I'd like to talk about consistency in user interface design, using Icewind Dale as an example.
Examples I give here are screenshots taken at 640x480, as that's the lowest resolution the game supports - its lowest common denominator, for which it was originally designed.
First, the basic in-game layout:
IWD in game.jpg 218.73KB 0 downloads
Everything in the red rectangle here is dependent upon being in the in-game view (as opposed to the inventory or map or whatever). The elements in white are controls that are only relevant when in this view.
If there's anyone here who's not played any IE games, the element in the bottom left is the pause button, and the pair on the right hand side are toggle AI and select all. These two sections are the only part of the interface that are relevant only to this view, but not part of this view.
(BTW the button beneath those is 'rest', which is usable from all screens)
Now the map view:
IWD map.jpg 248.54KB 0 downloads
Here, the AI/select all buttons have been removed. This is fairly subtle as they don't really stand out anyway, so most players probably never noticed a change. The pause button is still there, but it does nothing. In principle, there's no reason it shouldn't work here (and I think in BG2 maybe it did?), but I think it was a design choice that the game pause should only be toggled while you're actually looking at the game. The icon is left there though, because removing it would stand out a lot more when you switch screens - plus it looks cool.
Note that all the buttons on the left, and the character icons on the right, remain unchanged and unmoved. This is a standard principle that applies in all screens in this game. From here, as with all screens, it's possible to switch to any other screen by clicking its icon, or by pressing its shortcut key. It's also possible to select a character, and they will be highlighted on the map.
A quick look at the inventory:
IWD inventory.jpg 259.42KB 0 downloads
Not a great deal to say here: it's obvious that character selection is relevant for this screen since there are separate inventories, and of course the buttons on the left remain as always.
The character record and spellbook screens are similar - it's easy to see that the character selection portraits are needed there, and of course both they and the screen selection buttons remain the same.
The journal is a little different:
IWD journal.jpg 254.09KB 0 downloads
In this case, the choice of character is meaningless, and clicking their portraits does nothing. They are left there, even though they're irrelevant at this stage, because removing them would be visually jarring and there's no compelling reason not to have them there - any change in placement or layout imposes a (small) cognitive load on the user that needs to be justified. Compare this with commands in most applications that aren't always usable, but don't generally disappear, rather being greyed out when unavailable (paste, for example, if the clipboard is empty).
I have a lot more to say on how this relates to PoE, but that will take some time to type up, plus I'm at the attachment size cap; consider this as background...
Edited by Waywocket, 20 August 2014 - 05:51 AM.