc.
The default font settings enable “Smooth fonts”. The result is very unsmooth, at least on my system:
Whereas if I turn off smooth fonts, it suddenly becomes a whole lot nicer:
(If you notice the names don’t match, that’s because when naming them I went based on which looked least smoothed ;-P)
Then there’s the dialog thing I was talking about.
With, default, “Smooth Font”s:
And then with Smooth Font’s unchecked:
Well, neither survived very well thru the jpeg conversion. On my screen, the first one the ‘ss’ in assistance look bigger than the other letters (but again, zooming in and viewing it at the pixel level proves otherwise).
So is it just me, or does the “again” look like it’s not on the same level as the rest of the sentence?
That’s what I’m talking about in terms of font.
The font in the chat buffer is quite lovely.
Lastly… When I’m talking about your toon looking “meh”. I’m not talking about the low LODs. I’m talking about the way that the fine detail that looks so nice up close becomes “meh” when you zoom out to see what you’re doing:
It just looks bland and dull. The photorealistic take results in emphasizing, to me anyway, the low poly count.
Obviously, WoW takes the opposite approach and leverages their low poly count. Instead of going for gorgeous textures, they bump and gnarl the model which gives the eye less detail to latch onto.
Which allows them to retain greater apparent detail further out:
What that really does for WoW is allow them to have less LODs and maintain each LOD out to a greater distance, causing a smoother visual effect as things transition. EQ2s LODs pop more frequently and more drastically.
It’s stuff that’s not going to matter so much later on, when you’re fighting in dungeons and raids. But it’s stuff that stands out early on…