The concept of “information scent” is relatively simple: when a user is trying to find some information, they rely on clues in the environment to tell them if a given path is going to be worthwhile (wikipedia link on information scent). This is why link titles in websites are so important – hopefully, that link in the last sentence gives you a very good idea of what’s to come on the other side.
Juliet Starling, our hero
Lollipop Chainsaw is a hack-and-slash title that has the player playing a zombie-killing cheerleader (this makes total sense). While the game’s UI is super stylish in its comic book motif, I’m going to talk about probably the lamest possible part of this game – how it tells the player that there is new content in one of the menus. I know, with so many rainbows, sparkles, and other awesome touches on this game, it’s a bit of a tragedy…but somebody has to do it.
It’s a nitpick about how notifications are a little weird in the game, and a quick discussion on how information scent factors into in the UI of Lollipop Chainsaw.
Puzzle Craft (iTunes link) is a combination match-3 and town-building game out for iOS developed by Ars Thanea and published by Chillingo (owned by EA, but isn’t everybody?). It was released recently to much critical fanfare as a very effective time-killer, and in my brief stint with the game, I can confirm that it’s quite good at passing the time. This casual game dominates at the “just one more turn” trap that many similar games use.
What it’s not good at though, is following a variety of simple good usability practices, and these cause me a fair amount of mental anguish each time I encounter them. Like Joel Spolsky says, it’s the tiny frustrations that can make all the difference in usability, so let’s talk about five of them in more detail below.
Letterpress (iTunes link) is what you might call “the new hotness” on iOS these days. It’s in a similar category as SpellTower (iTunes link), a challenging mobile word game that’s as beautiful to look at as it is hard to put down. Letterpress’ author is the creator of Tweetie, Loren Brichter (currently of Atebits), and famously is credited with inventing pull-to-refresh.
Gameplay-wise, Letterpress is a word game that plays kinda like Boggle-meets-Reversi, with a few twists thrown in. But you probably already know all of this, as Letterpress has seen its fair share of press from major news sources (Macworld, The Verge, Touch Arcade, even The Telegraph among others). So in the spirit of the simplicity of the game, this won’t be an in-depth review, just a few thoughts on the four aspects that I noticed in Letterpress’ beautiful design that are simple, thoughtful, and maybe even sexy.
In comparison with the original, Borderlands 2 hasn’t changed all that much. Gameplay-wise it’s more of the same, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are definitely a few tweaks in the game’s framework – obviously new classes and skills, 87 bazillion guns, at least one new currency, and a lot more shininess in the UI.
And speaking of the UI – there was one relatively minor change that caught my attention. The Fast Travel Network screen shows players where the missions are that they need to complete right where they need to see it. I really appreciate tiny changes that make big improvements from game to game, and this definitely falls into that category. It’s not a new concept for sure, and it’s even been featured on That Game’s UX before from another game, but it’s still worth celebrating. Read on to find out more!
In last week’s article, I talked about how the crazy amount of loot and the lack of a good, simple method to compare items can make an otherwise great Borderlands 2 a sluggish inventory-management fest. After a little bit more playtime, I’ve come up with a few more usability related thoughts on this game including:
Various methods of picking up loot
How much I love the world map in Borderlands 2
Scroll bars are your friend
The skill tree is more focused, but probably less useful
Some unnecessarily sexy visual effects in the menu screen