Foundry Dev Blog #23 - The Usability Patch
The Upcoming Usability Patch
In the recent month we experienced an influx of new players since a couple popular streamers started creating content around Foundry. This led us to receive an impressive amount of feedback, thanks to everybody who contributed! Numerous times I pointed out that feedback is important for us and helps us shape the game in the desired direction. We read every single report and it was incredibly insightful.
One of the main conclusions was that the usability could need some work. The core element of factory-building games is placing down machines and other objects, a generally repetitive task by itself, the fun comes from the bigger picture of planning, being creative and eventually seeing it in action, all while progressing through the research tree. Therefore I think that usability is one of the most important points when designing such a game, everything needs to be as smooth as possible.
This leads us to creating the first usability patch, where we tackled some of the core systems that could need some polishing or reworks. There are many more things to improve and rework, so there will be many more usability patches. We're still working on content as well, but it's too early to talk about it.
Below is a list of changes with screenshots, please be aware that the final polishing is (especially visually) still in progress, so visuals of some of those will change and improve.
Summary of Changes
Tablet rework: The tablet does not have different modes anymore and has been converted into a "all-in-one" single mode tablet. It still has the ability to inspect objects and to copy and paste machine recipes. However "Recipe Copy/Paste" is now "Configuration Copy/Paste" and works with all production machines, loaders, pipe loaders and conveyor balancers (formerly distributors, we renamed them). In addition to that there is a toggle in the settings that allows to use those features without the requirement to equip the tablet at all. This global mode is disabled by default because Shift is also bound to sprint and overlaps with Shift+LMB/RMB to copy/paste, so it's easy to accidentally copy/paste by randomly clicking while sprinting.
New tablet look
Added "Copy Object with Settings": We already had the ability to copy the machine you are looking at (former hotkey Ctrl+C), but now there is also an option to copy the target machine with its settings (supported are producing machines, loaders, pipe loaders and conveyor balancers). Additional usability has been added by automatically setting the rotation of the placeholder to the rotation of origin building.
Removed small texts above the hotkey bar (Mode select, rotation change, drag mode, ...). Actions exclusively available to the currently equipped item are now more prominently shown further above the hotkey bar, so that they are not as easily missed.
New item action indicators
Hotkey bar rework: Previously one slot of the hotkey bar had to be active, there was no option to deselect it. This has been changed, you may now have no slot selected and therefore can have absolutely nothing equipped.
Reworked Info Database: Removed auto-open of info database frames on certain actions (f.i. equipping an item), instead added a notification system that is less jarring. Newly unlocked pages now have an "unread" indicator so that they are not as easily missed if not read instantly. We also polished some pages content and added a couple new ones.
Information Database with unread markers
Notification at edge of screen
Maximum build distance has been increased by more than 10 blocks.
Simplified Tools and Actions: A common feedback was that we had support for too many things concurrently: Equipped Item, Demolition Mode, Tablet, all that could have been active at the same moment, creating a hard time to understand the control hierarchy. Now most things are mutually exclusive, for instance entering demolition mode will deselect the currently equipped item.
Demolition Mode Visuals: During demolition mode the tablet will come up and show that you're in demolition mode, making it more clear to understand the current mode you're in.
Tablet visible while in demolition mode
Build mode "Free" is not a permanent toggle anymore, once you equip a building you will always start in snap mode and have to press a button to enter free mode.
Merged text at the bottom right into the buttons below, making the screen less cluttered without removing vital information while creating a more unified look.
Reworked bottom right button bar
Added notice for picking up items from the belt that will come up after looking at the same belt for longer than X milliseconds. We'll tune the number so that it shouldn't come up during regular gameplay but only when somebody looks at the belt wondering if items can be picked up.
Item Pickup Info Notice
An info text is shown if you have a building selected and do not hit anything in snap mode, explaining why the building placeholder is not visible.
"Toggle Sprint" and "Toggle Autoclimb" are now hotkeys which are by default unbound as they are advanced features. Bind them to enable those features.
Added floating error messages at the point of the mouse cursor to show issues in context, for example when trying to drag something from the hotkey bar into an inventory. Over time we'll spot more cases where those error messages make sense, but they are mostly for UI-related actions.
Floating Error Message (in yellow)
Handheld tools can now be equipped with right-clicking them in the inventory (formerly only possible with buildings).
Reworked Default Keybinds
Changing keybinds on a released game is always a bit tricky, but we felt like changing some of those keybinds was absolutely necessary, especially since the changes above freed some quite important hotkeys (like E/Q). Of course you're free to modify them as you wish. Let us know what you think about the new default controls.
Here's a list of what has changed:
Toggle Demolition Mode: F
Toggle Bulk Demolish Mode: Ctrl+F
Pick Up Item From Belt: E
Copy Object: Q
Copy Object With Settings: Ctrl+Q
Toggle Drag Mode: Y
Deselect Current Item: Z
Our current plan for releasing this patch is to first move the current experimental version to the stable branch and then we drop this usability patch to the experimental branch. We're still working on the blast furnace art and there are a few more minor bugs to fix, but we hope that it'll be done soon!
Looking forward to your feedback,