WWE SuperCard: Onboarding

wwe supercard logoWhen I heard there was a digital CCG coming out in the WWE universe…I was confused more than anything. After hearing that WWE SuperCard (iTunes, Playwas downloaded 1.5 million times in the first week and a half of being available, I knew I had to give it a shot (for science!). After two days and some sore thumbs, I can see why it’s so popular.

But before a CCG can start hooking players into that sweet, sweet drip of new cards, it has to get players in the game first. Lets take a look at what all of those 1.5 million players had to get through before their first match in WWE SuperCard!

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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.

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DOTA 2: I Need A (Random) Hero

Dota 2 is the Valve-produced sequel to a Warcraft III mod, Defense of the Ancients. The original DotA is credited with being the first in the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre, and I give it credit for many long nights in the computer lab in college.

MOBAs are known for a lot of things, but one of them is definitely not friendliness to new players. The genre is complicated, and competition is serious. League of Legends has a championship series, and its Season 2 finals were the most watched e-Sports event in history – featuring a $1 million prize to the winning team.

That said, even e-Sports superstars were new once, and it sure wouldn’t hurt for Dota 2 to show a tiny bit of love to noobs like me. While there are lots of complicated parts of the game that are just inherently complicated, one that shouldn’t be is the hero selection screen. It assumes that you must be a pro if you’re picking a hero at random, but it would be an easy fix to make the game a little more accessible.

I need a hero

Dota 2 is a five-on-five game, with each player picking a hero at the start. As of the moment, there are over 100 heroes available! Here is the hero selection screen:

Hero selection screen in DOTA 2

Hero selection screen in DOTA 2

The upper-left is one team’s heroes, and the upper-right is the other team’s squad. Easy enough. There’s a nifty “Cover Flow” like structure in the middle with what looks like baseball cards for each hero. It’s not the most efficient way to display heroes (even Apple has given up on their Cover Flow), but there’s an option for a grid in the lower-right if you prefer. Let’s look a little more closely at the hero though, that’s what we really want to focus on.

Selecting a hero

Selecting a hero

In the upper-right, the hero’s primary attribute is listed. Strength, intelligence, or agility, this part is pretty straightforward. The one pictured here is strength, so there’s a fist, no big deal. Underneath the primary attribute, there are a few icons that list other general attributes of the hero. This hero is listed as “durable”, that he will “last longer in a teamfight”. This is great information to know, although the icons are something you’ll need to learn for sure.

Finally, each hero has thumbnails of their abilities listed at the bottom. This is what makes the hero unique, and it’s critical to playing them successfully. If you’re a pro, the tiny images are probably helpful, but for everybody else, these images are rather pointless. “Oooh this ability looks like an explosion!” You’ve got to hover over each one to get an idea of what it actually does. It seems like this information could have been fit on the screen somewhere.

Something not explicitly listed for each hero (although it is in a filter at the top) is if the hero is ranged or melee. If you ask me, that’s a good, basic piece of information that I want to know.


Anyway, that’s not even the point of this article. For me, I like to experience a variety of heroes, so I make use of the “pick a random hero feature”. You even get a bonus 250 gold if you’re letting the game lock in your hero for you at random. So when you pick a hero at random, here’s what you get:

A randomly selected hero

A randomly selected hero

Notice the distinct lack of information here about the hero. The only way to even get the name of the hero that you got at random is by looking in the log. All that information that was listed above, it’s not on this page anymore. You can put items on your hero, sure, but that’s all.

Suddenly, being able to hover over those ability thumbnails seems like an awesome feature. You need to click the “return to browsing” button to get back to the screen with those details on it, though it was unclear to me exactly what ramifications that action would have. As it turns out, you can return to browsing heroes as much as you want, no big deal. I was a little nervous the first time I saw it, being afraid that I would lose my selection.

The “Pick” button with an X in it does NOT mean “lock in my pick”, however – it means let me select a new hero while taking a gold penalty. It does tell you that while hovering over, but a little more descriptive text right on the button wouldn’t hurt my feelings any. Like, “Repick”? Or maybe “Remove Pick”?

Okay, so maybe I’m the only person that was confused about these buttons. The point is though, I would appreciate a little bit more information on the random hero selection page.


It’s worth mentioning here that randomly selecting a hero is a terrible way for new players to get good at this game. It’s way more effective to pick one hero, and learn all the mechanics of that hero and the game at large (there’s a lot to learn) before branching out to more heroes. Also, there’s a “spin to random hero” action that just selects a random hero and doesn’t lock them in. This lets players have a chance to inspect the hero first, but there’s no gold bonus for this.

That said, I’m sure even expert players would appreciate a little easier way to see what abilities are on the hero that they just randomly selected – there are a lot of heroes, and unless you’re on the e-Sports tour, you might not have every ability memorized.

What do you think? Is selecting a random hero a “pro” enough feature that it shouldn’t need to contain niceties like a big hero name and ability list? Express your opinion in the comments below!

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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Diablo 3: Auction House Usability Revisited

It’s been a few months now since Diablo 3 was finally released. In that time we’ve covered usability issues with the Diablo 3 auction house twice now. And Blizzard hasn’t been resting either; a frequent stream of patches has brought changes large and small. Most recently, patch 1.0.4 made a handful of changes with the auction house aimed at improving its usability.

So lets take a look back at our previous articles on the topic and see what has and hasn’t been addressed in the original list of complaints.

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