The UI is now mostly in place. The main menu and chat panels are placeholders, but the mini-map, dialogs, and ability windows are fully in and looking great. Using Unity's newer UI I've been able to add neat little touches like sliding animations when objects appear and disappear.
A neat concept I am trying is to use the main menu panel as the host for most of the auxiliary windows. It raises and lowers from the center bottom, and switches out the menu panel with other information as needed. For example if a player hits the "Achievement" button on the main menu, that entire panel will lower, switch content and raise up again with the relevant achievement stats. I felt this would continue my strive for a "clean" design by minimizing the number of windows that can appear on screen.
Unfortunately not all is happy in the world of UI programming; the Mini-map will probably need to be redesigned. To me, the mini-map plays an important role in helping the commander stay informed with the battle field and place to quickly glance to check for approaching visible enemies. I'm trying to capture this in my design, but each zone (at least the ones I'm testing with) are 2000 by 2000 units. With the current mini-map size of 230 by 230, each pixel of the mini-map equates to about 9 square units. That is not very good resolution for what I want to accomplish.
There are a couple of ways around this, but I'm trying to figure out which would work best for how I feel players will use the mini-map in my game. I could display unit icons on a mini-map within a scroll panel; the map itself will limit how far out it can zoom. I call this design a "local map" and I envision it being someone a player brings up to view as they search for where to go. I also thought about attempting a duel-monitor map similar to one found in Supreme Commander. This style gave the player an entire screen of a mini-map, or a second camera to watch other map locations. This would be a lot of work, and I'm not sure it would give my game any large benefit. Finally, I thought of doing away with the mini-map or showing only a small compass map (i.e. the visible range of the commanding unit) to focus more on close squad-based combat.
Ultimately my choice may be made based on how play testing goes and feedback. No matter which style I end up choosing, I am planning on implementing alerts to flash on the screen (and which ever mini-map implementation I choose) telling the player where their units are in danger.
Next week: Map design, unit template cleanup, database cleanup, and the starts of resources!