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Neal Stephenson wants to revolutionize sword fighting video games.
Neal Stephenson wants to revolutionize sword fighting video games.
9,023 backers pledged $526,125 to help bring this project to life.

Technical Update #2

The UI
In the first technical note we talked a little about how we plan to use the hardware controller to streamline what might otherwise become a challenging user interface. We would like to give players the option of learning many different moves, in many different combat systems. Keeping track of all those moves and remembering what works in which type of situation has the potential to become a headache. We've been working on some specific user interface widgets to help address this situation. These might not be the actual ones we end up using--a lot of development and testing still stands ahead of us--but we're showing them to you because doing so might help convey some sense of how we think about the game.

The Stance Bar

The vertical column of icons on the far left reminds you of the various stances available in the system. Medieval Italian and German longsword masters did us the favor of assigning vivid names to these positions, such as Boar's Tooth, Iron Gate, The Fool, Boar's Tooth, Window, and Woman's Guard. As you can see, we have translated these directly into icons. In keeping with normal UI conventions, the stance you're in illuminates. Available stances (ones you can move into from your current stance) are shown normally, and unavailable ones are greyed out.

The Attack Star

Fiore's longsword system defines seven basic angles of attack, called the sette spada or Seven Swords, which are depicted in an illustration in Flower of Battle that has become a familiar icon of the western martial arts. We have transferred it with some modifications into this user interface widget, which we call the attack star. It depicts six angles for cutting attacks, represented by the six swords, and a target for thrusting attacks. Depending on which stance you're in, some of these may or may not be available, and so the swords and the target will highlight or gray out in a context-dependent way.

The Parry Bar

In general, attacks are just points of entry to branches of the combat tree that can become quite elaborate and include a wide range of parries, counterattacks, etc. This widget in low right center serves as a dock where icons representing such moves can come and go dynamically, depending on the situation.

The Trainer

In a fully realized version of the game, which we hope to build later when we get more funding, your character will learn stances, moves, and techniques from a cast of trainer characters dotted around the map of medieval Europe. The trainer radial serves as a way of organizing and accessing all of that knowledge. Each icon represents a specific teacher your character has trained with in the past. When that trainer's knowledge becomes relevant to what's happening in a fight, they will zoom out and you'll see them surrounded by a sub-radial depicting the various techniques that they taught you.

The End of Fight Bar

At the end of a fight, when one of the combatants has been disarmed, disabled, or placed in an impossible situation, the three icons in the end-of-fight bar become relevant. If you're the victor, you'll be given the opportunity to spare your defeated opponent--or not. If you've been defeated, you have the option to cry uncle, which in most chivalric contexts means that the victor is expected to show mercy (and take all of your stuff and hold you for ransom).

Here's how it all looks with the widgets displayed. For testing and development purposes, we'll probably make the icons hot so that you can click on them with a mouse and make something happen. In theory the game could be played that way too. But we intend to design it in such a way that playing it with the hardware controller gives you a better experience.


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    1. Apotheosis Studios on June 29, 2012

      Loved seeing more details, keep it coming!

    2. Jeroen van den Brink on June 29, 2012

      Indeed this quality stuff made me want to put even more money on the line. (sadly I don't have it to give it to you :( )

      Keep at it guys

    3. Missing avatar

      Kamamuri on June 29, 2012

      I think you did yourselves a disservice not putting this out earlier. This answers very effectively what a lot of people were wondering about when the project first came out. It looks awesome!

    4. Missing avatar

      Coylabe on June 29, 2012

      Thank you for finally explaining to us exactly how the game will work. To this day, all we'd known was that "it'll be just like a real fight, only not really". Now, I know enough to know that my funds will be well-spent.

    5. Daniele Prati on June 29, 2012

      This stuff is amazing!

    6. Robin Farley
      on June 28, 2012

      This just keeps geting better. Maybe not being a hard core gamer is an advantage as I encounter the mind blowing possibilities you are opening up. I like the notion of a game where you gain mastery gradually in a very realistic way. Fit that into a long-term campaign environment paired up with some really strong literature and I think you have something that is immersive in a potentially new way.

    7. Missing avatar

      Tadanori on June 28, 2012

      Using clear icons for quick, visual reference makes alot of sense to me. I like it.

    8. Tim Park on June 28, 2012

      Matthieu made me smile.
      I too have some concerns about rapid reading the icons, but assume most will use a hotkey or button on the controller in any case.

    9. Jackalgirl on June 28, 2012

      @Jarmo - Like @Matthieu, I like the earthtone design. I think it works very well considering the subject. As other MASEs come online, I bet that the icons and their colors would be a skin that would change to reflect the MASE in question.
      I do agree that the icons could be simplified. I'm not so sure about the suggestion to remove the depiction of stance names from the icons. I understand /totally/ what you're saying, and yes, for simplifaction and speed of use it would make a whole lot of sense to make the icons more direct.
      But as a nerd, it would hit me where it counts to have the references to stance names taken out. I love the history of WMA, and the old fechtbuecher are really interesting, and I just think the names are cool. More importantly, maybe, it gives me handles to use when talking (also known as "arguing") about methods and tactics with other people, and I think that part of the power of any really long-lasting or successful game is how well the game and its mechanics lend themselves to activities /outside/ the game (like outraged bickery, ever one of humanity's favorite pastimes).
      I guess it boils down to: how much do you want the game to be simply about winning fights with the longsword (or what have you), and how much do you want it to /also/ impart an understanding of and appreciation for the traditions (and desire to make sure that more people are thinking about WMA)?
      I'm not so worried about new people having trouble with this additional layer for two reasons:
      1) your regular user is going to work his or her way up through these stances via a trainer, so it's not as if he or she is going to be expected to know it all at once.
      2) The names were chosen to be catchy so that they'll be remembered.
      It think it'll add a sense of "diggit" (I really dig it) to the game, the sense that you are actually learning something really cool, and becoming part of the in-crowd.
      I agree it's important to avoid "I've Suffered for My Art (and Now It's Your Turn)". ( But on the whole (and to conclude my really long post, I'm sorry), I think that incorporating some of the technical terms of the MASE in question is actually a pretty cool idea, won't hurt the enjoyability of the game, and I would hate to see the stance name icons go.

    10. Missing avatar

      Matthieu Walraet on June 28, 2012

      This is an earthtone design. I like it.

    11. Missing avatar

      Jarmo Petajaaho
      on June 28, 2012

      Also, could the stance icons be direct references to the way the sword is held in each named stance? A line at an appropriate angle, at the simplest. Referencing the traditional stance names in the icons adds a layer of indirection into the reading of the icon. Instead of directly seeing where the sword points the user has to remember what physical stance each name means. This is pretty opaque for new viewers/users and harder and slower to learn. The less cognitive layers there are between the drawn icons and their translation into movement possibilities the easier the game will be to learn and play.

    12. Missing avatar

      Jarmo Petajaaho
      on June 28, 2012

      Unless you plan to make the fighting turn-based, please consider making the icons much less graphically busy and with distinct silhouettes (see e.g. Valve's design for the Team Fortress player classes). E.g. the boar's head would work a lot better without the surrounding diamond-with-spikes and with a much thicker outline with a high colour and luminosity contrast.

      Your icon colour choices are lovely and pleasing but they blend everything into a yellowish soup. There are also way too many details on the icons. They should not be nice little illustrations, they should be simple, iconic shapes that cannot be confused for each other. The parry icons are especially unreadable and very samish.

      Now for the good part: It's good that they are always in the same location. This makes it possible to learn to identify them solely based on placing. But having to rely only on that would be a sorry state of affairs.

      The current icons are very hard and very slow to read especially while pressed for time. If they are meant to be useful in the heat of battle, you should be able to identify and comprehend them even with peripheral vision.

      Traffic signs and other public signage is one good source of iconic, simple-to-read shapes.

      Thanks for the look into the technical details, appreciate it! Sorry is my tone comes across as harsh, I'm just trying to be clear and direct with my concern for the usability of your UI. You're pretty much making one of my dream games, I'm heavily invested.