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Gairnulf

What does the Combat Log lack?

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For the time I've been visiting the forums frequently, I haven't seen many opinions on the Combat Log being stated, but those I've seen have always been negative. I myself also find the Combat Log difficult to read, and thought I should look into what makes it inferior to the one used in Baldur's Gate II, which is my usual point of reference.

 

So, like I did with the item description window, let's see both versions side by side (attached pictures). To keep this post as short as possible (it still got very long in the end), just assume that everything I've written in a declarative way is an opinion, so where it says "you should do that" read "I think you this would result in better experience for the majority of players". This includes my notes on colors - I am aware color preferences are a proverbially subjective thing. Just take these as my opinions on the question, and see how you feel about it yourself in case you hadn't given it thought by now. I'll try to offer motivation for most of my suggestions.

 

1. Padding for the whole box should be decreased. Text should start a little more to the left and top, and the rows should reach the bottom. Shaded edges at the top and bottom of the log window should be removed.

Motivation: More optimal use of screen space.

 

2. Line height and font size should both be reduced by a couple of pixels.

Motivation: More optimal use of screen space.

 

3. Characters' names' colors should move to a more pastel gamma instead of directly copying the color values of "major clothing", which I think is the source currently. Colors which are too close to the Combat Log's background color should be overridden in the Combat Log, and lighter versions should be used in the Combat Log. The color for hit/miss/graze messages can remain the light green which it is currently, but again, it should move to a more lighter, "pastel" gamma.

Motivation: 
Currently the contrast is either too sharp or barely existing. The best example is the row "Conan hits Wood Beetle...", where you have dark color which barely contrasts against the background, immediately followed by a light and saturated green. This causes eyestrain and gives the player "the worst of both worlds": the dark-red/brown seems too dark, and the green seems like it drills into your eyes. Additionally, check out how the most colorful part in BGII's combat log are the characters' names. This is done for a reason: makes it easier for the viewer's eyes to jump from action to action. This is why I think the green in PoE whould have to become more muted if it even is to stay green. How about something like #d2ded2 if you want to keep the green? In any case, I think the main body of text (which is the hit/graze/miss information) shouldn't be more prominent by the characters' names, and this should be achieved by toning down the color of this text, which consists the majority of text in the Combat Log, and certainly not by additional "spicing up" of the characters' names' colors.

 

4. Players should be given an option to display detailed information about To Hit rolls inside the Combat Log, not just as a tooltip.

Motivation: 

First, I consider the tooltip approach inconvenient for many reasons, the two most prominent being: 1) it covers other rows of the combat log; 2) It requires the player to move his mouse, aim and point at a row, which is an additional action required by the user in order to be able to see information which he/she considers important. If this remains the only means to access this information, it is slowly discouraging the user from using the function. Before you ask - yes, people are that lazy :) , and this is why we have UI designers, to provide for lazy people and predict where a lazy person would expect elements to be, and how elements would function. Otherwise we would have the software engineers do the UI designs.

 

Second, the former being said, I'm all for players who have disabled the option of seeing To Hit rolls in their log still have access to the tooltips, so please don't remove the tooltips...

...(Third) but the option to display To Hit rolls within the feed of the Combat Log must be included, not only because it's less effort for a player who is interested in every To Hit roll, but also because of a side-effect it has. This side-effect is that this option arranges the typography graphically on the screen, making it much easier for the player to reach the line he/she needs and then stay on that line.

 

Notice how I've enabled the showing of To Hit rolls in the BGII screenshot and how every "row" is actually two rows: one is the To Hit roll, and another for the effect. For the brain this is the same as having a thicker line which contains two thinner lines within itself. I think it's the work of genius. :) Notice how the words "Hit" and "Miss" are easy to discern because they are in the end of lines, and they stick out because of the colon surrounded by spaces? Hell, just by looking at this I think "they really did make better games back in the day!". This leads me to suggestion 5.

 

5. Economize horizontal space by revising the length of strings outputted in the Combat Log. The Combat Log should be a log, a feed, not a narrative. What I mean: compare the lines

"BB Wizard grazes Wood Beetle for 2 piercing damage"
with
"Kagain did 9 damage to Ogre Mage".


Not only is the latter shorter, but I find it's also syntactically easier to comprehend, a simpler sentence, to put it simply :) Do use as simple sentences as possible in the Combat Log. If you want to attach the information about the graze/hit, you are either already doing this in the tooltip (for players who have "Show To Hit rolls" disabled), or you have already shown it on the previous line (for those who have that option enabled). If you want to give the information for the type of damage (shock, pierce, slash, crush), you can give it with the first letter in brackets after the number. So this example would look something like this for me:

"BB Wizard- Attack Roll 26 + (36 - 31 = 5) = 31 : Graze"

"BB Wizard did 2(p) damage to Wood Beetle"

 

Potentially after "Wood Beetle" you could the calculation for that 2 damage in such a way: : (10.8 - 3.5) - 9% = 6.7(p)

 

If you need any more arguments about why this is the better approach, look again at the two compared screenshots: notice how there is a relatively straight line between character names and their actions in the BGII example, and how jagged the same lines is in the PoE example. I don't know if the designer who made the Combat Log has ever played IE games, but take it from me: jagged vertical lines in combat logs are a bad thing :) And I haven't selected these examples manipulatively, PoE's combat log will always look more disorganized than BGII's, for the reasons I pointed out, and also because the strings "grazes", "interrupted", "hits", "critically hits" have wildly varying lengths between them, and they are what follows immediately after the characters' names, preceding and messing up other strings which are mostly of uniform length. Remove those words from the log, or put them at the back, and the log immediately becomes easier to read.

 

6. Another advantage - by using this method, you should be able to reduce the instances in which Combat Log actions wrap to a second line. This happens too often for my liking right now, and the result is that it makes text harder to follow.

 

7. Please take some time to experiment with a different and more suitable font for the Combat Log. Take a lesson from BGII again: see how their font has less serifs, is thicker (that's important), and how the size of small letters is closer to the size of big letters. This is also part of what makes it more readable. Take a look at my example in 5. I made it bold for the same reason.

 

8. I don't think indentation is needed in the Message Log or in the Combat Log when a long message wraps to a new line. It only makes it more complicated for me, and contributes to even more wrapping to new lines because every line after the first is additionally shorter, in the already too short (by default) combat log.

 

This is all I can think of for now. I'm very happy to know that QA people from Obsidian are scanning the forum, thank you for this, it motivates me, and I hope others to contribute and generally attempt to help you make a better game, which is really the point of the whole backer beta. :)

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Edited by Gairnulf
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Excellent post! I'll add on, if that's okay:

 

Maybe this should just be optional (probably, even), because it kind of depends on how wide someone's given combat log is (based on other UI options, etc.), but... I think, instead of having a whole line for a combat roll, then a whole line for the result, there should just be (optionally) a column specifically for rolls. Maybe to the left of player names? That way, if there wasn't a roll (such as for "such and such Death"), there wouldn't be a big weird gap between "Character Name" and the rest of the entry, OR a weird super-short line compared to the other lines (if you just continued the entry in place of the game, instead of always allotting that column to a roll).

 

You could even just have "X - Y = Z," and have (I guess also optionally, because I see no reason to make it mandatory) tooltips to point out the exact math. And you'd have "Attack" or whatever roll type there. I mean, we just list the damage like normal. We don't have "did X(1.15) + Y(.85) - Z(1.30) damage!". We just have the end result. It seems like, in most cases, that's the only thing necessary to really make major decisions. And you can still always mouse-over if you need to see the exact math. The difference with rolls being that you want to see what your roll was, and what it was up against (the main value for each entity, you and the foe). But, if your roll keeps being under 50, you can mouse-over and see that you've got a -30 to your rolls right now or something. OR, maybe we just show that one modifier for the attack roll? Since it's always going to be 1-100, but you never know at a glance if you just happened to roll a 50, or if something's dropping you down to 50. *shrug*

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Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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Good suggestions Gairnulf.

 

In a word, "Brevity".

 

Yep. We basically want the same brevity as the BG2 log. 1 attack = 1 line. No fuss, no details (or details in the tooltip only).

 

Also, what's with all the color and stuff, I can't see anything. Just do the same as IE games: colored names and white for the rest. Pretty please?

Edited by Rumsteak
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Exactly.  Just cut it down.  Bob attacks Joe, Graze, 3 damage.  That's all we need to see.  If we want to see the cold hard (and probably too complicated for it's own good in Eternity) math we can just click on that line to see the details.

Edited by Karkarov
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Gairnulf: What a lovely post! Thank you.

 

PoE has verything to gain from following your advice, and nothing to lose. The state the combat log is in now is pretty deplorable, especially with the annoying jump to the roof of the window each time it gets updated - which means it just keeps rolling, but never showing the latest info.

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The combat log is an excellent place for the promised "everything can be turned on or off".

 

And it would look a damn site clearer if "misses" and "grazes" could be turned off, and if afflictions were shown separately from their attacks (i.e. "Bob was knocked down for four seconds" rather than explaining who hit him, whether it was a crit/hit/graze, etc). I know some grazes can be pretty potent, but half the reason the IE combat log is so clear is because when something shows up it is a reasonably rare occasion - at least after the five mages have completed their pre-buffs.

 

The combat log should be customisable to show as much information as possible to the player, but I don't think that the current wealth of information sits well as a default setting.

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The combat log is an excellent place for the promised "everything can be turned on or off".

 

And it would look a damn site clearer if "misses" and "grazes" could be turned off, and if afflictions were shown separately from their attacks (i.e. "Bob was knocked down for four seconds" rather than explaining who hit him, whether it was a crit/hit/graze, etc). I know some grazes can be pretty potent, but half the reason the IE combat log is so clear is because when something shows up it is a reasonably rare occasion - at least after the five mages have completed their pre-buffs.

 

The combat log should be customisable to show as much information as possible to the player, but I don't think that the current wealth of information sits well as a default setting.

The information flow of the combat log in the IE games was a lot smoother than it is in PoE, but I don't think this can be altered, because it comes down to cooldown times and how synchronised or rhytmic they are, which will vary from one battle to another. If they are very synchronized, we'll have bigger blocks of text appearing at once, then relatively little unitl the cooldowns pass, unless through our actions (giving orders to characters) we break this synchronization, which of course isn't something around which anyone will decide their particular decisions in combat :) I'm not sure, but I think cooldowns were longer in the IE games, and this allowed for a more rhytmic flow of new lines being outputted in the combat log. If the rest of my feedback gets added to the combat log though, I think this problem will not affect us all that much any more.

 

Something I didn't mention in the OP and came to my mind today was that, based on self observation at least, people tend to read the combat log not only from left to right but also from top to bottom and occasionaly from right to left. The people who designed BGII's combat log were aware of that and they made it easy for the player to scan the log verticaly until they find the character they are interested in, then quickly check if his attack is successfull, and lastly, if needed see the details of this attack.

 

Basically, the combat log should be organized as a table, only without the cells. As much as possible of the text after the character name should be identical (look how lines for all characters in BGII start with "Attack Roll", that's not redundat, but it's there to make the row more easily identifiable when scanning the log) before the unique parts start (the calculations), with the rightmost part containing the summary (hit, graze or miss). The designer should think of the combat lig as of a mini version of the whole screen - the areas where attention is directed are the extreme left and the extreme right. Just as interface elements are usually placed in one of those corners, so should the important parts of a combat log roll be concentrated in those two sides of a row.

Edited by Gairnulf
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If you go back to the IE games (as I have been doing recently), the overwhelming difference in the combat between them and PoE is that in the IE games characters miss most of the time. As THAC0 rises so too does AC and unless you've hopelessly mismanaged you and the enemy will either be missing most of the time or fights are very short because the other party lacks the hp.

 

Since misses don't naturally show up in the default IE combat log, it is a lot clearer.

 

In PoE, with its graze system and comparatively bloated hp, "hits" (i.e. Hits, Crits, Grazes) are all occuring multiple times each second. That makes the combat log the cluster**** that it is.

 

Since we are too far into the graze system to withdraw at this point, the easiest solution would appear to be to hide grazes by default in the log, and when status effects graze simply show the status effect (Bob is knocked down for 2.4 seconds) rather than the who and how, unless you mouse over it.

 

Display ideas are good, but they're a very minor part of it compared to the sheer volume of information coming through.

Edited by Kjaamor
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Combat log needs to be switched with the character portraits or something so you can actually read it on the fly.

 

Needs a filter so you can remove the usless lines.

 

Lines per acion need to be optimized.

 

No colors for anything except names would be fine with me.

 

I have asked for less padding as well

 

I would like to see the raw math in a lot of the attack information pasted rather than moused over too.

 

Combat log doesn't by default, scroll you down to the latest info in combat atm which is annoying

Edited by Sensuki
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No colors for anything except names would be fine with me.

 

This. Too many colors is distracting.

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Combat log needs to be switched with the character portraits or something so you can actually read it on the fly.

As we've discussed before, that's something I agree on. At least we should get to rearrange these elements to our preferences. Actually, that's a good time to link to my old thread about the UI layout.

 

No colors for anything except names would be fine with me.

Or at least stick to the color scheme of the IE games, which had far less different colors.

 

Combat log doesn't by default, scroll you down to the latest info in combat atm which is annoying

I believe that's just a bug, not intended behaviour, so it should be reported, but I guess it's a known issue, being pretty obvious as it is.

 

If you go back to the IE games (as I have been doing recently), the overwhelming difference in the combat between them and PoE is that in the IE games characters miss most of the time.

[...]

 

Since misses don't naturally show up in the default IE combat log, it is a lot clearer.

I haven't felt that lack of clutter really, because I've always played only with To Hit rolls displayed. Similiarly, I don't mind the grazes' clutter. More configuration options regarding the Combat Log should suit both kinds of players Edited by Gairnulf

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Combat log needs to be switched with the character portraits or something so you can actually read it on the fly.

 

Yes and no.

 

People who read from left to right scan their screen from top left to bottom doing something resembling a deformed multi horizontal bars F. Bottom right is the worst place possible for important information, you want something that is not required in gameplay input there, like menus.

 

You don't want the portraits in the bottom right, I personally think that left side would be better for them then bottom left though. The Wounds, Focus, etc is just too low to be easily spotted right now.


Azarhal, Chanter and Keeper of Truth of the Obsidian Order of Eternity.


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I think there are a lot of good suggestions in here.  One of the most persistent bugs in our combat log is resetting to the top instead of going to the bottom when a new entry is displayed.  That is a bug (that I hate) and it just needs to be fixed.

 

I'll talk to Brian about options for disabling Miss and Graze messages.  Color changes/simplifications should be easy.

 

And while BG1 and IWD1's combat logs tended to scroll at a pretty slow pace at low levels, that was not true toward the end game and was not really true in BG2 or (higher level) IWD2 at all.  Serious fights (e.g. w/ Gromnir and friends) dumped a ton of messages because a) there's just a lot of people doing things and b) it was not hard to get your THAC0/Attack Bonus to divine heights, so scoring hits was common.  Higher IWD/BG2/IWD2 warrior classes were also attacking really frequently, so you could see a lot of output from them.

 

This in no way means we shouldn't look into improving our combat log, but even in the original games  there's a certain volume of feedback that's hard to avoid once enough characters get involved at mid- to high-level.

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The Wounds, Focus, etc is just too low to be easily spotted right now.

 

Kaz has moved all of those displays to the same position as the animal companion portrait.  The AC portrait has been reduced in size, the portraits have been spaced out slightly more, and status/affliction icons have been moved to the right of each character's portrait.  As a consequence, the action bar has been lowered proportionally and you can see more status/affliction icons per character.

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^That, plus simpler standardized lines and the combat log updating on the bottom will do wonders for it! Nice news! :)


*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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Combat log doesn't by default, scroll you down to the latest info in combat atm which is annoying

. . . . . . .

 

Reading the BB forums, one can think-

 

'What did Obsidian do right in this game ???'

 

 

Edit: then I read from Josh Sawyer that it is a bug

Edited by constantine

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The Wounds, Focus, etc is just too low to be easily spotted right now.

 

Kaz has moved all of those displays to the same position as the animal companion portrait.  The AC portrait has been reduced in size, the portraits have been spaced out slightly more, and status/affliction icons have been moved to the right of each character's portrait.  As a consequence, the action bar has been lowered proportionally and you can see more status/affliction icons per character.

 

 

Lower portrait area isn't really a good thing because the combat log height is already small enough, and a lower left side will look strange with a higher right side. Will give it a try, but am wary of it looking pretty silly (already do not like the UI anyway).

Edited by Sensuki

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Don't, for the sake of brevity, cut information that is vital. I notice that the UI designers have ha da tendency to do that (with item descriptions or spells).

 

For example, in the combat log, I believe these things are important:

 

1- was it a hit/miss/graze?

2- how much damage?

2a - numbers up to one decimal point (12.3 vs just 12) unless you're using usual rounding rules (>.5 rounds up).

3- What kind of damage (piercing/crushing/etc).

4- Any procs associated with it?

5- Any abilities being fired with it?

6- name of spell cast.

7- durations for some things (too many to count).

 

Ex:

Elmyra grazed/hit/missed wood beetle: Piercing (6), +fire (15 over 3 sec) +critical (2.5).

 

Wood beetle knocked down by Elmyra (5 sec) -OR -

Elymra grazes/misses/uses knock down: hit (5 sec), +damage (10), +hobbled (2 sec).

 

Things I don't really think are important

1- colorful text (how obnoxious is this? yeah....)

2- big text ( though font size can be changed)

3- proper, verbose prose (i.e. "The wood beetle grazed your hero, Conan, for 15 endurance points and 6 health points while also knocking out its teeth. The lamentations of its women were heard.")

4- the durations for other things.

5- to hit rolls (though others care about this, so good thing its optional for those who want it)

6- what weapon you used to do it with

 

basically, i want information that will make me change my decisions (procs will do that, prose won't), know something about my enemy (durations, how hard i'm hitting/ they're hitting), know what abilities are in play.

 

that's all i can think of for now.

Edited by Hormalakh

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I'm afraid for any heat the idea may incite, but I'll go ahead and throw it out there: maybe the combat log could be dynamically filtered by the selected character(s)?  This may be useful during pause so that one could easily iterate through their party and see each character's - or group of character's - particular events without the manual task of parsing the log for each.  Generally, one's attention at any given time is most focused on their currently selected party member(s) anyway when taking action, so I think it would be appropriate and even beneficial to encapsulate here.  Yeah?  Nay?

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It seems I am in the minority for whom color coding makes information filtering much faster. I do that on my own when working with Excel tables, I'm using colored backgrounds in the important columns and the bottom line cells, etc. So I would like it to be preserved at least as an option.

 

A method to gain a lot of space is to replace text with icons. Have an icon for the damage types and effects, and you can have a very dense combat log, telling a lot of info in a very small space. A sample:

 

BB Fighter -> Wood Beetle, <graze icon>, 5 <slashing damage icon>, <interrupt icon>, 3.2 s <procced effect's icon>

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Lower portrait area isn't really a good thing because the combat log height is already small enough, and a lower left side will look strange with a higher right side. Will give it a try, but am wary of it looking pretty silly (already do not like the UI anyway).

I'm sure they will move the combat log down as well, so it doesn't stick out. It would be ideal if they would get rid of the 20px high empty space under the HUD altogether. This is something I was advocating in my first UI thread. Seeing a 20px high, shaded stripe of the screen underneath the HUD simply makes no sense, if you can instead move the HUD to the bottom and gain 20px of non-shaded space above the HUD. :)

 

I'm afraid for any heat the idea may incite, but I'll go ahead and throw it out there: maybe the combat log could be dynamically filtered by the selected character(s)? This may be useful during pause so that one could easily iterate through their party and see each character's - or group of character's - particular events without the manual task of parsing the log for each. Generally, one's attention at any given time is most focused on their currently selected party member(s) anyway when taking action, so I think it would be appropriate and even beneficial to encapsulate here. Yeah? Nay?

At the moment it's impossible to have less than one character selected at any one time. If this filtering is to work only while paused, and if selecting more than one character while paused will include that character's feed too, it might be easier for some players to follow individual sub-logs like that. Personally I'm used to scrolling through a big log, so I probably would't use such a feature.

 

It seems I am in the minority for whom color coding makes information filtering much faster. I do that on my own when working with Excel tables, I'm using colored backgrounds in the important columns and the bottom line cells, etc. So I would like it to be preserved at least as an option.

 

A method to gain a lot of space is to replace text with icons. Have an icon for the damage types and effects, and you can have a very dense combat log, telling a lot of info in a very small space. A sample:

 

BB Fighter -> Wood Beetle, <graze icon>, 5 <slashing damage icon>, <interrupt icon>, 3.2 s <procced effect's icon>

I'm not against removing color coding, only for less contrasting colors, to better direct the player's attention when he scans through the log. I initially considered suggesting icons to save space as well, but if an icon is going to be the same size as your capital letters, or slightly bigger, because otherwise you will have to increase line height, the icon will be very difficult to discern for the majority of people. Additionally, you would run into problems wih scaling the icons whenever the user scales the text size :) I think what we are talking about is a 10x10px icon at default text size, which is pretty small. What I'm suggesting - the first letter of the damage type name in barackets (or two letters, because some damage types begin with the same letter) is the same thing, only the icon is the abbreviation's letters instead of an actual picture. Edited by Gairnulf

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I'm afraid for any heat the idea may incite, but I'll go ahead and throw it out there: maybe the combat log could be dynamically filtered by the selected character(s)?  This may be useful during pause so that one could easily iterate through their party and see each character's - or group of character's - particular events without the manual task of parsing the log for each.  Generally, one's attention at any given time is most focused on their currently selected party member(s) anyway when taking action, so I think it would be appropriate and even beneficial to encapsulate here.  Yeah?  Nay?

 

I don't like this exactly, but I'd suggest a similar idea: Make it so you can click on a name in the combat log to add a temporary filter that only shows items relevant to that character. You could then remove the filter by clicking on the name again or double clicking anywhere in the log.

 

This would be useful for those cases where you're thinking "my character is nearly dead suddenly, what the hell did that", or "I'm sure I told that guy to cast a spell, did it actually do anything?"

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I'm sure they will move the combat log down as well, so it doesn't stick out. It would be ideal if they would get rid of the 20px high empty space under the HUD altogether. This is something I was advocating in my first UI thread. Seeing a 20px high, shaded stripe of the screen underneath the HUD simply makes no sense, if you can instead move the HUD to the bottom and gain 20px of non-shaded space above the HUD.

That's not the point, you need to be able to read the combat log. Yes, you can increase the size yourself, but mimimalism for the sake of minimalism pisses me off. They should be doing the complete opposite with the portrait area.

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