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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Stay Closed: A Tale of Two Tiny Board Game Boxes

I’m a fan of board games. I’m also a fan of good design. Naturally then, I’m a fan of well designed board game boxes. I’ve backed a few board game related Kickstarter projects in recent memory, and there are two that have particularly standout packaging – in both good and bad ways.

On one hand, we have Dungeon Roll with a shelf-unfriendly box but a perfect touch on a closing mechanism. And on the other hand, The Great Heartland Hauling Co. features a great travel-sized box that will probably dump its contents all over your bag if you attempt to travel with it. Read on for more!

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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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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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