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Victoria 3 - Dev Diary #29 - User Experience

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Hello, my name is Henrik and I am a UX Designer on PDS. I have been a part of the Victoria 3 team for almost the entirety of the project, and since I am about to take a few months of parental leave I wanted to leave you with a brief summary and overview of the thoughts and ideas that form the foundation of the User Experience (UX) design in our game. Also, say hello to Aron whom I have written this dev diary in cooperation with. Aron has been my UX padawan for the past year and will be shouldering the UX while I am gone.

First and foremost, why do we do what we do? Basically, our end goal is to make the game more approachable and accessible, so that we can make it even deeper and more complex. Complexity should not come from not knowing where to find something and why something happened, but from the deep simulation and game mechanics at the core of our game. The more accessible the information and interactions can be, the more complex we can make that information and those interactions.

In order to get there, we have three UX Pillars

  1. The right information at the right time
  2. Clear feedback about cause and effect
  3. Clearly separate Actions from Information

What tools do we have at our disposal to provide a user experience that satisfies these lofty goals? In this Dev Diary we will walk you through some of our main tools and approaches.

Nested tooltip, as made famous by Crusader Kings 3​

There is one piece of technology we can not see this game without: Nested Tooltips. We use it both for Game Concepts, and for getting more detailed breakdowns of numbers, and boy do we have numbers! This allows us to achieve parts of the first UX Pillar, The Right information at the right time. Instead of having to explain every single detail and anecdote in a single humongous tooltip, we can focus on the most essential and important information for the current context and leave any information that might not be directly tied to this context for the nested tooltips to cover. This is crucial in Victoria 3 where every single thing affects a whole bunch of other things, some very important and others simply knock on effects.

DD29 01 concept v2.png


DD29 02 numbers v2.png


Of course Nested Tooltips come with their own set of challenges. This is where we are happy to allow for a lot of customization and tweaking. For example, how do you want the tooltip to lock? Mouse Tendency, Timer Lock, or Action Lock? If you choose the Timer Lock, how long do you want that timer to be? Etc.

DD29 03 menu tooltip.png

Another thing we show in these tooltips is the next thing on the agenda and what y’all been waiting for - graphs!

Data visualization​

One of the more challenging areas is to clearly give feedback of a value’s change over time. In a game with as many interlocking systems as Victoria, giving feedback on how something has changed over time becomes an essential part of the game-loop. How can we take several values and show you exactly how it has changed over time? You guessed it, line graphs.

DD29 04 Graph.png


We would never make a Victoria game without the proper amount of graphs and charts! (Yes, you can switch to show pie charts for the Victoria 2 purists.)

DD29 05 area chart.png


DD29 06 pie chart.png

Numbers that update in real time and Predictions​

In most cases in our previous games, you have to tick the game in order to see the effects of things. In Victoria, we try to make all the immediate effects of your actions available the second you take them. When taking actions that have consequences spreading far and wide throughout the game's systems, it can be really hard to parse if this is a good idea or not without excessive use of spreadsheet software. So we predict things for you. (With a nested tooltip breakdown of that prediction value of course!)

The Building panel provides you with all the raw building data you could ever need, for you to analyze however you like. For whatever action you may desire, we provide our warmest support in your calculating endeavors with predictions such as the Weekly Balance when changing Production Method and predicted Earnings of the building if you were to expand it.
DD29 07 Building details.png


DD29 08 Production Methods tooltip.png


DD29 09 coal mine.png

Focus on the Map​

Our map is gorgeous and we want to put more emphasis on it. For example, all Events in the game have a location on the Map, and if you hover over a State name in any text, that State will be highlighted on the Map. This makes it easier to connect the names of things with their representation on the map, giving context to the text and the map. However, one of the coolest contextual information we are creating are Map Modes. We have Map Modes connected to most of our information panels, triggering when you open each panel which gives you the right contextual information at the right time. With the use of icons, numbers, and different heatmaps, we enable you to see several layers of contextual information at the same time without things getting too cluttered and without you having to scroll through a big sheet of data. Albeit, all Map Modes also exist in list form, making it possible to sort the information that is shown on the map, not entirely unlike a visual Ledger.

DD29 10 Fabric goods heatmap.png

The Lenses​

Every action you can take on the map, you can take from the five Lenses. Production Lens, Political Lens, Diplomatic Lens, Military Lens, and Trade Lens - each Lens comes with its own Map Mode! Basically, it is like viewing your country from a specific point of view.

DD29 11 Diplo attitude v2.png


DD29 12 Iron Mines v2.png

Right-Click menus​

The Map Interactions in the Lenses are our take on the Macro Builder, that is when you know what action you want to take and then you select what type of entity to perform that action on. On the other side of the coin, we use Right-Click menus for when you know what entity you want to perform an action on and then select an action from a list of potential actions. We have this for States, Markets, Characters, Buildings, Interest Groups and Goods. So any time you see any of those in the game, you can right-click on them to get a list of actions you can perform.

DD29 13 Right-Click.png

Empty States​

Often forgotten, but extremely important. This is the feedback of dead ends, such as looking at the Urban Buildings tab of a State with no Urban Buildings. A useful empty state will let the player know what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what to do about it. In a State with no Urban Buildings we should of course tell this to the player, but also include the potential Urban Buildings which the player can build in that State. This is only one of many examples and you’d be surprised how often this simple yet important UX design aspect is forgotten. The empty state tells the player what that screen could be populated with and what the player can do about it.

DD29 14 No urban.png

Should you get an economics degree before you play V3?​

Far be it from us to ever discourage anyone from getting an economics degree! Yet, despite Victoria 3's immense depth and complexity, our intention is still to allow you to learn even the most advanced concepts the game is based on as you play. One aspect of this is the tutorial, which we are putting more focus onto than ever before and will cover in detail in a future Dev Diary. Another aspect is through tooltippable Game Concepts, which work much like an integrated dictionary or rule book. Whenever you see such a Concept in text, such as Pops, Dividends Taxes, or Market Price, you can tooltip it to get an explanation of what it means and references to related concepts and mechanics. This powerful tool together with the Nested Tooltips allows us to design and explain anything in the game without writing a novel in each tooltip, and as a player, you can choose to deep dive into any peculiarities as you see fit.

DD29 15 pop tooltip.png

Accessibility features​

Last but not least, we can not talk about UX without mentioning Accessibility and boy are we happy to have something never before seen in any PDS game - Colorblindness mode for text! We have it on our roadmap to make this feature work with more things in the game as well. We have also worked hard to get to a point where the UI scaling should work even better out of the box than previous releases.

Default mode, Tritanopia mode, and Protanopia/Deuteranopia mode
DD29 16 Colorblind 1.png

That’s all for the first dev diary of 2022 folks. What an exciting year we have in front of us with so many tooltips to design and improve on! We’ll be back next week where Kenneth, our 2D Art Lead, will guide you through a closer look at the UI design of Victoria 3. See you then!
 

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Maybe in the future, PDX can implement a ledger and a Pivot Table with the possibility to create your own Pivot Charts ?

But meanwhile, I am happy that they have taken their time to create those charts in game. Maybe we could ask to export the ledger table to a txt format so everyone can do their charts with EXCEL or NUMBERS?
 
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Look the bottom line here is that if you can customize something as fussy and frankly fairly unimportant as how long a tooltip stays when you hover over it, then you should be able to customize what information the game does and does not tell you.
A decent UI for customizing UI behaviour timings is pretty simple to implement (You have a number defining the time. You make that number into a variable and add a slider that controls it. Job done.)

Paradox have never actually provided a good UI for controlling message settings. (The EU3, Vic2, CK2, and EU4 message setting UIs are all pretty clunky, partly because there's just too much to configure.)
 
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The lenses and right-click context menus sound good. Seems exactly like the kind of UX that would pull my friends who had trouble getting into paradox games before over the fence, and at the same time also very convenient for vets.

I assume certain unique buildings things fall under that category like Canals or this one here:
View attachment 793816
If they're not removing the "Most productive" line for unique buildings, then I'm definitely going to ignite a new era of crusades by modding an even more productive "Vatican City 2" in Mecca to spite the pope
 
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A decent UI for customizing UI behaviour timings is pretty simple to implement (You have a number defining the time. You make that number into a variable and add a slider that controls it. Job done.)

Paradox have never actually provided a good UI for controlling message settings. (The EU3, Vic2, CK2, and EU4 message setting UIs are all pretty clunky, partly because there's just too much to configure.)
I don't think clunky is quite the right word, although that certainly could be improved. Overwhelming, yes, for sure. Some folks never touched in the old games and some folks would never touch it here.

Clunky and overwhelming UX for controlling message settings is better than no UX for controlling them. One way I get to play the game in the manner I want, even if it is annoying to setup. The other I don't and am at the mercy of what the devs consider to be the "proper" way to play.
 
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Just a general question, but could anyone explain to me why area graphs would be better than pie charts? To me the area looks about the same, the information they portrait is about the same, but the pie charts look more aesthetically pleasing to me. So what is the advantage?
 

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It looks really nice. I am not colorblind, but colors which are used in colorblind mode make text more easily readable even for me! Thing that irks me a bit is usage of something like "3.21M" just over "194K" or "150" with "4.0K". I think that
Code:
3 214K 
  194K
and
Code:
  150
4 000
could be easier to read.
 
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Also, great dev diary. UX and UI design might not be 'sexy' topics but they are vital to translate good gameplay to an actual good experience. As an interaction designer myself I know how hard it is to make a complex topic intuitively accesible but this looks very promising! Only thing I would say is that "tooltip mode: timer lock" is not a easily understandable name for that setting, but maybe that's just me.
 
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Maybe in the future, PDX can implement a ledger and a Pivot Table with the possibility to create your own Pivot Charts ?

But meanwhile, I am happy that they have taken their time to create those charts in game. Maybe we could ask to export the ledger table to a txt format so everyone can do their charts with EXCEL or NUMBERS?
I don't consider this even super bad idea, although to make it truly useful, it should be real time stream of data, something which is not an excel's thing. You would need some other ap that runs on secondary monitor. Also, this would possibly mean that importing them to file is clumsy way of doing it. Unless, of course, you open the file in readonly mode and then press reload button or something.
 
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Just a general question, but could anyone explain to me why area graphs would be better than pie charts? To me the area looks about the same, the information they portrait is about the same, but the pie charts look more aesthetically pleasing to me. So what is the advantage?
IMO, the area charts make it slightly easier to compare the smaller amounts. I also think they look better. But in the end, it is a preference because they're both visual representations of the actual numbers.
 
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  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
Sad time with dev diaries, nothing too much interesting or surprising after this long break. And next one UI design :( I wonder, when can we expect dev diaries about issues like trade? Revolutions?

Yeah I'm not too interested. This dev diary is just telling us about CK3 UI and how it is being applied to Vic3.

I'll come back when we get a proper look at mechanics we don't know of.
 
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