32 yr old gamer/father/worker/student. I write for AltDevBlogADay and SFX-360.com
Posts by Jason Harris
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Game Design / Technology/ Code /

I am well aware of that many posts have been made regarding usability. Unfortunately, no matter how much we talk about it, you can easily find bad examples of it everywhere. I am currently using the WordPress Android app, and that is what started my need to post this subject.

The app itself is a very great idea that can be very useful to many people. When I found this app on the marketplace, I felt that I had found my saving grace to help my blogging career.

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This was me when I found this app. Installation carried the typical android ease, but once I tried to log in things went downhill.

 

I literally spent about 4 hours trying to understand the log-in interface, and while there was some idiocy on my part, the integration of hosted and not hosted web sites could be a lot easier. For example, why is it not explained in plain language that you need to choose a separate option to log-in if your website is not specifically www.wordpress.com? Sure there are a lot of people out there who would get it without that. Unfortunately, you have that large majority, like my idiotic self, that will not get it until they are so frustrated that they are literally past the point of screaming out of anger at their droid.

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The same issue applies to our games. There are many times that I hear people say that they do not like to play a game because it is too cumbersome.

I hate to keep picking on the free to play games, but Forsaken World is a perfect example. The story lines and overall game design are excellent, but the experience, in my opinion, is completely ruined by the controls and UI. Many gamers that I talk to will only play games made by Perfect World because they are on low-income but still want their MMO fix.

Then there is the ill-fated Lair for the PS3. This awesome storyline and visually enthralling piece of art was doomed from the start. Why, you may ask, if the game was so artfully inked and written, would it be doomed to failure? Two words, Six Axis. The over use of a cumbersome and at the time unknown controller gimmick was the reason why this great game was such a failure. While flying, the dragon tilts and turns according to how parallel the controller is in relevance to the gravitational pull beneath you. (So if your room is slightly slanted, level with the floor is wrong.) Then there are the tricky wrist movements and quick motions that must be made in order to complete actions in flight. The only one I was ever able to do successfully and repeatably was the "looping reverse", where you swoop the controller down and up in a forward motion, and the dragon does a half loop-de-loop to quickly go in the direction he just came from. Overall, I firmly believe that if this game had more support from the non-six axis parts of the controller, the usability, and also the sales, of this title would have been much more fiscally productive.... not to mention that the players would be over joyed. This game was almost the answer to every dragon fanatic's prayers. Too bad the usability team dropped the ball.

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This is not the way it should be! Great games deserve recognition. To get that recognition, the     players need to be able to enjoy them. Constantly having to adjust camera angles and control maps do not allow for good game play. Imagine that you are playing a 3rd person shooter. You are online with your friends, using the game as a contest. The person with the lowest kdr (kill to death ratio) at the end of three matches is the poor schmuck that has to buy dinner and beer for the whole crew at Usability Sucks Workshop (tm). You are using the standard shotgun and grenade load-out to get the most "bang" for your buck. In the middle of the match, you realize you are having issues with the camera, because you cannot lock the camera to follow. You also realize that the camera controls are mapped to keys that are too close to the movement and attack keys, so while fighting your view (and targeting reticule) are jerked away from the target. You also cannot remap these keys, because your team wanted to ensure everyone had the same (miserable) experience with your product.  In the end, because of the usability issues with this game, not to mention the horrible UI that gave you a migraine while playing (due to poor layout, color scheme and small font size) you end up having to pay the bill for the team's party, but do so from your bed while nursing that migraine.

This, naturally, will lead to poor customer response and reviews of the game, and most likely, if shipped in this poor state, will cause Usability Sucks Workshop (tm) to go out of business not long after launching their flagship title.  I mean, who wants to play or recommend a title that causes headaches and nausea?

As a group, the gaming industry needs to take a stand on usability. Bring in the most non-game savvy people available for play testing. If they can get the hang of it, then our job is done!

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Please, support usability, and remember, bad games make baby Jesus cry. Don't make Jesus cry on his birthday!

Happy Holidays!