By: hamtastic, Erik Friborg
Oct 20 2009 7:36pm
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The hits just keep on coming this week!  I was extremely fortunate to sit down with Adriana after the V3.5 UI Prototype Meeting and get some great inside information about the new UI, the difficulties that she's run into and much, much more!  Thank you very very much for your time Adriana!

Erik Friborg: Hello Adriana.  Thank you for your time, before we get started can you tell us a bit about what you've done and where you were before
Adriana Moscatelli: I went to Carnegie Melon for one of my degrees and have worked at Microsoft and Nokia.  Doing a variety of different designs for Microsoft. 
Erik: MTGO on an iPhone?  Mark Rosewater just mentioned he thinks Magic on a phone is possible...
Adriana: Actually, funny thing, Silverlight has support Nokia Series 60 and Windows Mobile.  We can mock things up, and basically fit one card on the screen.  Certain things are would work on a phone like gatherer, trades, etc.  Playing is probably too difficult.  But should we be spending time working on those now before we implement trading in a browser?  Probably not.  But are we aware of it?  Yes.

Erik: What's the first thing that you saw on Magic Online that you wanted to fix?
Adriana: The biggest issue that I saw and that everyone complained about was the chat.  I saw it in the forums, all over the place.  When we started usability testing it became pretty clear that the chat was just not easy to manage.  When you undock the chat you get all these windows and that was just pretty bad and hard to handle.  Another thing that became clear very quickly was the lack of standard UI components.  Even if you have spent no time with the graphics and had a "developer UI" with just the standard UI components would work, that's WHY they're the standard UI so that a developer can use them without having Graphic Design skill.  Which is why there's Silverlight and WPF as a tool.  Since I worked at Microsoft I know what the goal is for Blend as a set of tools, and the integration into Visual Studio to help the designer/developer process.  And the fact that designers have a lot more control over their layout and the exact placement of the information is a great benefit.  I know that Silverlight has a lot of pros and cons, as does WPF, but the integration of the development of the designer is a huge plus.  So navigation was a big issue.  And in general, the graphical quality and the amount of manual work, you don't get to see that, makes it very difficult to modify, unfortunately.
Erik: Like how the Planeswalkers have specific card images.
Adriana: All of that, we've made it so that card releases should be much easier with the vector graphics and the pieces working together.
Erik: I think V3 was *supposed* to go that route, I think it missed that mark.
Adriana: No, No, No.  It's a lot of work.  It's a lot of manual recutting of graphics that shouldn't be needed.  Some of the things are already ready, like set symbols that will be much easier to bring into Silverlight/XAML from print and we won't have to reprocess everything.  And the quality is much better with zooming.

Erik: What about Multiplayer?
Adriana: You didn't see any multiplayer in the demo but we have thought about it.  The big concern that I've had is how to make the "red zone" work in multiplayer.  I have discussed this, mostly with Lee Sharpe, and he told me what the formats are, the number of players, etc.  And we have a plan, we haven't implemented it yet, but we think we can make it work.
Erik: Good, because what they have right now... isn't very good.
Adriana: It's awful.  It's just not very good.

Erik: Has there been any thoughts to multi-monitor support?
Adriana: You can create multiple tabs in your browser, that is one way of solving it.  And I am invisioning the whole UI of MTGO will have our main navigation.  But!  In addition to that if you wanted to have a tab with a game, and another tab with a trade, or if you want to launch two browsers.  Whatever you want.  And we are thinking about something pretty similar to the current UI that launches additional tabs in the game itself, or possibly creating a new tab in the browser.

Erik: What about Multiple Event Players?
Adriana: The rules about that come from someone in Organized Play, but from my perspective, supporting multiple games is possible.  Of course if we end up limiting that I can support that as well.  From my point of view it's possible but I have no real opinion about that.

Erik: What about the eye tracking studies?
Adriana: In terms of the eye tracking studies.  We've done at least eight usability studies.  We've done research in people's homes.  We've done research about how people manage their paper and digital collections to see if there was overlap.  To see if thinking carried over from one to the other to see if we influence back and forth.  I spent a lot of time learning to play the game, because I realized that this isn't like applications that I've worked with in the past... Magic Online would require specialized knowledge about the game itself so I spent time to learn the Comprehensive Rules.  But I think it is important to understand the definitions of the game in order to implement the UI properly.  That a spell is different from an ability and shields don't really have a 'zone' but they need to represented kind of like they have one.  So I talk a lot with Erik Lauer, and have gotten a lot of feedback from people.  And I've participated in play testing and struggling with new cards which has helped me understand new people playing Magic. 

In particular with the eye tracking study we confirmed a lot of issues, like the log on the left side of the screen is not used very much.  We compared the usage of the hard-core tournament players compared to the casual players.  And we saw some differences, but that was an interesting thing.  There weren't that many differences between the two.  We thought that experienced players would spend more time looking at the opponents side, but apparently the casual players would spend more time looking at the other players board.  So we want to do more studies to confirm that. 

And of course, there's more cognitive load.  The firm we work with has a model by which they measure the cognitive load by the dialation of the pupils.  It's not rocket science, but at least we have some proof that newer players are scanning through the board.  This is a bit of problem that means we need to make the UI clean and that we only expose the amount of information that the level of the player needs.  We know that experienced players are going to process a lot more information than a beginner.  And a beginner will see a lot of the information as 'noise' and will just confuse them and impair their ability to make decisions.  In the future we will be able to support all models, but for now we're concentrating on the more experienced players.  But we have spent a lot of work cleaning up the UI.

Erik: Yes, the new UI has a much cleaner look.
Adriana: Eliminating unnecessary colors, and making sure the colors are meaningful, supporting color blind people.  So the "red zone" is not only color, but also shape.  We're hoping that the "red zone" makes the combat phase much more intuitive.  That was another item that caused a lot of confusion in the past, was knowing when you were in the combat phase.   We also made the battlefield change to indicate which player's turn it is.  It's easy to fix... it's just a lot of really small things and attention to detail.

Erik: So right now, is Silverlight the solution unless something major happens?
Adriana: That is the exact answer that I would give.  Unless something really major happens it will be Silverlight.  We've dedicated a lot of learning time to this technology.  Of course somthing could happen that would make us go in a different direction, but right now, this is the path we're taking.

Erik: Silverlight load less than V3?
Adriana: Yeah.  You can look at the Microsoft requirements for Silverlight, but it  should be running in a browser so it will be much better at catching the lowest common denominators.  Will support 1024x768, may run on lower, but not supported.  

<author's note, I looked up the requirements, listed below>:

The system requirements for Microsoft Silverlight and associated technologies are listed below.
  • Windows
    • Operating System: Windows Vista; Windows XP Service Pack 2
    • Intel® Pentium® III 450MHz or faster processor (or equivalent)
    • 128MB of RAM
  • Mac OS
    • Operating System: Apple Mac OS X 10.4.8 or above
    • Intel Core™ Duo 1.83GHz or faster processor
    • 128MB of RAM
  • Linux. For the system requirements, please refer to the Mono Project's Moonlight Web site.

 


Erik: How are the images being handled?
Adriana: We haven't finalized that, we haven't decided on the best mix of performance for playing, trades, collections, etc.  We're not very deep into it yet but we have it on our minds.  We're really concerned about performance.  Unfortunately V3's not really built like that.  It really only takes a few people that no what they're doing and who are attentive to the process.

Erik: What's the biggest issue of the UI/WPF/Silverlight so far?
Adriana: Less issues than we thought... the lack of right click and mouse wheel support.  There are custom controls that people have added.  Which a lot of times Microsoft will implement those into the native builds.  Eventually Microsoft will probably add them in.  But having a package will make it a lot easier than trying to write them yourself.  And that saves a lot of time and money tracking down bugs with that.  

And getting together a team that has the energy focused in the right direction is always a challenge.  We've always had the passion but sometimes it's been focused in the wrong directions. 

Erik: Anything else to add?
Adriana: Just that we are excited to ship this as soon as we can.  When it's ready.  


I'm still not sure which interview this weekend was my favorite... the one above or the one with Mark Rosewater, both were absolutely amazing and provided a lot more information than I had expected.  I'd like to thank Adriana once again for her time in this interview and for the work that she's been doing on the new UI.  I truly feel that we are heading in the right direction and after seeing the prototypes this weekend I have a lot of faith that when it's ready we will be very very pleased with what has been accomplished.

Thanks again, Adriana!

For an example of the combat phase, see the attached video:

20 Comments

Ooooh. The video play at the by Paul Leicht at Tue, 10/20/2009 - 20:00
Paul Leicht's picture

Ooooh. The video play at the end is really all I needed to know to be excited about this. I have to say, I was severely (almost beyond words) disappointed in V3's inability to handle low end users when it came out. I've got a decent machine now but my old machine was not terrible either (for a low end) but it was completely unable to handle anything past logging in on V3. This looks like a terrific step forward. I am curious to see how trading and the collection in general is handled. Thanks for this Erik good beats! :) *5 stars if that were available*

now i saw the requirements by ShardFenix at Tue, 10/20/2009 - 21:33
ShardFenix's picture

now i saw the requirements involve vista...would there be any issue running windows 7 or is that assumed?

Wow! For some reason I did by Manny Dangerfield (not verified) at Tue, 10/20/2009 - 22:15
Manny Dangerfield's picture

Wow! For some reason I did not expect it to look so slick...My faith is renewed.

I would imagine anything that by bubba0077 at Tue, 10/20/2009 - 22:41
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I would imagine anything that runs on Vista will work on Windows 7.

Great Job Hamtastic. I just by under_the_hammer at Wed, 10/21/2009 - 02:53
under_the_hammer's picture

Great Job Hamtastic.

I just want to say what a wonderful job you have done bringing us regular updates from the Pro Tour. I have enjoyed all of the posts and there is some very good information. It was a great idea for you to be invited and you have risen to the challenge. A*Grand Job!

Thanks for your continued by kharmin (not verified) at Wed, 10/21/2009 - 09:03
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Thanks for your continued hard work and efforts, Erik!

The only complaint I have is by Anonymous (not verified) at Wed, 10/21/2009 - 10:58
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The only complaint I have is the battle phase doesn't seem symmetrical.

For example, declaring attackers is the same as normal: You have to declare all of them and then they'll change position (here, it's moving to the edge of the Red Zone). Declaring blockers, on the other hand, moves them to/from the Red Zone *as you select/unselect them*. If it were me giving her an opinion directly, it's to treat the battle declarations symmetrically.

But this _is_ a demo just to show the different parts and is nowhere _near_ a working model for a full-version game, plus this is a fairly minor thing for me. Overall, I'm excited by the totally new interface!

The new UI is looking by Kaneda_EX at Wed, 10/21/2009 - 11:07
Kaneda_EX's picture

The new UI is looking great.

The interview was cool but somethings were a little confusing.

The lack of being able to by dangerlinto at Wed, 10/21/2009 - 13:04
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The lack of being able to right click seems like a huge hindrance. I right click on EVERYTHING in MTGO.

Hi Erik, It was my pleasure by Adriana Moscatelli (not verified) at Wed, 10/21/2009 - 14:59
Adriana Moscatelli's picture

Hi Erik,

It was my pleasure talking to you and sharing the work we have done so far. I wanted to take a minute to recognize and thank the people who are working hard on the UI redesign. Most importantly the core team: Graeme Hopkins, Scott Okumura and Pamela Ansman-Wolfe. People who contributed significantly or supported us are: Alexis Janson, Ryan Dhuse, Madeleine Schweikart, Gordon Culp and Daryl Nichols. Also several members of the R&D team including Erik Lauer and Mike Turian.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

All the best,
Adriana.