Overlay => Avatar

It crashed, it is bugged, ...

Overlay => Avatar

Postby awballan » Sun Mar 21, 2010 6:07 am

I currently run a small murmur server for an online gaming guild. It took some doing to get them to switch from other products to using mumble. One of the huge selling points for the guild was the behavior of user "textures". Members loved the idea of having a single image to represent their character in the overlay rather then a text representation. The user "texture" behavior pre 1.2.2 is loved to the point where 90% of the users have custom user "textures" and there are two guild members who actively make user "textures" for new members. As a side effect, none of the users are willing to switch to 1.2.2 because of the change from "textures" to "avatars" which forces text names and shrinks the size of the textures due to the dimension changes.

I understand why the name was changed ("textures" does not tell users directly what the intended usage was). And yes, the new name is better and the new functionality matches the name "avatar" better the the old functionality. Being able to use video would be neat as well. However the dumbing down of the interface directly impacts the visual experience prior versions provided to the end users (and not in a wholly positive way).

I do not believe the change from "texture" to "avatar" was a good change. The old behavior was better suited for gaming communities, especially ones containing artistic and technically savvy users. Even the non technical and artistic users on the murmur server I host (remember couple users are creating custom "textures" for users who want a tag) like the "texture" mode better then the new "avatar" mode. In fact, having a tag ("texture") has become a mark of pride among the users of the murmur server I host!

I think at this critical juncture for the overlay, the intended use of mumble needs to be evaluated. Is mumble primarily for voice chat and the gaming community (where a tag representing a user is a nice feature)? Or is mumble going to go the way of skype and other voice chat applications and be geared more for Video Conference then gaming (where the video and avatar feature make more sense).

What I propose:
1) If avatars and video are a long term want/ need, implement them separate from the current functionality.
2) Keep the images used by both features separate in the database.
3) Call the old style "gamer tag" and the new style "avatar". This should clear up any confusion for users.
4) Allow users to change the default overlay functionality. First option "Gamertag, Text, None" second option "Avatar, Video, None".
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Re: Overlay => Avatar

Postby kissaki » Sun Mar 21, 2010 8:09 am

awballan wrote:Members loved the idea of having a single image to represent their character in the overlay rather then a text representation.

Aren’t avatars with their square size better suited for characters? After all they’re higher than wide.
You probably will not display those characters horizontally, lying on the ground or sth, right?

awballan wrote:I think at this critical juncture for the overlay, the intended use of mumble needs to be evaluated. Is mumble primarily for voice chat and the gaming community (where a tag representing a user is a nice feature)? Or is mumble going to go the way of skype and other voice chat applications and be geared more for Video Conference then gaming (where the video and avatar feature make more sense).

Er, what?
We’re not quite at videos yet and avatars have a lot of plus points compared to textures.

Textures with their 600x60 size did have some problems. They were mainly useable for changing the nickname style and maybe add something in front of it, in my opinion.
The change to avatars allows using forum avatars for example which will greatly improve recongnizability of them.

You may want to or have to wait for 1.2.3. The developer snapshot also has VAST improvements on handling it etc.
For example you can define yourself how the overlay avatars are sorted/displayed,
you can even smoothly move where your name, avatar, user-state-icon, the channel the user is in, or just hide them.
So it's all up to you. If you don't want names in the overlay a user can change it in his settings. Those who want it can still keep it.

Personally I think it was a very good move.
The square avatars are better suited for user images, the 600x60 textures were pretty useless for things different than styling the name.
Also, the configurability etc is vastly improved now and it's still being worked on.
So I can only suggest to you you should skip 1.2.2 and try 1.2.3 (or developer snapshots if you're a guy like that :) ).

1.2.2 was indeed a rather drastic move and confusing for a lot of ppl.
1.2.3 will finally add some awesome configurability which makes avatars a lot better than textures.


And
awballan wrote:3) Call the old style "gamer tag" and the new style "avatar". This should clear up any confusion for users.

I totally have to disagree with that.
I wouldn't dream of an image when talking about a "gamer tag".

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Re: Overlay => Avatar

Postby awballan » Sun Mar 21, 2010 6:53 pm

Don't get me wrong, I'm not totally against the idea of using avatars. I just don't think going strictly to avatars in the answer after having a feature as flexible as user "textures" in previous versions.

In my mind avatars are simple icons to be used along with text. Avatars tend to not define the user, rather they tend simply be a place to add a picture.
Textures have the ability to be used in place of text. Textures give the ability to define the user, rather then just display an picture.

I wouldn't dream of an image when talking about a "gamer tag".

Maybe I am using the wrong language. When I say "gamer tag" I envision something representative of a person (gamer). Not just their "handle", but who they really are! To me a "gamer tag" is something which can provide a window into their gaming style, background, history, dreams, and soul! And I wouldn't dream of text ever being a "gamer tag" in this context. Someone once said "an image is worth a thousand words" and I find an image a person uses to represent themselves speaks volumes more about a person then simply their name (or nickname).

When you dream, do you see text or images? I see images. An image can convey far more about a person then a simple word or two of text. To me a "gamer tag" is the "image" of the gamer, not just their name. I would imagine what you see as a "gamer tag" has been clouded by the advent of the XBOX, where "gamer tag" is a synonym for "nickname" or "handle". And I am sure many others from the XBOX generation will have the same preconception. In light of this, what would be a good name for what I envision?

Back on topic:
There are positives and negatives I see when considering Avatars and Textures.

Avatar Positives:
1) Small icon, less storage space, less bandwidth.
2) Familiarity. Many other communication systems use small pictures (with text).
3) Can provide standard library of images to use.
4) Simple, require no image prep by users.

Avatar Negatives:
1) Small icon, hard to see, hard to read, hard to distinguish.
2) Do not allow for a wide range of creativity.
3) Cannot contain readable text due to size.
4) Tend to be just "eye candy" alongside text.

Texture Positives:
1) Allow a wide range of creativity.
2) Allow for text alongside or over an image or collage of images.
3) Larger size, more readable, more visible.
4) Familiar to users of previous versions.
5) Allow users to create a "rich" representation of themselves.

Texture Negatives:
1) Larger size, more storage space, more bandwidth.
2) More complex, requires users to create an image.

Aren’t avatars with their square size better suited for characters? After all they’re higher than wide.
You probably will not display those characters horizontally, lying on the ground or sth, right?

Only if you are going to have text along side a picture is the square size better. On most high resolution monitors the new square size makes the images almost impossible to see due to the size required to match the height of text. Why bother with an image when many people are not going to be able to really see the image?

Textures with their 600x60 size did have some problems. They were mainly usable for changing the nickname style and maybe add something in front of it, in my opinion.

I disagree. Textures were representations of a person, not just an icon to the side or stylized text.

For example, the texture I use currently in mumble is much more. I use an image from NASA of a blue star. On this image I overlay the image from my signature here w/ silver edging on the text to make it visible. The resulting texture cannot be duplicated with the new Avatars. I have other users on my server who did similar things with mumble textures. I would be surprised if we were the only ones making a fuller use of textures in mumble then simply to style text and place an image to the side.

Even with the changes coming in 1.2.3, mumble will never be able to provide as robust a representation without allowing for full size image replacements to the text such as the 600x60 textures allow. This is why I strongly believe textures should not be removed in favor of avatars. Rather people should be able to use both.

People may have noticed I try to always be constructive, not just complaining but trying to find a viable solution. One such solution my mind has created to address the issues with textures and avatars; Give the option for users to upload a custom 600x60 image or use mumble to generate one from an Avatar and text. This would provide the best of both worlds; More creative or technically savvy users can create custom textures, and other users can quickly create a basic texture that is functional and looks nice.
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Re: Overlay => Avatar

Postby kissaki » Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:22 pm

Well, I still have to disagree.
Both avatars and textures are both images, so you can do the same things with one or another.
The only difference is the resolution ratio, 1:10 vs 1:1.
The avatar size (in kB) as well as in display (client setting) can be changed and increased. So avatars are not forced to be smaller. They even allow svg images now, so one could increase their display size without losing detail to any size.
And as I said, avatars don't have to be just eye candy alongside the username. Each user can set up the overlay the way they want it to be.

Due to the ratio and decreased default size, you're right. There's less space to put things horizontally one after another. But personally, I only used it for styling my name anyway.

And I still don’t get how textures would better represent a user than an avatar. One can put the same things in one or another. :)
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Re: Overlay => Avatar

Postby hacst » Mon Mar 22, 2010 2:23 pm

I can totally understand ppl. preferring user textures, they offer a great deal of freedom for customization. But unfortunately we had to make a decision there, usertextures had a number of drawbacks:

  • Unfamiliar concept for many users. (Works more like a signature)
  • Aspect ratio and concept unusable for video
  • No place to display status flags (muted/deafened) or channel
  • Cannot be scaled well because they might contain text
  • Allow impersonation
  • Usertextures weren't widely know, used or understood
  • Usertexture doesn't necessarily include nick and nick + usertexture is too big
In a tightly controlled community with creative minds most of this won't be a problem. But on public servers and for the average Mumble user especially the last point is a major pita. You have to get your users to create a unique texture with their name written on it in a readable way. We decided it would be best to go for the more traditional concept of avatars which has a lot of positive aspects:

  • An aspect ratio which is perfect for video
  • Make it easy to have personalized templates for placing names, channels, flags, whatever around the avatar (see latest snapshots)
  • Make sure you are always able to find out who you are talking to
  • Concept is widely known
I'm not sure how it would be possible, or even desirable, to make both concepts coexist at the same time. Of course we could have them as separate things with separate controls but one way of doing it would be the default and I'm pretty sure a gamertag feature pretty much noone knows about, that you have to enable manually and that won't be able to display anything for the majority of gamers is a bit useless.

I agree, this takes away a bit of freedom from the user but technical as well as usability wise I think will agree that the avatar concept has much less potential for trouble.
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Re: Overlay => Avatar

Postby awballan » Tue Mar 23, 2010 12:57 am

Both avatars and textures are both images, so you can do the same things with one or another.
The only difference is the resolution ratio, 1:10 vs 1:1.

So you are saying my 600x60 image will be fully visible and readable by default to users using a version which only supports 60x60 and will scale my image from 1:10 to 1:1? Think about it, mumble now renders by 600x60 as 60x1 or 120x2? They are not the same thing and you cannot do the same thing with one or the other.

dd0t: I understand and agree with most of what you are saying.

I must disagree with the showing name as a case for "Make sure you are always able to find out who you are talking to" especially on public servers where your name may never be registered. If people really need to know who they are talking to they should be setting up private channels, acls on the channels and/or requiring auth/reg users only.

As for the rest, you are right. The idea of an Avatar is easier to implement, easier to get people to use, simpler for the masses to understand, etc. Keep in mind however, there are ways to make both coexist and also ways to handle the potential drawbacks of having both.

Personally, I see no point to using images at all if the whole overlay cannot be fully customized. What is the point of an avatar or video? It adds nothing to recognition and wastes bandwidth and screen space. Needless to say, I am not a fan of the practice "dangle the shiny".

If anyone wishes to talk more about the overlay, feel free to contact me here or on the mumble server I host.
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Re: Overlay => Avatar

Postby sinvirus » Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:41 am

I agree much with ddot had to say avatars are more inclined for use because of the simplicity and knowledge of the avatar, but I love the use of textures honestly it is a big thing to me the use of textures because it its such a unique feature to me that set the use of mumble apart from other VOIP like TS or Vent.When I had made the jump to 1.2.2 I had to switch back to the older version because I wanted my textures back. I'm sure there is a way to make both avatars and textures coexist it would just take effort to do so , as I said I can see the simplicity of avatars but to me it the way it currently is does not make me want to take use of it. Our mumble users in my guild community love the textures in our server it defines who we are and has much freedom we do enjoy that the freedom is wonderful which is what attracted us to mumble in the first place was the freedom of use in it.
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Re: Overlay => Avatar

Postby slicer » Tue Mar 23, 2010 12:13 pm

The *default* avatar is 1:1, and the default layout assumes it is such. There's nothing stopping you from creating 10:1 avatars and setting up a layout to accomodate this.
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