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

MLB 14 The Show: Menu Usability Misses

Console baseball games are few and far between these days. MLB 14: The Show is the latest entry in the Sony-produced series, and basically the only option for fans of baseball sims. It’s one of the first sports games to come out on the next-gen console generation (the PS4 in this case), and accordingly, it’s graphically quite sexy. If you’ve ever paid attention, crowds in sports games have been laughably terrible for a long time, so I’m excited to see some much-needed diversity in crowd animations.

Anyway, being a sim-style sports game, there are a ton of modes to choose from, and of course, an equal number number of menus to go through. I started playing through the Road to the Show mode, which has me creating and controlling a lowly minor league ballplayer. Playing through games earns experience, allowing me to build up my minor leaguer’s stats, and waiting for that call-up to the majors.

Along the way, MLB 14 has some difficulties in the way of usability. I almost expect it at this point – that these big sim-style sports games have terrible menus – but that doesn’t make it any better.

Continue reading

Quarriors! for iOS: A Brief Usability Review

quarriors logo

Quarriors(from WizKids/MFV) is a “dice-building” board game that’s been adapted to iOS. Board game to digital conversions are becoming more and more common, they offer some unique challenges that purely digital games don’t need to deal with. Not only do they need to make a fun experience, there’s also the need to emulate real-world components in a usable and realistic way.

With that in mind, today I’m going to run through a quick usability review of Quarriors! for iOS. There are four topics that I’d like to point out, and they are…

  1. Rolling virtual dice
  2. The GameCenter icon
  3. Chaotic notifications
  4. Visible highlights and hidden gestures

Continue reading

iOOTP 2013: Consistency Wins Championships


Out of the Park Baseball (from Out of the Park Developments) is a PC-based baseball simulation that started back in 1999. iOOTP 2013 is the most recent iteration of the franchise that was released for iOS in the spring of 2013.

Putting a fully-featured, text-based baseball sim on the screen of a mobile phone is no small task. All the “gameplay” of iOOTP 2013 is essentially done through a series of menus and tables. It’s complicated for sure, but so is baseball, and that’s kinda the whole point.

When dealing with a big menu structure in your game, website, webapp, TV, ATM machine, car wash, or anywhere else, one of the keys to making it usable is consistency. If whatever the interface is keeps changing on your users, it’s going to be frustrating. And in iOOTP 2013, there are a few places that are frustrating because of needless inconsistency in the menus – let’s take a look.

Continue reading

SimCity: Tiny Maps and Tiny Zooms

SimCity logoSimCity has had quite the launch to be sure, ending with the resignation of EA’s CEO. Through all the drama, there’s an incredible game hiding in there. In fact, it’s a bit of a miracle that I escaped the mighty mining town of Woodville long enough to type up this article (just kidding, it’s actually running in the background).

The internet has a lot of complaints about SimCity, at various levels of validity. The UI hasn’t been one of them, and that’s because it’s pretty good. A favorite feature of mine is all the various data maps you can turn on. This puts an extra layer of data right on top of your city, no extra screen required. However, despite the small city size (a common complaint for sure), you still can’t actually see your whole city if you zoom out all the way, making all those sexy data maps a little less useful.

Read on for more about tiny maps and tiny zooms in SimCity