Redo the power bars.

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MrDoomah
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Redo the power bars.

Post by MrDoomah » Tue May 10, 2016 7:16 pm

On many occasions players have difficulty reading the power bars in the electric network info screen. This is what I'm talking about;

Image

The top picture is when you have excess power production and the bottom for when you don't have enough power production.
The way it is meant to be read is:
  • (1): Current power consumption
    (2): Current power production
    (3): Unused power production
    (4): Total possible power production (part of top picture)
    (5): Shortage of power production
    (6): Maximum power consumption (part of bottom picture)
However, many newer players see that their production bar isn't full and think they aren't producing enough power. They often read the bars wrong and even I have often the feeling that the labels should be swapped. You then get this:

Image

Now the labels are:
  • (1): Total power production
    (2): Total power consumption
    (3): Power available for consumption
    (4): Total consumable power
    (5): Extra power to produce
    (6): Total power to produce
As you can see, both ways work without false labelling. This works because ingame, the power produced is always the same as power consumed. There is no need to label both these values as they are now. I think the second one would be more logical. However I'm sure people will then get confused about another thing, so let me hear why you think this is wrong. ;)

A bigger issue is (in my opinion) that either labelling doesn't tell you the information you need or want. Power consumed/produced a fun stat, but in the end you can't do anything with it. A more useful stat would be (3) and (5), the power you have excess and the power you are short respectively. This information gives you the ability to guesstimate whether or not you can build that extra mining outpost or how many steam engines you need to place. And because (1) and (2) are the same there is no need to display it twice. So I'd suggest to combine both bars into one in one of the following ways:

1.
Image
  • (1): Excess power production
    (2): Excess power consumption
The numbers now represent power required / power available. While you loose the ability to tell at a glance how much energy you're using, it is very clear how much energy you have available or are short.

2.
Image
  • (1): Power required
    (2): Excess available power
    (3): Total available power production
    (4): Extra needed power
The total bar length is then the maximum power consumed / producible in the last x time, as selected in the buttons that are below that bar. The numbers now also represent power required / power available. This gives you all the information you need, including the information the old bars gave but without (I think) without any of the confusion.

So let me know how you feel about this.

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by kann_ » Wed May 11, 2016 11:45 am

Thank you! Even after 200+ hours I still just check: green=ok

I like the first suggestion.
I just don't like the coloring. I think Red should be used for missing power and green for additional available power.

power.png
power.png (55.44 KiB) Viewed 6461 times
Top:
(4) Unused Power
Bottom:
(2) missing Power

I think it is quite close to the old display, just both bars combined.

I would also appreciate a way to add the power supplied by Accumulators in a second color or a second indicator.

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by artillerydude » Wed May 11, 2016 1:41 pm

I'm definitely for swapping the power bars; this would make things a lot clearer. Some of the latter suggestions may cause additional confusion, but maybe the power menu could be customize-able based on what a user wants to see?

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by bobucles » Wed May 11, 2016 1:48 pm

First off: Yes. Swap the power bars. That is the most confusing thing every time.

For the default set of bars, I think that (5) should glow an emergency color. It represents a critical shortage, while (3) represents spare capacity. It's no good to have them both look the same, and is one of the primary reasons it's so easy to confuse.

It's not always possible to know the actual limit of your power production. Boiler setups can go wrong and achieve less than ideal peak output, and solar changes with the sun. I still think it's important information to list because without it, the player won't even know if he's running below 100%.

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by bobingabout » Wed May 11, 2016 2:03 pm

I have no idea what the bars in game actually mean at a glance, so I'm all for a revamp. I would have to read this idea a little more thoroughly to know if I like it though.
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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by Align » Wed May 11, 2016 2:16 pm

Really all you need is a "Net power" statistic that is either positive or negative.

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by bobingabout » Wed May 11, 2016 3:41 pm

I think something that would be useful is if we had 4 bars/values total. One for each of... Steam power production, Solar power production, Total production, and Demand. We already have accumulator storage, which would be needed too.
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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by TiTaN_3000 » Wed May 11, 2016 3:49 pm

Please change the Electric Network info as mentioned above, that would be awesome. I would love to see used and unused power like 960kw / 2MW

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by ribsngibs » Wed May 11, 2016 9:54 pm

Great idea - I'm still, after 300 some hours, confused by the power info - I mean, I understand it - I just have to think about it for a second each time I look at it: "OK, so... am I screwed...? Wait, no, I'm good."

I like both of your last two ideas (MrDoomah), but personally I think the best option would be your option 2, but reversed - I think the orange peg should not be "how much you can produce", but simply be the marker for "how much is required for 100% consumption" and the sliding bar should just show how much you are producing. When the bar reaches the peg (and goes further right), you are golden.

e.g.
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Annotated:
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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by MrDoomah » Wed May 11, 2016 10:15 pm

Yes, that's even better!

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by kann_ » Wed May 11, 2016 10:40 pm

Thats a very nice animation. I think the writing down the energy values was a good idea.The color bar clearly represents the power with the white bar as reference point. What is missing is a small labels that describe the reference point. And when we add one label why not add a second label with the peak consumption of the last hour, might be too much though...
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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by Vuliev » Wed May 11, 2016 11:08 pm

Honestly, I think the proposals here are overdoing it. The main confusion seems to stem from the use of the terms "Production" and "Consumption", and players drawing an incorrect parallel with physical production like the factory outputs. Power production, both in Factorio and in real life, always matches the power consumption. That's the core concept behind the UI as it is. Your "production" and "consumption" will always match, but it's only a problem when you're trying to "consume" more than you can "produce", i.e. your demand is greater than your generation capacity. You can never have excess power production, you can only have excess power capacity, which is why they don't show the power production like that green/blue bar that ribsngibs posted--what's shown there is not what's actually happening.

I think a much simpler solution is this: rename the stats to Power Demand and Power Generation, add in the max generation capacity number like you've shown, have the Power Generation bar color match the Power Demand bar color (so both are red/yellow when you're overloaded, and green when not), and add a detailed tooltip system and help menu to the game. So many things in the game are poorly explained (trains being a particularly egregious example of this), and it would be an enormous help for new players. Hover over a UI element when it doesn't make sense, and have a detailed (2-3 sentence) tooltip. If it still doesn't make sense, click on the "?" in the UI dialog.

Ideally, they'd also break down Power Demand into Current Load and Connected Load, but that would probably cause even more issues.

The other thing they really need to do is change their energy units from joules to watt-hours, and add a game-time clock like the EvoGUI mod. Having energy in watt-hours is so much faster/easier to work with when trying to determine how much energy storage you actually have.

[EDIT] Actually, now that I think about it some more, I think the power bars could be improved by combining them into a single, two-bar, dynamic bar graph. I'll update again once I've drawn up some graphics.

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by silverkitty23 » Thu May 12, 2016 12:03 am

Vuliev wrote:The other thing they really need to do is change their energy units from joules to watt-hours
what, you don't like having divide their value by 3600 put it in a useful time frame? it would also help to know how many hours are in an alien night, of course :)

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by ribsngibs » Thu May 12, 2016 12:12 am

Vuliev wrote: You can never have excess power production, you can only have excess power capacity, which is why they don't show the power production like that green/blue bar that ribsngibs posted--what's shown there is not what's actually happening.
To me, the fact that you can never have excess power production is why a simple bar makes sense - there is no need to differentiate between "extra production" and "extra capacity". I mean, functionally there is no difference between not generating power over demand or generating the power and wasting it (aside from less consumption of fuel in boilers and less pollution). So for me it makes sense to just show it as a simple bar: there's a mark showing how much we need of X, and a bar showing how much of X we have available.
Vuliev wrote:Power production, both in Factorio and in real life, always matches the power consumption. That's the core concept behind the UI as it is. Your "production" and "consumption" will always match, but it's only a problem when you're trying to "consume" more than you can "produce"
I agree that that is the concept behind the current UI, but imo it is not necessary from a "what information is useful to the player" point of view - if there's a mark showing demand and the power bar doesn't reach the mark and is bright red, intuitively players understand that their machines are no longer receiving all the power they need - no need to show a separate bar to show "current consumption vs 100% demand consumption", as the shortage is already easily visible from the positioning of the bar and mark. Similarly, if there is a mark showing demand and the power bar goes past it, intuitively it is easy for a player to understand that all the machines are fully powered and happy and that they have room to grow before they need to build more power generation structures - again, no need to show a separate bar showing "current power generation vs 100% potential power capacity."

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by Vuliev » Thu May 12, 2016 12:36 am

ribsngibs wrote:To me, the fact that you can never have excess power production is why a simple bar makes sense - there is no need to differentiate between "extra production" and "extra capacity". I mean, functionally there is no difference between not generating power over demand or generating the power and wasting it (aside from less consumption of fuel in boilers and less pollution). So for me it makes sense to just show it as a simple bar: there's a mark showing how much we need of X, and a bar showing how much of X we have available.
But there is a difference, because power production and goods production are fundamentally different things. You don't want players thinking they're the same thing, because that totally shuts out adding any other power generation/management mechanics to the game.
ribsngibs wrote:I agree that that is the concept behind the current UI, but imo it is not necessary from a "what information is useful to the player" point of view - if there's a mark showing demand and the power bar doesn't reach the mark and is bright red, intuitively players understand that their machines are no longer receiving all the power they need - no need to show a separate bar to show "current consumption vs 100% demand consumption", as the shortage is already easily visible from the positioning of the bar and mark. Similarly, if there is a mark showing demand and the power bar goes past it, intuitively it is easy for a player to understand that all the machines are fully powered and happy and that they have room to grow before they need to build more power generation structures - again, no need to show a separate bar showing "current power generation vs 100% potential power capacity."
That's misinforming the player about the dynamics of their power system. Demand is a constantly moving target--it's not a fixed condition to satisfy and move on. Take a look at the example I've attached--it's somewhat similar to yours, but provides a much clearer picture of both the concepts and the factory-specific information the current power bars try to convey. From top to bottom, you have a system that is:
  • [1] Lightly loaded
    [2] Fully loaded
    [3] Overloaded
    [4] Severely overloaded
The %-marker in the middle would float just like the current Production bar does, displaying a real-time indication of how loaded your power system is. The matched double (solid) bars convey the important concept that, unlike good production, power production is always matched to power consumption--and the hatched bar (and graph max percentage) quickly and accurately conveys how badly you're trying to tax your system.
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Last edited by Vuliev on Thu May 12, 2016 12:48 am, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by bobucles » Thu May 12, 2016 12:38 am

The main confusion seems to stem from the use of the terms "Production" and "Consumption", and players drawing an incorrect parallel...
Wait. What? No. The confusion exists because there are two bars which for all intents and purposes appear to be exactly the same. The descriptors don't mean a damn thing nor do they have any bearing on the discussion. The problem is that a player looks at the power bars, looks again, and is STILL confused at what they are seeing half the time. It is NOT intuitive. If it was intuitive then the labels wouldn't be needed.

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by Vuliev » Thu May 12, 2016 12:57 am

bobucles wrote:Wait. What? No. The confusion exists because there are two bars which for all intents and purposes appear to be exactly the same. The descriptors don't mean a damn thing nor do they have any bearing on the discussion. The problem is that a player looks at the power bars, looks again, and is STILL confused at what they are seeing half the time. It is NOT intuitive. If it was intuitive then the labels wouldn't be needed.
I'm a power systems engineer, and it is absolutely a problem of misused nomenclature (on top of Factorio's infuriating lack of explanation for basically everything.) Given the frustrations voiced here and on Reddit, I'd almost say that their well-intentioned attempt to minimize new vocabulary has done more harm than good--except for the rest of the Factorio players that managed to learn what the power bars were saying with no/minimal issues. I'm not trying to dismiss your frustrations, but at the same time I personally don't want to lose the relatively impressive clarity of the power bars because some players are having trouble grasping the concepts behind power generation.

Take a look at my take on it above--same (actually slightly more) information, similar presentation, no ambiguity or misuse of terms. Pair it with a detailed tooltip system and a help menu, and you're (probably) golden.

[EDIT] Here's an alternate version with hatching for excess capacity as well.
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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by ribsngibs » Thu May 12, 2016 3:18 am

Vuliev wrote:I'm a power systems engineer, and it is absolutely a problem of misused nomenclature (on top of Factorio's infuriating lack of explanation for basically everything.) Given the frustrations voiced here and on Reddit, I'd almost say that their well-intentioned attempt to minimize new vocabulary has done more harm than good--except for the rest of the Factorio players that managed to learn what the power bars were saying with no/minimal issues. I'm not trying to dismiss your frustrations, but at the same time I personally don't want to lose the relatively impressive clarity of the power bars because some players are having trouble grasping the concepts behind power generation.
Well, I guess I will cede to your expertise. In my experience, when things are done to a standard in the real world, it's usually not just to screw with you, and usually for a good reason, unless it's terrible legacy reasons (stupid pipe sizes!).
Vuliev wrote:That's misinforming the player about the dynamics of their power system. Demand is a constantly moving target--it's not a fixed condition to satisfy and move on.
Are you arguing that because your maximum power generation capacity does not fluctuate (it only changes if you build more or have some emergency like biter attack or boilers run out of fuel), whereas your demand is all over the place, that it makes more sense to have the maximum power generation fixed on the readout while demand is the moving bar? That totally makes sense. I suppose with my method, it would not intuitively make sense to watch your "power" bar drop dramatically in relation to a fixed "demand" mark when a bunch of assemblers come online - it makes more sense for the consumption and generation bars to both move to the right in such a case, while the scale of the X axis remains fixed (with 100% on the far right).

I very much like your suggestion, though I would argue that (from an intuition, layman point of view) that it is not the nomeclature that makes the current system confusing as hell and yours less confusing. What makes yours so clear is that:

1) the scale of the two bars is the same. In the current system if you have demand that is 50% of your generation capacity as in your first example, the consumption bar would be full, while the production bar would be at 50%, which would look scary to me because the bars aren't the same length, therefore there must be a mismatch somewhere, whereas in your system you can see that the two bars are the same, no problem.

2) your X scale (when under 100% utilization) is fixed, with 100% to the right. I suppose this makes your system not any different from the current system's lower bar (production), but the fact that the two bars are equal give you information (that everything is fine and your power needs are being met).

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by steinio » Thu May 12, 2016 4:45 am

Hello Vuliev,

I guess you are right and from my understanding the main request is, to show current values in the bars.

But why I'm writing - all over 100% demand should be red (not fulfilled).

I don't know if all demand above 90% should be yellow as a warning.

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Re: Redo the power bars.

Post by Neotix » Thu May 12, 2016 6:57 am

For me actual bars works perfectly only names are misleading.
First bar is Power satisfaction. It show if machines get all power they need. When it drop bellow 100% it's menat that machines get less power then they need.
Second bar is Power generation. It shows how much generators are producing power compared to theirs max generation.

That two bars provide all information we need.

Situation 1:
Power satisfaction: 100%
Power generation: 50%
This menat than all works well and we have have still 50% power reserves.

Situation 2:
Power satisfaction: 100%
Power generation: 100%%
This menat than all works well but we have to build more generators if we want consume more power.

Situation 3:
Power satisfaction: 50%
Power generation: 100%
This menat than machines get 50% od needed power but generators works at 100%. We have to build more generators.

Situation 1:
Power satisfaction: 50%
Power generation: 50%
This menat than something is wrong with generators because they are not fully loaded and machined don't get enough power. It'a probably because steam engines don't have enough water or water don't have 100*C.

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