Dota 2: Die Less with a Hero Build

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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.

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Rogue Legacy: It’s Hard to Quit (No, Literally)

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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.

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Hotline Miami: Meaningful Backtracking

Cover of Hotline MiamiGiant Bomb defines “backtracking”, in part, as the following:

“Backtracking is often a derogatory term used to describe a situation in a game where the player must return to previously encountered locations in order to continue advancing the game”

Most of the time, backtracking is annoying, even when realism-wise it’s a little dubious how the game’s hero is able to make it all the way out of perilous situation X while off camera. But as is usually the case, the real answer on backtracking is “it depends”. Sometimes, in small doses, it can be very effective.

Hotline Miami (Steam link) is a super-violent action game that has earned a lot of attention as an indie PC title released in October 2012. It uses backtracking in a brilliant fashion – to really hammer home the game’s own meta-commentary on violence in games.

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Lollipop Chainsaw: User Expectations and Fuzzy Math

logo for Lollipop ChainsawLollipop Chainsaw is, undoubtedly, a high-score fest. Destructoid’s review compares it to the SEGA classics House of the Dead and Crazy Taxi – odd comparisons for a hack and slash game. But it’s true, much like the game of Diablo III has barely started by the time you beat the story once, Lollipop Chainsaw begs to be played again and again so you can rack up a massive score.

Okay, score is important in Lollipop Chainsaw, what’s the big deal, and how is this related to usability at all? It’s how the score is presented to the player. It looks like the game is producing some seriously fuzzy math, and it’s an example of how important it is to mind your users’ expectations.

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Lollipop Chainsaw: The Information Scent of Notifications

The concept of “information scent” is relatively simple: when a user is trying to find some information, they rely on clues in the environment to tell them if a given path is going to be worthwhile (wikipedia link on information scent). This is why link titles in websites are so important – hopefully, that link in the last sentence gives you a very good idea of what’s to come on the other side.

Lollipop Chainsaw - Juliet Starling's face

Juliet Starling, our hero

Lollipop Chainsaw is a hack-and-slash title that has the player playing a zombie-killing cheerleader (this makes total sense). While the game’s UI is super stylish in its comic book motif, I’m going to talk about probably the lamest possible part of this game – how it tells the player that there is new content in one of the menus. I know, with so many rainbows, sparkles, and other awesome touches on this game, it’s a bit of a tragedy…but somebody has to do it.

It’s a nitpick about how notifications are a little weird in the game, and a quick discussion on how information scent factors into in the UI of Lollipop Chainsaw.

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