In this Developer Insights article, we will be discussing the ‘Research’ interface. The tech tree in Exodus: Proxima Centauri has very little dependence on the organization of its options, but does convey a lot of information on how to plan you faction’s development. For reference, here’s an image of the research tree from the latest edition of the board game:
Our task was to maintain the organization of both color and cost while implementing this into the game. Let’s take a look at where we started:
This ‘stub-in’ window comes from an early version of Exodus, before we gave the Research interface a serious design pass. This was meant to be functional while we were developing the game. The first step of updating the Dev UI was to migrate it to the In-game HUD. This was still a ‘stub-in,’ but thematically fit the rest of the game.
The Research Interface continued in this manner for a long time. We had determined that for internal play testing viability, this was a fine way to present the decision. You’ll notice that this window only shows a few of the technologies. That’s because we started by limiting our vision to what you could afford at the time. While this was fine for us developers, who know the game inside-out, we knew we would need to change this to something that contained all the information for new or casual players. As we reached beta testing, we knew we needed to make this change.
The UI needed to show all the technologies, not just those you can afford. We also knew that we had to improve its organization, color choices, and visibility, and communicate cost reductions clearly. To do this, we discussed the problems and proposed a few options for improvement. Here’s a sample of our first attempt:
The idea was to have small tabs (the top half of the squares), stacked in a manner that reflected the tech trees. This bar would be expandable (the bottom half of the squares) to contain the rest of the information. You will recognize this art from the physical tech tree posted above.
This organization got us moving in the right direction. We decided it would be better to show the art in the hologram styles of the HUD, and proceeded to mock-up some art variations.
Ultimately, we ended up with this format, showing all the pieces of information for each technology on one bar. This design was ported to game graphics by Vaclav, and awaited deployment.
However, we weren’t done yet. We still had to determine the best way to communicate extra information, like technologies you already owned, technologies that were available to research, and technologies you couldn’t afford. We also needed a way to show extra information about each tech, to ensure you as the player have all the information to make the right decision. Here’s what we started with.
The top row represents technology you’ve already researched, the middle row represents technology available to purchase, and the bottom rows represent tech you can’t afford. The space on the right would hold extra information.
For the final decision, we fell back on some of the feedback we got from our beta testers: things that were clickable needed to appear more clickable, and things that weren’t shouldn’t look clickable. We determined the top row looked too clickable, and needed to make a change.
This was our final decision on how to convey the information. Notice the clear distinction between the things that are ‘researchable’ and those that aren’t.
And finally, here’s the in-game view you all will see when you play Exodus: Proxima Centuari:
Thanks for reading! And stay tuned for next Developer Insights Article, where we talk about the design of the Ships of Exodus. If you have any questions for the devs, or comments about the article, feel free to post them below.