2009
12.05

One of the hardest bits about creating Icefall was getting the User Interface (UI) just right.
Icefall’s chief inspirations are “old-school” role-playing games like Angband (aka Roguelikes: Nethack, Moria, Omega, ADOM all fall into this category). But these old-school games all rely on essentially a text-mode interface with a myriad of hotkeys. I want to make Icefall more accessible than that. So I took the UI elements from ‘modern’ RPGs like World of Warcraft, Titan Quest, and Dragon Age: Orgins: hotbars, cooldowns, drag & drop.

Of course these ‘modern’ interfaces are much more work to get right than a classic keyboard-driven one. Even though I’ve spent more time on this aspect than any other, it’s still not perfect. Here’s an example I found yesterday:

Icefall Backpack user interface

Icefall Backpack user interface

Looks easy enough. To equip the Apprentice Jerkin, players can either click and drag it to their Character Sheet, or else right-click it to equip. The problem: there are two, identical jerkins in the player’s inventory. Click and drag works fine, but if you right-click the second one, a strange thing happens: the *other* jerkin is equipped instead, and disappears from inventory.

Why? Well, right clicking an item in Icefall triggers a codepath to essentially “Activate Item: Apprentice Jerkin”. It’s set up this way so that players can also drag equipment to their hotbar, and equip it directly from there. All good so far. BUT: internally, the inventory is stored as an array, and is stored from left-to-right, top-to-bottom. So when the “Activate Item” codepath is triggered, it goes looking for an Apprentice Jerkin to activate, and it finds the other jerkin (the one in the row above) first – so it activates it!

A rare situation, a completely logical consequence of the way I implemented right-click behaviour. Technically correct (There are no downfalls to the player if the ‘wrong’ jerkin is equipped: they’re identical by definition) and yet it feels completely wrong and would likely alienate a casual user. So I’m going to have to find a workaround 🙁