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 Post subject: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 9:36 am 
Hello all!

Yes, we on the RPTools team are starting to throw ideas around and trying to come up with some UI concepts. If you want to talk about the look and feel of the future Maptool, this is your thread.

I created this thread for those who wish to be a part of MT's future design. If you want, feel free to create some mockups and discuss the whole user experience as you can imagine it.

Make this a fun thing! :)

(I am on vacation and my wheels are spinning - I really look forward to coming up here and reading some interesting discussions regarding Maptools future :) )

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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:03 am 
Sorry.. I have nothing to add other than it would be nice to be able to use animated gifs for token or drawings, but I know thats on Trevor's wish list. Personally, I am far more interested in functionality and usability than eye candy. About the only thing that I can think of that might be cool would be to have some prebuilt skins for various RPG types such as fantasy, Sci-Fi, Western, etc included. But, then again, TinyLNF already allows for that, but no one has done the skins needed.

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Get your Dropbox 2GB via my referral link, and as a bonus, I get an extra 250 MB of space. Even if you don't don't use my link, I still enthusiastically recommend Dropbox..


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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:11 am 
jfrazierjr wrote:
About the only thing that I can think of that might be cool would be to have some prebuilt skins for various RPG types such as fantasy, Sci-Fi, Western, etc included. But, then again, TinyLNF already allows for that, but no one has done the skins needed.

Could the learning curve be a little less steep? I am no artist, but I can find some that are and work to make a nice skin. TinyLAF seems like a huge learning curve. (I have not set down to research it either. :oops: ) My biggest complaint with the UI is that there is no way to set sweeping norms. i.e. all macro buttons default to 133 pxl wide, background black lettering white


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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:02 am 
What I would like to see is an interface that "knows how to get out of the way".

So when I am playing the editing type panels such as resource libraries just "vanish", they are easy to call back if I need to add something but most of the time they just aren't taking up room.

When moving tokens other parts of the UI could "dissapear" to give me a larger map area since at that time the larger map is more important than many other things :)

This would really help for smaller screens, and would also be beneficial even if you have a large screen


Something that wont be as easy to do but would be nice is a way for the chat panel to not have to take up so much room all the time. Maybe some sort of combination of speech bubbles for tokens and when you move the mouse to the "chat entry box" it pops up the chat history (this would have to be configurable I guess as many would still want full chat window all the time).

Possibly even something like the Mac OS X dashboard, where you could store informational type things you are not always looking at or tools I may want to do something quickly with then leave (such as connection or map explorer) possibly even allow macros to create their own "widgets" to display here to.


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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:03 pm 
Just looked at TinyLAF and it does seem like it's not noob friendly. It also doesn't appear to be able to produce complex or flowery interfaces, just variations on the standard frame type with different size and color buttons. I didn't dig very deep, though.

I'd be very interested in making a theme or three but my lack of programming skills will be an issue. I can come up with the images if someone else can assemble them into something useful.

I'd need to know what format they'd have to be in and what size. Also, can there be frames that aren't perfect rectangles on the outside and inside, i.e., can they have bits that intrude on the area inside them and extend outside of their normal border?

I'll see what I can mock up here in a bit.

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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 3:45 pm 
Craig wrote:
What I would like to see is an interface that "knows how to get out of the way".

So when I am playing the editing type panels such as resource libraries just "vanish", they are easy to call back if I need to add something but most of the time they just aren't taking up room.

When moving tokens other parts of the UI could "dissapear" to give me a larger map area since at that time the larger map is more important than many other things :)


I'm for this too. Being able to set 3 levels of transparency would do some of this some kind of mouse-over transparency options on panels and windows with focus might do some of this (default, on mouse-over, with focus).

The entire "Campaign Properties" section could use an over-haul.

Get rid of the full-sized candy-cane bounding boxes and make only non-alpha pixels selectable.

Give tokens and objects "handles" for rotating and sizing on the fly (as well as some other visible options on selections that will shrink the right-click menu.)

Better z-order support.

Skinnable macro buttons (or custom buttons.)

Get underlay support.

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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:05 pm 
A rough up for a sci fi style look.

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:33 pm 
One irritant I have with the UI is probably Windows and/or Java, but I'll mention it here just in case:

The computer I use to run my server has two widescreen monitors attached. I have MT resource window and the Map on the left screen, and all the other windows - Chat, Inititive, Macro, etc, set as seperate windows on the right screen.

Occasionally I'll switch to a webbrowser window on the left screen, and cut and paste info from the browser to the Chat window. When I click on the Chat Window (on the right screen), ALL of the MT windows will jump to the front, obscuring the browser window.

In going along with the previous suggestions that the interface "knows how to get out of the way", it would be nice if MT could somehow tell Windows to treat it's various windows as sperate programs for the purposes of jumping forward/backward, so that when I click on one MT window - like Chat - it doesn't necessarily cause all the MT windows to come forward.

I realize this may not be possible, and even if it is, could conceivably create it's own pile of headaches, but I thought I'd throw it out there for discussion.


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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:59 pm 
More tinkering. Kind of leaning towards a circuitry or panel background, but this was one possibility.

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 6:10 pm 
kristof65 wrote:
One irritant I have with the UI is probably Windows and/or Java, but I'll mention it here just in case:

This is mostly a Windows issue -- other desktop managers can do what you want, such as the KDE window manager on Linux. (KDE is being ported to Windows; who knows, maybe Windows will finally get a nice desktop?)

The issue is the parenting of windows. Each application is given a top-level window by default and everything else that it creates can be marked as "top-level" or "child". Top-level windows get their own entries in the task bar, can be minimized with all of their children as a group, receive the keyboard/mouse focus as a group, and so forth.

Child windows are those that don't make sense to have without a parent. Examples are all modal dialogs and most non-modal dialogs.

Back in the days of Windows 3.1, before Windows had true multitasking, it would only give the CPU to the job in the foreground. Later it was possible to give some CPU to jobs that were not in the foreground but it was a rather arcane process. Yet Windows never really dropped the concept that the user wants to give the entire CPU to the foreground job -- that's why they made it the foreground window after all, right? But it does get in the way given how people have learned to work in the last 7-8 years.

This was also important when application installed their own colormaps into the palette -- clicking a window for an application with a custom palette would make the app look good but everything else on the screen would get funky colors! With today's hardware this isn't much of a problem any more...

Quote:
it would be nice if MT could somehow tell Windows to treat it's various windows as sperate programs for the purposes of jumping forward/backward, so that when I click on one MT window - like Chat - it doesn't necessarily cause all the MT windows to come forward.

It's possible for every window that is opened to be a top-level window, but then things like docking are lost. I don't think this will ever happen, though. Sorry.


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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Fri Jan 29, 2010 6:56 pm 
Azhrei wrote:
This is mostly a Windows issue.

I figured all along it was Windows - but sometimes you don't know unless you ask.


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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:26 am 
Jector wrote:
A rough up for a sci fi style look.


Maptool will certainly have skinning capabilities.

While I like your work, I think it resembles current maptool too much. I want the next version to be more drastic. Wipe all that you know about maptool and see where your creative channels lead you : )

Try to imagine maptool 2.0 instead of 1.4 - it would be rather entertaining seeing what you all come up with.

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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:59 pm 
Quote:
While I like your work, I think it resembles current maptool too much. I want the next version to be more drastic. Wipe all that you know about maptool and see where your creative channels lead you : )


Exactly. It is time for change. What is most important aspect of RPG games? Atmosphere...
Looking at current MT reminds me, that MT is currently Tool not Environment!
My dream is - and I was thinking about it for couple of years now, to have complete customizable RPG/game Environment that supports atmosphere of my game system (completely self made dark fantasy one). I think that MT is on a good way to provide everything I expect from that Environment, but GUI should have several important features:

1. Clients should have completely separate UI, designed by GM. So if I need all players to see party players portraits on the bottom of their screen, map and NOTHING else, i as GM should have that possibility. I dont see any reason why would players have to see resource and macro palettes...

2. GM must be able to attach all functions of the program into completely customizable dialogs, where every button can be replaced (CSS and PNG images support, hover, click events support) Position and appearance of these dialogs must be also controlled by GM (event triggers/default setup) e.g.: if combat round begins Initiative window is automatically called and so on...

3. Of course, MT can come with predefined setup so the UI is not magic for newcommers. There must be possibility to have HELP bubble attached to every element on the screen. This way, everybody with real interest can create standalone Environment for his/her game system.

4. Transparency. CSS one would be enough, but I hope for better implementation (OpenGL = graphic card acceleration). I would like to see transparent dialogs and cascading for complex operation handling (inventory to inventory item move etc.)

5. Widgets. Support for java plugin modules. E.g. minimap, game callendar...

6. This all controled by well documented scripting language (JS prefered!)

Well, this is it. In summary, if I decide (as GM) to create player UI that looks like Diablo, I want to be able to do it. I think that this should be the ultimate target of MT into the future - customizable game environment - but still VTT perspective.


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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 3:34 pm 
dorpond wrote:

Maptool will certainly have skinning capabilities.

While I like your work, I think it resembles current maptool too much. I want the next version to be more drastic. Wipe all that you know about maptool and see where your creative channels lead you : )

Try to imagine maptool 2.0 instead of 1.4 - it would be rather entertaining seeing what you all come up with.


The problem is that I don't know how far "out there" I can take the look since I don't know what the limitations are. I can make a really neat layout that could be unfeasible for a GUI because of how the program works.

And at some point "nifty" will outstrip "useable".

Being easily skinnable would be awesome. That would allow lots of folks to come up with some unique stuff even if it's just to replace stock images of borders and buttons with their own.

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 Post subject: Re: Maptool Concepts: The Next UI, Look, and Feel
PostPosted: Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:04 pm 
I would have to agree with everything said above really.
MT as it stands is a wonderful tool. and not bad looking as far as a program goes (the only problem I have with it is that I don't have enough screen space xD - I want another moniter! :lol: )
...however it can be rather clunky and even with some skinning it's not quite the environment for gaming that Fantasy Grounds is, for example. The only draw as far as I can see for spending the money for FG over MT is the GUI tbh.
So what I'd say is first and foremost: The environment. The atmosphere and uniqueness of the gaming experience needs to be the priority when dealing with the GUI. Then customisability followed by usability.
that said, the features I'd like to see are (and have already been said):
1. Hide-ability/transparency. As I mentioned my problem is lack of space and so to over come this I have as many frames auto-hiding as they can (inc. win taskbar but that's a general thing) whilst still having quick access to a decent sized chat window and macros, etc. Therefore frames that vanish when they're not used or go transparent etc. (possibly with controls in preferences) are a god-sent. Take heed from the more recent OS GUIs (win7 has some nice features and Mac has always been pretty slick). I like to see a lot of my map and where there isn't map or a GUI element/frame I don't want white space!
2. Customisability. A good set of basic skins is a must but even more so is the ability for users to implement their own (I quite like how n3phrit put it tbh though that does require quite a bit more input from the DMs). I'm really liking the widgets coming in here as well.
3. The campaign props definitely need changing as they're just awkward to use, and the import/export needs more definition and separation but thats more "engine" than GUI
4. umm just again re-iterating what all the others have said. Especially better interaction with the whole tool from within the macro language (but again this is touching another area of coding and including JavaScript).
That's what I'd like and prioritise at least. How much of this is pie-in-the-sky we shall have to see. it seems you guys are really motivated to use these ideas and break the mold but I'm more than satisfied to hold back a few features if it keeps comp resources and requirements lower, I mean bringing things like transparencies and effects, etc will start to push things a bit.

Mal

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