I think it’s fair to say that Valve’s Dota 2 is an intimidating game for new players. There are a lot of choices to be made at every turn – over 100 heroes to pick from, each with their own set of abilities, and lots of different items to purchase to fit a variety of strategies. Plus, it’s a team-based player-vs-player game, so you need to have a good deal of teamwork to be successful.
Thankfully, Dota 2 has gained a number of features that are designed help new users get their feet wet in this deep pool of gaming goodness. I’d like to take a minute here to point out one of my favorite features, Hero Builds. A Hero Build is an in-game, user-contributed strategy of how to build out your hero. And they are awesome.
Rogue Legacy from Cellar Door Games (Steam link) is a rogue-like platformer that is difficult to quit for two reasons. One, because it does a good job at activating my “just one more turn” syndrome. And two, because it’s not immediately apparent how you actually quit the game.
After booting up your game, there’s only one thing you can be sure that players will actually do – that’s leave. Like death and taxes, it’s inevitable. So, you might as well make it easy to find. Let’s look at how Rogue Legacy handles it.
Out of the Park Baseball (from Out of the Park Developments) is a PC-based baseball simulation that started back in 1999. iOOTP 2013 is the most recent iteration of the franchise that was released for iOS in the spring of 2013.
Putting a fully-featured, text-based baseball sim on the screen of a mobile phone is no small task. All the “gameplay” of iOOTP 2013 is essentially done through a series of menus and tables. It’s complicated for sure, but so is baseball, and that’s kinda the whole point.
When dealing with a big menu structure in your game, website, webapp, TV, ATM machine, car wash, or anywhere else, one of the keys to making it usable is consistency. If whatever the interface is keeps changing on your users, it’s going to be frustrating. And in iOOTP 2013, there are a few places that are frustrating because of needless inconsistency in the menus – let’s take a look.
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer is a deckbuilding card game that’s been ported to iOS (iTunes link) and is on its way to PC and Android. If Dominion and Magic: the Gathering had a baby, this is probably what it would look like.
If you’re not familiar with any of these, that’s okay. The point is, it’s a card game that has a lot of stuff on the screen – there are a lot of moving parts. The developers are trying to take a game that is played on a table and squish it into an iPhone, and that’s not always an easy task.
Ascension, like a lot of games, only displays in landscape mode. It has made me realize just how wide my iPhone 5 is. This is because depending on how I’m holding my phone, certain drag actions in the game are really difficult to pull off. Let’s dig into an example.
I recently started playing Lord of the Rings Online (also known as LotRO), an MMO from Turbine that was originally released way back in 2007. I really don’t have very much experience with MMOs – I played a little bit of the first Guild Wars back in the day, but I didn’t get real far.
I do, however, have a lot of experience with world maps – see posts on Final Fantasy XIII, Mass Effect 2, Borderlands 2, The Witcher 2, and even one on different ways to access the world map. Despite the game originally coming out 6 years ago, I’m still nominating Lord of the Rings Online to have the worst world map ever.
I’ve limited myself to three major beefs with this map:
- The quest markers are barely visible
- Places that are zoom-able aren’t labeled at all
- The various hint texts on the map aren’t consistently located, and zooming out isn’t real intuitive without it