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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Origin: A Classic Example of the Diagonal Problem

EA’s Origin service launched back in June 2011 as an EA-only version of the Steam digital distribution platform. I haven’t had a lot of need to use it until recently, when the Sim City beta launched (which by the way, I am excessively stoked about). When I fired it up this weekend, I recognized a classic usability problem that I really thought we collectively had defeated already: The Diagonal Problem.

Screenshot of EA's Origin with an arrow indicating the diagonal problem

Failure is imminent.

As far as I can tell, Jakob Nielsen coined this term back in a 2009 Alertbox article titled “Mega Menus Work Well for Site Navigation“. The problem can occur in any kind of poorly designed hover menu – when you have a small label that displays a big menu on hover, if the mouse ends up temporarily outside the path of the active item, the menu will close.

Here, I recorded a short video of the situation in Origin…

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