Civilization V (Steam link) is the most recent iteration of the legendary Civilization series of turn-based strategy titles. I have a soft spot for the series, but I haven’t played many just due to my inability to stop the “one more turn” syndrome. They are epic, complicated, and detailed, and have the incredible ability to destroy large blocks of time in one shot.
Since this was the first Civ title (excluding Civ Revolution) that I’ve played in a long time, I figured I would play through the tutorial. While the tutorial is for sure a tiny version of a real game, it isn’t like a 5-minute romp – there’s lots of text and details to read, which I thought was a good idea. But strangely enough, despite what could be a relatively lengthy affair, Civ V doesn’t support saving of the tutorial. At least, that’s the conclusion I came to, because the game sure doesn’t make that clear.
The other day, I was watching a playoff baseball game, and in an attempt to keep my mind off the baseball game, I decided to fire up Civilization Revolution on my iPhone. While it’s a definitely cramped on the iPhone, it’s still a great game for the mobile setting – easy to pick up for just a couple of minutes (in theory anyway), and balances complex gameplay with simple enough controls to make it a fun and rewarding diversion.
While I spent most of the baseball game conquering the Russians (they were in my way, what could I do?), I didn’t get to see my civilization rise to its true glory. Not because the Americans were about to breach my defenses, but instead, the game silently refused to save my game. This is a UX disaster – read on to hear the whole story. Continue reading →
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.
By all accounts Brutal Legend was a game that wanted to be noticed. Unfortunately it wasn’t always for the right reasons.
One thing that was universally acclaimed about the game was how it was absolutely dripping with personality. This was clear by the main menu, which was built to mimic an old vinyl record. The game’s intro video claims “it’s not just going to blow your mind…it’s going to blow your soul”. By strict usability measures the menu isn’t perfect, but I’ll take having my soul blown over Jakob Nielsen’s approval any day of the week!
World maps are a standard-issue feature in games of all kinds of genres, and have been for a long time. In many games the map is a critical feature, and gamers are constantly flipping to it in order to avoid getting lost. For PC gamers, this is usually straightforward – there are a lot of keyboard keys available to enable direct access to the map.
Gamers playing on a console don’t have it quite as easy. In fact, sometimes it’s downright hard to figure out where you’re going. Let’s talk about three different patterns console games have used for getting players to the map screen:
Directly access the map
Use a status menu
Use the pause menu
Of course, not that we needed to ask for directions…