‘Tis the Seasons

Geez, the SeasonalCycleEditor UI control has well and truly gone through a it’s fair share of iterations now.

 

The goal here is to provide an intuitive interface for customizing the duration, magnitude and offset of seasonal temperature/fertility cycles, which themselves follow a straightforward sine curve.

 

The first version of this control utilized a straightforward 2D texture of a sine curve, which I figured I could stretch, tile and crop to create the cycle graph. As mentioned in a previous post, that attempt failed because frickin’ arithmetic, how does it even work, science can’t explain that.

 

So I scrapped the sprite-based control and made this shader-based control instead:

 

SeasonsMkISml

 

Technically, this is two controls: the temperature and fertility curves are rendered separately on top of one another. It’s a somewhat prettier result, but it lacks polish and isn’t exactly intuitive: 6 handles on a single surface is way too many, and if it wasn’t labelled “seasonal cycle” it’d be quite difficult to guess at it’s purpose.

 

Not good enough. Try again:

 

SeasonsMkIISml

 

Better. Separating the curves was a good call. Their units (Celsius and percentage respectively) are unrelated, so sharing graph space only makes it more difficult to label the Y-axis.

Labeling the seasons was also a good call. I originally considered “Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter”, but “Wet/Hot/Dry/Cold” are more descriptive and less tied to real-world seasons.

Also, they’re shorter. Easier to fit on the UI.

The result is still non-optimal, however. I don’t like that the hot and cold season bars overlap with the wet and dry seasons, a) because that’s not accurate (“hot” shouldn’t start as soon as “cold” ends!) and b) because it’s not how we *think* about seasons. Sure, we’re aware that in reality one fades into the other, but in our minds, the concept of spring is distinct and separate from the concept of summer.

To be maximally intuitive, a graph like this should reflect the mental model the player has of the thing being graphed.

 

One more try:

SeasonsMkIIISmlMuch better. Still could use some tweaks, labels, and a brighter season description bar (my laptop has a very bright screen, which makes it hard to see how dark some parts of the game are until I export the screenshots to a different machine), but it’s very much getting there. I’m happy to leave it here for the moment and make progressive tweaks to the design as I push forward to 0.13.

 

Cheers,

Quasar

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