Saturday, April 30, 2011

Minimal Interfaces/Information

I just installed Starcraft II on my new laptop because it's great to actually have a seriously powerful computer these days, but it made me think about a mix-up I had with one particular unit (Thor, for those interested.) I thought it was weak against aerial opponents because the numbers were particularly low and there was also a not very high number for rate of fire. Turns out that it's very powerful at taking out groups of aerial opponents because its salvos are more powerful than the individual missiles.

A small oversight that was corrected with experience, but this seems to be a problem in a lot of RTS games. The numbers are misleading and make it easy to misunderstand which units are good against others. Starcraft II added a lot more information than the original Starcraft (thank God, when I was a kid I really misunderstood counters because I only looked at the system), but ultimately we're not suited to read these numbers very well when there are so many of them.

Command & Conquer was much different in that it only showed vague approximations and the player figured out the strength and weaknesses of units via general descriptions and experience. For one thing, I always felt that made the game feel a bit more real; but my real point is that all that information misleads us and retards the process of learning how it actually works through experience.

I think that strategy games, in general, should do away with most of the explicit numerical information; it's more misleading than informative.