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When I started I was looking for something generic and not specific for a single game. After all I do play a lot of different Space Pew Pew.
I’m not a designer though and designing user interfaces is hard. For example what we usually get to see in Sci-Fi movies or games looks awesome on first glance but is usually not functional at all. As in ergonomics, options or even overview.
There are places that have some good pointers, on this topic, like www.hudsandguis.com, that also has a book (which I found lacking but I’m not really the targeted audience).
In the end I ended up with a wild mix of elements from shows like
Battlestar Galactica, real jets and other planes and even from
The Expanse and
Most important were the backlit buttons for me. Did I mention that I like “real” buttons? Something with tactile feedback? Blame my childhood for this. I grew up with buttons on everything and the most fanciest displays ever: Vacuum Fluorescent Displays. I even fiddled around with CSS effects to mimic a VFD (in places - all was just too much).
I also added hexagonal status indicators, because nothing says Sci-Fi more than hexagons, to the mix. In case you wonder if I used a 3D printer for that: Nope. That’s basically a plastic cap for protecting the bolts of the rim of a car wheel. I just cut off the cap and stuffed a LED inside. Didn’t even glue them together. A wire fixed all in place which allowed me to move the segments around. They were never attached to the panel.
For starting everything up I used a multi staged switch that I salvaged from an old heater. We all know that any plane/craft in movies starts after switching the three magic levers. This was mine 🤓
The panel itself was put on stilts for the extra room required. This had the nice bonus that the keyboard could slide under the panel when not needed.
The ICP in the centre was created with a dedicated new cardboard box that was attached to the button box with tape. This also acted as a hinge so I could “open” it to work on the buttons that went there. The backlit buttons took their time to arrive and I had salvaged place holders for quite a while. I also eventually got switches with integrated LED and safety that I used for fire and forget functions like launching a missile or activating self destruct.
In the beginning I even had tape with scribbles which button does what. The backlit buttons have a cap that can be popped open for an inlay but that is a lot of work and since I was not yet sure what comes where I just used my improvised post-its for quite a while.