Unlocking the brand new user experience on consoles

Unlocking the brand new user experience on consoles

by Thomas Oskam, Head of Development, Urban Games

We are very proud to share with you some of our experiences developing Transport Fever 2: Console Edition. Today, we are taking a look at the thoughts behind the brand new user experience we implemented for consoles.

Transport Fever 2, originally released on PC, is the latest entry of the highly rated Transport Fever franchise. It lets you take on the role of a transportation tycoon and build streets, railroads, water and air lines to connect towns, deliver goods and transport people. The game starts in the 19th century and you can grow your transportation empire in a customizable free play mode or prove your entrepreneur skills in a fully-fledged campaign with missions inspired by real-world events in and around transportation history.

To bring such a tycoon experience to console, from a technical standpoint, is already extremely complex. However, the real challenge lies in getting the user experience right. A lot of effort was put into the design of the user interface for the original PC releases in order to minimize the number of clicks necessary to build and manage a transport empire. For the console edition, the graphical user interface was improved greatly to be well readable even on the big screen. The user experience, though, has received a full redesign to streamline the game for the controller.

The entire tycoon world in the palm of your hands

Transport Fever 2 has a huge and busy world with many things for the player to interact with. While on PC, mouse and keyboard have proven to be a very efficient input method to select objects and perform actions, the same control paradigms cannot be applied to a game controller. Its ergonomy is just much too different. To leverage the best properties of a controller, namely the fine controls with the analog sticks and triggers, an inspector mode is added to the interface. In this mode, a selection circle is moved around together with the camera view and automatically snaps to nearby objects. During gameplay, this inspector mode can always be toggled on by a simple press of a button. This, combined with the precise control of the camera, makes it feel very natural and very efficient to interact with the world.

Inspection made easy: Taking a closer look at the Junkers Ju 52 on its way to the runway.

One of the central features of a tycoon game such as Transport Fever 2 is the construction and management of a vast transportation network. The player needs to always have easy access to all infrastructure menus, without having to think. Inherited from the PC interface, buttons to open the line- and vehicle management windows as well as all construction windows are already prominently available in the UI. In the console edition, though, instead of having to move a mouse cursor to select these buttons, the menus can be toggled though using a dedicated button on the controller. This allows even quicker access to these tools than using the mouse alone. Then, once these menus are opened, a new navigation scheme is implemented as well. A clear and unique focus, indicated by the highlight of the active window section, makes browsing the menus extremely straightforward using a controller.

Everything under control: Managing the public transport network in Manila with quick access to all management tools.

Finally, there are menus that will give the player additional information over the world. Windows such as finances or industry statistics. They are usually not accessed all the time, but still important to get to every now and then. Here, a time tested solution is employed that has become a staple of console interfaces: the radial selection menu. This icon of UX design proves especially useful for a game like Transport Fever 2, as it both allows many navigation paths to start from one button press and gives a curated overview of the different tools and statistics available to the player.

No need to reinvent the wheel: Statistics and secondary windows are easily reachable tanks to the new radial selector.

Ready to build an empire on console

Good UX design is hard, but goes a long way. Especially for a deep tycoon game such as Transport Fever 2. With the new user experience, specifically designed for the controller, the game is every bit as efficient to control on console as it is on PC. Not only that, but the natural way of navigating the camera view, that is only truly possible with a controller, allows to see the Transport Fever 2 world in even more beauty on Xbox and PlayStation.

In another devblog at Xbox Wire (English) there is a first-hand report on the technical porting of the game from PC to console.