Hearthstone: That New Card Smell

Hearthstone_LogoBlizzard’s Hearthstone (full name, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft) is a digital collectible card game that’s currently out on Mac, PC, and iPad. The obvious comparison is to the biggest CCG around, Magic: The Gathering. While MTG is a physical game that also has a digital component, Hearthstone is a purely digital game, designed to be purely digital. That poses both interesting challenges and opportunities.

Being a collectible card game, a huge hook of both of these game is of course, getting new cards. A recovering former MTG player myself, there is nothing quite like the experience of opening a new booster pack of cards. And while Hearthstone doesn’t reproduce that new card smell, it does go out of its way to try and evoke the same feelings as the real thing. Continue reading

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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Madden NFL 13 Social: A Terrible First Impression

Logo for Madden NFL 13 SocialMadden NFL 13 Social is a freemium title for iOS and Facebook that is some combination of the offensive side of the Madden NFL series and a collectible card game. But to be honest, I never really got far enough into the game to find out because of how ridiculous it begins.

Being a Madden game from EA that is free, there’s a certain expectation that advertisements and in-app-purchases will be plentiful, which is definitely true. True story, here’s the first thing that greeted me when I opened Madden NFL 13 Social for the very first time:

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Super Stickman Golf: Accidentally Quitting Mid-Round

Main menu of Super Stickman Golf 2The original Super Stickman Golf by Noodlecake Studios is one of my favorite mobile games (links to stores available here). It’s a simple yet challenging way to pass a few minutes of time. Everybody likes mini-golf, right? Super Stickman Golf 2 picks up right where the first left off, adding a few new features and a bunch of new in-app purchase options.

Merits of the upgrade aside, there’s one particular issue with the game that hasn’t changed between the two versions, and it has caused me a tiny amount of grief a few times now. When playing a single player round, backing out to the main menu doesn’t save the player’s progress, and the game doesn’t do anything to warn them of this either. Just like Microsoft Word prompts users before leaving changes unsaved, games always should tell the player before they lose progress.

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1st and Goal: Better Gaming Through Magnets

Box art for 1st and Goal board gameWhile thatgame’s(ux) has focused primarily on video games so far, tabletop games aren’t exempt from needing user-centered design. The design of the rules book is an obvious place that usability can step in, but well-designed packaging is another one, as well as the construction of the game’s components. Back in February 2012 we talked about the great “progressive enhancement” that takes place in getting Set (the card game) up and running for new players.

I recently played a game of 1st and Goal, a 2011 football sim board game (from designer Stephen Glenn and published by R&R Games), and I was struck by one tiny, amazing feature of the game. It features a magnetic football that sticks to the board. Why is this so awesome? Well let me tell you…

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