Historically, I’ve had a problem with Final Fantasy games. For whatever reason, it takes me forever to finish them. Usually, I’ll get about a third of the way in before I get distracted for a long time. Then when I return, I have totally forgotten the story, and it’s really hard to get back into the groove of the game. Especially one as story driven as the Final Fantasy series is.
Finally, after enduring many years of “hey can someone explain the ending of this game to me” with Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy XIII has made a simple change that has made me really happy. As soon as you start loading the game, recent plot events are relayed to you on the loading screen! Let’s have a quick look at this small but much appreciated usability-enhancing feature.
Lollipop Chainsaw is, undoubtedly, a high-score fest. Destructoid’s review compares it to the SEGA classics House of the Dead and Crazy Taxi – odd comparisons for a hack and slash game. But it’s true, much like the game of Diablo III has barely started by the time you beat the story once, Lollipop Chainsaw begs to be played again and again so you can rack up a massive score.
Okay, score is important in Lollipop Chainsaw, what’s the big deal, and how is this related to usability at all? It’s how the score is presented to the player. It looks like the game is producing some seriously fuzzy math, and it’s an example of how important it is to mind your users’ expectations.
I’m finally getting around to playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. I know, where have I been, right? Nearly all of my friends across the gaming spectrum have taken their vacation into Tamriel and are back again, so I’m a little late to the party. But for a game that’s won so many Game of the Year honors, it’s better late than never.
I’ve just gotten a handful of hours into Skyrim on the XBox 360 so far, and I’m already noticing a few questionable usability decisions. I mean, it’s definitely sexy, but the game has a whole mod (SkyUI) dedicated to fixing its menu system – that’s not a great sign. I’ve got four little complaints already, so without further ado…
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.