Graphic user interfaces (GUI, pronounced "goo-ey") make or break computer programs. A good gui is worth its weight in gold while a bad one will make you throw your computer out of the window.
Recently I read the quote, "To users the gui is the program". Programmers tend to view things much differently than users. To programmers the gui is the "front-end" that has sparkling colors and other unnecessary eye candy while the "back-end" does the actual number crunching. To programmers the "heart" of the program is the back-end while users see the "heart" as the front-end.
I've worked a little bit on Pirates of the Spanish Main's back-end and I was thinking about the front-end. The difficulty is that I was going to use only 2D graphics, which is great for games like Pacman but not so good for good for other things. Limiting myself to 2D graphics means that Pirates would have an "overhead" gui, where you saw everything from directly above. While this might sound ok, in reality your ships would be only outlines of the hull.
Viewing a ship directly from above is very unexciting and the gui could show your ships in one color and the computer's ships in a different color but the overall game experience would be very abstract compared with the nice 3/4 view that the (now deceased) online game had which used 3D models. The 3/4 view is similar to Zaxxon. (Boy, I'm dating myself with the Zaxxon reference.) You can see videos of the online Pirates game here.
I'm still interested in trying to write a Pirates of the Spanish Main game but I'm not sure how to do it using only 2D graphics. Maybe I could simulate a 3/4 perspective by taking numerous pictures of a ship at different angles? Theoretically, I could use a 3D game engine but I think I would be in over by head. (JMonkey looks like a good 3D Java videogame library.)
Last night I played a few games with Magarena, a great Magic program that features a very good AI. I just marveled at how "nice" everything felt. Magarena feels like a real, commercial program because the gui is so nice and refined. It even supports creating your own themes so users can customize the icons representing your hand, graveyard, library as well as the wallpaper where the game is played.
I am going to try to create a gui for Forge that is similar to Magarena. I always figured that someone else would update Forge's gui but since that hasn't happened, I thought I would offer my meager skills. I know absolutely nothing about videogame programming but I did find a small, simple videogame library called fly that I plan to use. Magarena supports themes and I want Forge's new gui to support themes also. I actually plan to "borrow" Magarena's themes because they look so nice. "Good artists borrow, greats artists steal."
Keep on forging,
Link - Magarena's download site - It is a great program and the AI is very challenging.