MLB 14 The Show: Menu Usability Misses

Console baseball games are few and far between these days. MLB 14: The Show is the latest entry in the Sony-produced series, and basically the only option for fans of baseball sims. It’s one of the first sports games to come out on the next-gen console generation (the PS4 in this case), and accordingly, it’s graphically quite sexy. If you’ve ever paid attention, crowds in sports games have been laughably terrible for a long time, so I’m excited to see some much-needed diversity in crowd animations.

Anyway, being a sim-style sports game, there are a ton of modes to choose from, and of course, an equal number number of menus to go through. I started playing through the Road to the Show mode, which has me creating and controlling a lowly minor league ballplayer. Playing through games earns experience, allowing me to build up my minor leaguer’s stats, and waiting for that call-up to the majors.

Along the way, MLB 14 has some difficulties in the way of usability. I almost expect it at this point – that these big sim-style sports games have terrible menus – but that doesn’t make it any better.

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Retro Gaming UX Fails: Choosing Plays in Great Football

Title screen of Great Football for the Sega Master SystemThe Sega Master System was the 8-bit console of my household back in the day. Without a Tecmo Bowl to be had, Great Football was my American Football game of choice (i.e. the only one). If you haven’t heard of it, that’s not surprising – it doesn’t even have an entry on Wikipedia (yet!).

Great Football was released way back in 1987. For the sake of reference, Windows 3.0 was still 3 years away, and even Mac OS’ System 6 wasn’t released until 1988. Don Norman’s now-classic The Psychology of Everyday Things (later The Design of Everyday Things) wasn’t published yet either. So usability…was a little different back then.

Great Football for the Sega Master System was a pretty typical 8-bit sports game, and to be honest, it hasn’t aged well. There are lots of reasons why, but one thing that particularly stands out as being extra terrible is how the players have to choose a play.

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Xbox SmartGlass and Forza Horizon: Cool Tech, When It Works

Forza Horizon logoBack in November 2012, Forza Horizon was one of the first games to get support for Xbox SmartGlass. If you’re unaware, Xbox SmartGlass is Microsoft’s “second-screen” technology for users to enhance their Xbox experience via a tablet. It’s cool stuff that I briefly talked about back in November when it first came out.

Forza Horizon is one of the seven currently-released games for Xbox 360 that actually supports SmartGlass – and the only one that I own – so I was excited to give it a try the other day. Its big feature in the game is to offload the map to your tablet, making it a little easier to navigate the game’s big open world. In my limited testing so far, this definitely falls into the camp of a promising technology that just doesn’t nail the execution.

Read on for more of my experience with Forza Horizon and Xbox SmartGlass

Final Fantasy XIII: Know Your Role (and Your Paradigm)

Title logo for Final Fantasy XIIII like the Paradigm system in Final Fantasy XIII. It’s taken me a while to get used to it, but I’ve finally decided that Paradigms are a good thing. It’s similar to the Dresspheres from Final Fantasy X-2 though you’re controlling all of your characters at once, as opposed to just one at a time.

Setting up your Paradigms effectively is an important part of the game. If you’re in the middle of a big battle and discover you don’t have the right combination of roles, it might be a long and painful fight. Despite there being only six slots for Paradigms, it’s still a minor pain to get everything setup correctly. And – here’s my primary issue with the system – every time characters are switched in and out of your party, all your Paradigms are reset, and they all have to be configured again.

Ready to find out more? Not sure what I’m talking about? Read on!

Dungeon Raid: We Need Invisible Fingers

Title logo to the game Dungeon Raid LiteAfter my article on 10000000 for iOS, I got a recommendation to check out a similar iOS title, Dungeon Raid (iTunes link). It’s a tile-matching game that has slightly different gameplay, but a common RPG element put on top. If you ask me, anytime you can solve puzzles and upgrade your weapons, it’s bound to be a good time.

And it is a good time. However…there’s one problem, while not unique to this game, that I’ve found particularly irritating here. The big benefit to touchscreens, of course, is removing that disconnect between you and your content that’s caused by a mouse and keyboard. Unfortunately, not only is your finger significantly bigger than a mouse pointer, it’s also attached to your hand. So when tapping items on the screen, your finger has a nasty habit of covering exactly what you want to look at.

Read on for exactly how this happens in Dungeon Raid.