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Author Topic: Initial site impressions  (Read 3801 times)

Offline ElisabetK

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Initial site impressions
« on: 06 January 2017, 05:52:08 AM »
Note: I haven't even tried to play a game yet. I have just now gotten to that point.

I thought it might be useful for the developers to see what this looks like from the viewpoint of a more casual user. I missed the Isotropic era, was frustrated by early Goku, then MF, but several months ago started being able to play on my iPad and then my phone. The last couple of months I played it daily, almost always against bots, going through the campaign (up to the paid part) and then going back to favorite game setups. I've played Dominion IRL for a few years, seen a few cards from the early expansions when playing with friends, played with family mostly during holidays with a base set we own, but never seeing most of the cards or newer mechanisms. I've also read posts on BGG over the years.

So today, I've got a brand-new computer and decided to try this out. First stop was to search google for Dominion, and the hits were for the old game. Going there I get the message about MF losing the contract but no link to find my way to the new site. So I googled ShuffleIT (I knew that was the new company) and got this forum. Luckily there's a link to the game in the announcement post. Yeah! I found it! It's hard to find, though, unless you are already deep in the Dominion ecosystem.

The background artwork is very nice and looks like a Dominion box. I like that a lot.

But, other than the art and the URL, no indication that I had found the game I was looking for: the message was simply that my browser was not supported. I'm on a brand new computer, so I was using MS Edge. Thank you for providing the link to Chrome, which I downloaded. But for anyone not already familiar with Dominion, there's nothing to let them know they should bother.

So, in the new Chrome browser, I find the proper url again. Finally, I'm in the right place, with the right browser.

However, I'm met with an unfriendly login/register screen, no welcome text explaining what the user would be logging in to, no explanation of what Dominion is. If I didn't already know I would have left without signing up. This is another point where newcomers could be sold on giving it a try - or not.

I tried logging in with what I thought was my old MF login, and that didn't work. No such user existed. No link back to the login for another try, either - I had to go back in my browser and then forward again to reset it. I tried with a different password or two, then tried to register for a new account and got a message that my username was reserved. Okay...

Eventually I found an email in my spam folder from Shuffleit. Followed that link, and with a few more frustrating errors where it wanted me to try fixing the passwords, I gave up and went back to the login page. This time it took my info, in spite of the previous error messages. Somewhere in there -I can't remember for sure where - I was directed to Discord for help, started to set up an account, and decided that it wasn't where I should be anyway (I knew about this forum).

Now I'm finally logged in!

And....

...what a disappointment. There's a row of black boxes marching across the top, with labels that leave me scratching my head. I'm not familiar with the term "table" although it's not hard to figure that one out. "Familiar Cards" made sense once I clicked on it, even if many of the cards weren't familiar even in the base set. I like that you can turn individual cards on or off. I'd like it better if I could easily read the text on the cards - if I tap on my laptop trackpad, it's a left click that toggles between color and gray, but I have to physically depress the right corner of the trackpad to do a right click. (Oh how I miss my mac!) There's no way to get that information via the touch screen, no combination of keys and clicks or long clicks that seem to work. I don't care much about turning individual cards on and off but I sure would like to easily see what they do.

For that matter, I see no reason why that text should be hidden. Why not show the whole card and let me scroll up and down? There are several new cards, and I'd like to see which ones give extra money or buys or whatever. It's just nice to see that information all out there at once. You get to do that with real life games.

I have no idea what most of the Options do, and you're not helping me out with explanations either. Maybe it will be more clear after I start a game. Meanwhile, they look like some sort of advanced settings

Oh yeah, how do I start a game? I'm guessing that "New Table" will do it, whatever that does. Or do I pick one of those match options on the top row of the big empty gray box that shows up under "Matching"? What's a bot, what's a good match, what's a quick match? Are there real people out there too? (I know the answers to some of these questions, but that's only because I found this forum when I had a long wait with my phone last week.)

Basically, I have no idea what I should do next. If I didn't already know, I have no idea what this game is. I have no idea how to play it, no idea how to learn. Yes, I know that there is virtue in simply jumping in and flailing around but I suspect most people won't want to when there are lots of other options available on other sites.

That said, personally I love Dominion and I really hope this all works out - soon. But my initial impression is that the developers did this only for the people who are already heavily invested in the game, to the point of being bored with learning the initial cards and mechanisms, and that a casual newbie would not be welcome even if they stuck around trying to figure it out. On top of that, I won't be able to kill time on my phone waiting for my kid to finish practice, or waiting for my coffee, as I need to be on the "big" computer to play. I do hope mobile becomes available soon.

That was a lot, but I have high hopes for this project. I was very excited to hear about the new developers. I'm not looking for a way to play all the latest most complicated variations. I just want a good experience for players like myself who don't want to be overwhelmed right off the bat.

Now for my first game! I'll let you know how it goes. :-)


Offline Witherweaver

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #1 on: 06 January 2017, 06:15:12 AM »
I guess what someone finds intuitive is a pretty subjective thing.  I find this interface to be quite straightforward.  The oddest thing was the "kick" button on login until I found out it meant force logging off of your account on a different machine.  Some configuration choices are unclear as well.

I was able to sign up and play with no issues and delays.

I think a tooltip description on mouseover could go a long way to making things more obvious.

Offline ElisabetK

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #2 on: 06 January 2017, 07:15:13 AM »
You are right that what's intuitive is subjective, but there really is such a thing as intuitive design. I guess it's like teaching - you can know your subject really well, but that doesn't mean you can easily see it from the viewpoint of someone trying to learn it, who doesn't know the words or how things fit together yet.

It does seem to me that this interface is only obvious if you have played a lot of Dominion already, and in particular a lot of online Dominion. I've played a couple of games now and one thing that jumped out at me is how the game just seems to stop in the middle. I guess the other player took a last turn that wasn't animated, but suddenly I'm in the middle of a spreadsheet instead of the game.

I haven't figured out how to hide the log. I'm sure some people like it, but I have some visual problems and I don't like any movement on the side. It seems to take up a lot of space.

I don't like that I can't see the full text on the cards on the table. Right-clicking on an individual card is slow and awkward on my laptop. And having the end turn button way over in the log is strange. Surely there is a more logical place for that.

Offline Polk5440

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #3 on: 06 January 2017, 04:09:08 PM »
Thanks for sharing your experience, ElizabetK.

Offline Witherweaver

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #4 on: 06 January 2017, 04:10:14 PM »
I understand, though for me all the things you mentioned are features.  It's usually clear to me why a game was ended if it is.  In fact, what is there to see?  I don't play with animations.  The log gives all the information that is needed, and it's visible during the game conclusion. 

I can't see playing without a log; I've never wanted to hide it.  Even if I don't need to use it, it just makes sense as the most efficient way to describe the recent actions. 

The end turn button I think is good; it is out of the way of the regular gameplay.  I can't count how many times I would misclick buttons in the Making Fun interface because different functionalities would appear in exactly the same place.  It also only needs to be clicked when you have excess Buy, or a decision needs to be made.  (It also helps to remind you of, e.g., Wine Merchant.)

I'm not sure what you mean about the full text.  I can't imagine there being reasonable space for the kingdom cards to display in full.  Making Fun and Goko didn't do that either, did they?

I'm not certain things should be designed for the ease of use of a new comer.  It certainly shouldn't be unnecessarily baroque, but once you have familiarity with something, you want to to use it in the most efficient way possible.  One possible idea would be to have preset interface customizations: beginner, advanced.  Possibly even a kind of tutorial.

But anyway, I'm not an advanced Dominion player, and I generally like the interface.  I'm not trying to say your point of view is wrong or anything, just that there are other ones.

Offline Panoptikus

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #5 on: 06 January 2017, 04:50:33 PM »
Thank you. This is exactly the point I was trying to make on a different thread (but less well). The interface is designed from a technical insider point of view. Ir is totally confusing when you are not deep into a specific online dominion community. the login/register screen should attrct new users, it should explain, why this game is so cool. The interface should inform the user exactly what everything means. For starters: a simple video tutorial might help.

Offline Witherweaver

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #6 on: 06 January 2017, 05:01:28 PM »
Thank you. This is exactly the point I was trying to make on a different thread (but less well). The interface is designed from a technical insider point of view. Ir is totally confusing when you are not deep into a specific online dominion community. the login/register screen should attrct new users, it should explain, why this game is so cool. The interface should inform the user exactly what everything means. For starters: a simple video tutorial might help.

I bet someone (that does video captures and stuff like that) would be willing to make one.  It would not be much different than the recorded and commented games that have been done on MF.

There should be an official (like, interactive) tutorial, I think.  (And I think tooltips should definitely be added for all the non-game pages.  For example, each selection in Options should have a text that appears on the right that describes the option, or even shows a screen capture.)  But someone creating a sharing a tutorial could be done quickly and help out a lot of users.

Offline ElisabetK

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #7 on: 06 January 2017, 05:35:25 PM »
Thank you w. for those comments. There's always going to be some tension between text-based and graphical, isn't there? Both are useful in different circumstances.

I grew up using text-based (primarily) computer systems, and agree that for power users that's often much faster and more convenient. There's a reason we click on icons instead of relying on command lines these days, though. Especially for newcomers, it's more intuitive, and there's less room for mistakes. I like the idea of being able to turn features off and on. If someone wants to play in text-only mode, more power to them. I've actually got a bit of experience helping blind and visually impaired people trying to use various computer systems, back in the early days of graphical user interfaces in fact, and know how important that can be for many people, not just expert users.

On the other hand, a wall of text without explanation is intimidating, especially to newcomers.  If the goal is to provide a platform for those who already are frequent players, who know the rules and the lingo and have memorized the cards, then this interface is probably close to what they are looking for. From my understanding that is the market Isotropic aimed for.

But if you don't know the cards, it is very useful to be able to look at all the cards on the table, including their text, with a single click (MF did this). It's good to be able to quickly get a magnified view with all the information, and unfortunately the right-click mechanism isn't doing that for many people, even when they figure that out. A button that zooms out the table cards would be useful, especially when buying. I made a lot of use of the scrolling side-by-side magnified cards on MF's platform. Almost all my experience last year was on mobile devices, in particular when I began to play, so this was an important feature as I was still learning the various cards and was having some vision difficulties which made reading text laborious.

Shuffleit is doing a better job of letting the user know what they need to do next. I'd like it to be more obvious that an opponent is playing Militia, and that's why I have to discard.

One thing in particular that is ambiguous and confusing is the "+" is the corner of cards during the buy phase. My first instinct, trained by various map programs and so on, was that this was a "zoom in" feature and would magnify the card for me. Of course, it's simply an "add" button, showing only on cards that are buyable. What would make more sense to me is for Shuffleit to do as they do in the "Familiar Cards" section - grey out the unbuyables. That's clear, graphical, and unambiguous. It would be great to have some sort of obvious zoom in feature too, so I'm not buying a pig in a poke.

Once again, I have great hopes for this platform. It's a great game and has a lot of potential in the simpler lower levels, if the interface is more welcoming to new players.

Offline Witherweaver

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #8 on: 06 January 2017, 05:49:50 PM »
Interesting points.  How did you zoom to show the entire magnified board in MF?  I'm sure I did it, but I don't recall now.

Offline ElisabetK

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #9 on: 06 January 2017, 06:01:07 PM »
Witherweaver, I think there was a button near the top. Honestly I can't remember exactly how it worked. There was toggle so it could either show all cards (with some sort of icon for the buyables) or just the buyable ones. Basically it created a dark band across the screen and you could view the entire cards by scrolling left to right, from cheapest to most expensive.

I think the way the clicking worked, at least on mobile, was that clicking on the card zoomed it, and clicking on the buy icon itself (a square with a plus in the lower left corner?) actually made the purchase. I had a hard time clicking on the correct card sometimes, so the zoom & buy feature was super useful as well as providing me with a reminder of the available options for unfamiliar cards, or ones I tended to mix up like Moneylender and Bureaucrat :-)

Offline AdamH

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #10 on: 06 January 2017, 06:08:47 PM »
1. This thread is the most valuable thread in all of these forums. The perspective here is exactly what the UI should be tailored to.

2. There was a button near the trash pile that would attempt to display all of the kingdom cards at once on the MF client. It's extremely important to have this and to do it correctly as it allows new players to look at all of the kingdom cards and read their text without clicking between them.

On the first page of this screen should be all of the kingdom cards, events and landmarks. For split piles or non-supply piles, it should be easy to find those other cards from this screen as well, but it shouldn't take away from the focus on the kingdom cards, events and landmarks.

Is this feature "on the way"?

Offline Witherweaver

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #11 on: 06 January 2017, 06:25:08 PM »
And regarding viewing cards, right-clicking a pile (and there should be such a pile for, e.g., Tournament prizes) should show every card originally in that pile in a clear way.  Cards that are no longer in the pile could be greyed out or you have the option to click a button to show them.

I'm not sure about left-click-buy/right-click-inspect design here vs. the click-inspect/click-on-icon-buy of MF/Goko.  To me both seem reasonable.  MF's seems more clear if you've never played before (and less prone to accidentally buying), and Shuffle iT's seems more convenient once you know how to play (in the interface).  It could be another thing that is configurable, where the 'new player' choice is default.

Offline ElisabetK

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #12 on: 06 January 2017, 06:44:31 PM »
Yeah, the MF and Shuffleit methods are opposite, aren't they. I'm using Windows for the first time in a dozen years so right-click is a foreign concept for me. I keep double-tapping like I do on the mac but that doesn't work. That's not to say that right-clicks shouldn't be part of the interface, but it seems like a more universal design would take into account that most users will eventually be coming in from mobile platforms and will keep issues like that in mind. The rank beginner stuff should not rely on problematic right-clicks.

I like the idea of a customizable options. People do that all the time with gestures and clicks on their computers, and being able to do that is usually a sign of an interface that can grow with you as you learn.

But the defaults should be for the beginners, who aren't going to mess with those settings yet, not the power users who will.

Offline ElisabetK

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #13 on: 06 January 2017, 07:31:50 PM »
A few more...

1. It confusing to have the same cross-out icon for discard, trash, and topdeck. Yes, I know the text tells me. And wouldn't it be better to move those cards out of my hand somehow before confirming the action? Like in a real game.

2. I don't know what I'm being asked to react to or why I'm discarding cards without looking over to the log to figure it out. It would be nice to have a card and/or a message in the center of the gameplay area to make that clear - like in real life games. (For what it's worth the text on MF that I think explained that was too small for me to read, but I could see there was some reason being given.)

3. If there's a way to play with more than one bot I haven't figured it out. There are settings for number of players at a table, and a separate menu for matching to bots, but all I have gotten so far is Lord Rat as my only opponent. I can't tell if the bot setting is sticking or if the number of players setting is sticking when I move from one area to another. Obviously whatever order I'm trying here isn't working for me. The whole thing is a mystery and I have no guidance.

4. As far as number of players, it would make sense to have simple check boxes for two and for three players and then the range for those who want the bigger numbers. You can do this kind of thing in printer dialogues so I know it's possible.

5. I miss some of the old cards. Sorry Donald X., I really do. I'm not seeing where e.g. Vassel is an improvement on e.g. Woodcutter, but maybe I just need the right set up. That's pretty low on the list for me though.

Offline Watno

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Re: Initial site impressions
« Reply #14 on: 06 January 2017, 07:36:57 PM »
3. If there's a way to play with more than one bot I haven't figured it out. There are settings for number of players at a table, and a separate menu for matching to bots, but all I have gotten so far is Lord Rat as my only opponent. I can't tell if the bot setting is sticking or if the number of players setting is sticking when I move from one area to another. Obviously whatever order I'm trying here isn't working for me. The whole thing is a mystery and I have no guidance.

The current way to do this is:
Go to new table and create a table where the minimum number of players is the number of players (including bots) you wnat to have.
Then click "ready" without other players present. The empty slots will be filled with bots.