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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Forza Horizon: One Amazing Tutorial

Title screen for Forza HorizonThere are many different tactics that video games use to introduce players to the game’s basic functions. Some are closely integrated into the story, others are clearly outside the “normal” experience of the game. Mass Effect 2’s tutorial is yelled to Commander Shepard over the intercom system as a high-pressure situation unfolds immediately upon opening the game – it’s very integrated into the gameplay. Final Fantasy XIII’s battle tutorial does take place during a real battle, but it breaks the normal flow of battle and there is a lot of reading involved (not to mention a big flashing “TUTORIAL” in the upper left corner). Ghost Trick for iOS has an even slower and more text-heavy tutorial that is actually quite irritating for a mobile title.

Forza Horizon for the XBox 360 is an open-world racing game, and it may have the best tutorial that I’ve ever seen in a game. In fact, if you’re not paying attention, you might not even notice it’s a tutorial – and that’s a great compliment. Read on and I’ll break it down to show you the magic of a non-tutorial tutorial.

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Puzzle Craft: Good At Killing Time, Not Good At Usability

Puzzle CraftPuzzle Craft (iTunes link) is a combination match-3 and town-building game out for iOS developed by Ars Thanea and published by Chillingo (owned by EA, but isn’t everybody?). It was released recently to much critical fanfare as a very effective time-killer, and in my brief stint with the game, I can confirm that it’s quite good at passing the time. This casual game dominates at the “just one more turn” trap that many similar games use.

What it’s not good at though, is following a variety of simple good usability practices, and these cause me a fair amount of mental anguish each time I encounter them. Like Joel Spolsky says, it’s the tiny frustrations that can make all the difference in usability, so let’s talk about five of them in more detail below.

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Diablo 3: Auction House Usability Revisited

It’s been a few months now since Diablo 3 was finally released. In that time we’ve covered usability issues with the Diablo 3 auction house twice now. And Blizzard hasn’t been resting either; a frequent stream of patches has brought changes large and small. Most recently, patch 1.0.4 made a handful of changes with the auction house aimed at improving its usability.

So lets take a look back at our previous articles on the topic and see what has and hasn’t been addressed in the original list of complaints.

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Game Accessibility Guidelines for Everyone

Recently, a project arose to create a list of game accessibility guidelines in the form of a living document style website. In the last couple of weeks it was released as the very appropriately titled www.gameaccessibilityguidelines.com. Accessibility in games isn’t something that’s regularly covered here on thatgame’s(ux), but it’s super important. The site references a recent survey in which 15-20% of casual gamers reported some form of disability.

So gameaccessibilityguidelines.com gives game developers a simple, understandable checklist of ways to improve the accessibility of their games, ranging from easy to hard. This is awesome particularly for disabled gamers, but implementing many of the guidelines will benefit everybody. I’d like to take a quick look at a few of my favorite guidelines that I wish more games had just for the sake of usability. Continue reading