Community, tell me your usability stories!

Started by Tynan, March 09, 2014, 10:20:30 PM

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So the game has increased in complexity over the last few alphas, first with the addition of stockpiles, and now with work tables and the associated bill system.

I'm seeing more reports of people getting blocked by AI/behavior/usability issues. Things like:

-Why aren't they cooking? (the ingredients are too far away, outside the bill's ingredient search radius, or, no cook with enough skill, or you ordered a fine meal but only have one kind of ingredient)
-Why aren't they cutting stone? (bill expired)
-Why aren't they hauling the bodies? (the bodies are far away; they're busy hauling other stuff because they haul in order of distance)

Basically, it seems there are a lot of silent failure points. It worries me. I don't want people to hit these kinds of silent failures.

My question is:

Tell me stories about times you got stuck by some usability/clarity/AI priority condition that you didn't understand and caused you distress.

To be clear, I'm not really asking for suggestions about how to fix things. You can offer these if you wish, but they'll be of secondary importance to the problem story itself.

Thanks greatly to anyone who is willing to share their experiences of the game breaking on them! If I collect a good number of these stories, I hope I'll be able to synthesize a redesign that elegantly fixes the problems. I really want to add content to the game, but I also want to make sure the core stays nice and smooth. And unfortunately, I think it's been regressing on the smoothness measure since the pre-alpha due to increasing complexity.

In order to keep this thread clean, posts that don't focus on a usability story are liable to be deleted. Sorry, but I don't want this to devolve into a general suggestions thread.
Tynan Sylvester - @TynanSylvester - Tynan's Blog


Heh, i remember when i first started playing Alpha 2, i was cutting stone and i noticed "... Why isn't he grabbing that layer of stone on my stockpile?...", after some minutes i noticed "Oh... The range isn't enough!", then i also remember (on the same save), i was trying the no-roof section, and i mined some stuff for it, and i thought it only didn't worked on thick roof, and i supposed because it was all thin roof, my colonists would, as the description says, go and "tear down existing roofs", then i noticed it didn't worked like that, and i ended up having a horrible hole in the middle of a mountain  ;D

Jet Jaguar

A couple of things come to mind.

In one of my early games in the last alpha, the colonists were going mental because among other things, they kept eating raw potatoes and it was upsetting. I think I was completely confused as to the relationship between nutrient paste dispensers and the hopper--how close/far should they be. And after the inevitable mental break that killed everyone, I still didn't know how to fix it.

Figuring out room size and how it relates to comfort is a bit of hidden knowledge--I now know that it's 6x6 but that seems like quite a bit. It could be that the only current furniture for a room is a bed, perhaps this will be less of an issue if there are more creature comforts.

Dealing with ships is confusing as well. "I have all of this silver stored in a cave, why can't I buy anything?" Oh, because it has to be on a launch pad. Likewise, I wish I had a dollar for every time I tried to use the communicator to no response because I couldn't remember that there wasn't anybody in orbit.

I also stretch people to the breaking point by having them rescue a colonist in combat and then stand vigil over their bed, still in recruited mode, since it's easy to be distracted by managing the fight and dealing with the aftermath. Meanwhile, the poor colonist is standing in a room at attention until I get multiple warnings that they have a mental break. Could they return to what they were doing before the rescue?


my biggest problem is the cooking system. i think its causing my colonies to starve to death. first off i have no problem creating at least a basic meal. My problem is that i either cook to few, (my colonists get mad and rampage), or i cook too many, (half the meals expire and i run out of food stock to make more meals then they rampage). ive even tried manipulating a nearby stock pile toto try to regulate the amount of food stock that goes onto the cooking table. that doesnt help. in short its frustrating to have a massive farm and nothing to eat half the time.

it wouuld be very useful to be able to store the meals for a longer time or limit the rate(not just amount) that thye are produced
ive noticed a similar over production with the stone blocks but they dot expire and can be used at a later date


Tynan Sylvester - @TynanSylvester - Tynan's Blog

Jet Jaguar

In terms of information needs:

Some way to toggle the kinds of roofs that are over structures would be nice. I often find myself thinking "Is this a heavy roof? A light one? Will it cover this room or solar panel?" You can mouse over a square to see it one-by-one, but a quick show and hide might be helpful. (And as a side note, I have an aesthetic interest in that as well.)

I also find myself sorting through colonists in an attempt to figure out who would be good at something or bad at it. You don't want to put the Mining 1 guy on rock detail or try to assign hauling to the person who is really bad at it. (Also, ManualDumb is probably hauling, but is it? Internal names are used in the colonist screen and a different set of names on the priorities screen) I think it's been mentioned elsewhere, but some sort of display/sorting would be keen.


Providing Food seems to require huge micromanagement. Constantly adding Bills. Ensuring the cook is available when food is needed.  Providing raw materials for cooking. 
With the nutrient paste dispenser.  I just needed to make sure I had enough potato fields and enough people to work them.
Now I am constantly either manually stopping cooking( by turning off the stove, closing the bill, Locking the available food so it can't be moved) Or overproducing meals (they start taking up several Rooms and expiring.)


Hi Tynan,

The game is very very good and much loved. Here are some things I have found quirky.

  • The whole 'range' concept for crafting is a PITA. May I suggest removing it entirely and have it like all other activities - start at the closest and go from there.
  • The soldier who stands forever next to a prisoner that has been captured is annoyed. Is there a way around this?
  • Extending the storage area on a launch pad is not an intuitive thing to do to enable more trading. Is there a better way?
  • The priorities 1-4 need to be defined on the Overview screen. Is 1 higher than 4? - a simple line of text will fix this one.
  • I would like a way to say to colonists 'equip the best weapon possible' and then say to other colonists ' no dude - you be carrying a pistol'. It should default to 'best weapon' but be individually definable. I recognise 'best weapon' is not clear - but perhaps 'weapon with most damage per shot' or 'fastest shooting weapon' or 'best AOE weapon' are valid options.
  • I would like a view that shows every colonists and their current task and their current weapon. It would make management easier

Thanks Ty, never have I seen a post like this from a Dev -  well done mate - most appreciated.


One incident that I remember is when I was first setting up a cooking station. I wanted the small food stockpile next to it to always have food so I set the priority to critical.
I then had a situation where no colonists were loading the hoppers in my prison nutrient dispenser. Took me a while to realize the priority on this is only 'important' by default and colonists were actually taking food from the hopper to my food stockpile.

It's fine now I know this but it wasn't immediately apparent.

Serrate Bloodrage

The cooking thing is my biggest bug bear.
Quote from: dabbertorres on March 10, 2014, 01:48:15 AM
Yep, biggest thing for me is the cooking. It's cool, but it's a bit too much micro-management for my taste (currently). Something like a refrigerator would be very nice.
On that note, I found myself thinking it'd be nice if we could make bills, such as: "Make 10 meals per day". I feel like that would be a good balance of requiring management from the player, but not too much.

I believe it was said somewhere that you can set colonists to "auto-hunt" in the future, so no issue there from me.

Other than those things, I'm pretty well satisfied!

This ^ would be a great fix.
As it is, and correct me if Im wrong, but I have to single click my way from 1-22 meals to feed my colonists (I have 22 Colonists) and I have to do this every single meal time (Do they only eat once a day? I just cook more meals when I see people going for raw stuff). I think I may have sprained my clicking finger so I started a smaller colony and keep it at 4 people so I don't have to order so many meals.

The only other thing is friendly fire. A rabid boomrat is melee fighting one of my pawns and another pawn standing behind him picking strawberries randomly decides to fire a burst into his back then goes back to picking strawberries. Would love to have the option to get my pawns to avoid obvious blue on blue situations.
Oh yeah! Shooting a crazed muffalo and another pawn runs into the line of fire to clean up the blood hahaha. Obviously a bit different to the random fire I previously mentioned but no less annoying. Why can't my colonists just love eachother instead of constantly trying to fire as many rounds into eachother as possible!
Question- Does it intentionally rain to put out fires? A massive bushfire burning it's way into my base with the colonists having to skip sleep and food or let the fires rage through their home would be a pretty amazing event.

I am so in love with this game, so thanks. Seriously, it's bloody awesome. You feeling the love? Cos I'm sending it to you <3

If only my colonist could have 'personal time' to reduced stress =D

Pirx Danford

I stopped using cooking in my colony, because on one hand the bill creation is a hassle and on the other hand I either have too many or too less meals.
Also the pawns grab the nearest food, so a lot of plates spoil if I make too many.

I would much rather like to see something like a "cantina" where a cook would take orders from the colonists themselves...


1. There were times I quickly dismissed some information, only to *not* be able to find it later: any kind of log would be useful.
2. Having picked something to build in Architect and then wanting to build something else - thing picked before is always under the cursor. It's distracting. Maybe "turn off whatever cursor is hauling when over the architect menu"?
3. No real idea how the comfort system is working. I can guess that 5x3 rooms are enough? With proper furniture? Which floor is better? Some kind of length measurement while mining or making zones would be useful.
4. The deconstruct/cancel buttons should have keyboard shortcuts, as I'm using it quite a bit.
5. Amount of times I wanted to prioritize some action... reuse the code already in place for the importance of zones?
6. No quick way to jump between colonist, AFAIK? So I end up searching for them all over the place, just to see "ooh, ok, you only have shooting at *three*... now, if only I could remember how the other colonist had it... lower? no? ._."
7. Just yesterday my colonist was stuck in some simply "haul metal one place, return it to the original one" loop. It seems something (cactus) was in the way of hauling it to the stockpile - and I didn't understand why the hell was it not working. Attention/warning system?
8. Why must I deconstruction the beds even when colonist already have better ones made especially for them? I'VE MADE YOU BEDS AND ROOMS WITH FURNITURE, GOD DAMN IT. USE IT.
9. Why are some fires just spreading? How can I stop them? Why *can't* I stop them? Some water reservoirs would be nice.


Food has been an issue for me as well.

Besides just managing when and how much I make I've had the issue of even when I had a fair number of meals ready then pawns would still path to enjoy the tasty tasty paste, which they would promptly complain about.

However simply saying "Always eat meals first" might not be the best solution in larger bases that might have multiple meal stations. (Maybe multiple 'home zones' so you can configure sub-communities that will use their own resources first before checking others.)

The other problem I've been having is the lack of visibility on things like the stone cutting bench. Having a clear ring on how far they will go to grab stuff might be nice, as would maybe being able to select a dumping area as their 'go-to' point to grab stuff first. (That way you can queue up haulers to drag stuff from far away to keep the crafter rolling.)


I start using stone blocks for wallls early on then switch to metal. They stop building stone blocks after a while. I assume this is because after a while all the close by stone has been used up and they do not haul the stone which is far away.


- Ingredients are gathered only from stockpiles/dump if present. If not, it shows as missing ingredient on the top-right corner warning.

Which reminds me that there's no notification system for tasks that are done or can't be.

The other problem I've been having is the lack of visibility on things like the stone cutting bench. Having a clear ring on how far they will go to grab stuff might be nice, as would maybe being able to select a dumping area as their 'go-to' point to grab stuff first.

Very much this.