Friday, 26 August 2011

Tradeskillmaster - Part II Shopping Module (redux)

Shopping module

I missed a few important things I should have mentioned about this module the first time I posted this article so I decided to edit and repost it.

The Shopping module has 4 buttons in the main TSM window, Dealfinding, Crafting Mats, General Buying and Milling/Disenchanting/Prospecting/Transforming which put it into different sub modes.

Overall I have to give the Shopping module two thumbs down. Dealfinding might be ok for a casual player who doesn't scan a whole lot of different items or do much bulk buying but if you buy a lot of different things or regularly buy anything in bulk you'd be a lot better off using Auctioneer or Auctionator instead. The other 3 sub modes I view as being mostly superfluous, I don't use them and I don't see many others having much use for any of them either.

Don't take me wrong, overall TSM is great and I highly recommend most of the other modules but the Shopping module is just terrible.

I'd like to see a complete redesign of this module. Lacking that, at least fix the Dealfinding stuck scanning loop, shorten the time between clicks when buying, put all three Dealfinding skip/buy buttons into one group at the bottom of the window, change how Dealfinding lists are saved and sort the list of found items with the lowest price per unit items first. Otherwise just save yourself some time and use Auctioneer or Auctionator for buying items.

Shopping - Dealfinding

The Dealfinding part of the Shopping module is pretty basic. Basically it's TSM's version of a snatch list. It gets the job done if you only scan a few items but if you scan a lot of different items it's slow, buggy and annoying to use. Buying with it is slower than with Auctioneer or Auctionator. It has a very annoying tendancy to get stuck in loops scanning and rescanning a particular item until you close the auction and start all over again. There's significantly more time between clicks when mass buying than with Auctioneer or Auctionator.

Dealfinding lists are saved per character. I really, really hate this. It means I have to create a completely new list from scratch for every single toon I buy on and making matters even worse when I want to add an item or change a price I have log toons in and out and make the changes on all of them. I'd much prefer dealfinding lists be saved seperately from everything else (ala auctioneer snatch lists) or failing that saved per profile.

There's no sorting of the list of found items either and you only get to see the auctions one at a time so you have no idea if there are cheaper auctions behind the first one. When you're looking at 5000 auctions under your price it'd be nice to see the lowest priced ones listed first instead of listing them in whatever order they came up in during the scan and having to click through all of them one at a time to find the cheapest ones. I find this incredibly annoying when buying herbs, ore and volatiles which usually have many pages of auctions listed. Even if there's only a few hundred under my buy price, I'd still like to see the ones with the lowest price per unit listed first.

I don't care for the button placement. There are two buttons at the top, Buy and skip (a single auction), and at the bottom a "skip current item" button which skips all auctions of a particular item. It'd be easier to use with all 3 buttons at the bottom shortening the mouse move distance between skip current item and the other two buttons.

As in all modules the window is fixed to the right side of the main auction window (as are all TSM modules). I'd really like to have the window be made moveable so I can put it where I want it.

Another problem that also appears in other modules too is how tooltips often appear over other things preventing you from reading useful information until you move the mouse. For example when your mouse is over the Buy button the tooltip hangs down and often obscures important decision making information below like price per unit and stack size. This is mostly due to poor button placement. It wouldn't be an issue at all if the Buy and Skip buttons were at the bottom of the window as they should be. Really this is about ergonomics and following common UI design standards.

The stuck scanning loop issue seems like a classic infinite loop caused by a fence error.... While i <= 10 ... is going to loop forever if i never goes over 10... It happens mostly when TSM finds an item during the initial scan but can't find the item again when you click to buy it (probably someone else bought it first or it expired). It just keeps scanning and rescanning trying to find an item that isn't there anymore. There are similar looping issues in other modules too.


Shopping - Crafting Mats

This part of the module scans the auction for mats you need to complete crafting queues and adds them to a list that hangs off the bottom of the window. Personally I have no use for this shopping mode. All the crafting mats I use are already in my Dealfinding list which doesn't list mats priced over the maximum I'm willing to pay.


Shopping - General Buying

Superfluous, it's just a simple text search with practically useless optional maximum price and quantity settings. It's far simpler to use the default auction UI and if you want to filter your searches Auctioneer's search and sort functions are light years better.


Shopping - Milling/Disenchanting/Prospecting/Transforming

Another mostly superfluous module. A lot of work seems to have gone into this module with 2 different modes and multiple buttons to click but when you come right down to it, it's job is incredibly simple. Find items that can be broken down or combined into something selling for more. There's really no need for such a complex, clunky interface to do that.






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