The Modular Overview

The Overview. If there is one part of Eve that seems to never change, it is the Overview window. Look back at early screen-shots and you'll see it has remained relatively unchanged since the stone age. Granted, major changes would require major overhauls to more than just the overview window. To effectively alter the way information is given to players would require a huge effort to re-think the entire UI environment. But what if there was a way to evolve the Overview right now? Without any other changes to the existing UI environment?

I think there is.

Let's consider not only the type of data being presented in the Overview, but also how people use that data. I believe that "use" is the key to unlocking a potential solution, without changing the type of data being presented. The sheer amount of information presented within the Overview is daunting. But in his book Simplicity, author John Meade said that, "Smart organization of screen elements can make the many appear as the few." In other words, it isn't the amount of data that is overwhelming, it is the way it is being organized. Right now we are limited to only a left-right column based organization, but what if we could break that down into easier to consume modules? Based on categories?

Depending on what you are doing in Eve at any given time, different information contained within the Overview is more or less important to you. For me, NPCs have no importance at all (for example), I don't even have them on my overview. For Miners, rocks are the most important thing while they are mining. For others, other information is more important at the moment. And right now, organizing the Overview requires a lot of effort that can be especially confusing for younger or less experienced players. In fact, I would argue that most players really don't understand how to organize their Overview properly. So the goal is not only organizing information, but doing so in a way that makes it significantly easier to use.

Challenging yes. But not impossible.

Let's start by breaking the Overview into five easy to understand "modules" or category windows:

• Player Ships
• Celestials
• Structures
• NPCs
• Drones

In addition we will add (x) number of custom windows that the player can create, save and share with other players. (I imagine a maximum of five of these, but who knows.)

Each window is positional, so they can be placed wherever the player wants, in whatever order the player desires. But only the category information can be displayed within each window. So only Player Ships are shown in the Player Ships window, for example. Each window is controlled the same way it is today, but only the customization appropriate for each window is available to each window, so it is much more streamlined than it is now.

Ok that's cool, but that could get rather cluttered. So let's add yet another feature to help with that. What if each module could be presented in three different states?

Each module window can be "closed", or used in "Icon View" or in normal "Column View". This would help de-clutter the UI environment and help players organize the information 'they' want, instead of being fed information they have no need for. In addition, each view can be filtered as usual to present even more re-fined information and customized colors, sizes, etc.

Also remember that we have added (x) number of custom windows to this, which players can use to create their own windows. Uses could be:

• Wrecks
• Corpses
• Wormholes
• Gates
• Fleet Members
• Logistics
• War Targets

Out-of-the-box this system would aid new players by presenting information in pre-determined categories of data. ONLY ships appear in the Player Ships window, etc. This makes it far easier to disseminate so much information, by breaking it down into smaller chunks. It also gives a reason for the Icons, if you choose to break your windows down in that manner. Icons would be ordered by proximity by the way, or by sec status perhaps.
In addition, closed windows would pulse if something needed the player's attention.

In this example, which is based on a potential PvP set-up, the player really only cares about other Player Ships in space. So that window is open and organized in the familiar column view. Other windows are also important, but for now he has chosen to view those in the Icon View mode. Closer items are first and remain lockable, warpable, and otherwise usable in the normal manner. And he has added a Custom Module for "Wrecks".

You can easily see how Miners, or Explorers, or others could customize their own Overviews to better present information they consider important.

Left alone the Overview wouldn't be that much different than it is today. But even without player interaction, information would still be presented in easier to understand chunks. Making "glance" dissemination even easier.

But the customization is where this approach becomes even more powerful. The ability to "break" apart the Overview window and put them wherever you need on screen, is powerful. In addition, less screen real-estate would be taken up by information the player doesn't really need at that time. Making the entire UI environment better as a result.

I could go into a lot more detail, but I think this is a good overview of this approach. It doesn't solve all the problems, but it seems like a good evolutionary step towards better presenting a massive amount of information to players. And giving each player the opportunity to better control what that information is, how it is presented, and in what format. In that way, more choice and control is placed in the player's hands.

What do you think of the idea?


PS: Morg suggested I call this the "T3 Overview", I like it.



24 comments:

  1. Yes please! The overview has needed love for soooo long I'd welcome half of this. I agree that the overview can be daunting to setup and when there has been an update (more ships) it's easy to forget to add them your current settings. Anything to help newbros and vets would be welcomed from me!

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  2. Really good idea. I hope CCP has the resources to rethink the Overview system. Import/export of overview settings was a good step, but it could use further development.

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  3. For those trying to find the cited book: Maeda, John. Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006. Print.

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    1. Correction: Book titled "The Laws of Simplicity"; series titled "Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life".

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  4. This is awesome. I need 8-9 overview tabs to cover everything I might need in a typical PvP session. This would go a long way to sorting that.

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  5. Looks good! I would be happy if there was a drop down for different modes, i.e. Mining, PvP etc that displayed differnt tabs for each activity. I find myself having to edit my "misc" tab to show different settings depending what I am doing. I like your idea, but if that change is too much for them, a baby step would be nice.

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  6. Outstanding - even noobs could use this to better effect not to mention helping the more "salty" players. Thanks for the outside the box thinking.

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  7. Thanks everyone, much appreciated. This is something I actually started working on way back in July, just finally got around to finishing it for pub today.

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  8. I'm still mad they didn't adopt your fitting window idea.

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  9. I would resub just for this overview...

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    1. SeaElder!!! Come back to us!!

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    2. Overview icons - have they fixed them ?

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  10. Please post this on the features and ideas column. This would be so much more user friendly.

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    1. Whoops, features and ideas FORUM. Yeah...need more coffee.

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    2. That would be slightly more complicated than you might think.

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  11. That looks like a great idea. I would really love to have a pvp window constantly open with a bunch of "helper" windows floating around and opened on demand.

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  12. That looks like a great idea. I would really love to have a pvp window constantly open with a bunch of "helper" windows floating around and opened on demand.

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  13. I haven't read this in all details, but on the surface it looks good.

    Anything you could find somebody who'd do a HTML/JS/Flash mockup?

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  14. Nice idea. That could really ease live in new Eden and be a good upgrade to the existing table. But, I still remember an article from Seismic Stan about removing the overview every time that topic comes up. As a great artist you maybe able to illustrate an idea without overview and a focus on space view.

    So, why do we use the overview at all? I would say “because the little icon in space view doesn't provide any information”. With the slogan “Eve forever” and eve Valkyrie bringing VR to the gamers, can't we follow Seagull and be bold and dream of an Eve that takes the space business to the next level?

    Imagine that the Icon of an enemy (or player in general) ship would be replaced through a hologram (like the one in CQ) showing you orientation, speed, distance and signature size. Suddenly you don't have to look at the overview to see this interceptor is going to intercept you! Sounds fun, but would be totally messy with fleets wouldn't it? Well doesn't have to.

    Lets say you have a fleet of 200 Megatrons + some Companion ships. The large blop of icons you see is replaced by a hologram representing a small fleet of lets say 6 Megatrons and the odd Scorpion and Eos mixed in. All ships with the average same stats are grouped together, so in that fleet all ships have roughly same orientation and speed. If your tackle has point and web on one of these 200 Megas it drops out of the fleet and is presented as a separate hologram, click-able and ready to shoot at. A broadcast target would be isolated from that fleet too so you don't click mindless on the fleet broadcast but see the flashing hologram in your beautiful space view.

    You would now need better options to change the “bracket” view instead of overview settings so you can get hold on the planets you want to warp off to. I think a more “space view” centred presentation of information would help eve a lot to get rid of the “spreadsheets in space” attribute. It totally would be a different game than now but that's already true if you compare now with 2007. For me, such a change would make Eve so much more spacier and the immersion to be commander of a space ship would actually get a real experience.

    Sure some players still would need some sort of “list” but I think much of that stuff could be floating on demand. I don't need a permanent window blocking the space view if there isn't an enemy fleet on grid. And how should I embrace all this nice explosions if my target is zoomed out at 120km. Give me Hologram that shows the hits on my target. I like eye candy, not spreadsheets, but with good functionality.

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    1. I don't disagree with you. And I can certainly imagine a system that would work, but that is a HUGE step forward that would require a total re-do of the entire UI environment. The solution presented here was developed as a "next" step towards a more engaging UI environment. It is great to speculate about where the road leads, but every journey begins with the first step. And that is what this was intended to be, something easy that would make a significant impact on a tired and old window.

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  15. This kind of re-thinking was actually one of my high priorities in my "You are CCP X" Blog Banter entry. So I'm right there with you.

    I think this idea could be improved a slight bit by making the windows/modules auto-minimize if none of their items are on-grid (no wrecks, other player ships, rocks etc). Then when one shows up, it auto-grows to icon or overview mode. This would have the extra advantage of calling attention to itself when something has just changed in your area of space, like a player ship arrives.

    And, I would make it an opt-in to any existing accounts (new players would get the new one by default and could opt-in to the old overview). The uproar over the new icons was enough to make me realize that some people would rather things just stay the same. Whether a change is an improvement is really a matter of taste when dealing with an entrenched design.

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