OpenTTD UI design - NewGFR Downloading and Setting windows

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LaChupacabra
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OpenTTD UI design - NewGFR Downloading and Setting windows

Post by LaChupacabra »

I would like to propose a few changes that would make it easier to find new and already downloaded add-ons.
Unfortunately, I can't do anything myself. I am writing this in case someone wants to do something on this topic and accidentally searches for some ideas. ;)

Content downloading window
NewGRF settings window
Last edited by LaChupacabra on 07 Jan 2021 23:24, edited 1 time in total.
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Content downloading window

Post by LaChupacabra »

Current problems:
Image
1. The lack of filtering add-ons by category makes it hard to find add-ons with content that is interesting at the moment. The names themselves often say nothing. You have to check each add-on in the description, but even there is often missing the proper information.
2. Marks of the downloaded add-ons are barely visible so it's hard to spot new add-ons or their updates. You not clearly see what you already have and whats not.
3. The list of add-ons marked for download is missing. When sorting by download, marking an add-on to download every time will jump the list, which is quite a pain.
4. There is no way to download older versions - finding them outside of the game can be very difficult or impossible. Meanwhile, the information about replacing an add-on in the event of an update is false and misleading - it should inform about the update, about the new version of the add-on that a player already has, and not about its replacement. In addition, a player should know that he can select previous versions of add-ons in the game. The older ones can sometimes be better or more interesting than the newer ones, or simply without disadvantages.
5. Descriptions of add-ons and additional information are hard to read. In addition to changing the font colors, it would be useful to set an information layout that would be common and the same for all add-ons. An overview image of the add-ons would also be useful.
6. The location of the information on the total size of the files ready to download is confusing. I don't know what others think, but despite having known the game for several years, I still haven't got used to it - this location is unintuitive.

Solution proposals:
Image
0. Putting all types of add-ons in one window
Such a solution would be more convenient and friendly, especially for new players who don't know yet how many different additions the game offers. For the same reason, it would be better to display all add-on types as tabs side by side rather than as a drop-down list.
Putting all add-ons in one window, but under separate tabs, would make it possible to remove duplicate and redundant add-on type designations here that could take more useful information.
1. Division of the entire list of add-ons into categories
Probably the most anticipated change. The arguments are the same as above, but here the form of tabs would be much more convenient than the drop-down list - here it would more often switch between categories looking for specific add-ons. In the case of a sufficiently wide window and short category names, it could be one line of tabs. It might or might not be a problem to assign categories to existing add-ons. This could happen gradually, not necessarily all at once. Add-ons not described would be placed in a separate group which will be removed over time.
2. Clearly marked add-ons already downloaded
Add-ons, the latest versions of which the player already has, would be marked with a gray, still legible but less distinctive color. Besides, the status icons could be clearer.
2b. Ability to hide add-ons already downloaded
This option would be especially useful for the newGRF and the view of all categories. If a player had already downloaded most of the add-ons, this option would effectively shorten the list, making it easier to search among other add-ons.
3. A separate list for add-ons selected for download
It would just be useful. After searching the list for a long time, it is hard to remember all the add-ons marked for download. The dark box for this list would refer visually to the add-on settings window.
4. Ability to select and download an older version of the add-on
A player or add-on developer who for some reason would like or need an older version of an add-on would be able to choose it. It could be a selection from a drop-down list or from an additional window, with basic data in addition to the name.
5. Description layout more readable and uniform for all add-ons
The information part should always have the same layout, which would facilitate retrieval and readability. The division of information into categories would be an additional, significant facilitation. The background information would come from the system - every add-on have it and this information would always appear. The remaining categories would appear only if the add-on author puts their content in them. Their order would always be the same.
6. Information about the size of files in a more intuitive place
It seems most appropriate to include this information under the list of add-ons selected for download and on the same line under add-on description.
7. Marking of new additions and their updates
Where the current type designation of the additive is, an additive rating could be found. In the event of an update or new add-on, the rating for a month and when you first open the add-ons window would be hidden under the appropriate mark. In case of resignation from the possibility of rating add-ons, the marking could be a single letter in the place of the add-on download icon or before the add-on name.
8. Ability to group add-ons
Such a possibility could be the choice of the author of numerous add-ons. Groups of add-ons could also create or break up by supervisors as they deem appropriate. After clicking on the group bar, information about it and a description would appear. Double-clicking on the bar or single on the icon on the left will expand the list.
9. The most important information about the add-on visible at the top
In the case of NewGRF add-ons, this could be information about the resolution as well as subcategories. For heightmaps and scenarios, this would be the map size. After stretching the window, further, less important information could be displayed, such as publication date, file size or number of downloads.
10. Ability to sort by many different ways
This form would allow sorting by categories that are not visible on top, such as dates. In the event that the extension of the window showed different data, this form of selection would be unnecessary.
11. Add-on preview
As they say, "One picture is worth more than a thousand words". If the data transfer were not a limitation, the possibility for the author to include a small graphical presentation of the add-on would be very helpful. Alternatively, to limit transfers each time an add-on is opened, pictures could be saved on the player's computer.
12. Guide
It could be useful for new players and those who returned to the game after a long break. You could include the most important information about add-ons here, as well as links to videos.
13. Possibility to evaluate add-ons
Very useful, but also probably the most time-consuming to implement and potentially controversial function.
[+] Spoiler
Possibility to evaluate - Why so
Information about an add-on is often missing, and the player doesn't know anything about it until they test it themselves. Meanwhile, there are very good, refined additions, which only lack the "Donate" option (FIRS, Squid, PKP and many, many others) as well as those that are missing a lot, which even spoil the game and where you would like to warn other players not to download it (e.g. CPU AI due to spamming with signs). That's why I think it would be nice to be able to approve of good projects or disapprove of those clearly underdeveloped. This would also give the authors information about what others think about their work.

Possibility to evaluate - Why not
There is some concern that these ratings could not be entirely fair for various reasons. The biggest fear is that players might judge the add-on on the spur of the moment. With heightmaps or scenarios, it doesn't take long to evaluate them. This takes time for most of the others. There could also be players, though this would rather be the minority, who would intentionaly judge the add-on negatively, for example just because the author didn't fulfill their wishes.
What can also be an argument for them is the fact that not everyone likes to be judged. While a positive evaluation can be encouraging, or at least neutral, with a negative one can be different. Some people will be encouraged to improve their work, but many such an assessment could be discouraging and simply unpleasant.
The introduction of a rating system could also have the effect of players focusing solely on highly rated add-ons.
There is also the question of players verification. I don't know anything about it, but I suppose that creating an effective system can be quite laborious.

Solutions
1. Verification
The basis could be an individual, unique identifier for each downloaded copy of the game. The next verification threshold could be the IP address, preferably matched with the number of the game copy - here the player who would like to evaluate the add-on could not use services or programs hiding its address. Another form of player identification could be based on the add-ons they have (ID + download dates).
2. The problem of being guided by single, extreme assessments
To avoid this, the ratings would be hidden for the first month after publication or update of add-on. Also, to avoid a situation where the rating of the add-on is only influenced by one or not much more extreme ratings, which may not be reliable, each add-on would initially be given e.g. 50 x 3 stars. Then, achieving a better or worse result would require obtaining a greater, significant number of similar ratings.
3. The problem of judging on the spur of the moment
The basic condition for evaluation would be to download the add-on and use it in the game. The evaluation could be made no earlier than 20 minutes after downloading the add-on. The player would always have the option to change his rating.
4. The problem of insufficient knowledge to reliably evaluate the add-on
Perhaps a good solution would be if only verified forum users with the appropriate seniority or rank could make the evaluation. There would not be many of these ratings, and perhaps not every add-on would be rated, but such ratings could be more reliable. Another solution could be to differentiate the impact of the rating depending on whether the player is registered on the forum or not, and if so, what rank they have.
5. Possibility to improve the rating of the add-on by the author
Each update would reset the add-on's rating - each version would have a separate rating, so no author or add-on would be doomed to eternal damnation. ;)
6. Alternate version 1
The grades could only be positive - each addition would start with a zero account and accumulate points over time. That number of points would mean another star.
7. Alternate version 2
The add-on could only be assessed by the player and only for himself. This could be the same form of a silver and gold star as for the NewGRF settings window. It would allow to mark additions important for the player. Then the ratings in both windows could be related to each other.
Attachments
Content downloading window - current version n.png
(31.79 KiB) Not downloaded yet
NewGRF - new downloading window v1.4 n.png
(62.59 KiB) Not downloaded yet
Last edited by LaChupacabra on 08 Jan 2021 17:11, edited 3 times in total.
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LaChupacabra
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Content downloading window

Post by LaChupacabra »

Alternative versions of the sorting part
Image
The dashed lines in each case separate the upper part, which would be common to all types of additions, from the lower part, which, depending on the type of additions, would differ and could contain other elements.
The first version looks best, but will not work in languages where the names are longer. Though perhaps where there are two tab lines, the windows would be confined to one line when stretched.
The form of tabs would be a very useful solution in the case of NewGRF add-ons, where a player will often jump between categories. Therefore, in my opinion, the two at the bottom would be the most functional.


One of the first versions of the window - here for heightmaps.
Image
Here, too, it is possibly to add sort options. By proportion, resolution, amount of water, type (realistic or not).
Attachments
Sorting bar alternativ versions 3.png
(309.75 KiB) Not downloaded yet
New downloading window - for heightmaps.png
(77.29 KiB) Not downloaded yet
Last edited by LaChupacabra on 08 Jan 2021 17:11, edited 2 times in total.
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LaChupacabra
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NewGFR setting window

Post by LaChupacabra »

Current problems:
Image
1. The lack of sorting of add-ons makes it hard to find interesting items. With a few hundred add-ons, it's hard to remember all of them. Very often the names themselves do not say anything, and entering even the phrase "trains" will not display only additions with trains - there will be stations, tracks, even objects, but many significant sets with trains will not display.
2. It is not possible to mark your favorite and important add-ons
3. There is no way to hide add-ons that a player doesn't use and doesn't even like, but cannot remove because they are used on servers.
4. There is no easy possibility of showing older versions of add-ons. This option is in the configuration file. It would be useful in a more accessible place. Not always, but sometimes choosing an older version is a must.
5. There is no mark for freshly downloaded add-ons - there is not always enough time to test everything downloaded. Returning to the game after some time, it is impossible to remember everything. Especially since many add-ons have different names in the online add-ons list and different names in the add-on settings window.
6. Merging, unreadable names of additions - in places the list of add-ons looks like a monolithic block of letters.
7. Inconsistent naming of add-ons - quite often the creators don't mark the version of their add-ons. Sometimes they forget by accident, others won't even think about it. As a result, having all versions displayed, you cannot see which is the newest and which is the oldest. Usually the one at the bottom is the newest, but that's not always the case. Sometimes the order is almost random, such as with one of my favorite add-on with Japanese stations. Another problem is using different names for the add-ons download window and different for the settings window - the more add-ons someone has, the more chaotic the list gets, and the add-ons keep adding - I don't believe in anyone's bad intentions, but I think there are just no clear rules here for creators publishing their add-ons.
8. Unreadable black font on the dark violet background, especially in the information about the add-on
9. The add-in identifier and MD5 sum information that is redundant for most users.

Solution proposals:
Image
1. Addition of sorting capabilities
Currently, apart from sorting by name, it would also be possible and useful to sort by download date, which would make it much easier to find freshly downloaded add-ons. Additionally, it would be possible to sort by category as long as such informations were assigned to add-ons. Then the category selection bar or would appear below the sorting bar or tabs with all categories visible.
2. Adding the possibility of marking your favorites and important additions with stars
This form of marking would be independent of add-on rating system in the add-on download window. The way of marking would be very simple: pressing LMB in place of the star would change the color and with it the color of the add-on text (black/transparent> silver> gold> black> ...). In this case, the ability to highlight add-ons with coded colors should be turned off - the player will decide which add-ons they want to highlight. The additional "Favorite on top" option would introduce modifications to the sorting, so that the top items would be first marked with a gold star, then silver, without any markings, and the bottom items would be hidden.
3. Adding the ability to hide and remove an add-on from the list
As with vehicles list, hiding unused add-ons was even more useful here. Here, using the "Show hidden" option would show the add-ons, but they would have a different, darker font. In this way, a four-step marking of add-ons would be possible.
4. Placing in the window option of display older versions of add-ons
5. Mark of recently downloaded add-ons
They would have a blue color referring to the color of the add-ons download window, while in place of the star there would also be a blue icon of the letter N (New, Neu, Nu, Ny, Nowe, ...). This marking would only disappear after starring it or adding it to the active add-ons list.
6. Improving the readability of the list of additives
The graphic that I have included in the part of add-on list are stylistically related to the online content window. Here, the spacing is 1 pixel larger. The background is still dark, but not black. Black is only in some part of the active add-ons list, if they don't cover the entire field.
7A. Using one add-on name everywhere in the game.
Regardless of what is written in the add-on's code, the game should consistently display the same name in every game window.
7B. Requirement to mark the version of the add-on during publication
In order to be consistent and readable for users, the add-on developer should see what designations he has previously used when publishing and determining the version. Alternatively, the version marking method should be standardized and include several forms to choose from.
7C. Identify the names and versions of previously downloaded add-ons
The names of add-ons and versions could come from the add-on data list saved on the player's computer and updated each time the add-on is downloaded or changes are detected.
8. Change in the background color or black text for improve legibility
In one of the graphics I changed the color of the window to gray - this is just an example, it is not necessary. On the second, the color of the black font is yellow. In both cases, readability is much better.
9. Hiding detailed information about NewGRF
The data important from the player's point of view would remain on top. Other information that could be relevant to developers would be hidden under the "Detailed information" tab. The option to change the color palette, redundant in 99% of cases, would also be hidden there.
99. Merged the settings of all add-ons (NewGRF, GameScript, AI) in one window?
Heh ... it was only after writing the whole thing that I noticed that Andrew350 recently set up a topic on Github about merging the settings windows of all add-ons. I think it's a good idea, though not because of the connection itself, but because of the ability to add and fix AI and scripts better - today you can only use one script, but the possibility of combining them when they are responsible for different elements would be a great solution.
Attachments
NewGRF - old setting window.png
(41.82 KiB) Not downloaded yet
NewGRF - new setting window v1.3n.png
(55.17 KiB) Not downloaded yet
Last edited by LaChupacabra on 07 Jan 2021 23:38, edited 2 times in total.
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LaChupacabra
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NewGFR setting window

Post by LaChupacabra »

"Rich" version of NewGRF settings window
Image
Perhaps too rich. If you choose to sort by category, a tab panel would appear below, allowing you to quickly switch between add-on categories.
The list of inactive add-ons would be divided into subcategories with title bars. The items in the list of active add-ons could optionally be grouped by major categories or also subcategories. The bars for different categories could have different colors.


uff...
Attachments
NewGRF - new setting window v1.5d.png
(54.2 KiB) Not downloaded yet
Last edited by LaChupacabra on 08 Jan 2021 17:12, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: OpenTTD UI design - NewGFR Downloading and Setting windows

Post by kamnet »

I love the fact that you've thought long and hard on these issues and have been able to very clearly detail the problems as well as your proposed solutions.

One thing that can be addressed immediately is the lack of detailed information about NewGRFs. Sadly, this falls directly on NewGRF developers themselves. They have the tools, but they frequently neglect to use them appropriately, if at all. In the proposed Bananas 2.0 spec, a new role of "curator" would be created to allow trusted individuals within the OpenTTD community to mark up this information on Bananas, but I don't believe that would actually modify descriptions etc. inside the NewGRFs, and I'm not sure if that information would also be downloaded and retained. I don't see why it couldn't be copied to a plain text file. Likewise, developers could be more helpful in providing a nice, detailed changelog, readme file, and link to an appropriate website, discussion forum or project page - three features which are currently available and woefully underused appropriately.
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Re: OpenTTD UI design - NewGFR Downloading and Setting windows

Post by Auge »

Hello

I want to answer to the second posting in your thread an so to an early state of your considerations. This is only about the proposals for the content download window.
LaChupacabra wrote: 07 Jan 2021 22:40 1. The lack of sorting add-ons by category
One is able to sort the list by category and name. Do you write about filtering the list?
LaChupacabra wrote: 07 Jan 2021 22:40 2. Marks of the downloaded add-ons are barely visible so it's hard to spot new add-ons or their updates. You not clearly see what you already have and whats not.
The difference between the green dot (installed/downloaded) versus the empty square (not installed) should be spottable enough. So there I see no problem. But (and for me tis is a big but) when I selected an item to download or update, the item gets marked with a tiny, (at least for me) more or less unremarkable check mark (wiith original base graphics). At least this needs an improvement.
LaChupacabra wrote: 07 Jan 2021 22:40 3. The list of add-ons marked for download is missing.
ACK.
LaChupacabra wrote: 07 Jan 2021 22:40 4. There is no way to download older versions
IMHO old, and by that outdated versions should not be visible because they would clutter the UI needlessly. If a scenario or savegame needs an old version and this version is avaliable over Bananas, it is downloadable. Otherwise the normal is to use the latest version of $whatever. If one really wants to download an old version, this IMHO should be possible via the Bananas-website but not from within the game.
LaChupacabra wrote: 07 Jan 2021 22:40 5. Descriptions of add-ons and additional information are hard to read. In addition to changing the font colors, it would be useful to set an information layout that would be common and the same for all add-ons. An overview image of the add-ons would also be useful.
That would be nice. Beside the program and the Bananas-service which would have to provide the infrastructure, this needs work by the content authors. Otherwise the view would be very inconsistent (here and there a thumbnail, every item provides different informational bits and so on).
LaChupacabra wrote: 07 Jan 2021 22:40 6. The location of the information on the total size of the files ready to download is confusing. I don't know what others think, but despite having known the game for several years, I still haven't got used to it - this location is unintuitive.
I found this bit of information really fast after the introduction of the download service but you are right, the place is wrong. The right side of the window belongs to the details of one offered and selected item. Thatswhy the overall download size belongs to the left side, where the informations about all offered/selected items get displayed.
LaChupacabra wrote: 07 Jan 2021 22:40 Solution proposals:
Sorry, but most your mockups (also those from later postings) look very cluttered to me (in different ways, depending from the proposed design). Boxes over boxes over boxes. :-( On the other side they provide many good ideas like additional informations in additional columns or the enhanced item details.

- The filters could get integrated into one select box (filter by a, b or c). (as proposed as part of "Alternative versions of the sorting part", figure 2)
- The list of items, selected for download or update could be an automatic filter of the existing item list that would apply after pushing the download button. Maybe with an additional modal window to confirm the download list.
- The sorting buttons should IMHO stay where they are (the table headers of the item list). It's IMHO not necessary to replace them by another UI element.

That way we would end with the new select box for list filtering on the top of the window and on the left window side the overall download size below the item list and because of the automatic filter for items to download with no new box.

Tschö, Auge
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Re: OpenTTD UI design - NewGFR Downloading and Setting windows

Post by nihues »

I liked a Lot all the new ideas and mockup, just need a more clean design as auge pointed.

I have some things on the NewGRF window:
  • Add multiple grf at same time
  • Select/Move multiple grf at same time on the right panel
  • A template grf (that need to be coded? from an author or could be manually made ingame) which add all the required grfs at same time and with correct order (like ECS-All add all the ECS stuff, or Auz add all the Auz stuff). Not the same as preset.
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Re: OpenTTD UI design - NewGFR Downloading and Setting windows

Post by LaChupacabra »

kamnet wrote: 08 Jan 2021 12:00 I love the fact that you've thought long and hard on these issues and have been able to very clearly detail the problems as well as your proposed solutions.
I would like to be able to do more than just write suggestions to someone, but I really don't have time for that ... and motivation - I would have to learn programming basically from scratch, but as of today I don't see any other reason to learn all of this. Well, at least as much I can do. :)
kamnet wrote: 08 Jan 2021 12:00 One thing that can be addressed immediately is the lack of detailed information about NewGRFs. Sadly, this falls directly on NewGRF developers themselves. They have the tools, but they frequently neglect to use them appropriately, if at all.
I've only published one add-on so far, but I have to say that the way to posting information isn't perfect at all, especially for someone who publishes for the first time or rarely does.

In the proposed Bananas 2.0 spec, a new role of "curator" would be created to allow trusted individuals within the OpenTTD community to mark up this information on Bananas, but I don't believe that would actually modify descriptions etc. inside the NewGRFs, and I'm not sure if that information would also be downloaded and retained. I don't see why it couldn't be copied to a plain text file. Likewise, developers could be more helpful in providing a nice, detailed changelog, readme file, and link to an appropriate website, discussion forum or project page - three features which are currently available and woefully underused appropriately.
Auge wrote: 08 Jan 2021 13:12 One is able to sort the list by category and name. Do you write about filtering the list?
Yes, I lost that word somewhere :)
Auge wrote: 08 Jan 2021 13:12 Sorry, but most your mockups (also those from later postings) look very cluttered to me (in different ways, depending from the proposed design).
Well, it's hard to put so many new features in a way that is unnoticeable. ;) Fact, these windows may look overloaded, especially at first feeling. I think the new features would take some getting used to, especially since it was a "desert" sight for so many years, but with use, this impression should pass over time. However, I also think that due to the new players, the first impression cannot be ignored.
Surely the extra sort bar could be omitted. A selection of subcategories would also not be that necessary.

The graphics shown are just one of the variants of the window, the most extensive one to show all the useful possibilities. Below - as you noticed - I have included a graphic with different variants of the filtering part. I think that taking minimalism as more important than functionality, the second variant of those presented would probably be the most optimal.
Image
Of course, there are many more possible versions...
nihues wrote: 08 Jan 2021 13:40 I have some things on the NewGRF window:
  • Add multiple grf at same time
  • Select/Move multiple grf at same time on the right panel
  • A template grf (that need to be coded? from an author or could be manually made ingame) which add all the required grfs at same time and with correct order (like ECS-All add all the ECS stuff, or Auz add all the Auz stuff). Not the same as preset.
Personally, rather* I don't need it, but the idea is not bad and for many players making crazy add-on lists it would be useful. :)
I think the solution would be to replace the presets with templates. Basically what are presets today would become templates that you could just add together. In case the same add-on is repeated in different templates added to the list, this one would only appear with the first template that has it.
The list of templates used could be between the template selection bar and the list of active add-ons. This field would expand as more templates are added. If not used, this field would be not extended.

Something like this (first draft)
Image
Attachments
Sorting bar alternativ versions 4.png
(58.42 KiB) Not downloaded yet
NewGRF - new setting window with template v1.2.png
(53.42 KiB) Not downloaded yet
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