619 HUD

Battle UI 2.0: 5 Quick Improvements

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The release of UI 2.0 has finally given the main interface of MechWarrior Online a long-awaited makeover, but the front-end isn’t the only UI in need of some love. Though there’s still plenty of work to be done on UI 2.0, I think it’s about time to take another look at the in-game HUD. It’s done it’s job up to this point, but it could be dramatically improved with a few subtle additions. Below are my recommendations for several, low-effort changes that would greatly increase the HUD’s utility.

Targeting Allies

We’ve been able to target friendly ‘mechs in all the past iterations of the MechWarrior franchise, and there’s no reason for its curious omission from MechWarrior Online. The ability to target friendlies would allow pilots to see two, crucial pieces of information: loadout and damage distribution. An Atlas at 67% with damage spread everywhere is still quite the sponge – an Atlas at 67% with a cored center torso isn’t going to last much longer. Want to find a brawler assault to hang with as a medium? Right now, it involves a lot of guesswork and staring at weapon ports. Being able to cycle through your teammates to find a suitable, complementary build would be extremely helpful.

In terms of work, it should require very little – they have all the targeting code written, and only a few things would need to change: there needs to be a new key binding for cycling friendly targets, all HUD information about the target should be blue instead of red, missiles should not lock on to friendly targets, and it should take no time to acquire friendly information.

Reticle Grid Coordinate

To the right of your crosshairs, there’s a HUD element that displays the distance to whatever your reticle is pointing at. An equally useful piece of information would be what grid (e.g., B4) your crosshairs are pointed at. There are few things I don’t have memorized about this game, and the grid system is one of them. Being able to quickly identify where a target is located is invaluable, and it’s a small enough bit of information that there’s no reason not to throw it up on the HUD.

Lance Information

That little box of lance information at the top left is quite handy – so handy, in fact, that I wish I had it for the other two lances on my team. Being able to see how your team is doing at a glance is serious business. Hitting tab is not only an unnecessary inconvenience (and a death sentence, if you, like me, play with an analog throttle), but doing so also doesn’t show you allied coordinates or health percentages.

As much as PGI would like each lance operating as a self-contained unit, it’s just never going to happen on a consistent basis. Sometimes you need two lights for a fast rush, sometimes you need six guys to make a brawly push, sometimes it’s a 12-man blob, and sometimes it’s between two and twelve PUGs weaving around in a loose “formation” – putting an arbitrary restriction on which teammates’ information is readily available is extremely unhelpful.

Being able to glance up and see that Charlie lance is all below 50% could easily mean the difference between a clutch capture and a futile rescue attempt. Drop commanding in particular would be a hell of a lot easier if you could keep tabs on everyone’s health without so much looking around.

I suggest what is essentially a scaled-down copy-and-paste of the current lance information. I’d like to see the other two lances listed directly below the player’s at perhaps 60-70% the size. This would be a very small amount of work, and my only concern would be performance based on how poorly the HUD is optimized.

Markers in 3D Space

Let’s be honest: the compass just doesn’t cut it. When I see Gamma is being taken, I don’t want to open my battlegrid or try to remember which base is where – I just want to look around and see an objective marker in 3D space, labeled “Gamma.” Company / Lance Commander orders and capture points should all be displayed on the HUD in 3D space with distances. Forcing users to look at the battlegrid is irritating, counter-intuitive, and it still doesn’t have all the relevant information available.

Take a look at how Bungie does their objective markers, and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about (though it would have label, of course):

Conquest Kill Counter

Assault and Skirmish mode have this already, but Conquest needs it too: a counter for the number of enemies killed. The easiest solution is to put a kill counter next to the resource counter (and somewhere up there for any future game mode). Not knowing how many enemies are down at a glance is a needless hassle. I’d bet money that a decent majority of Conquest rounds end in kills, so why wouldn’t it be displayed? Every game mode needs this – even future game modes where kills are not a win condition; the balance of power on the field is one of the most critical pieces of information a player can have, and there’s no reason every mode shouldn’t have it available.

Extra Credit – Target Priority

Unlike people with voice communication, PUG teams have no way to effectively focus fire, and it’s one of the major reasons they’ll never compete with a good, organized group. There needs to be a way to designate a priority target, whether through the command interface or a more democratic route.

The first solution is to let Company and Lance Commanders designate targets. It would be as simple as having a “Designate Target” key that adds a little HUD marker to the enemy you’re currently locked on. The HUD marker could be any number of icons, a bolded border for the targeting box, or whatever. The target designation should remain (even if lock is lost) until the target dies or another enemy is designated as the primary target.

The second solution is to let democracy run its course and allow players to see how many allies are locked on to any given target. If the solid (locked) enemy triangle simply had a counter by it, it would be easy to figure out who the blob is focusing. It would be helpful to see when you’re the only one shooting at somebody, and PUG coordination in firefights would improve drastically. The problem with this solution is that it’s so dependent on maintaining target lock, and thus heavily affected by ECM.

Extra Credit – Consistent Target Designation

Chassis and variant designations should be consistent for targeted enemies. Hero ‘mechs should not get a super-special-look-at-me designation that gives no chassis information. It should be HGN-HM – not HEAVY METAL. I’ve never liked it, but first time I saw LIMITED EDITION GRID IRON, all I could do was shake my head.

It kills the immersion and looks confusing to new players. Look at this lineup: HBK-G, HBK-H, HBK-J, HBK-P, HBK-SP, GRID IRON, and LIMITED EDITION GRID IRON. How would a new player interpret that information? Is it even a Hunchback? If you’re not up-to-speed on all the Heroes, it’s easy to have no idea what you’re targeting until you have a good visual (when it is often far too late to realize that a Misery is not a Blackjack).

It’s probably there as an attempt to raise awareness of Hero ‘mechs, but it ends up simply being tacky and immersion-killing. I’d much rather see an HGN-HM HERO or HBK-GI HERO++ than what’s there now. Using some consistent designation like HERO after the official variant would serve the same purpose of getting players asking, “What is a Hero ‘mech and how can I get one?” without being so inconsistent and uninformative about it. I’d even rather see CTF-ILYA MUROMETS than what we have now.

Just please make the LIMITED EDITION stop.

Extra Credit – HTAL Bars

The paper doll is okay, but it’s not enough for the information junkies among us. Yellow armor means nothing – I could be barely scratched or getting close to the danger zone. Just like old MechWarrior titles, there should be a key to toggle between damage displays, and the paper doll would still be the default. Make it happen:

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