Friday, March 2, 2012

D3 UI, argh

There is a furor in the D3 forums over their new skill UI.  I talked about this earlier this week but it bears a little more attention because their committment to the new UI seems to have extended to the website here.  Instead of having all the abilities divided up into ~3 sensible categories on one page you now have 6 categories that make little sense which are on 6 different pages.  The in game UI matches the website UI quite well now but unfortunately the biggest way in which they match is that they suck big time.

Normally there are endless cries of 'you are wrecking the game by dumbing it down for noobs' on the forums over virtually any change.  Normally I laugh at these cries because they apply this complaint to absolutely anything even if it is actually increasing the depth of play or merely increasing convenience.  In this case they are spot on though.  This new UI and new skill system is obviously intended for casual players to force them to have only a few choices when building characters.  They have 6 buttons and the 6 categories of skills are each pigeonholed into one particular button.  The categories don't work though because with only 20 skills and the requirement of having a decent range of choice for each button the categories end up containing 3-4 skills that have nothing to do with one another.  The skills in a given category lack and shared mechanics or themes and are obviously just shoehorned in together.  Blizzard is clearly sacrificing lore, ease of play and overall game quality to try to save casual players a few moments of deliberation and it is a really bad decision.

When I saw the new UI I was sure it was just a temporary thing designed to be a framework while they built a proper UI but porting it to the website makes me much less sure of it.  Even as a new player I imagine I would be frustrated by the current system where I can't easily see what abilities I have available or what they do while making a choice - making it harder to find information is *not* the way to simplify the game for casual players.  As long as the skills are balanced and people can beat Normal difficulty with any combination of skills that isn't pants on head stupid then this is not an issue.  People who get to Nightmare and have put a ton of time into the game will take a couple minutes to mouse over their skills, try a few things out as they level and get a good sense of how they want to play.  The current beta is easy enough that my 5 year old can easily play and survive despite having absolutely no idea what she is doing at all - there is no worry that casual players will be unable to progress because they chose the wrong skills.

Blizzard, fix this mess.  I am all for accessibility but we both know that you can go too far to make things accessible like the new levelling in WOW or the new skill UI in D3.  Don't make the game bad in a desperate rush to make it simple.  You can do simple and good at the same time.


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  3. Okay, so after writing an essay on the subject based on a completely false premise, I realize that you can actually assign any ability you want anywhere.

    So is the problem just that some menus that you'll access maybe every half hour while leveling and every several hours when in end game are not laid out the way you'd like?

  4. Yeah, I am not arguing against their fighting interface or skill math or anything, that all seems fine. I am arguing against their skill interface which is really ass. When I go to switch abilities around it is slow and annoying. When I want to compare a few different abilities it is slow and annoying. Clearly they could launch the game today and I would buy it and love it but the skill choosing interface (when you have the option checked to put anything anywhere) is wretched. The one they had previously was good, the one used on the website previously was good. The abilities were broken down into functional groups and it was easy to swap choices around and compare various abilities to each other. Right now it is very annoying.

    I think it is clear that their design changes are specifically targetted at making the game more straightforward for new folks, which I don't have an issue with, but they should have a menu system for skill choices that is easy, quick and intuitive. The current one fails at that for both new people and veterans.

    And yes, this is my only criticism. The rest of the game is bloody awesome. The reason the criticism is so harsh is that they had a really good system and then replaced it with a crappy system; the step backwards is the frustrating thing.

  5. I was using the system on the website and I found it quite easy to use. Maybe we are accessing it in different ways? I'm going to be very interested to look again when I get home (man I wish I was home playing Diablo 3 right now). Of course if there is an easy way to do things and a hard way and intuitively people use the hard way then that's a pretty big problem too.

    I do think that anyone who wants to be taken seriously complaining about it to blizzard should leave the casual/noob issue aside and just say what they don't like about the new interface. After all, the point of the story of the boy who cried wolf is that no one comes when there is actually a wolf.

  6. Did you use the old system?

    If I hadn't seen the old one I might think the new one is fine... but having used the old UI I find the new one starkly inferior.

    You probably have a point there about including the word casual in my post at all. The problem with the UI is that it is hard to compare skills to one another, slow to swap skills around and frustrating to have to flip back and forth between groups. All of the skills could be easily displayed in one place, like they were before, and it would make comparisons much easier. Also, I question why there isn't a simple drag and drop system for assigning skills and instead a menu system is used.

  7. Yeah, I think as someone who never used an alternative the system seems fine. Though I will admit that on more than one occasion I clicked on a skill on my bar with the expectation that something would come up to let me switch it. Obviously the new interface is needed to support the system that only lets you assign certain skills to certain buttons, but when you check the box to let you assign them anywhere it should really switch to a drag & drop thing.

    More than that, though, I want them to put in a way to swap two skills on your bar without triggering the cooldown at all, but at the very least without triggering it twice for one of the skills. They could just let us assign the same skill to two different buttons, even.

  8. Patch notes suggest they just fixed this (though I couldn't log in last night) and it also looks like they made gear way cooler by giving bonuses to specific skills. Might have to go home early.