Title screens and tutorials are both topics that I’ve covered before on thatgame’s(ux). I complained about the epic hand-holding tutorial in Ghost Trick. I wondered if title screens only exist to waste my time, and later declared that intro videos must die. Today I’m offering an example of how to do both of these things right, and even on the same screen.
The mobile game Quento (iTunes link, also quento.com) from Q42 features an exceptionally clever start screen that doesn’t teach the whole game, but it does a wonderful job at introducing the game’s core mechanic to the player. Finally, a game that doesn’t just want us to mindlessly “press start” for no good reason!
EA’s Origin service launched back in June 2011 as an EA-only version of the Steam digital distribution platform. I haven’t had a lot of need to use it until recently, when the Sim City beta launched (which by the way, I am excessively stoked about). When I fired it up this weekend, I recognized a classic usability problem that I really thought we collectively had defeated already: The Diagonal Problem.
Failure is imminent.
As far as I can tell, Jakob Nielsen coined this term back in a 2009 Alertbox article titled “Mega Menus Work Well for Site Navigation“. The problem can occur in any kind of poorly designed hover menu – when you have a small label that displays a big menu on hover, if the mouse ends up temporarily outside the path of the active item, the menu will close.
Here, I recorded a short video of the situation in Origin…
Way back in iOS 3, Apple implemented the “shake to undo” feature. This means if you’re typing, say, a text message, and you want to “undo” your text, just shake your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. While it’s a cool trick, this isn’t the most usable feature that Apple has ever implemented. It’s both hidden and unintuitive. And I’ve definitely triggered it more accidentally than I have on purpose.
Quento (iTunes link) is a stylish puzzler for iOS (and Android, and Windows 8, and Chrome) that looks a lot like Letterpress except it substitutes simple math problems for word problems. It’s a good distraction for your brain, but unfortunately it’s also a good example of how not to implement a shake feature in your game. Shaking your phone resets the board, causing you to lose all your progress for that level – without any warning.
10000000 for iOS (by EightyEight Games) is an awkwardly-named (iTunes link) “Dungeon Crawling RPG Matching Game”. Yep, it’s a match-three tile matching game built into an RPG. And despite the odd mashup of genre and strictly numeric title, it’s actually quite good.
Here’s how it works: you control a hero who’s forever running to the right. Occasionally your hero is stopped by an obstacle – a monster, a chest, or maybe a door – and you need to match key, sword, and magic stave tiles to help defeat said obstacle. When you’re not slaying monsters and running exclusively to the right, you can also use some other resources that you’ve gathered like wood and stone to upgrade your weapon, armor, and a variety of other perks.
With those basics out of the way, I’ve got four usability related topics to discuss:
- Main Menus are for Suckers
- Your Hidden Health Bar
- Armored What?
- Sometimes, Load Times are Good…
While thatgame’s(ux) has focused primarily on video games so far, tabletop games aren’t exempt from needing user-centered design. The design of the rules book is an obvious place that usability can step in, but well-designed packaging is another one, as well as the construction of the game’s components. Back in February 2012 we talked about the great “progressive enhancement” that takes place in getting Set (the card game) up and running for new players.
I recently played a game of 1st and Goal, a 2011 football sim board game (from designer Stephen Glenn and published by R&R Games), and I was struck by one tiny, amazing feature of the game. It features a magnetic football that sticks to the board. Why is this so awesome? Well let me tell you…