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Tag Archives: game usability

The Science Of Usability Testing

From unskippable cutscenes to galvanic skin response, we investigate the world of videogame user research.

Difficulty spikes, unreliable checkpoints, context-sensitive buttons that might open a door, but might bounce a grenade into your lap instead: these things matter. “Every moment in a game, you’re bleeding players,” says John Hopson, Bungie’s user research lead. “Hopefully, you’re bleeding them as slowly as possible. The most powerful thing I ever did on Halowas make a graph showing how many players we lost each mission. We had these people: they bought the game, they wanted to play, and we failed them.”

Usability testing didn’t start with videogames. It started with product development of a more domestic stripe: with teapots, toasters and car dashboards. Although designers have always spared a thought for their audiences since the days of Jet Set Willy – it’s hard to make even the simplest videogame without thinking of what the player’s going to do or see from one second to the next – it’s only become a serious issue in the games industry relatively recently. Yet with no bespoke track at GDC, no standardised terminology, and no agreed best practices, usability may be gaining respectability, but it’s still one of the least understood aspects of design. That poses some interesting questions. How does the industry approach user research today, and why has something so fundamental waited so long to be taken seriously?

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Designing Social Network Games with SoPlay Heuristics

Better Games Through Usability Evaluation and Testing

No one wants to play games that are either frustrating or difficult for the wrong reasons. The best way to make sure that unintended problems do not hinder enjoying the game is to take usability into account in game development. This article presents how this can be done and what kind of results to expect.

Usability is an integral part of software development and has been so for the past 20 years. For one reason or another, usability has not gained similar popularity in game development. This, however, is about to change. Ease of use and optimal user experience are already important in games and will become even more so in the future.

What is Usability?

Usability is about maximizing effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. This definition originates from the traditional software industry, but it translates well to game development. In games, usability is about delivering a better and deeper experience with less unnecessary interruptions or challenges that have not been designed by the developers.

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Gaming Usability 101

This list of ten features should be embraced by game designers

Steve Krug argues in his book Don’t Make Me Think! that a good program or product should let users accomplish their intended tasks as easily and directly as possible. The less time it takes a person to complete a desired task (even if only by a few seconds), the more satisfying it becomes. When that happens, people are more likely to use a product in greater frequency and return for more. So in the spirit of improved usability, here are ten standard features every videogame designer should embrace.

1. Never ask a player if they want to save their game.

Should you give players the option to save their game (and that’s entirely up to you), don’t ask them if they want to save upon reaching a designated checkpoint. Of course players want to save a game when given the privilege! Asking a gamer if he wants to save his progress is like asking a movie buff if they want to watch subsequent chapters of a DVD. Don’t disrupt the game experience with an obtrusive pop-up. Simply display subtle on-screen text that says “Saving” as popularized on consoles by Halo and be done with it. To ensure gamers can play back their favorite levels, don’t overwrite level data. Rather, keep tabs on a gamer’s progress and grant them access to the areas they have already visited.

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Usability Testing: Face the Fear and Learn to Love It

[Blitz Games Studios studio development director Chris Viggers explains how user testing revealed flaws in player interaction with two of the studio’s Kinect titles — and how the flaws challenged the assumptions of the development team.]

It’s popular, it’s a buzzword, it’s a growth industry and many developers are afraid of it, but what exactly is usability testing and how can it be used to create ever more compelling entertainment?

From a developer’s perspective, at its core, usability testing is something that tells designers, artists, coders, animators and managers what they are doing wrong. It is human nature to try to avoid any sort of pain (mental or physical) and many of us struggle to accept criticism, even when that feedback could lead to a better end result.

In addition to the problems of essential human nature, the games industry is changing even more rapidly than before and our creations are being experienced by more and more people, and ever more diverse demographics, each one with their own expectations of how they want to be engaged while spending their precious time on our games.

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