Aru

Make staging graphic clearer

6 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

I am talking about the graphical depiction of staging on the bottom left. After struggling with a mission to activate a radial decoupler (more than once) and realizing that in order to activate it at will (that is, when mission conditions are met), activating it manually doesn't work, and adding it to a stage at the bottom doesn't work. In fact, putting it in any stage, and staging all the way to the end, does not activate it, not even after attaching an ant motor (I thought, perhaps it does not stage with nothing attached, but that wasn't the problem). The solution is to add it to a new stage at the bottom, then add a second, empty stage below that one, before I can finish the mission. It took a surprisingly long time to figure this out, despite being experienced with the staging system!

Then, I thought about the staging display for a while. It occurred to me, that for the system to work and display the way that it does, a displayed stage depicts the activation of both engines and decouplers (I know this is obvious, bear with me). When activated, previous stages disappear, the decouplers are extracted from the stage's graphic, and the engines turn on (but remain in the graphic). The next time the stage button is pressed, the stage *above* the bottom stage is activated, and the bottom graphic is dropped.

I imagine that the motivation for basing the system this way, is that the disappearance of a stage in the GUI represents physically dropping the corresponding stage. This sounds okay to me, in principle. But, it does not directly depict fuel tanks, or any other parts which are physically dropped except for engines and parachutes (for the most part). The decouplers are not "dropped" per se, and in this paradigm they disappear prematurely anyway, as they are extracted from inside the bottom stage.

Truly, the only consistent paradigm is one where each stage represents activation. Pressing the staging button can never interact directly with the bottom stage. It only activates the second-to-bottom stage. Then, the current moment in time is a line between the bottom stage and the second-to-bottom stage. (There is a single exception, which further works against intuitive consistency, in that before launch, there is an invisible bottom stage which represents idling. This is the only time that the apparent bottom stage can truly be activated.) This becomes more intuitive the more you play the game, but only as a matter of learning and practice, causing us to forget that there's anything wrong, but there is.

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The suggestion and summary:

Overall, the system is fine mechanically, but it's depiction is unintuitive, which is made especially apparent when you want to make quick changes after launch. It is lacking something. A simple improvement might be that, once the rocket is launched, the bottom stage changes it's border from orange to say, green. Or once launched, a literal line does in fact appear between the bottom and second-to-bottom stage. Anything to visually declare that activation of the bottom stage is now in the past, can never be activated again, and the second-to-bottom is the nearest stage in the future, and therefore the one which corresponds to the next press of the staging key. Anything to show that the bottom graphic is activated and cannot ever be activated again, unlike every stage in the group above it. It should be visually distinct, separate from the rest, one way or another (except before launch). And furthermore, it should be made impossible to add stages below the "green-bordered" stage, because as far as I'm aware it is literally impossible for the added stage to have any effect except to self-mislead.

I know it's a very simple suggestion and a subtle change, I apologize for being verbose but it's hard to explain that there's even a definite problem or to identify it because we learn to work around it quickly enough, for most purposes. I think, the staging interface (and it is a critical interface, not just a display) will make more sense this way.

Edited by Aru
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At first I thought you were just overthinking it, but when I got to the actual suggestion I couldn't help but empathize and agree.

TL;DR, this:

1 hour ago, Aru said:

once the rocket is launched, the bottom stage [note: on the staging bar, not the actual rocket] changes it's border from orange to say, green.

In any case, about the problem that led you to the suggestion, I still think you're overthinking it: You can create a stage directly above the last one by clicking the "+" button on the stage above it (provided there is one, of course), and drag your decoupler to that. It'll activate the next time you hit spacebar - or, not really: staging tends to disable itself when you re-arrange things in-flight, and you can see that the green light in the staging bar starts to blink green rather than be firmly on; the first press of spacebar will re-activate it, and the next will actually stage something.

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, monstah said:

In any case, about the problem that led you to the suggestion, I still think you're overthinking it: You can create a stage directly above the last one by clicking the "+" button on the stage above it (provided there is one, of course), and drag your decoupler to that. It'll activate the next time you hit spacebar - or, not really: staging tends to disable itself when you re-arrange things in-flight, and you can see that the green light in the staging bar starts to blink green rather than be firmly on; the first press of spacebar will re-activate it, and the next will actually stage something.

This is of course true, and is easy enough to do. But it's not something the average player would think to do on their first attempt, or their second... or their third. I know to add the new stage above the bottom one NOW, and I know that there is no real purpose to ever adding stages at the bottom. But the interface doesn't suggest this... and why does it allow us to put stages on the end when they can't do anything, and serve no purpose? It's just unnecessarily confusing for both experienced and inexperienced players alike.

And, I never did fully understand the blinking light, thanks. It's not *directly* related to what I was talking about, though, it just adds an extra key press after the staging is changed.

Edited by Aru

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6 minutes ago, Aru said:

And, I never did fully understand the blinking light, thanks. It's not *directly* related to what I was talking about, though, it just adds an extra key press after the staging is changed.

Another one: alt+L will lock staging for that ship (very useful for stations, or if you have children around you pressing space bar to screw up daddy's/mommy's rocket...), and, if I'm not mistaken, stage lock persists ship change. I've seen some people mad, asking why the hell their ships won't stage. The tell? That same green light turns pink (or orange? not sure) when it's locked :)

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Docking will mess with your head in regards to the staging display.  Items already staged can appear in a stage group above the bottom stage.  Most (if not all) of them have some indication they have been activated, ie Fuel beside an engine, chutes are colored.  But if active items were to appear in a new group below the suggested line, it would help, I think.  Undocking usually resets the staging to normal. 

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11 hours ago, Gargamel said:

Most(if not all) of them have some indication they have been activated, ie Fuel beside an engine, chutes are colored.

If you deactivate the engine by the action menu, the fuel disappears but the engine won't stage anymore. If you activate it by the action menu, fuel appears, but you can still stage it...

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