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Learning BYOND, Day 8: Is The Game

It’s hot and it’s a Saturday, but I don’t care. I’ve only got another 9 days until the school semester starts. Plus, I’ve developed a relatively good design in my head, now it’s time to see it through. Back to work, slacker.

Today, the Graphical User Interface was on the agenda. A reoccurring theme I picked up many time from “Game Design: Secrets of the Sages” (merely a compilation of developer quotes and pictures, but not without some insights): “The GUI is the game.” The saying means that what the user plays is actually the graphical user interface and therefore literally is the game. No wonder some consider it the hardest part of making a game.

I’ve learned about three powerful elements that I’m looking into right now.
  1. The newly introduced (as of BYOND 4.0) skin creator. This is a really nice suite that lets you set up your GUI configuration however you like. It’s a graphical interface creator not unlike one I’ve already been introduced to when using Visual Basic.

    It seems pretty complicated, but a good tutorial on that can be found here: Making skins in BYOND 4.0: A Lesson

    BYOND’s 4.0 GUI customization is both extensive and remarkably user-friendly, but I’ve still got to figure out how the code interfaces with the GUI elements added. It seems as though all you really need to do is manipulate them via their tags using the “winset” procedure. Could it really be so easy?
  2. Menu Items
    I figured this one out on my own. After opening up the same file where the macros and menus, and windows are defined (the .dmf file), go into the “menu” menu. There, it’s quite easy to add additional commands by recognizing the format is the standard column>>command format that’s likely at the top of your browser as you read it. In the “command” section is simply a verb that’s passed to the parser. So, define that “verb” on your client object just like any other verb and the functionality will go through.
  3. Objects assigned to the client.screen list.In a way, the “screen” variable on the client object is similar to the “image” variable (the same I discussed at length at Day 7) in that it is a list of things that are continually displayed to the user on the client level. (Meaning other users won’t see what this user is seeing.)

    However, it differs considerably in that what’s being displayed are interaction-capable, atom-style objects. This is really cool because you can define all sorts of interactive verbs on objects, while images can’t be clicked at all (though I’m sure an imitator could be jury-rigged).

    Assigning fully manipulatable objects to be used is actually remarkably easy. I recommend this simple tutorial on the BYOND developers section. It’s quite basic and does not cover more complicated tricks, such as adding mouse interaction by defining the MouseDrag() and Click() functions on the objects you’re adding to the screen, but if you’ve been using BYOND for awhile those things are self-evident.
The skin editor is undeniably more powerful, but the client.screen object list is still a valuable tool for adding things such as on-map controls. I’ll be learning them both. As for pull-down menus, it’s hard to say what use I’ll get out of that — it doesn’t seem very immersive for a RPG-like game.

After learning these methods, I can pretty much make any point-and-click windows-based interface I can imagine (at least so long as I don’t mind that the core of the game is a 2d tile-based one… and actually, I think I prefer it). However, just because BYOND makes it easy to create and display half-dozen panes at once doesn’t mean I should.

My years of game-playing experience tells me that a very simple interface is much easier for the user to handle. Perhaps the difference between a good designer and a bad one is just how much complication you can get across in a user-friendly manner.

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