The UI unification.
With the recent updates to inventory and barrels, it’s time to take a look at what feels natural and what doesn’t. Here below we have the new inventory/barrel interface. It takes some getting used to but if you spend some time with it, you’ll find yourself becoming more adept at navigating it quickly. All the examples I’m going to be showing are purely from a PC perspective. Unfortunately, it would have taken some time to grab screenshots for both PC and Xbox and I wanted to get this out while it was still relevant to the conversation.
With the photo above, you’ll note that you will interact with the barrel using the “F” Key and exit the interface using the “X” key. The “X” key is how you would normally stow or un-stow an item. Anyone that has grabbed cages from a Merchant Alliance vendor may be used to spamming “F” and “X” to unload the cages quickly.
With the photo above the flag box, I wanted to illustrate the difference in interaction compared to the barrels. Here you can see that you would interact with the flag box much like any other item using the “F” but to disengage with the flag box you must hit the “ESC” key. Something that doesn’t reflect the design choice with the new barrel system which should be "X"
Here we have a Shipwright vendor who much like most items in the world set to be interacted with using the “F” key. The crate next to her acts like the barrels when you interact with them. However, when talking with an NPC there’s no indication that you have to use the “ESC” key to exit out of talking to them unless you’re in a purchasing UI. Whether it be sails, equipment or clothing.
Here we don’t have a vendor but still an NPC that has dialogue and can give you grog. The music box is simple and only has the one function so it makes sense that you’d interact with it using the “F” key. While the barkeep uses “R” to interact with and has no indication how to exit the text UI. The only other NPC’s that you can interact with that use “R” is the Merchants, Gold Hoarders, and Order of Souls representatives
So why the difference between say Terri here and Duke from the Bilge Rats? Both offer text and interaction but one was put in at the start of the game while the other two and a half months later.
Does Duke represent a change in design philosophy and if so, why not update all NPCs to reflect this change?
This brings me to the way we interact with the actual vendors from the three alliances. With each of the three vendors, you must interact with them using the “R” key. Makes sense when you run up to them with an item to turn in as the main way you interact with items is “F” and “X”. However, the whole goal of going to a vendor with an item is to turn it in. Once your transaction has completed, instead of interacting with the vendor using “F” you must use “R” unique to the vendors and the barkeeps. Again, this goes back to the original design philosophy of how you would interact with certain vendors from when the game was launched. Though, that doesn’t explain the way you interact with the equipment, weapons, clothing or shipwright vendors.
This all comes down to the ship and how you interact with items there. Cannons, the wheel, mast, and anchor are all used with “F”. To engage and disengage, you begin and end with “F”. It’s the same across all ship times friendly or otherwise. Since the game doesn’t explicitly tell you how to interact with things in the world there’s a learning curve on how to deal with different elements in the game. Since none of them are uniform it represents a lack of attention in detail to what little UI elements there are in-game.
Here we have the same dual interface with crates for supplies as you have with the three reputation vendors.
The interface gives you two options when you looking inside both have to either be clicked or hitting the "Enter" key while there is no indication of how to exit the interface. This should be no different than other crates in the game that hold normal supplies.
1.) Allow interactions with NPCs to be unified. You talk with them using “F” the same way you’d interact with items, and you stop interacting with them the same way you’d stow an item, drop a chest or disengage with the new barrels using “X” instead of the “ESC” key. This would go across the board when dealing with NPCs whether they are a barkeep, clothing merchant or Order of Souls representative. If you’re holding an item in front of an Order of Souls merchant but don’t wish to sell the item and just want to speak with them, drop the item to avoid confusion with the vendor on why you’re holding it and speak with them. Otherwise, sell the item and conduct discussions after. Chances are you’ll want the gold they’re offering for the item to buy something they’re selling.
2.) All objects on ships remain the same, the fluid nature of using the same key to interact with them is simple to understand and intuitive.
3.) Items that have an interface like flag boxes, clothing, vanity, weapon boxes, etc. should have the same design implementation as the new inventory and barrel system. You interact with them using “F” and stop using them by hitting the “X” key. This is to help reaffirm the muscle memory of how you interact with barrels and gives players the same results with everything they interact with.
4.) Redesign the crates interfaces. Now that they are more common and worth roughly four times the normal price, players will be more invested in using them. However, the way you interact with them is clunky and needs investment. PC players much used the mouse or enter key to stow or take items from them. This is a flaw in poor original design, they should be converted to the new inventory and barrel system used for supply crates and barrels in the world.
The unification for UI elements in the game will help players understand and build quicker responses when dealing with all parts of the world.