Design Point and Click Favorite Interface

Zizka

Member
In your opinion, which P&C game has the best interface?

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King Quest: Have a set of actions to use on the environment.

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The Curse of Monkey Island: Click an object and then be offered a set of actions.

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Gemini Rue: Same as Monkey Island, click once to interact then be presented with a set of actions.

Finally, against or for pixel hunting? Should the interactive elements be hi-lighted or up to the player to discover?

just looking for your personal preferences and reasoning, thanks!
 
I prefer action-first, but I really don't mind either way.

Unless you're making a hidden object game, pixel hunting is unacceptable bad design. Puzzle design should be about creating inventive and sensible ways to interact with or use an object, not about playing the world's most boring game of hide-and-seek.

This is from Guilty:

Where is the interactable object required for progression?
It's the wrench at the bottom of the stairs.
 

Alice

Toolmaker of Bucuresti
Forum Staff
Moderator
I don't see any "set of actions to use on the environment" in the King Quest screenshot. However, I do remember certain adventure games having a menu below with somewhat large list of available actions, like in Indiana Jones series:


Personally, I don't like these kinds of menus much, especially since for most interactible elements only a handful of these actions actually make sense.

In that regard, I prefer simplicity. Depending on the kind of game and the kinds of interactions, I could use one of the following approaches:

1. Simplest: clicking an environment item has the player acting upon that item.
Depending on the game, the player may also select one of other items from inventory to use on environment item, or even combine two inventory items together.
This is - in terms of number of available actions - vaguely similar to this "give/pick up/open/close/push/pull/etc." menu.
However, it's slightly different, because there's always the default general-purpose action you can take. Not only that, the general-purpose action can give you a hint about which item should be used. E.g. when interacting with a lamp, you could get something like "if only I had something to ignite this lamp".

2. A wee bit more complex: similar to 1, except you have "Examine" and "Act" actions separately (maybe assigned to different mouse buttons, or maybe selectable from the menu).
Might make sense when "Act" can cause some regrettable and undoable action, forcing/encouraging the player to load the game. Though I suppose if an action is regrettable, a yes/no question might be more appropriate.

3. When acting upon an environment item, have a contextual menu pop up with actions available; these actions making sense for the given item (e.g. push left/push right when used on a cupboard). Is it how Gemini Rue works?
When there's always only one action that makes sense for a given item, you might want to skip the menu for this specific item (in fact, such items might be a majority).

Personally, I'd try aim for 1, or maybe if I have a mood for writing witty examination descriptions, for 2.
I could use the contextual menu occasionally, especially if the environment element has multiple possible desirable actions. I'd probably be more eager to use that option if I had setup a dialogue system with choices in the first place - then I would just apply the dialogue system here. After all, mechanically speaking, environment elements aren't so much different from NPCs you could encounter.

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As for the pixel hunting - I generally would avoid it.
One feature I've seen in several adventure games is ability to reveal positions of all interactible items (e.g. with some kind of ring appearing around the item in question). This avoids having all items be super-visible all the time, while still preventing the player from getting stuck because they missed an interactible element.
Not only that, I'd avoid items that have only 1 pixel of clickable area - even if item itself appears teeny tiny, I'd give it a little extra clickable area around it, so that the player doesn't need to move the cursor at the exact position.
 

Yal

🐧 *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
I personally feel the Deponia series has the best adventure game design on the modern market, and it's all by QoL updates that eliminate gripes with old games:
  • You can hold down a button to reveal anything interactible in the current area, eliminating pixel hunting (usually the games even makes the end goal explicit but locks it from interaction until you solve puzzles to remove obstacles)
  • There's only two actions for any given item: "look at" (which usually gives you a clue about what you can do with it) and "interact" (which does something context-sensitive, including picking up items that goes in your inventory). You can open up more depth since there's a "drag item onto thing to use it on that thing" feature, and only having one interaction that always works eliminates a lot of pointless guessing (remember WATER ASHES, anyone?)
  • Flavor text from looking at things almost always are hints at what they can be used for.
  • There's no way to permanently screw a playthrough over by missing something or using an item in the wrong way.
The games get a lot of puzzle depth thanks to mechanics like controlling 3 characters at once, so eliminating pointless guessing doesn't make them too easy to be fun, and a lot of the solutions are so outlandish that you really need the hints. I've never seen the point of menus with separate entries for OPEN, CLOSE, PUSH, PULL, LOOK AT, TAKE, TALK when the game's just gonna throw a "that's not going to work you ****ing moron" 96% of the times you try using most of them on most objects. If you're going to make players actively hate your design, you're not gonna sell any sequels.
 

Zizka

Member
Very interesting input.

I actually agree about being overburdened with ''this doesn't work'' messages which is not a good design in my opinion. So I would likely opt for a sequence of:
1. Interactive Object: Click
2. Sub-menu of possible actions.

I could only list ''plausible'' actions and avoid absurd actions such as ''speak to chair''.

Based on the description of Desponia, puzzles are therefore solved entirely with inventory.

I'd say that's my issue with simplifying actions to only two is that everything ends up inventory based which I'm not sure I'd like... The problem you avoid by removing superfluous verbs you get back by being able to use every inventory on every interactive object.

I guess I wish there was a better way to move forward from point and click from this point on.
 

Yal

🐧 *penguin noises*
GMC Elder
Based on the description of Desponia, puzzles are therefore solved entirely with inventory.
Not quite. First of all, there's a lot of puzzles where you change the environment (e.g. letting loose wild animals, causing a party to be cancelled) which can change the state of something interactible (e.g. someone stops you from stealing their property unless you can incapacitate them). Then there's dialogue trees as well, and they interact with the environment in a bunch of ways (for instance, you might need to examine something to be aware of a problem with it, then bring it up when talking with an NPC).

Basically, you still need to mess around with weird interactions and moon logic, but you don't need to make the same guess 20 times because the interface sucks.
 

NeoShade

Member
I have to agree with Yal here. The Desponia games are fantastic in their design and execution of puzzles. If you're making a point & Click adventure game and you haven't played them, I'd strongly reccomend going and doing so.
 

Zizka

Member
I went ahead and checked Deponia. I has interesting mechanics. I think I had a good idea with the description Yal gave but it sort of confirmed what I had envisioned.

Based on your comments, I had the following in mind:
Point_Click_Mockup_4.gif
The player can move the cursor around the screen in the upper right. This is the cursor:
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When the player moves the cursor over an interactive tile the object on the tile is then highlighted like in the example above with the rocking chair. You'll notice the current active object is identified on the banner (''Rocking chair'')

Once the chair is clicked, three basic actions will then be provided: look, interact and inventory. This eliminates any redundant actions and streamlines the experience to the bare essentials.

Picking look and interact will have immediate results noted in the notebook on the left. Picking inventory will open up a a submenu with all of the available items as in the example below (disregard the screen on the left):
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The player can then select which item to use.

Any thoughts, comments would be nice if you think I could improve my current concept idea.
 

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Samuel Venable

Time Killer
Peasant's Quest back in the days of flash and homestarrunner.com was a pretty good game. It wasn't point and click, it was text based, but it had the same exact kind of puzzle solving and gameplay overall. This is a little off topic so I'm going to share my thoughts on the actual question in the OP.

I like Myst's first person interface. The game is also ridiculously difficult. The puzzles are insane. I personally never got that far. But they really did capture my interest with the first person interface, prerendered graphics, and the way they always had me wondering "what the heck am i supposed to do? I must find out!" lol

But I see your game isn't first person. I think you have a good start. I'm interested in seeing more. Don't change anything imo. Just keep on adding to it.
 

Zizka

Member
Alright so I worked on a couple of things I wanted to share with you guys.

Mock_up_5.gif
A. This was the first attempt.

The icons looked pretty bad so I decided against it.

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B. Second attempt. The icons looks better but this still looks... amateur.

Mock_up_8.gif
C. I liked this third attempt but feel the "cloud" might be too cumbersome...?


The "interact" (gear icon) still doesn't look right to me. The problem I see is also that "look" and "interact" are too far away from what is being interacted with.

Mock_up_9.gif
D. (File was too large, had to crop). I polished the cloud animation and moved it closer to the object. This *could* work as a concept.

Mock_up_10.gif
E. Another attempt is to simplify the whole thing to the bare essentials like so, this also could work.


F. An even simpler attempt. Note the new gear ("interact") icon. Right clicking cycles through look, interact, inventory.


The advantage of this last one is that it is essentially one less click for the player and therefore more streamlined. The only submenu requiring another interaction would be the inventory (suitcase) one.

So that's it. Any preferences on you guys part?
 
How does the player scroll through the icons on the last one? Mouse wheel?

I think the last one works pretty well. The "idea bubble" is a really nice aesthetic idea, but as you said, it has the potential to become cumbersome depending on various factors.
 

Zizka

Member
How does the player scroll through the icons on the last one? Mouse wheel?
I was thinking of right-clicking to cycle through all actions.

Regarding the thought bubble, I was hoping to integrate it more elegantly. Considering the graphic space is limited, it might be hard/impossible to do.
 

Zizka

Member
Hello there,

I wanted to expand on the point and click interface.
The cursors:
New_icons.png

You can cycle through the three next icons by right-clicking on the mouse. Left clicking is used to commit decisions made by the player regardless of context.


The cursors cycle through the following order: pen (right click) look (right click) interact (right click) inventory (right click) back to pen. The player also has the option of selecting the desired action from the available menu:
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A Current Example of Where I'm at.

Moving the cursor on an environment object will outline it (as previously discussed) as well as identify what it is on the “banner”.

In other words, moving any cursor on an any interactive object of the environment will do two things: outline it and identify it on the banner.

The Fountain Pen:
Pen_Cursor.png This is the basic cursor for the game. It is used to navigate the title screen, sub-menus and finally to move the character around. The interaction “point” is the tip of the fountain pen. The only left click use of the pen in the graphical area of the upper right is to move the player to an unoccupied tile.

The Magnifying Glass:

This is the “look” cursor. It’s the most basic of actions as it will simply provide additional information about a certain interactive object in the environment. It should therefore be the easiest to implement. Information gathered this way is displayed on the page on the left (see example above).

The Gears Icon:

This is the “interact” button. It covers a lot of uses like picking something up from the environment, using something, opening a door, etc... It will require more work as it’s meant to have a real impact in-game.

The Suitcase Icon:

This is the “inventory” icon. It will allow the player to use certain things in the environment on interactive objects for various effects.

As you can see here, the inventory would be moved underneath the action icons. This would allow the player to quickly select which item to use from the inventory.

Using the “inventory” (suitcase) action automatically brings the cursor in the inventory underneath the picture. This is where the player picks which item to use. In the example above, it would be on the rocking chair.

When moving the cursor over the various items in the inventory, the name of the selected item appears on the banner. If no object is selected, it defaults to the currently selected environment object.

Action Feeback:

The action and the environment object should be identified on the left page so that the player can keep track of what happened so far. Skipping a line between each description so that everything is nicely formatted and easy to read.
 

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NeoShade

Member
I'm sorry to bring this up as it's a little bit off-topic, but I'm just wondering about the orientation of your cursors.

Obviously I haven't tried the game out, so I don't actually know how it feels to play, but just from looking at the images you've posted, I'm concerned about the fact that the icon for the cursor is up and to the left of the 'point' of the cursor. If you look at a traditional mouse cursor, the icon is down and to the right of the 'point'. I suspect that this comes about as a result of most people using a mouse in their right hand.

It seems to me that flipping the cursor orientation around like you have might feel a little unnatural to players.
 

Zizka

Member
Oh by all means, any feedback is welcome.

I’m left-handed so I might be biased. I‘ll try switching things around to see how it looks, thanks!
 
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