Tropico User Interface Report
9:29 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story
Computer Games Online has recently posted a column by Phil Steinmeyer, designer on the upcoming
island nation management sim Tropico, titled Into the Sausage Factory: Improving the Interface (thanks to
VoodooExtreme for the info). Steinmeyer discusses and gives advice on creating user interfaces (UI)
for computer games and uses the development of Tropico's own UI as an example, revealing some details about this upcoming
Tropico will have a one-screen interface as opposed to the multiple screens often found in other
management games, with no branching off to secondary screens. An interface bar located
at the bottom of the screen will contain all pertinent information. It will also be divided
into four main areas, titled as "messages, radar, a center tab area, and a round
thing-a-majig" by Steinmeyer.
The main controls will feature some interesting functionalities that should make play
more enjoyable. The message bar will feature mouseover help, displaying information about
each control if a player lets the cursor hover over a control for a few seconds.
The radar will rotate to match the playing field, eliminating the need for players to mentally line up a static
radar to a dynamic world. The "round thing-a-majig" is the catch-all animation window,
in which animations, graphical close-ups of people, and other eye-candies will be displayed.
The center tab is described as "the heart of the interface." When selected, it will
show one of several displays about people/places in gameplay, depending on what map object or button
has been selected.
For players interested in detailed stats, an almanac of sorts has been added. It details stats such as
crop yields over the past 5 years, number of acres planted, and the like. Information deemed important
is placed on the front pages, and clicking on any piece of info will give a full detailed report on it.
The art design of the interface itself seems to have gone through some interesting permutations, as narrated by
[Me]: That window sucks. Do something different.For the rest of the details, as well as a fascinating read on UI design in general, be sure
[Paul]: I just spent a week on this! All right, what do you want it to look
[Me]: I don't know—you're the artist. Figure something out, something
cool and tropical-ly
to read the full article. Tropcio should be shipping for the Mac soon after the PC version, which is scheduled to ship
this late April.
Tropico Official Site
Computer Games Online - Improving the Interface
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