What I have below is just a photoshopped mockup, not a functioning mod.
I don't have a lot of refined feedback on the gameplay itself, as I don't have that much time in the game yet and am still figuring out some of the finer points. I do, however, have several thoughts on the UI. Aesthetically, I didn't really have any interest in changing the look of the UI in the game, as I just don't have that much time and it's a matter of taste in the end anyway, but I think some basic things could be done to make it much more intuitive and efficient.
Specifically, here are things that I changed:
- I removed several icons from the main UI that I felt were unnecessary or could be sensibly combined into more important UI panels.
- Combined the character stats and equipment panels—inventory icon opens all of these with bags opened by default (subsequently removed unused character attribute icon).
- Removed the minimap as an icon in the UI (I feel like most other games just make it a hotkey, and it has never been an issue for me).
- Removed the Bestiary as an icon and stuck into a reworked journal panel (will mockup another time).
- Reordered the remaining icons in the main UI panel so related icons are adjacent.
- Moved the town portal button into the center of the UI, because I had empty space to work with and I always forget that damn thing is there off to the left.
- I removed the gold, food, and inventory status information off of the main UI panel and put it next to the Health, Mana, and Stamina display in the upper left (this is the only thing I'm having second thoughts about).
- Moved status alert icon to be just above the main UI panel at the bottom, rather than floating aimlessly in the top center right of my screen, also added what in my mind is a glowy effect behind it to draw more attention to it.
- I didn't do it here, but you could argue that the Quests panel could easily be tucked into the journal as its default display when you open the journal, with tabs to the bestiary and clan/characters stats (this would free up even more space on the bottom UI panel, and if desired you could put the money, food, and inventory information back on there in some way).
- I made the help and menu icons smaller, vertically stacked, and with a gold button background to differentiate them from the gameplay icons.
The impetus for this was that I think the current UI, and I'm talking specifically about the panel at the bottom of the screen, suffers from icon overload. Having so many icons certainly highlights that this is a far more complex game than your standard action RPG, but it makes a game that threatens to overwhelm new players with sensory overload even worse.
When you play a game like Diablo, there's not a lot you need to worry about outside of clicking on monsters and scooping up the loot. In a Soldak game you have incoming blinky diplomatic icons, scrolling status updates, invasion warnings, food cache ticking down, etc. Basically, there's a lot in the UI competing for your attention, and quite a bit of it is important. Everything in the UI that isn't critical needs to be carefully evaluated. The biggest problem I see is that you have a ton of icons, many of which are far less important to your moment-to-moment gameplay. If you have a bestiary icon, you're implying that this has the same importance to the user as their inventory or clan management panels. Same with the mini-map toggle. All those icons share the same space and are the same size and style, but they truly are not all equal, and a few of them simply could be easily folded into other, more important UI panels. The screenshot I've included displays this better than all these words can.
The first screen is what you'd see if you clicked on the first inventory icon. The second image is just a comparison to highlight the decluttering. If I get the time I'd like to do something similar for the Ability and Clan Management UI panels.