The desktop version of Atmosphir is right around the corner, and everyone is very excited about the drastic performance and speed to the game it promises. We can finally have Atmosphir leverage the full power of the PC. That being said, there are certain things that haven’t been talked about a lot, things that are, by itself, little things, but as a whole, helps shape a unified and positive user experience. These are the things I want to talk about here. These are the kind of things that, I believe, are expected form any, modern, professional desktop applications.
I am going to list these expectations in the order of, in my opinion, importance:
Red Carpet Experience and Ability to play in guest mode
Red Carpet Experience
In terms of Atmosphir, the “Red Carpet Experience”, RCE, is the new user account creation process. Atmosphir has implemented a welcoming experience that makes creating a user account, not only easy, but fun! It lets new users get engaged into the game right away by letting them pick a character, dressing them up, purchasing things with 150 free Atmos, and providing them with tutorial levels. This is one of the things that set Atmosphir apart from many other online games and puts in on par with other top games on the market. Now this is a feature of the Web version of Atmosphir. But it is only reasonable to expect the same, inviting experience in the Desktop version. Anyone should be able to download Atmosphir and get started right away without having to visit the Atmosphir website and creating an account.
The web version also allows users to play as guests, meaning that one doesn’t need to actually create an account to play the user created levels. This feature makes sense for the web version, but why do we need it in the Desktop version? I mean if we are going to bother downloading the game, why not create an account. Suppose a friend comes over and finds Atmosphir on your desktop. He might be interested to check it out but if he is forced to create an account, he might be turned off. Most games has a “guest” system of some sort to accommodate “friends coming over”. The desktop version of Atmosphir will benefit by doing the same. But I believe that these features will be implemented. At least, I don’t know why the developers will intentionally remove a feature that is already well implemented in the web version.
Local draft storage and draft syncing
One of the main purpose of the desktop version is offline designing. An advantage the original, desktop version of Atmosphir had is that level drafts were stored on the user’s hard drive. This was good because users could play levels offline. In addition, users could email their drafts to other users and, that way, could collaborate on and design a level together. With the new, web version, of Atmosphir, all drafts are stored on the server. So emailing drafts to friends are no longer an option. I am hoping that the new desktop version will fix this. In fact, I believe I remember Dave Werner (Creative director of Atmosphir) mentioned that this can be done with the desktop version in a “Atmosphir Mailbox” video a while back.
Now, I want to discuss a feature that, I think, is a very needed feature with the desktop version of Atmosphir:draft syncing. It’s important to note that the web version does offer global access to drafts. This means that we can access our drafts from virtually any computer since they are saved on a server. So if the desktop version stores the drafts on the user’s local drive, this global access is no longer possible. To solve this issue, it will be neat to have some sort of syncing feature in the desktop version. This means that when the user saves his/her draft, it not only saves it to the user’s machine, but also uploads it to the server. At the same time, any drafts saved from the web version can be downloaded to the user’s local drive when the user uses the desktop version. This will allow us to continue editing all the designs we are working on using the web version.
Atmosphir user Prototype mentions that the pictures keep this blog interesting. So, I am going to go an extra step to draw out a diagram for this paragraph. 😉
Saving from the desktop version
Click to Enlarge
Saving from the web version
Click to Enlarge
A possible issue I want to mention with the syncing system might occur in this scenario. Let’s suppose an user edits a saved draft using the desktop version offline. Because he is offline, the draft isn’t uploaded. Now, the user uses the web version of Atmosphir to edit another part of the draft. What happens now. We now have, essentially two different version of the same draft. This can lead to loss of data if syncing occurs. If, for example, the draft is downloaded from the server to the local drive, any changes made to it offline from the desktop version will be lost. I am curious to see how MiSt will combat this scenario should they choose to implement draft syncing.
Ability to turn off the “Settings” that appears before launching the game
Typical of Unity desktop games, a settings dialogue box appears before launching Atmosphir that allows users to easily configure game settings that is right for them. However, once the user has the game well configured, the settings dialogue box does not need to be shown, as it will only be an annoyance. The user usually expects the application to launch immediately when the double click the icon; therefore, a checkbox with a label “Do not show this dialogue box the next time Atmosphir starts” would be a very good idea to include.
A smooth installation
First impression is very important. And to tell the truth, the first impression does not happen when the application first launches, but rather, when the user starts installing the application. The installer should be simple and engaging. It should have the Atmosphir theme to it. When it comes to installing programs, the simpler it is the better. According to Setup UIX guidelines from the MSDN website, the worst installers are those that are generic with lots of next buttons and useless information. Below are screenshots to help compare a “good” and a “bad” installer.
The Atmosphir installer should be like the one below.
This is an example of a installer that provides a good first impression. Notice that it is clean and simple.
And not like the one below.
This is the traditional installer with useless information and a bunch of "Next' buttons.
In fact, I created a concept for the Atmosphir installer, just to demonstrate what I am talking about here.
I did all this in a short amount of time, so these concept arts are not polished. but an installer like this has the Atmosphir identity and is clean and very easy to use.
Good Installation UI
Atmosphir Installer Main Screen
This kind of installer is good because all the user has to do is click install and Atmosphir installs all files and the user is good to go. Should the user choose to customize the installation, that setting can be streamlined. This s a much better approach than an installer with lots of screens and through which the user scrolls by clicking on the “Next” button several times before the installation can begin.
Not so appealing Installation UI
High resolution game icon
Most professional software today tend to have their application icons be high resolution. They look professional and modern. Here is an example. Notice that the how much better Atmosphir looks with a high resolution icon. The old Atmosphir did not include a high resolution icon, but I really hope that this version will.
I am anticipating the release of the Desktop version. I am curious to see how many of the things mentioned above will actually be present in the final release. While the things I mentioned are not as important as performance and optimization, I think they add to the overall experience of Atmosphir. If you have any more suggestions or things you would like to see in the desktop version, comment below.
Atmosphir Home Page
Check out my other posts, including a detailed review of Linden’s Metroidvania Caves 2D by Okaysamurai
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