The 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.
After 35+ hours, I’m finally getting to the point in Final Fantasy XIII where I need to use the map. Up until now it’s been a straightforward affair mostly consisting of following a hallway until the next cutscene. Back when FF XIII was in the news, this caused quite a stir among the Final Fantasy faithful. Personally I like it, because it lets me focus more on the storytelling of the game, and less on the getting lost in the forest.
Anyway, now that I’ve made it to chapter 11 need the map to navigate the Archylte Steppe, I’ve discovered a peculiar missing feature: north. The game’s map doesn’t have any way to tell which direction you’re facing. Which is made especially hard because the map is constantly moving depending on which way you’re facing. It does have one big landmark to help you out, but even that isn’t clearly marked. Let’s talk about the map.
While 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…
I played a lot of Magic: the Gathering for a few years back in the 1997 range. I spent a fair amount of time and money on the game, but eventually I ran out of people to play with, and that pretty much ended my Magic career. My wallet was thankful, though I always missed playing. Fast forward a few (quite a few) years to 2012 when Magic 2013 for iPad was released. Card games on the iPad seems to be a natural fit, and I was excited to pick it up.
Firing up the app for the first time, I immediately noticed how many screens there are before I could make it to the main menu. A few weeks ago I mentioned how video game intro videos must die, and it’s never been more true here. But it’s not just an intro video – it’s a whole series of screens that are absolutely useless to the user.
Borderlands is a series that’s absolutely driven by the desire to collect loot. When the original Borderlands was released back in 2009, I heard it referred to frequently as “the Diablo 2 of shooters”. It’s fitting then, that Borderlands 2 has a limited edition that comes with a replica loot chest.
All of the guns and other loot in the Borderlands series are randomly generated, and while the story is great, finding a legendary rocket launcher is really the reason to play. Collecting more and better guns is as good a driving force as any to play a game, right? But managing all that loot can be a challenge, and for a game that’s as loot-driven as Borderlands 2 is, Gearbox could have dealing with all of those sweet, sweet guns a little bit easier.