Proposal: use ? for help key, and change scrolls hotkey


Although the central place for design discussion is ##crawl-dev on freenode, some may find it helpful to discuss requests and suggestions here first.

Dungeon Master

Posts: 12

Joined: Friday, 29th December 2017, 19:18

Post Sunday, 1st April 2018, 11:33

Proposal: use ? for help key, and change scrolls hotkey

Hi all! I've been doing user interface work for some time now, and one thing I'd like to add is a consistent keybind for showing help, for all of DCSS's different screens. This change would make DCSS much more user-friendly for newer players. It would also remove the need to scatter "(press x for help)" all over DCSS's various interfaces, making them cleaner and saving valuable console screen space.

The candidate help keys discussed on ##crawl-dev a while back were: ?, control-h, alt-h, F1, and _.

  • ?: supports all platforms, and already in use in many places. Conflicts with scrolls hotkey.
  • control-h: conflicts with the directional attack command.
  • alt-h: no other keybinds in crawl use alt, because the key input code doesn't support it.
  • F1: no other default bindings on Fn keys, and they're often bound to macros. Often already bound by web browser/terminal emulator.
  • _: in use by known-items menu, but otherwise a bit weird.

My preference is to use ? everywhere. This is already in use as the hotkey for scrolls. |amethyst suggested (possibly in jest) that scrolls use : instead, as with the spell library changes there are fewer books to deal with. Books might be given a new hotkey, or they might be moved to } (misc. items). This means that experienced players who make regular use of this keybind would have to relearn it.

Since I imagine this would be a controversial change, I'd like to ask for feedback and any ideas people have, especially from people who use the ? key and would be affected by this change. Please let me know what you think!

Lair Larrikin

Posts: 24

Joined: Tuesday, 9th August 2016, 14:03

Post Sunday, 1st April 2018, 15:55

Re: Proposal: use ? for help key, and change scrolls hotkey

It would be strange to have just one item category, scrolls, for which hotkey != glyph.

Scrolls are ? in console, but you would have to press d: instead of d? to drop all your scrolls. Or do you plan to change the glyph for scrolls too?

_ is in use by pick up/drop item menus too. It might be a better option for the universal help key.
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Tomb Titivator

Posts: 901

Joined: Monday, 29th September 2014, 09:04

Post Sunday, 1st April 2018, 21:16

Re: Proposal: use ? for help key, and change scrolls hotkey

Are you sure people who need help can learn any help key? I feel that a persistent help key wouldn't be much more discoverable than the current system.

What I mean is, perhaps it would be better to focus on making help advice visual or otherwise part of the UX that requires less (or no) effort to uncover.

Software and games used to try this idea of persistent help, like how every Microsoft product used F1 for contextual help, or the Civilisation Civpedia. But that idea is all but nonexistent these days. And I think that's because we've seen repeatedly that help which requires a special key (or any special effort) to access goes unused.

Here are some alternative ideas:
* There could be a "Menu" button that has items like "Inventory (i)", "Character (%)" and so on. You could see an example of this in Diablo games.
* Tooltips for everything on screen. For example hovering over your HP says: "Your current HP is 67 out of a maximum of 70. Your maximum is reduced by 8 due to rot, which you can remove by using potions of curing or heal wounds. Regeneration rate is 0.4hp base plus 0.4hp from items or other effects." Examples of good tooltips would be Paradox games (Stellaris, Hearts of Iron)
* Upon entering any new mode (eg z, f, i, q, etc) the game displays an info panel talking about how to use this mode. The info panel can be permanently dismissed but until you do so it shows up every time you enter that mode.

Dungeon Master

Posts: 12

Joined: Friday, 29th December 2017, 19:18

Post Monday, 2nd April 2018, 03:41

Re: Proposal: use ? for help key, and change scrolls hotkey

Ge0ff wrote:It would be strange to have just one item category, scrolls, for which hotkey != glyph.

Scrolls are ? in console, but you would have to press d: instead of d? to drop all your scrolls. Or do you plan to change the glyph for scrolls too?

_ is in use by pick up/drop item menus too. It might be a better option for the universal help key.

The glyph would likely be changed to : as well. It'd be rather confusing otherwise.

_ is a possibility, and it doesn't have any conflicts that I know of, but it lacks the intuitiveness of ?, which is highly desirable.

chequers wrote:Are you sure people who need help can learn any help key? I feel that a persistent help key wouldn't be much more discoverable than the current system.

What I mean is, perhaps it would be better to focus on making help advice visual or otherwise part of the UX that requires less (or no) effort to uncover.

Software and games used to try this idea of persistent help, like how every Microsoft product used F1 for contextual help, or the Civilisation Civpedia. But that idea is all but nonexistent these days. And I think that's because we've seen repeatedly that help which requires a special key (or any special effort) to access goes unused.

Here are some alternative ideas:
* There could be a "Menu" button that has items like "Inventory (i)", "Character (%)" and so on. You could see an example of this in Diablo games.
* Tooltips for everything on screen. For example hovering over your HP says: "Your current HP is 67 out of a maximum of 70. Your maximum is reduced by 8 due to rot, which you can remove by using potions of curing or heal wounds. Regeneration rate is 0.4hp base plus 0.4hp from items or other effects." Examples of good tooltips would be Paradox games (Stellaris, Hearts of Iron)
* Upon entering any new mode (eg z, f, i, q, etc) the game displays an info panel talking about how to use this mode. The info panel can be permanently dismissed but until you do so it shows up every time you enter that mode.

Thanks for the suggestions! These are all good ideas. Thoughts:
* Crawl already shows keybinds in a few places like this (e.g. inventory item actions). It's a good approach.
* This is great on (web)tiles and impossible on console. I plan to work on tooltips for tiles, definitely.
* On console there's limited screen space in which to show a non-obstructing info panel. This also requires saving state, which crawl doesn't do for anything else, and it could potentially be irritating. It'd be good for hints mode, but crawl's help text is currently unsuited for goal-oriented stuff; it's more comprehensive in nature.

I think that these suggestions are targeting an orthogonal concern. Making crawl's UI more discoverable is important, but is separate to improving the help system. There are some screens where making everything discoverable is borderline impossible; the main dungeon view on console, for example. We can't show all the possible actions effectively (and if we could it'd likely be very cluttered); this proposal is aimed at making the fallback more consistently available in cases like these.

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