While Autoplay could be perfected over the longer term, an interim measure (inspired by @Tomaxo 's comment) could be enabled for the benefit of those (unfortunate) players chained to OR’s Windows version (non-touchscreen) who are lugging their mouse pointer around the screen & risking wrist injury (i.e., carpal-tunnel syndrome, ulnar nerve entrapment, RSI, etc.). The current design of the battle-screen interface does provide some degree of keyboard control. Could we please extend this as follows:
- Manual play —as the default setting, here the player disables the game engine’s control and controls all the interface buttons (navigating hero, spawning units, casting powers & invocations, toggling offense-defense modes, and Pause/Exit).
- Full Autoplay —played by default at 2x speed, here (except Pause/ Exit) the player enables the game engine to navigate hero, spawn units, cast powers & invocations, and toggle offense-defense modes (when the hero’s HP falls below X%). Of course, the player can intervene during this gameplay.
- Semi Autoplay —here the player gives partial control to the game engine ONLY on hero navigation. The player controls unit spawning, powers & invocations casting, and offense-defense toggling.
The mouse is a convenient device, but a bit dangerous from an ergonomical perspective. Expert computer application users will vouch for the speed & repetition convenience of the keyboard (we’ve all admired an expert’s flying fingers using keyboard shortcuts). In Semi Autoplay, the repeated clicking of the mouse for hero navigation is removed to give huge relief to the player’s wrist. The remaining interface elements also need to be enabled with easy keyboard shortcuts (in addition to the default mouse-click hotspots). Here’s a simple illustration of the idea:
First, the shortcut keys are ergonomically assigned as per the correct comfortable placement of the player’s hands from the tactile bumps on the “F” and “J” keys on the standard QWERTY keyboard.
- The starting left A-S-D-F row is assigned to the Units. Now, the troops can be controlled by just the player’s left hand only. Important : As each unit’s Morale value is identified in numerals on the button, no number keys are assigned to any button on the battle screen, in order to avoid any confusion between the Morale value keyboard shortcut.
- Invocations are deliberately given a slightly complex combination of Shift key plus a numeral on the top numeric row. This could prevent accidental casting of costly invocations (say, when the keyboard is used in the dark). If the key combinations are difficult, the player can use the mouse pointer as an exception here.
- The largest key, Spacebar , is assigned to toggle the Offense-Defense modes. In high-risk, high-speed battles, quick accurate reaction on this is critical to success.
- The intuitive Escape key is assigned to the Pause/ Quit button. Placed at the top-left corner of the keyboard, this is the suitable key for this function.
- Finally, the toggling autoplay button is assigned to another large key, Enter. On pressing Enter repeatedly, the autoplay mode toggles sequentially from Manual to Semi-Auto to Full-Auto, and then back to Manual.
Next, let’s discuss the ergonomic placement of the battle-screen buttons for the benefit of touch-screen players as well.
- As illustrated in the first image, all the Unit buttons are near the left thumb and the Power buttons are near the right thumb (as is correctly placed in the extant design).
- However, we can shift the Invocations button from the top right to the right side for better access to the right thumb. Especially, when playing on a large tablet, the player need not release the right hand to travel to the top of the device. Caution : There should be adequate space between the right-most Power button and bottom-most Invocations button to prevent accidental pressing (“fat fingering”). For this, the size of the Invocations buttons may be reduced to that of the Power buttons.
- Now, shifting the buttons from the top-left side, the Offense-Defense mode button is placed near the left thumb for quick toggling. The Pause button is locate just above it, in case the player wishes to catch his/ her breath mid-battle.
- The Autoplay button is placed above the Pause button, as it is immediately followed above by the Game Speed button. During manual play, the Game Speed button is not visible. Once the autopilot is engaged, Game Speed is activated at 2x. The player may intervene to reduce the speed by pressing the right arrow on the keyboard.
Last, the iconography of the battle-screen interface elements.
- While Units are iconized in round buttons, the Powers can be designed as 8-point stars to differentiate. Besides visually better intuitive, a multi-pointed radiating icon looks suitable for powers.
- A plaque design (square with rounded corners inside) is appropriate for Invocations as it looks like an extension of the 8-pointed star design. New players can intuitively connect these to Powers.
- The ancillary buttons on the left feature a rounded-rectangle design, which visually resembles contrasts with the Invocations button on the right. This makes the screen appear nicely balanced. To increase visibility, the background fill of the ancillary buttons is transparent. However, the icons themselves need a contrasting shadow or glow to differentiate from the battle landscape.
- In the Offense-Defense button, instead of both iconography being squeezed in, let’s have only one visual at a time for Offense or Defense. A green Shield appropriately intuits safety and a red Swords visual indicates attack. These 2 visuals appear alternatively on toggling the button.
- The Pause button also has a transparent fill, but the icon is blue (indicating “suspended”, neither red nor green). A contrasting shadow or glow is placed around the icon.
- The current “joystick” icon could be replaced with a “steering wheel” icon to show 3 states—for manual, semi-auto, full-auto. As shown in the second image, the manual state is iconized by 2 hands holding a red steering wheel. The semi-auto state is visualized as 1 hand holding a blue steering wheel. The full-auto state is presented as a green steering wheel only, no hands.
- The keyboard shortcut info is presented on the buttons in black to contrast well with all other elements of the screen. Touchscreen users will not see this info.
Besides preventing injuries enhancing Windows player satisfaction, I hope these changes will add further dazzle to an already shining OR.
_ PS : Players who use PC Android emulators (i.e., Bluestacks, Nox) could test the ergonomic performance of the suggested keys by “assigning” virtual keys on the battle-screen buttons and typing out during battles. Feedback from that experiment could be valuable. _