I registered for this site just to comment on this post. 100% agree with everything said by OP. And also because I think lurking behind the irritating UX is a stunningly awesome game.
As a new user, it didn’t take me long before I was giving the game a “thumbs down” negative review on Steam. Such reviews affect your sales, which affects your profits, which affects your ability to keep developing games.
Here’s what I went through when I first started playing…
Main menu screen: It’s very badly designed. Whenever I see an opening screen like that, I start to worry – if the UX on the main menu is bad, the rest of the game is likely to be worse.
Suggestion: Full screen image background, with smaller menu panel in middle of screen. (See Cities: Skylines for an example).
When starting a new game, the UI remains cumbersome. In particular I clicked on the “Cogs” icon which switches to the advanced tab, but then clicking on the Europe tab didn’t take me back to basic tab. It was a while before I realised that there were tabs, because they don’t look like tabs. If they did look like tabs, there would be no need for the Cogs icon.
Suggestion: Make Basic and Advanced tabs look like tabs, remove the Cogs icon.
So, I finally get in to the game…
My biggest frustration by far was the “main line” feature. What the actual f*** were you guys thinking when you coded that pain-inducing feature? I just wanted to build some roads – my roads – and the game was throwing all these obstacles in the way. It’s as if the devs have chosen to punish me for purchasing the game. Long term players may enjoy the extra challenge, but for new users it’s major butt-hurt.
Luckily, community members over on Steam directed me to the bundled “no main lines” mod (which disables achievements, sigh) and the game suddenly felt playable, resulting in me changing my rating to a tentative “thumbs up” positive review.
Suggestion: The main lines feature should be an option, which is Off by default.
The next major frustration I hit was road upgrading. Want to upgrade those dirt tracks between cities? Sorry, you can’t upgrade the road because a rural dirt track to some industry you’re not planning on using is getting in the way. WTAF? So now I have to switch to bulldoze mode, which closes the roads panel (srsly, wtf?), and remove the offending dirt track (which would be impossible without “no main lines” mod) just so I can continue my road upgrades. Click. By. Click. By. Click. Can we not click and drag along a road to upgrade it rather than having to click. every. single. segment. one. by. one? My mouse is going to get carpal tunnel syndrome.
Suggestion: Auto-bulldoze offending dirt tracks if “main lines” are disabled.
Suggestion: Dirt track generation should be optional (default On) when starting a game.
Suggestion: Allow click and drag for road placement and upgrading.
Suggestion: Bulldoze tool should be separate button that doesn’t close whatever menu I had open.
My next frustration is with upgrading buildings. So much pain. When playing a game I enjoy challenges, not pain. I want to upgrade buildings like I can upgrade roads. Currently I can’t upgrade, I have to destroy, rebuild, and then deal with all the broken lines and groups, etc.
Suggestion: Add a “Renovate” button to buildings when a newer version of the building is available. Tooltip could show cost. Clicking button upgrades building in place without breaking lines, etc.
Suggestion: “+/- platform” buttons on rail stations. Auto-bulldoze anything that gets in the way.
Even upgrading vehicles is a world of pain. As I don’t want to delete all the vehicles (which would then mean I have to buy new vehicles and assign to a line), I’m looking for a way to quickly upgrade them – and not necessarily when they’ve reached a certain age.
Suggestion: Add an “Upgrade now” button to the vehicle upgrade panel = upgrade as soon as possible.
to be continued…