Opposed Pair Stats are Illogical -- A Simple Fix


#1

From the official CS guide:

"NOTE: Some people have expressed confusion about how opposed variables are displayed. I think of them as bar charts; in the above example, the top bar is mostly red, because the dragon has 85% Brutality and 15% Finesse.

But some people look at the chart and see the opposite; they imagine that the chart is like a needle on a speedometer gauge; when the needle points all the way to “Finesse,” the dragon has lots of Finesse. Those people look at the chart and incorrectly think that the dragon has 85% Finesse! I think this is a bug in the way we display stats; I hope to fix it in a future version of ChoiceScript."

I have to say I absolutely disagree with the first part of this quote, and agree with the second part. The entire point of a visual representation like a bar, is to give a VISUAL guide to the data. This visual component is, in my opinion, useless if it is counter-intuitive or illogical. If it were a “bar chart” as the first paragraph suggests, it would (should) be measuring only one stat. On the other hand, a visual representation of opposed pairs should work like a slider on a control panel. When the slider is in one given direction, it should be a measure of increase IN THE DIRECTION THE SLIDER INDICATES.

So for the example used in the official CS guide:

http://www.choiceofgames.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Screen-shot-2010-12-21-at-17.21.26-.png

Because the slider is closer to the “Finesse” side of the bar it should be rightly and logically a measure of Finesse, and not “Brutality.” If you simply wanted to measure brutality, you could have made it a single stat. I think the opposed pairs feature is cool, but pointless and not-so-cool if it’s confusing the readers / players.

However, I write this not purely as constructive criticism. I want to address this part specifically “I think this is a bug in the way we display stats; I hope to fix it in a future version of ChoiceScript.”

While it would be nice to see a quick-and-easy solution to this problem seamlessly integrated into the code, there is what I feel to be an easy work-around. IMO it simply makes it so this “mental reversal” does not have to be made by the poor gamer, but rather the intrepid author. Simply put the name of the Stat which you truly want to be measured (when the slider is closest to it) on the RIGHT hand side of the bar. In simpler language-- When writing opposed pair stats, put the variable you truly want measured on the RIGHT and not the left side of the bar. Simply the opposite of the way you normally think of it, and *POOF* it becomes logically consistent to the way most people perceive a visual representation of data.


#2

While I agree that the opposed pair bar charts can be confusing, I don’t think reversing the stat pairs would help at all. In the Brutality/Finesse example above, “85” is displayed on the Brutality side because the dragon does, in fact, have 85% Brutality. If you switched the stat names around, that 85 would show up next to Finesse, providing yet another avenue for confusion.

If individual authors want to change the way opposed stats are displayed, it would be easy to edit style.css to give stat bars the appearance of a needle rather than two overlapping bars. I think this would affect the display of percentage stats as well, though (I haven’t experimented much with it yet), so that’s one potential downside.


#3

I disagree with your assessment. In the paired opposites, we are not measuring one, but two stats. It is true, that the second stat is almost like a “false stat.” However, this false stat, when done in the standard way, confuses the logical interpretation of visual data.

Done the way I am suggesting, an increased 1-100 percentage simply ups the stat on the RIGHT side of the bar, as opposed to the left.


#4

Said another way, it would make it so that the “false stat” is the one to the LEFT of the bar, not the right. In which case it would be more logical, visually speaking.


#5

I should add, to clarify-- “85” is displayed aligned toward the left, not right, because this is the way CS is set to format the numbers. It is the bar which is confusing to people, not the numbers. The “85” is simply a numerical representation of the number of per-cents this variable has increased by. And in this case, the way it is displayed, it is increasing (visually and verbally) toward “Finesse” not “Brutality.”

Flip it so that “Finesse” is on the Left and “Brutality” is on the right, and this becomes logically consistent. Each additional percentage point increases the bar one percent toward “Brutality” which is what we’re actually measuring. Each decrease in percentage points drops the bar so that it’s closer to “Finesse.”

Logical simplicity.


#6

@aetheria

"if individual authors want to change the way opposed stats are displayed, it would be easy to edit style.css to give stat bars the appearance of a needle rather than two overlapping bars. "

I’m not sure it would…

But I agree with you, swapping the text from one side to the other really doesn’t solve the problem at all…

I might look into the needle idea.


#7

Hmm, it still doesn’t make sense to me. I mean, I see what you’re getting at, but displaying it that way would make it harder to read for me.

Looking at the standard opposed stats bar, it’s not immediately intuitive but it still makes sense for the stat names to be where they are, because “Brutality” is represented by the red bar and “Finesse” by the blue. Since the visual language is similar to a stacked bar chart, the implication I take away is that more red = more Brutality and more blue = more Finesse. So at 85% Brutality, I would expect to see the bar 85% red and 15% blue.

I do think the best solution would be for opposed-pair stats to be actually displayed as a “needle” - something like this screenshot where Cynicism is at 80% and Naivete at 20%: http://i47.tinypic.com/ncnoeq.png


#8

@CJW

For the screenshot above I was able to get it looking more or less like a needle by tweaking the colors a bit and adding a border to the right side of the left stat bar. However, since the same styles are used for the left-side stat bar whether it’s a percentage or opposed-pair stat, it makes percentage stats display the same way too… so this hack might have limited usefulness.

Also because of where the border is placed the needle’s position is probably slightly off, although I think not enough to cause confusion.


#9

@aetheria

If you want the red bar to represent “Brutality” (as it does in the official example) then having it move TOWARD “finesse” does not make sense, visually, to a lot of people. This is, I’m sure, why the author of the official guide even points this out.

If it makes sense to you, to have a “slider” (which is essentially what the bar for the “opposed pair” stats looks like) which moves TOWARD a given variable indicate an increase in the OPPOSITE variable, I guess that’s fine, and feel free to continue using this method in your games, even if some will find it confusing. Personally I feel a greater number of people would find the visual interpretation of data to be more intuitive the way I wrote it.

That said, I’m merely writing this thread for those of us who recognize this as a problem, and providing what i feel is a simple and quick fix that is not mentioned in any of the official documentation.


#10

@iwilliam

I think you’ve got me wrong: I didn’t say that the current way opposed-pair stats are displayed is optimally understandable and that I would be using it in my own games. Just that the default appearance of stat bars is incongruous with their being used as a needle, so that both changing the direction of the motion for increased stats (as you suggest), and changing the appearance of the bar would be necessary for the most visually consistent display.

We may not completely agree, but I’m not trying to invalidate your concerns and suggestions.


#11

I don’t entirely agree that a change of the bar itself would be “necessary” for the easy understanding of most readers (if the method I outline above is used). I’ll use a “progress bar” as an analogy. You know… like when you’re installing software or something. The progress bar fills up, and when it reaches the end (the right hand side), you’ve finished. The way I see it presently, the opposed pair stat is like a progress bar which is written like this:

finished ________________ start

And progresses (as do all “progress bars”) to the right when “increased”. My suggestion simply flips the “finish” to the proper side of the bar, which is why I see it as perfectly understandable. I do see how it might seem otherwise if you’re accustomed to looking at that bar as you would a bar chart. On the flip side, bar charts typically do not have opposing meanings at opposite ends, but rather measure the increase of ONE variable.

I’m not trying to be argumentative or anything-- just making sure I’m describing this properly.

That said, I will absolutely agree that a functional “needle type” gauge (like on an oldschool speedometer) would probably be the most intuitive and user-friendly solution.

Not sure how friendly that would be on the coding-end, though.


#12

I just thought of another good way to explain my view. (And I swear, this will be the last one lol.)

You say the opposed stat variable could be better expressed by a needled gauge, which I agreed would be user friendly. The current bar can already function like such a gauge. In this case, it is the DIVIDING LINE in the opposed stat bar itself, which represents the needle.

If you picture it in this context, that is why I say that in the official example:

http://www.choiceofgames.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Screen-shot-2010-12-21-at-17.21.26-.png

visually speaking, this seems to indicate a meter leaning more toward “finesse” than “brutality.” I understand that the author intended this as a measure of Brutality (with Finesse being a “fake stat” as I tend to think of it) however, the “needle” (the bar’s dividing line) is at the 85% mark, which puts it closer to “finesse” than “brutality.”

In other words, the current opposed pair stat bar can be used similar to a needle gauge, where the dividing line represents the needle, if you simply put the stat you truly care about measuring on the right hand side. Had that instead read

Finesse________________I___Brutality

(where the vertical line shown here is the bar’s division point) The visual depiction would then match the author’s intention, instead of having a “needle” closer to the “finesse” end yet supposedly measuring a high level of brutality.


#13

Rest assured, you’ve described it quite clearly! :slight_smile: I think this is just a case of conflicting visual languages - in the default display of opposed pairs, the coloring suggests a bar graph while having stat names at either end suggests a needle/gauge.

I’ve actually got a rough demo of a needle-type display working now… I’ll write up a short scene to show some stat increases/decreases and see if I can get it uploaded to Dropbox.


#14

Sorry, but I do not think this is any sort of fix for it. I personally do not understand that whole “slider” concept you mentioned. It makes absolutely no sense at all to me. The way the stats are currently displayed perfect, as far as I’m concerned. If you look at an opposed pair, say Brutality and Finesse from Choice of the Dragon since that seems to be the common example, the red side (Brutality) gets larger the more you have of it. The blue side, Finesse, grows as you lose Brutality. Don’t think of it as two separate percentages: think of the stats as a singlular area where the two colors- red and blue- are the measures of the stats. The more red there is, the more Brutality there is, the more blue, the more Finesse is present.


#15

@iwilliam, while I take your point – please don’t feel you need to explain it again, you’ve been quite thorough – I’d offer for your consideration that the word “illogical” is the wrong one. This simply isn’t a case where everyone’s intuitions point the same way. What seems wildly counter-intuitive to you is an intuitive approach for others, not least the original designers of CS (Edit: and apparently @Galador). Where intuitions clash, as here, there isn’t a single logical right answer – however passionately you may feel there is.

But there are ways we could try to resolve the visual ambiguity between the “slider” and “bar graph” ways of seeing stats.

To my mind, the current setup has one feature which makes it somewhat inapt for “sliders”: the number. As you note, it’s coded to “hug the left,” so many people will naturally read it as applying to the stat they see there. In your Finesse-Brutality example, you suggest that nonetheless people would naturally read this:

Finesse 85 ----------!—Brutality

as “My Brutality has increased to 85%, because the number is high and the edge of the slider is closest to Brutality.” And fair enough, I can see that.

But using the current setup as you suggest, if you lost Brutality (and thus had high Finesse), you would end up with this:

Finesse 15 --!-----------Brutality

And I’m not sure how many people would naturally read that as “My Finesse is high,” let alone “My Finesse is 85%,” even if they found sliders more intuitive – the number gets in the way.

Confusion would be particularly likely in games where some stats are percents and others are opposed pairs – say, The Fleet. There you have unopposed stats like “Striker Coverage” and “Cannon Skill,” which are essentially sliders already, alongside opposed pairs like “Force-Elegance” and “Integrity-Deception.”

Your proposed “workaround” with the current CS setup would have the sliders moving in opposite directions – i.e. if you increased Striker Coverage, the number would increase and the end of the bar move right, but if you increased Force, the number would decrease and the end of the bar move left. Have a look at The Fleet if this isn’t clear (the free demo will get you far enough to illustrate the point).

So I’d suggest the ambiguity will be hard to resolve short of tweaking CS code. Perhaps, as in @aetheria’s excellent example, we ditch the numbers. Then we’re clearly in slider territory.

Or we could put a number at both ends of the scale, with each number aligned to the stat it modifies:

Brutality 15 --!-----------Finesse 85

Which would hopefully help people make the perceptual shift from seeing it as a rabbit to seeing it as a duck… excuse me, from seeing it as a slider to seeing it as a bar graph measuring two 100-sum stats.


#16

I think just removing the number would actually help A LOT…


#17

Yep, for my money that’s the main advantage to what @aetheria’s done. (Though the uniform color scheme also helps). Of course, in some games, it’s important to know your stat number. In others, the author might want to leave the precise stat ambiguous and just give readers a general sense of where they lie… a number-free slider could work very well for that.


#18

Look, the original bars seemed to make sense to me. I’m sure it applies to other ppl too. I’m not trying to shoot your idea, but it would just turn the confusion to other ppl. From ppl who see it as a sliding bar being confused, it will be ppl who see it as a stat chart being confused. We need a very clear way that everyone can understand for this to work.
Not trying to be rude, but your proposal doesn’t seem as easily understood as the bar chart. Just my thoughts.


#19

Now that I’m back from seeing The Hobbit, here’s a link to that demo: http://stormy-sierra-9950.herokuapp.com/web/mygame/index.html

(Incidentally, I should pass on that Dropbox doesn’t seem to be a good option any longer for free hosting… new accounts created after October - like mine! - don’t have a Public folder and can only share files as download links. Old accounts can still do it, though. I was able to do some trickery to deploy mine to my free Heroku account, but that’s not a terribly friendly option for most CS authors I would think…)


#20

In fact, you can enable your public folder by accessing this link:
http://www.dropbox.com/enable_public_folder