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Node Editor Confusion for New User


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#1 JamesB

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Posted 01 April 2014 - 09:27 PM

Hey all!

 

First off, let me first state that Genetica is a pretty amazing program.  I don't mean for my post to sound negative, since there's a lot about the program that I really like.  However, I think feedback from new users when they're first learning how to use a complex program is helpful as well.

 

I saw a post by some poor user complaining that he couldn't figure out how to edit nodes without creating a nightmare of groups and references, and no one caught on that this was because of some bizzare interface choices.  No amount of browsing examples will fix this, because it's an interface problem, and I was doing the exact same thing he was doing. 

 

Here's what I was doing, trying to simply link two node together:

 

* Right-click somewhere in the node editor, and then insert a node.

* Drag the output of some other node to the node I just inserted.

* Become helplessly confused as I get dropped into a group with references, etc...   Argh... what?

 

That's the kicker - that dragging the output from one node to another doesn't simply link them together, but instead forms a group with references (I'm still learning how that works).

 

I'm completely mystified why what I did initially creates a new group.  It's unbelievably counter-intuitive to me.  If you insert a new node, and then drag the output of a node to that node, the default behavior should be to wire those two nodes up, not to create a new node group.  Literally every other node-based editor I've ever used has worked this way, so it's not surprising that new users would become hopelessly confused by it at first.

 

So, I've been trying to figure out how to make this more intuitive for new users.  Here's are some potential solutions:

 

1) Perhaps dragging and dropping should simply link the files by default.  In order to create a group, you need to hold down the a modifier key (like CTRL or ALT).  While dragging, you could display a pop-up hint somewhere that reminds the user of this.

 

2) When you drag the output and connect, pop up a dialog or menu asking the user to create either a simple link or a new group.

 

In either case, it might be best to add some preferences to allow power-users to revert to the current default behavior.

 

You might argue that having to hold down CTRL or ALT to create a group is also somewhat unintuitive, and I'd tend to agree.  However, this is tempered by the fact that it's a more advanced feature, and the on-screen hint should help with this to a degree.

 

At the absolute least, there should be a specific tutorial or topic on node editing in the help file, as this was one of the most important and initially confusing aspects of Genetica to me, as I kept trying to connect nodes the "wrong" way.  This key piece of information on how to connect nodes is only found in the "Weathering a Texture" tutorial.


Edited by JamesB, 05 April 2014 - 08:26 AM.


#2 Silkrooster

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Posted 02 April 2014 - 09:25 PM

This tutorial will explain it for you.

 

http://blog.spiralgr...n-genetica.html



#3 JamesB

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 02:18 PM

This tutorial will explain it for you.

 

http://blog.spiralgraphics.biz/2011/04/manipulating-nodes-in-genetica.html

 

Thanks, but my feedback was primarily on the confusion when using the drag operation from an output node to a free-standing node, which implicitly creates a group.  This page and video speak nothing about that process.  In the video, the group is only shown after creation.

 

I may be alone since experienced users are accustomed to how Genetic works at this point, but I think that a lot of the unintuitiveness of Genetic comes from limitations in the basic node editor - it's not a free-form editor like every other node editor I've ever used.  Thus, the weirdness of "references" in the group (why not just show a link to the input up top?  That's all it really is), and the bizzare convention of having to drag and drop the nodes to connect them instead of dragging links between them.

 

Honestly, I don't care so much for myself at this point, because I've figured it out now at this point, and shouldn't have any future issues.  However, I'd like to see this product flourish, because I think it's a pretty amazing program from what I've seen.  And I have to say, there was almost NO way to intuitively figure out how to use this program without a hint that was buried in the help file, or has to be seen in a video to understand.  How many people download the demo, can't make heads or tails of the node editor, and give up (we just saw that in another post)?

 

I'm still learning the program, so I may change my mind, but at the moment I can't see a good reason why Genetic can't use a more intuitive node editor, except for the fact that it would require quite a bit of work to rewrite that part of the code.  By "more intuitive node editor" I mean it works as follows:

 

* Nodes can be dragged arbitrarily around the graph while maintaining a connection.

* Groups of nodes can be selected by left-click dragging, and moved together

* Connections are created by dragging the output from one node and dropping it on another.

* Dropping a node on top of another replaces it (and keeps inputs)

* Dropping a node on a connection line inserts it into the chain.

* Connections are broken by right-clicking a node or connection line and selecting "Disconnect"

* Groups are created by drag selecting a group of nodes, right-clicking and selectin "Create Group"

 

In general, I've noticed Genetic tends to use some very bizzare user interface conventions, and I feel this tends to make the learning curve more difficult than it needs to be.  For instance, "documents" are placed on a vertical tab to the left.  The menu is shoved all the way to the right (bleh!).  All very non-standard choices.  I can guess at the reasons for these decisions (screen space optimization?), but again, it makes things very difficult for the new user to initially figure out, or uncomfortable at the very least.  A non-standard node editor is just another one of these inexplicable design decisions.

 

There's a lot about the program I do like: the huge selection of nodes to work with, the ease of working with the advanced nodes, adjusters, and the amazing versatility of the program in general.  It's for that reason that I'd really like to see some of the rough edges (at least, rough from my perspective) polished up a bit.  Note: I'm not complaining about a general learning curve.  I understand that it takes time to master any complex software.  I've tackled more than my share of extremely powerful and complex pieces of software before, and I'm willing to put in the time with this one as well.

 

Well, I've given my $.02 I guess.  Whatever comes of my feedback is out of my hands.  Thanks for listening!



#4 JanLien

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Posted 03 April 2014 - 04:57 PM

I can see your point. I had the same problem at first but now I find the way the drag operation works very useful. Older versions of Genetica used only the Group node to achieve the same thing but I consider the way Genetica 4.0 works more flexible.




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