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Subject: Numbers vs. Iconography in game design. Opinions. rss

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Jibbajabbawocky
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Iconography... is that even a word? Hold a sec. (google, google, google, wiki, huh, apparently it is!)

Anyhoo, designing a game (natch I'm on here ain't I?) and I am trying to determine if numbers or icons would be better for my tiles attack, defense, and support values. I am aware that this is a detail that doesn't have to be finalized until MUCH further along in the process than I am right now, BUT this is how my brain works, it has identified a problem and won't let me move on until it is settled. (The malaise of the genius mind, several of you might know exactly how that feels.)

So here is a picture to show my work.
 

The numerical values will be no higher than three, so I am wondering if it is even necessary. I mean we are not talking calculus here, still I wonder if the icons would still be easier to visualize and count. Up to four adjoining tiles (maybe eight, in certain circumstances) would have to be counted to determine the attack and defense of one tile.

So in your opinion(s) would the numbers be okay, or should I look into going into icons? Thanks ever so much for your time and input.
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todd sanders
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if you use icons i would not overlap them but set them up in a triangular/pyramid fashion

x
x x



i think the icon with a number over it takes less space overall
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David Kahnt
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The Blue defense - vertical - is rather hard to distinguish.

-DK
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DC
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If you are going to have more than one item on each card which requires comparison, then use numbers.

If you have a single thing on each card, and you have to compare that to another person's card, then it's very easy to just look and compare the number of icons. For example:

My card: ***
Your card: *

It's easy to tell whose is "better".

But if there are a bunch of categories which you will have to compare (even if you compare them at different times), then visually it gets very hard to separate which set of icons you must compare. For example:

My card
Attack: **
Defense: ***
Support: *

Your card
Attack: ***
Defense: **
Support: *

As soon as you have to compare that many things, it's too easy for your eyes to pick up the wrong row of icons and give away the wrong number.

Reading a numeral would just be safer, and make the game play simpler for your players.
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Jibbajabbawocky
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Yeah, I know, but The "+" ying has a natural yang of "-". I can't think of a better two-punch combo than that, I am open to ideas though.
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Lard Head
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dcclark wrote:
If you are going to have more than one item on each card which requires comparison, then use numbers.


I agree with this assessment. Clever icons in the background to differentiate the stats on the cards would be cool, but I think that if there are multiple values on each card then having to count icons (especially on multiple cards) would be tedious.
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kSwingrÜber
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It's really hard to beat the good 'ol Arabic "icons" for our numbers.

example: Just last night I played an older game (Screaming Eagles), where you roll up to four dice for movement. These are d6, but have values: 1,1,2,2,3,3. I found that even when rolling four, I could instantly add up the numbers mentally, without even seeming to think about it... I'm not sure it would be so quick with little icons that were groups of some abstract symbols.

On the other hand... symbols can look a lot cooler than digits, and might give a nice "thematic" feel to the game...

(wow, glad I could contribute such useful thoughts! LOL)

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Joe McDaid
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To give you an example of where both are used, in the Warhammer invasion card game, they use both numbers and hammer symbols.

When it comes to the cost of a card, that's usually represented neumerically in the top left so that it can be seen in a fan. However, when it comes to compairing one number against the other symbols seem to be the way to go.

In invasion they use symbols to dertermine how much more you have to the cost of a card unless there are more of the same symbols else where, and how much you have to add to relevent powers by using the number of hammer icons in that area. When it came to defence they use a number again instead of symbols.

Basically the way I think the guys at FF are doing it is if you have a static number it's best to represent it neumerically. If it's a dynamic number, grahpically could be easyer for thoes of us that just like to count up all the pretty symbols instead of doing calculus.
 
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Craig Somerton
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What quantity of symbols are you using? up to 6 or beyond?

If you're using 1-6, why not shape them like the pips on dice.

123456

People are familiar with these patterns and they are easily recognisable.

That said, I prefer the numbers to just the symbols. Easier and faster for me to assess. The take-up less room and I don't have to count.
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Jibbajabbawocky
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Thanks for all the input. As co-chair of the committee that reviewed the recommendation to revise the symbology of the tiles that the game uses. We're keeping it grey! (Numbers in, Symbols out)

Okay brain, happy now. Brain nodded yes, off to rules and initial beta tests.
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Ianthe Phagocyt
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Main reasons for using icons instead of numbers:
-More intuitive, less culture bias and language barrier: however, since you're already writing certain words in English, this doesn't matter anymore.
-Avoid orientation problems: for our arabic numeral, we have 8 vs infinite, 6 vs 9 or sometimes even 2 vs 5. If you're writing on a sheet with a clear reading direction, or if the icon also have orientation problem, this does not matter.
-Friendlier to younger player and people with dyslexia: probably doesn't matter much, since you cannot make game for young player without heavy and expensive procedure with the gov, and there are few people with dyslexia to begin with.
-The value are small: human can recognize 4-5 objects instantly, anymore and they would have to count. So it's fine to use icons when there are only a small value.
-Nicer looking: if you want a chance to show up some art work, or you just want to reduce the stress to the player who otherwise would be reading a rulebook that can't be distinguished from the proof of fermat's last theorrem.
 
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