Casual Players Interface :
Simplified controls for simplifying selected aspect of the game. All those fancy controls, commands, options and indicators... Too many to remember or too many ins-and-outs for a game where you can so alot more actions and use more objects than most games ???
Ive mentioned before that there are many aspects to the MMORPG Ive described which can give the Players alot of choices to do more of what they are interested in. Already the Players 'Team' NPCs are there to do alot of the more tedious/grindy stuff. The idea that the Player's Avatar might be able to continue doing various tasks and activities running on automatic while the player isnt logged-in has been discussed.
What if even the Adventuring part of the game, where there usually is the most hazard, had a 'Casual' mode where the combat and other actions would be done in a more Automatic way (some MMORPGs already do this with an 'attack' button). The combat done should be of a moderate/mediocre effectiveness (Players get more effectiveness the more actual effort they put into game tasks). The 'Team' NPCs are already supposed to fight on Automatic. This would mean that having the Player's Avatar do the same would not be too difficult (but might be quite conservative/defensive). The Player may want to direct things tactically leaving the actions to the objects under his control. The Player may just want it all to be Automatic - to let the AI logic handle all of the immediate decisions.
The better equipment and training a Player would supply his Avatar (and 'Team' NPCs) with will increase their average effectiveness and abilities (some Players like to put alot of effort into that part of the game).
Players who want the best out of their Avatar and Team and equipment will have to be much more directly in control and involved. That would be their choice.
This all will require a might jump in the AI capabilities in the Game, but that is already part of what is already expected for it (Opponent and other NPCs to be alot smarter/versatile/clever than what current games supply).
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Tile Button Click Interface :
Some games have an interface system where Button Icons are positioned on the HUD in a re-arrangeable manner (to various extents). They allow easy use of player selected options (and can activate quite complex command 'macros' in some games). This MMORPG would want as much flexibility in its interfaces, to be as easily controllable as possible (I personally loathe and denounce games where you have to 'fight' an ineptly developed interface more than you have to fight your game opponents/situations).
- Picture Icons (personalized bitmaps, Player Community will supply lots of alternates)
- Icons with text (in how many games did you say "WTF is THAT supposed to be and do" ??)
- Variable sizing the Button Icons (and other parts of the interface controls/indicators in general)
- Variable positioning - The usual draggable repositioning mode along with lockdown mode.
- Subset Buttons which can hide grouped sets of Buttons to cut down on clutter (modal control sets for different tasks/Player-designated playing modes (Switchable HUDs)
- Programmable Macros (with a GOOD Macro Editor - or many as Player Created ones are added)
- Multiple overlapping methods of executing the same commands (ie- Keys, Tile Buttons, Voice and fallback menus)
- Target Context - click on target and Buttons showing valid options are shown/clickable (hide commands not appropriate to the current situation)
- Valid Action Context - if command requires particular tool/target/situation and doesnt match then button is greyed out to indicate unavailability. Other 'smart' indicators could be scriptable
- Extensive tutorials (always with examples)
- Exportable/Importable (sets of Tile Buttons with macros, entire HUDs
Interface Versatility in proposed Bioshock MMORPG:
Typing as 'talking' by player (with overhead above player voicebubbles) - Over the shoulder view to see people around you. You can also have many more NPC 'small talk' statements in text versus having to voice record all of them (and distribute/hold in the client).
With typed text needing the available ordinary keys - there should be a easy to use Reprogrammable Key interface for 'macros' will be needed for the usual quick activation used in combat, and now also for basic frequently used 'team' orders. This worked pretty well in Ultima Online almost 15 years ago with various control/alt combinations and F1-F12 keys.
FPS mode view for one style of combat (over the shoulder if you are commanding your 'Team'). Im sure there can be some worthy incidental music for battle (and other) situations.
Players may have a 'spidey sense' indicator when something they've sensed is nearby (skill based ability).
Activation menu options -- like what we've seen in BS1/BS2 selecting (mouseover/target) object close enough for interactions puts up simple text list of options (with single key command activation)
Players Commands to 'Team' (with semi intelligent NPCs to take simple commands and do proper action/tactics). Directing them without having to issue alot of tedious/fiddly commands.
Point(select) and talk (directed speech - in environment with crowds of NPCs/players) - interface between players (and commands directed at NPCs)... (this could work for both typed text as well as any simple voice recognition)
Optional Mic+Headset verbal Voice Recognition inputs (single word) more natural for NPC Dialog sequences and issuing simple orders to 'Team' NPCs. Yet more 'Player Created Asssets' work to expand commmon single word reactions that all NPCs will respond to (behavioral scripting). Can even include 'emoting' at NPCs...
'Tablet' (tablet/palmtop computers) oriented 'offline' interactions :
- In-game Mail
- Voice messages
- Bulletin boards
- Team Task status & commands
- TV & Radio feeds
- Map viewer
- Phone Orders to shops(Dialog Tree)
The 'Tablet' client would handle a much lower communication quality requirement (dodgy wireless, dropouts, etc..) as the various interactions with the server dont need fraction of second back and forth response.
Dialog Trees for NPC interactions (with simple responses to procede down the dialog branches). The 'dialog' can include NPC animation/voice & sound effects/NPC actions as well as logic calculations that enable different branches appropriate to the game situation. Definitely useful for NPC Venders. Can greatly expand versatility of Quest interfaces (the original 'giving' and later review of accepted quests -- with side 'tree' branches for additional info/explanations...)
A problem with popup menus (any long text presented need that) is that they obscure other things going on (which in a Shop might not be of any significance). Dialogs with 'quest-givers' usually have much longer text story descriptions and they might be anywhere in Rapture. So this mechanism should be designed to minimize obscuring the players view of the rest of the world (like transparent background) and definitely make them instantly interruptible (not locked in to menu sequence) when things of interest start happening in the players vicinity.
Shop vendors can have 'Display Cases' (furniture in shop) so player can see and mouse select objects (and get a simple/quick interaction menu reiterating price, quantity available, etc.. (ie- Purchase/More-Info).
'Priceboard' (wall mounted object) interface - Longer vendor 'named list' selections (off list boards on walls or even 'sale' signs) -- summaries are useful when many items are available (scrolling 'gets old' really fast). Good for mundane purchases where you dont want alot of interface 'fuss and bother'.
Quest Log - for tracking missions and quests you've been told about or 'accepted'. Includes maps and quest info, Dialog from the quest_giver - all the usual stuff you want for quest/mission you got a week ago and cant remember the details. Potential for 'Team' activation for the quest -- integrated button commands to 'gear up'(appropriately) and move to a rendezvous point (without having to issue alot of tedious NPC commands/orders).
3D map system (better than BS2 and BS1) with rotating view to make 3D positioning more obvious. Markers to show see where their 'Team' minions are and various useful locations. Player will have ability to mark positions (with text notes). [ UO had feature like this over 10 years ago.] City survey keeps maps upto date - new/unknown/unmapped areas indicated. Interface used with many other related game functions (ie- mail someone a map and the location info can be added to their personal Map system, or a city alert for a Splicer attack would crosslink to the map to show the location). Zoom mechanism with increasing detail (like yahoo maps) and possible a 'search' feature to point out locations/items/NPCs of interest.
Inventory/Container system (Im thinking a UO style free positioning inside containers with simplified iconic pictures). Players wont be allowed to carry unrealistic loads/piles of items like in too many games (and probably wont carry 8 types of weapons at one time). Similarly, a typical Avatar body diagram interface for equipt 'gear'. Needs a lockdown mechanism to prevent non-owners from grabbing stuff a player places (items in their residence and at jobsites, etc..) A tabletop is effectively a container (full sized items normally visible) as is the floor in a location the player controls. I recall that players in UO did incredible/very imaginitive things as decorations (in the housing) when they had that flexible placement system (which makes the hamstrung slot placement used in many MMORPGs today so much lamer and pathetic compared to UO almost 15 years ago)
Player Notes/Tasks interface to help player remember what they want to do -- could have Client-side Voice recordings (for those who think these games have enough typing). The usual text 'note' interface, Map markers, etc... Picture snapshots... Simple Draw/sketch interface...
Mail messages sent to other players could likewise be recorded as 'voice' (RT&T feature added in 1950). can include the other media flavors (maps/pix/etc..)
'Team' member/minion Bio interface showing equipment, attributes and abilities (and outstanding orders/activities).. Various useful mechanism for managing your 'Team' of NPCs. Can include 'planning' guidance for further training.
Question of whether to have the 'Hint' arrow to point you in the right direction to a destination (location destination YOU select). Since the game is not an open outdoor setting where you might have normally visble landmarks to guide you and easier open land traversal. It might prove (VERY) helpful to players to have a 'guide' arrow point the way so that they can spend less time getting lost/trying not to get lost in the indoor rabbit warren Rapture is. Instead, they will be able to look at and appreciate their world surroundings and the interesting things going on (an not endlessly looking at the map). Players can always turn it off if they want.
As mentioned elsewhere, it might be a good feature to have your Avatar be able to move itself to the destination (you selected) using the same logic NPCs use (it may have to query user to choose between potential alternate travekl options -- as there are frequently many ways to get between two points in the city).
Im not sure if this is needed (this isnt 'LA Noire') if you need a face zoom for someone you are talking to (NPCs who could be made to make appropriate emotes, even if players wont bother). On the other hand that would likely require a MUCH more complicated facial expression system (and MUCH better face assets) for this game which probably isnt really needed.
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A Significant Issue may be : How many of these things can the current console game systems (and any in the immediate future) NOT be able to handle and are the less fancy/versatile/timesaving alternative interfaces sufficient???? I would not want the better 'ease of use' features to be eliminated via a 'least common denominator' policy that some companies do when faced with game console limitations (usually they dont want to spend money to do a proper 'port' of the game to the PC).