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Category: Design Fail

Hidden “Features”

There’s a trend in modern computing that I don’t understand; hiding features and interactions. Actually, it goes beyond just hiding features to making it difficult to discover or understand what features are available or what is causing things to happen. And honestly, I’m getting kind of sick of it.

Take this gem in Windows 10.

I just upgraded to the Anniversary Edition, build 1607, but this may apply to earlier builds as well.

The biggest outward change for me with AE, is that I can no longer disable the lock screen with a group policy. Given that, I decided, that if I can’t not use it, I might as well customize it a bit.

One of the options you can set on the lock screen is the image. The choices currently are to use; Microsoft’s stream of images, a picture of your own choosing, or a slide show of your own images. I had set a picture, but I thought that a slide show would be kind of interesting. After all I have a number of my own images that I wouldn’t mind seeing there randomly.

Only there’s a big hidden catch. If you turn the slideshow on for the lock screen, instead of turning off your displays after N minutes, it does, but it also would lock the the computer and return to the lock screen. At least that’s what it was doing to me.

Edit: There are advanced configuration options for the slideshow located on a separate screen that you get to by clicking a not-very-link-like-looking text link — this flat UI thing is really starting to be more of a pain than it seems to be worth honestly. In there, there is an option to turn off using the lock screen instead of turning off the displays. Though as long as the slideshow is being used, the computer will lock when it turns off the the displays and you’ll have to re-enter your password.

Unclear Instructions: Setting Ubuntu/Unity Keyboard Shortcuts

I don’t know who wrote the text for the dialog for changing Keyboard shortcuts in Ubuntu 11.10, but wow could they have been more misleading.

The instructions read, “click the row and hold down the new keys,” in reality the only place that will allow you to change the short cut is to click the text directly under the black arrow in the above image. I spent the better part of 20 minutes trying to figure out why I couldn’t change a keyboard shortcut because the directions are utterly useless.

This should probably also be filed under: Won’t file a bug report as it’s too much bloody work, and now I won’t forget how to do it.

Guns in Mass Effect 2, because guns need ammo to be guns right?

So apparently Bioware didn’t feel guns were gun like enough in Mass Effect without “ammo”, so they endeavored to add “ammo” to Mass Effect 2. Their in the universe explanation has something to do more efficient sinking of heat, and blah blah blah. In short, the guns now eject “thermal clips”, their term not mine, to manage heat.

Okay so the gripe isn’t that they need ammo, or that the guns have heat. Heat is a believable issue, even with current technology. Moreover, Mass Effect does a good enough job explaining all that in a believable way in their universe’s back story. What gets me is that in a distant human future with miniature mass drivers as assault rifles they would be able to hack up a better concept than manually ejecting their “thermal clips”.

I know it looks cool having your avatar do a reload animation, but seriously this is suppose to be the future. How is that even remotely futuristic. I mean seriously, a semi-auto rifle as it exists now ejects spent cartridges just fine without user intervention. Why can’t your future guns do something similar. It’s the future for heavens sake.

But wait, you say, the thermal clip isn’t a cartage it’s a magazine. Oh contrare! The designers may have thinly disguised as having a function similar to a magazine but it’s really just a imaginary chunk of imaginary metal being flung from the gun when it’s hot. They’re cartridges with a different name, function, and feel.

Game designers, your future weapons don’t have to follow current day design limitations just because they are guns. Current technology means that each bullet needs to be bundled with it’s propellent. Hence the cartridge, as it exists today. In the “future”, especially one where you change the fundamentals of how a gun works, there’s no reason to continue to stick to the same mechanic as we have to use today.

A “thermal cartridge” could very well hold the waste heat from multiple “bullets”, while still being on a fraction of the total capacity of the weapon’s “magazine”.  When the “propellent” or in this case waste capacity of a given “cartridge” is reached, the gun should just eject it (unless there’s a good reason not to, say you have the equivalent of a bolt action receiver) .

Futuristic weapons in games have to be thought through completely. Rigging a system so there are “reload” animations–don’t even get me started on those–because they’re cool or make the guns feel more like guns, is fine, but there should be a good reason why my character is doing it manually. In this case, so far as I can tell, there isn’t one.

This bit of babbling was brought to you by the letter A, N, R and T, and the number 3.