Friday, January 12, 2007

Player friendly?

One of the benefit of not working (yet) on a high-fidelity set of panels for the Soyuz is that I can try to make things (somewhat) a bit more user friendly. Take, for instance, that GPC panel (If you scroll down to my previous post you can see it in all its user unfriendliness glory) I have hacked. Its purpose is to start and stop some programs (e.g automatic orientation, re-entry sequencing ...) in a interactively fashion, and to allow the monitoring of any program running on the simulated onboard computer. As you can see from the screen-shot even though a maximum of 9 programs can be run in parallel, we only allow the user to monitor the working of a single program (bottom part of the panel) and that's the part that was most bugging me the most, as I didn't find these 2 switches practical for that particular situation. As the programs are arranged in a matrix, the program to be monitored is selected by placing the switch on the position that indicate the row and column of the program (e.g A 2). It sure does the trick, but as it didn't feel right, I coerced Castorp into making a couple of bitmaps to represent a thumb wheel switch, similar to the ones visible on the Gemini control panel (above image). And the result is, I believe, a bit better:
Now the tricky part was to decide which interaction will be suited for that kind of controls. Should the user click on the right part if it want to rotate the wheel towards the left, and click on the left part to rotate towards the right? Or should the rotation direction (inverse) be bound to which button of the mouse is used? I decided to go with the later for now. Usage will tell if that was the good choice. As we will be using thumb wheel controls in the real panels, looking now into that matter isn't as futile as it may seems ;-)



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