Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

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AndrewIRL
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Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by AndrewIRL »

In this post I use these definitions:
toolbar: In computer interface design, a toolbar is a graphical control element on which on-screen buttons, icons, menus, or other input or output elements are placed. (lifted from wikipedia)
toolbelt: Current functionality as present in Factorio 0.15 and below.

The existing toolbelt is type of chest/storage much like any other and you can filter certain slots - consistent with the same mechanic as it applies to chests and other storage. But inconsistent with how we perceive the toolbelt as we see it as a toolbar because that's the paradigm we are familiar with from other software and games.

What I want it to do is behave exactly like a toolbar in Word for Windows (or most programs). It is a shortcut to something else. That would mean a significant redesign.

It also means a redesign to editing the contents of the toolbar so that selecting items (more frequent) from the toolbar is the first class action and editing the toolbar (less frequent) is relegated to a second-class (more complicated) action. So left-clicking by itself would never result in the toolbar changing. Make it difficult to change a toolbar button by requiring a middle-click or other.

Also, in keeping with the toolbar design - set up defaults at the start of the game. Laying out my own toolbar means I have to make too many decisions.
Every time you provide an option, you’re asking the user to make a decision. That means they will have to think about something and decide about it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but, in general, you should always try to minimize the number of decisions that people have to make.
Choices - Joel on Software (link to external non-Factorio related site).


Edit: UI toolbelt still present in 0.15, updated to reflect.
Last edited by AndrewIRL on Fri May 19, 2017 3:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by AndrewIRL »

Similar to:
Rhamphoryncus wrote:Idea is to replace the toolbar with a set of bookmarks, assigned by middle click, middle clicking with an item in hand, or by dragging from the crafting menu.

Advantages
  • Displays total count of items in inventory, not just whatever partial stack is on the toolbar
  • Works even if bots steal your last item
  • Allows you to automate production of an item and place blueprints without picking it up yourself
  • One item can have multiple bookmarks without getting confused as to which slot has the stack or wasting space with extra stacks
Disadvantages
  • Less total inventory space (but this can be compensated by increasing the main inventory)
  • Less ability to subdivide stacks before ctrl-clicking them into something
Replace toolbar with bookmarks

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ssilk
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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by ssilk »

Thanks for linking, AndrewIRL. That link was not the first one that wants to change the toolbelt to a toolbar. :)

In the beginning (4 years ago) it was a nice idea to have an belt, but when I look around:
- mods that extend the toolbelt up to 6 (!) rows. Who would like to walk around like so :)
- after some rework still crude way to assign an item to a slot.
- the number-keys are not useful for the right side. Currently I use only the left part of the toolbelt. Cause it is a hack to press shift-5. (Perhaps it's just a default-change-thing?)
- you need to look into two places where the item is.

And other pros for change:
- aliases would allow much more things. Not even items but complete macros, like swap the power suit.
- Toolbelt is for tools, not for items.

On the other hand:
- There is not so much game-value added, as thought if you change that.
- It works yet more or less well, but it needs still a lot of love. Is a complete change worth it?
- It's hard to change the toolbelt now. I would say there is some rewrite of the item-handling needed then. Questionable
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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by PacifyerGrey »

I have stated multiple times.
There is no need to invent a bicycle here. Toolbars are implemented in multiple games.

There is no in-game value in toolbelt as it is. It only adds up a ton of confusion for new players as well as quite a mess for identifying the total amount of items you currently carry. A toolbelt slot locks are counter-intuitive and without them you will experience item slot jumping around as you switch between currently placed items.

I would say you should do it Factorio way (similar to linux way) when you have a dedicated feature for every single thing. And inventory is a perfect tool to hold items while toolbar is the excellent spot to place shortcuts. There is no sense in maintaining extra functionality in multiple places.

If a toolbar is implemented you could also let it hold shortcuts not only to items but to "skills" as well. There are many candidates for the later - give commands to bots, switch nightvision on/off etc. You could even leave a space for user-defined skills for mods etc.

And the toolbelt expansion research should be supplemented by inventory expansion research instead of making toolbelts actually hold more items.

You can also implement a feature called Macro which would be a multilined text code holding multiple console commands, which you could assign to toolbar hotkeys later. I'm sure many people would thank for that (looking at multiplayer)

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by Twinsen »

AndrewIRL wrote: Also, in keeping with the toolbar design - set up defaults at the start of the game. Laying out my own toolbar means I have to make too many decisions.
Every time you provide an option, you’re asking the user to make a decision. That means they will have to think about something and decide about it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but, in general, you should always try to minimize the number of decisions that people have to make.
Choices - Joel on Software (link to external non-Factorio related site).
I look at it a different way: guiding the player. You see an empty toolbar, your first instinct is to fill that empty space with useful shortcuts. By putting the shortcuts there yourself, it's much more likely you will remember what is where. You are more likely to remember if an item in in the toolbar or in your inventory. You make this choice whenever you want and however you want it, instead of the game trying to be smart(like it is now trying to automatically put some items in the toolbelt).

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by ssilk »

Yes, I think that the toolbelt fills itself is one of the most unuseful things. There is no logic

But it would be useful to preconfigure belts-, pole- and inserter-filter for a new game by default.
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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by AndrewIRL »

ssilk wrote:On the other hand:
- There is not so much game-value added, as thought if you change that.
- It works yet more or less well, but it needs still a lot of love. Is a complete change worth it?
- It's hard to change the toolbelt now. I would say there is some rewrite of the item-handling needed then. Questionable
Thanks ssilk.

The toolbar offers:
- Easier on-boarding for new players, lower learning curve and hopefully lower rate of abandonment because it works like they expect.
- It does work now but check the change history on it. You can have filters and more recently when you switch from one filtered item to a different one it doesn't error but switches smoothly from one to the other. So the next request would be - when holding non-locked filtered items clicking on a filtered toolbelt item please don't error, switching items on toolbelt should require middle mouse or other. Then after that - please filter all toolbelt items by default. I just skipped to - conceptualize it as a toolbar and the needed changes are clear.
- No idea what the difficulty is.

Maybe ask Norbert (@Norbert: Hello), the new GUI guy. Hopefully he'll be onboard with a change.

As for the default filters on the current toolbelt - yes, one more step along the way to changing the toolbelt into a toolbar. Gather usage statistics from user base, set appropriate defaults and see 90% of all future screenshots show those exact defaults. Did you know that your toolbars on Word and Excel are completely customizable - of course you did - but did you actually change anything - probably not. We want to get creative with our factories but don't care exactly which items are in which spots. Every new game I have to remember my toolbelt filter positions and spend a fair bit of time managing them.

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by PacifyerGrey »

Twinsen wrote:I look at it a different way: guiding the player. You see an empty toolbar, your first instinct is to fill that empty space with useful shortcuts. By putting the shortcuts there yourself, it's much more likely you will remember what is where. You are more likely to remember if an item in in the toolbar or in your inventory. You make this choice whenever you want and however you want it, instead of the game trying to be smart(like it is now trying to automatically put some items in the toolbelt).
Lets recall any MMORPG out there. When you level up if you get a new skill it will go to your hotbar if you got an empty space on it. Thats what you refer as "guidance".
But imagine that in this case your skill went to hotbar but disappeared from your global skill list? It leads only to confusion.

There is no problem in adding shortcuts in your hotbar for newly created items if you will so. This might or might not be useful. But currently game start only misleads a player as placed items from the toolbelt clear the slot if you place last one leaving it open for new items. This leads to items jumping around toolbelt confusing people as they will try and use the same hotkey again.
And with the expanded toolbelt it gets even worse when newly created items get into the free spots on your toolbelt and you search for it in both inventory and toolbelt. At least in inventory items are sorted but they hide perfectly fine in a toolbelt if you spend the last item of a certain kind.

Sure thing toolbelt slot locking solves this at some point but you actually have to do this explicit action just to get the expected behaviour. I'm not telling that you have to learn about item locking feature before you can use it which makes it even less intuitive.
Also the toolbelt item count is even more misleading as you would expect the total number of items being displayed there and you see only that one stack. Tell me how intuitive or comfortable is that? Yes you do some workarounds like refilling toolbelt stack upon "Q" press (sic!) but still this is counter-intuitive at least.

I will give you another example that WAY many players encountered. You pick one item (say furnace) from your toolbelt, place items (leaving some it your hand) and then you want to place inserters, click on them (at this point furnaces take inserter spot on your toolbelt), place inserters and then place Q to put inserters in a free toolbelt spot resulting in a total mess. It gets even worse if you were placing at item from your inventory and then clicked on a toolbelt (which is an intuitive action). Right now you have to be disciplined and place Q every time you finish placing items. Is that user-friendly? I'm sure 98% of people still try to press Esc at that point until they get used to the game for several ours at least.

And even now some items get placed on your toolbelt and some don't. Another confusion. And when a toolbelt gets filled player will be confused again trying to find new items which did not get on his toolbelt. It would be much better if you would teach a player to use inventory in the first place and only then to use hotbar as a supplement to ease things up. It would be much smoother learning curve.

You may give a player choices. But you should not force him into using broken logic. It should be obvious for a player that he can place any item by opening up his inventory and placing the item from there. He might use shortcuts for most used items (toolbar) but he might not. Now a player has to scan toolbelt for the item and if it is not there he will open up inventory and then place it from there. You HAVE to scan your toolbelt. And starting players might not easily identify items visually. And if it was a toolbar, at the moment of uncertainity you would just open up inventory and scan through a single sorted list which is much easier.

Another example you all met at some point I think - you give your bots a command to clear the forest. They fill your inventory and shout there is no space. You pick a chest stack from your toolbelt (this works with inventory sadly as well) place a chest to offload your wood but while you do so bots fill your inventory spot with wood and you have to space to return chests to if you ain't got chests in a locked spot.
Last edited by PacifyerGrey on Mon Mar 27, 2017 8:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by Rseding91 »

Twinsen wrote:
AndrewIRL wrote: Also, in keeping with the toolbar design - set up defaults at the start of the game. Laying out my own toolbar means I have to make too many decisions.
Every time you provide an option, you’re asking the user to make a decision. That means they will have to think about something and decide about it. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but, in general, you should always try to minimize the number of decisions that people have to make.
Choices - Joel on Software (link to external non-Factorio related site).
I look at it a different way: guiding the player. You see an empty toolbar, your first instinct is to fill that empty space with useful shortcuts. By putting the shortcuts there yourself, it's much more likely you will remember what is where. You are more likely to remember if an item in in the toolbar or in your inventory. You make this choice whenever you want and however you want it, instead of the game trying to be smart(like it is now trying to automatically put some items in the toolbelt).
*your* first instinct maybe. Don't lump everyone in with your bad ideas.
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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by PacifyerGrey »

Rseding91 wrote:*your* first instinct maybe. Don't lump everyone in with your bad ideas.
Man I play and participate in development of the games since they started (1980's). And I should state that Factorio while being the most awesome game imo at this point, has one of the worst and least intuitive starter experience out there. And no tutorial can help it. Its just counter-intuitive user interface (a bit) and controls (the most).

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by Rseding91 »

PacifyerGrey wrote:
Rseding91 wrote:*your* first instinct maybe. Don't lump everyone in with your bad ideas.
Man I play and participate in development of the games since they started (1980's). And I should state that Factorio while being the most awesome game imo at this point, has one of the worst and least intuitive starter experience out there. And no tutorial can help it. Its just counter-intuitive user interface (a bit) and controls (the most).
You're free to think that of course but try this: name one other game that has the same game mechanics Factorio does and "does it better". You can't. The two best examples you might be able to give are MMOs (not even closely related to what Factorio does) or Minecraft (which does it identically to how Factorio does).

I've literally never seen a new player (after watching several start for their first time through streams) start the game and not know how to use the quickbar. They put an item on it and then can take it off a gain. They don't want it there anymore and they move it somewhere else.

I like the idea of adding the ability to have a slot reference all of one item type but making it that by default is not something I'll ever get behind.
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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by PacifyerGrey »

Rseding91 wrote:You're free to think that of course but try this: name one other game that has the same game mechanics Factorio does and "does it better". You can't. The two best examples you might be able to give are MMOs (not even closely related to what Factorio does) or Minecraft (which does it identically to how Factorio does).
I have clearly stated that Factorio is all around awesome game with no other game close to it. But it does not mean it can't do it even better. All of us are here to make it better even if it comes down to critic. You proved so many times that you do listen and you do care. Thats why I do spend time writing walls of text.
Rseding91 wrote:I've literally never seen a new player (after watching several start for their first time through streams) start the game and not know how to use the quickbar. They put an item on it and then can take it off a gain. They don't want it there anymore and they move it somewhere else.
I can play with the current system as well. I did not state it is unplayable. You have to get used to it and then you can live with it. Howeven it does not mean it has no flaws and can't get better. I have gives a lot of examples of the flaws and how would it get better.
Rseding91 wrote:I like the idea of adding the ability to have a slot reference all of one item type but making it that by default is not something I'll ever get behind.
Sure thing you are the boss. But look at the bright sides of the suggestion. Try to imagine how better it can become. I just see no cons from it - only pros.

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by AileTheAlien »

I can see how a toolbar-style interface is a lot more intuitive...for other types of games. Factorio is all about management of exact numbers and stacks of items. So, having the toolbelt instead of a toolbar fits with the rest of the game. It uses the same buttons as your inventory, a chest, or a train - left click picks something up, and right click picks up half the stack. (Middle isn't shared between all three.) In another game I might have nearly unlimited mana, potions, or whatever, so hoarding individual stacks of them wouldn't make sense, but Factorio doesn't have unlimited resources until later in the game. When you do get to the point in the game when an item is effectively unlimited, you've probably got robots doing your work for you already, which would obviate the need to care about specific items going into the toolbelt. At that point, you'd likely just have blueprints glued into those places instead.

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by siggboy »

Since some people in this thread are already overthinking the issue:

The current "tool belt" is not a good idea, and it never has been. It is not about if "value" is added to the game or not, or if a change of the current interface would be "a lot of work", or any philosophical reasoning about one way vs. the other.

The current design is Just Bad (TM). You can get used to it by playing the game for thousands of hours, but it never changes from Just Bad to anything better.

Make it a toolbar (quickbar) like it is in ANY OTHER GAME that has such a user interface element (I'm not going to list any examples since even that would amount to overthinking in my opinion).

Apologetically making up reasons for why the current design is "good" is not helping anybody.
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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by ssilk »

Well, I like such clear opinions. :)
But you need to admit, that this is a deeper change. And so the pros and cons need to be collected quite thouroughly before making any decision. We as community can and must try to prepare such a decision as good as possible. And it should not be decided due to some feeling or just because some majority is for such a change. :)
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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by AileTheAlien »

siggboy wrote:Make it a toolbar (quickbar) like it is in ANY OTHER GAME.
Factorio is not any other game, and blindly treating it as such is not a good way to design a game. You wouldn't design the UI for a MOBA the same way you'd design it for an RTS, and you wouldn't design the UI for a city-simulator the same way you'd design it for a tower-defense game.
siggboy wrote:You can get used to it by playing the game for thousands of hours.
This is reductio ad absurdum. I had figured out how the toolbelt works, and that it works differently from a toolbar in about...five minutes? It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to see that the items in the toolbelt have numbers beside them, and then to experiment and see that those numbers work the same way as they do in the main inventory.

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by PacifyerGrey »

AileTheAlien wrote:I had figured out how the toolbelt works, and that it works differently from a toolbar in about...five minutes? It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to see that the items in the toolbelt have numbers beside them, and then to experiment and see that those numbers work the same way as they do in the main inventory.
Yeah we all are smart enough to figure out how it works. But it does not mean it is comfortable.
Please read my post viewtopic.php?p=251754#p251754 to see what exactly are the cons of the current system.
And if you really like the current implementation can you please state exactly what does it do better compared to a toolbar? As it is you are protecting the current system with none arguments so far except it is playable and you figured it out.

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by AndrewIRL »

ssilk wrote:And it should not be decided due to some feeling or just because some majority is for such a change. :)
I'm trying to make the opposite case. My central claims are two:
1) A toolbar paradigm fits the expectations of the large majority and will smooth the new player experience in particular
2) Change should be decided based on the majority

I didn't think (2) was controversial - rather the difficult to prove part is that UI variant A is measurably superior to variant B. I'm not sure how to make that case short of A/B testing.

However you say "some majority" so I'm not clear how you are subdividing the user base. Perhaps like this?
i) Potential customers
ii) Newly starting out players
iii) Filthy casuals :D
iv) Experienced players who use forums and download mods
v) Highly experienced Mega-base builders, mod writers and long term Youtubers
vi) Staff

Not by accident is the list from largest group to smallest. Arguably, and this is admittedly controversial, the least important majority is the one that exists in the smallest group - staff. What features staff personally would like are not necessarily those that will appeal to players in groups i+ii.

This illuminates a problem with looking at mods to see what features to develop. If there's a popular mod then that's something good to include in the game? Maybe. Mod writers are the second smallest group and will write mods that do things mod writers think are good features. Their target audience is the small subset (iv) of people who download mods at all. Bob's and Angel's are good examples of this - too complex for the new player.

But short of identifying players in the various groups and playtesting variants I not sure how to prove that one is better than the other. Even if I made a mod which perfectly implemented toolbars and it was dl'ed 10K times that only shows popularity with the (iv) crowd and doesn't provide much information about what would work for the i+ii+iii people.

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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by ssilk »

PacifyerGrey wrote: Yeah we all are smart enough to figure out how it works. But it does not mean it is comfortable.
I grab this thought out: I think the discussion goes around the comfort, usability and "used to" stuff. That are no good reasons to make a complete change. :) Cause such things can be improved.

I explain that: In my experience as software developer we tend to throw things away, if we do not like, how things work. How often I heard: "This must be programmed from scratch." "This is bullshit, throw that away and make it new", etc., even by myself. ;) But in the end - to keep the software usable and to not rewrite 10000 lines of code that are still WORKING/BUGFREE/TESTED - it was always a compromise. And projects that didn't made that compromise and rewrote it just FAILED. I saw some.

Which doesn't mean, that it should not be changed. I just point to very, very long experience not only from me, but such stuff is also perfectly described in many books about good software development.

So I would like to direct the discussion to ways how the current behavior can be extended so, that the most annoying behavior will be fixed, cause many small improvements are in most cases better than a complete rewrite.
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Re: Change UI paradigm from Toolbelt to Toolbar

Post by AileTheAlien »

PacifyerGrey wrote:And if you really like the current implementation can you please state exactly what does it do better compared to a toolbar?
Such as this?
AileTheAlien wrote:Factorio is all about management of exact numbers and stacks of items. So, having the toolbelt instead of a toolbar fits with the rest of the game. It uses the same buttons as your inventory, a chest, or a train - left click picks something up, and right click picks up half the stack.
I feel that having the toolbar act differently from the inventory systems in the game (player, chest, train, etc) would lead to more confusion than what would be solved by using something standard from other games. (i.e. The idea of a toolbar, which does not exist anywhere else in Factorio.) In my opinion, one UI element which is consistent with other games, but which is inconsistent with the rest of the UI in Factorio, would make for a worse UI than one which is internally consistent.

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