#2 [usability review]: Tape it Up!

As part of my challenge of gathering 30 game usability reviews, I’ve been collecting some mobile games (and other games if I have the opportunity to play them) and writing about them as a cool exercise (why not?).


Figure 1. First screen of the game Tape it Up! Dev: Devsisters corp.

What is the game about
This is a mobile game designed for Android and iOS platforms. In the game you are a “tape” and you need to run through the boxes in a “factory” (Figure 1). In order to win the game you have to swipe left/right and avoid falling in the empty spaces. Sometimes you can fall into boxes with prizes and you may collect letters that would give you a limited power-up/advantage. I’ve tried this game in an iPhone.

Link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tape-it-up/id1147622827?mt=8


Figure 2. Gameplay

Pretty good things:

a) New characters = new assets. The utilisation of characters and assets is very good and the changes in the game scenario, sound and character makes it more interesting for the player, particularly because those changes are not predictable. For example, when the character is a film, the whole scenario changes to “film” (Figure 2).

b) Ability to try new characters. After losing, players can try new characters for free. However this is only temporary. If the payer doesn’t play attention, after using the new character she will be charged.

c) Visualisation of achievements (from Game Center). Although it would be good to see this in the game itself, when the player receives the notification that she has collected a number of points or coins without stop, it is very gratifying.

d) Game goals are clear and easy to play. When the player starts, there is a small tutorial that is part of the game and the controls are very simple. With the swipe and tapping to get some speed, players might feel very familiar with the controls. It works well in a mobile phone and players could play with both hands or one. Since the gameplay is short, the game could be suitable for people who doesn’t have enough time to engage with long gameplay.

e) FEVER. Collection is a key component is this game and it is what makes it pleasurable. The FEVER letters are fun and the changes in the scenario and music are very well-designed. It would make players collect more letters.

f) Question mark boxes. All question mark boxes are very good since it makes the player more curious. When the player unlocks a new character, there is an animation of the boxes and the character appears (Figure 3). Although the player knows the selected character, the idea of something being “hidden” is very pleasant.

g) Collecting daily gifts. The idea of collecting gifts is very good and the animation in the street makes it more special (Figure 4).


Figure 2. New scenario for the “film” tape. Dev: Devsisters corp.


Figure 3. Unlocking a new character. Dev: Devsisters corp.


Figure 4. Getting your gift in the middle of the street. Dev: Devsisters corp.

Some design aspects that could be improved:

a) Why do I get a “reward” that is a video that stops my experience? When you jump in the box with the question mark, there is the possibility to get a video jumping into your face. Suggestion: I would remove this. Personally, I think it takes the fantasy away from the game and it forces the player to accept the video after playing very hard in the game.

b) What is the real reward of the game? Not sure if the scores matter as much as getting new characters or unlocking new content. You can see the scores, but there is no real comparison since your position might be very far from the top ones. Suggestion: At the end of the game, maybe the comparison table could appear in order to show the player that she is almost there. Or maybe the scores could be more obvious. For example: beat your score to unlock xxxx. If the player is playing with Facebook integration, maybe the screen of comparison could appear after gameplay. With that, players would be able to compare their scores easily.

c) The game gets repetitive. The gameplay is very simple and repetitive. Although this is not an issue, in this game it is very obvious. Since the beginning is the same (always), it can become a bit boring. Suggestion: once the player unlocks new characters, designers could not only change the scenario and assets, but also give the character new features or change the position of the boxes for a while.

d) Jumping into another level. This feature could be good in order to make the player pay with virtual money to jump into another level. However, since the gameplay is the same (maybe just harder), this function might lose its purpose, unless the player can see the progress from other people.  Suggestion: add something for the player to look forward to in the higher levels. Maybe in the level 10, the factory is prettier or there would be a “boss” there or something that actually requires the player to jump to another level. For example, Temple Run used to do something like that in their first game, in which players could see the distance of their friends.

Have a look at the gameplay here:

Sustainable actions through Design: 6 insights and ideas [#sdc17]

On the 18th February 2017, I’ve attended and helped to promote the Sustainable Development Conference, hosted by the Southampton Hub and supported by the University of Southampton – very cool partnership – all created by students from different levels, undergrads, postgrads, PhDs, etc. It was a very good experience (I was a volunteer) and I’ve learnt so much that I would like to share with you. The conference had two themes at the same time: the sustainability and the international development. I was full time in the sustainability side and I will post some notes from my perceptions as a designer (and game designer) from the sustainable side of things – and how can we promote “small actions” to perform a “big impact”.

1. Community design

We live in a community – and this is not only about “society” itself; it is about local communities, people-oriented, people helping others, people making things – PEOPLE. As Seb Mayfield mentioned in his talk, sometimes we feel overwhelmed by the many actions we could take to be more sustainable, but the feeling that we are part of something bigger could help to decrease this “anxiety”. He mentioned about the Circle of Control and the Circle of Concern, in which we can influence people based on where we live, what we do, etc; instead of worrying too much about the natural disasters for example, which is something difficult to control. This shows that being part of a community makes sense and could reduce this “anxiety” of changing the world with just our hands. That is, looking at your surroundings can help you not to feel too overwhelmed.

The idea of community is a key aspect in sustainable living. For example, there is the Repair Cafe, organised here at Southampton, in which people can take their broken things and there will be people in this cafe that could help you to fix broken things: electronics, clothes, anything. In the cafe, people give advices if it’s worth repairing or throwing away. Also there are many activities involved. For example, sewing it’s another form of repairing. That is, knowledge is shared among the community and it becomes something like people helping people, giving value to the “social capital“. Food has also a big impact in communities.

Another example is from Friends of the Earth. They are working with schools in order to raise awareness about the Bee cause. Children grow many different flowers around their schools or hospitals. In the end is all about aesthetics and pollination! They also had a limited gardening for people recovering from stroke.

2. Tiny habits

We should be also thinking about doing small steps. Seb Mayfield said that it is good to grow our own food and in fact, growing our own food can bring many benefits to our mental health (see image below). Thus, growing our own food is more than just having a healthy diet. Seb mentioned that it gives us back “control” over our diet, over our body and over the environment. Thus, when we think about habits, we should start small, like growing pea shoots and in 4 weeks, it is possible to see the results!

Another thing to think: Did you know that even having a shower, you can be more sustainable? Choices of shampoo and even drying your hair could influence the environment. Soooo many things! In the talk about Eco Hair, shampoo choice and other things were very interesting to think. If we put in the paper, there are many things we can do for the environment and perhaps, the way advertising shows shampoo products and our habit of cleaning our hair might change. Sometimes, we learn from our parents – perhaps other lessons can be taught in that level.

3. Storytelling

The talk about Transition Southampton started with an important perspective about what it means to do a transition towards a sustainable life. For Clare and Angela, “Transition is about telling stories”. There were many concerns about clean air and super homes. For example, in the Super Home project, people can visit homes that are very sustainable and “green”, in order to feel more inspired. You can book to visit homes like that. Super cool. It is a way to tell stories about how people do things and feel inspired by them. In this Super Home project, people can also see the heat map from the homes to see if there is any heat coming from different parts of the house. Another example is the action of free books. TheTransition Southampton team showed that we can leave free books in different places like a train station for example – and people could help themselves to read while they commute. Simple as that! Storytelling can be also present in clothing. Do you know where your clothes are from? You might. But do you know ho made it? How was it made? No. Asking for information crucial! Products should tell these type of stories as well! Have a look at the Labour behind the Label website for more stories around clothing and fair working conditions.

In the talk from Friends of the Earth, Gill showed many examples of community engagement in schools. For example, they invited children to write post card for the world! They had in total 1600 postcards in the end and they’ve presented that in the London climate march. What a beautiful way to engage children and tell stories to the world. Gill also showed the example from Oswaldo bikes to Paris, using social media to raise awareness about the environment!

4. Designing Choices

The UK is still behind the Netherlands in terms of the use of bikes to commute or transport. As mentioned in the talk from Sustrans, 65% of people use cars for trips that are less than 5 miles. Another important message is that we need to first empower, then make people aware and then promote activities. That is, if there are no choices or if people can’t have access to the choices, then the action failed. See the photo below!

Seb Mayfield also mentioned that food poverty is not because of lack of food, it is how we are providing food. That is, things for us to think as people and communities on how do we grow our food and how do we share it. Also, it is possible to grow food everywhere. This guy here has built many vertical gardens! Thus, we can apply this to big cities as well. But I can imagine that in terms of design, this might be difficult. But in some cities they are already planting food on the top of buildings. It is like a combination of current possibilities with adaptations in order to become more sustainable. That is, we can do things in small spaces that would have a big impact.

5. Experience Design

Things should last longer than they do. This would increase the level of experience that people have with things and bring more value to them. In her talk, Dr. Emma Waight talked about being materialistic, in a way to value things and not replace them every time – things should last longer! And we might create more emotional links with things, giving them more value. This shows that experience design is key when looking for sustainable actions. What Emma said is that materialistic values are all about measurements: it’s all about more and we put responsibility on stuff. She also mentioned that second hand shopping is one example of people giving value to things that will last longer, but still the main reason why people buy it is because of the price. In the end, people buy second hand goods to save money. However, there is a movement towards vintage shopping as a style and people creating an identity around vintage look. 

6. Calling people to action

Interestingly, in many of the actions showed in the talks, there is an element of “fun” and humour involved in the message. For example, in the talk from Sustrans, a campaign called for “Tax your thighs instead” and “Love handles”. Creativity here seems to be the strategy – together with fun aspects. I can see that there is room for a little bit of game actions here. The movement towards vintage shopping as a trend could be one way to call people for action. It is a way to combine sustainability with style or sustainability with identity. If we can send the message as identity through sustainability, perhaps it will last longer. People might adopt sustainability as a lifestyle and influence others around them. Another aspect to think about is clothing. When talking about fair conditions and fast fashion, Nicola from Labour Behind the Label mentioned that there is a lack of information and lack of transparency  and we should ask brands to give more information. Also, we need to place more value in the clothes, instead of just changing our clothes because of fashion trends. Someone also said that we need to “Change the red carpet to the green carpet”! Why not? Another thing mentioned by Gill from Friends of the Earth is about showing signs around the campus or around places. She said that when there are eyes, people want to take the action! Signs need to be friendly!

Imagine the amount of things that we can do! Each city has a different problem. In the case of Southampton, I believe that the issue is engaging more and more people to have a sustainable life. Many students from the University are here just for their courses and they don’t create a bond with the environment – sometimes it lacks of a link. It is our role as designers to not only engage these people but to also engage everyone around us. We can start small, design our own choices, plan properly our meals and transport, for example, and then help others. But as designers we also need to make sure that we empower people – we need to make the choices available. And then we need to make people more aware of the options. Can we redesign packages and add new information that was missing? Can we create games that will promote a conversation between people and brands? Can we promote games that are critical and will change people’s behaviour? Can we influence people’s habits by designing new choices? What can we do? Reflection time.

15 Lessons from #gamesUR conference

It’s been more than 1 year since last Games User Research conference that I’ve attended in London. I was looking forward to this year’s edition! Last Friday, 30th September 2016, was a very special day. During the GUR conference we had the opportunity to meet professionals and academics from the games user research industry and academia. The conference was in the same place in London, near Holborn station. I had to wake up at 4h in the morning to be there on time! :)

The conference was organised in several sessions that addressed different aspects of Games User Research. I think that the best thing this year is that they brought more aspects from the industry, as for example, communications within teams and how to build your career as a GUR professional. On the other side, we had talks about including games user research in the University as a module of games design and the differences between GUR in the industry and in the academia. Different methods, such as the use of eye-tracking and diary studies for games user research were also discussed. We also had topics around accessibility and cutting-edge technologies like virtual reality.

In this post I will try to briefly explore, explain and mention the 15 main points and lessons that I’ve taken from this conference.
1. Eye tracking is a window to attention dynamic. We have different ways to process information in time. Shape, size, colour, motion, and emotional content are attractive factors and the position of these elements also influence attention. We need to think strategically while analysing eye tracking data in games user research, particularly because each visual element transmits a message.

2. “Is the player looking at how the designer expected?”. By using eye tracking in games user research we could try to map these dynamics. This is very similar to the lesson number 1. The research question here is about expectations, positioning and design.
3. Games User Research as a module in BA education. With a module that explores theory and research, it is possible to include GUR at Universities in the Undergraduation level. Theories like fun and flow, engagement, challenge and difficulty are a few examples. Students can learn research tools so they can test their own games.


4. Transferable skills are crucial for GUR. Yes, students and professionals should have good transferable skills as, for example, communication, cooperation and interpersonal skills. Empathy, leadership, collaboration and oral and written communication are also a few skills in this list.
5. What makes a good games user researcher? When looking for a career in GUR, it is crucial that you know that games user research means and what it really means to be a good games user researcher. You should be able to review games, use the right vocabulary and communicate a clear message to your audience.
6. Communicating with everyone is crucial. Communication is definitely a key aspect in GUR. For example, stakeholders need to be aligned in order to avoid invalid research questions.
7. Write clear and concise reports. Think about your audience. Developers could misinterpret the reports and take the wrong actions, due to the lack of consideration of the whole report, including the solutions and suggestions.
8. Academic GUR vs. Industry GUR. In the academic world, games user research usually summarise the findings and it utilises “finished” games, whereas in the Industry is more “formative”, influencing the development stage.


9. Indie studios need training to be able to do games user research by themselves. Indie studios could playtest their games in their own houses as one way to address GUR in a more viable way.
10. Never underestimate diary studies! You need time to analyse and write your report. Giving support to players is also necessary.


11. Need for haptics! Clothing, hardware, lights, vibration – make use of haptics to replace or reinforce the audio cues that gamers depend on, while designing for deaf audiences.
12. “Designing for a specific group doesn’t mean that it only has benefits for that group”. Look at your core audiences when you’re testing your game.


13. There is a need for a new grammar for interaction design in virtual reality. This could be undertaken by creating conventions and affordances.
14. Cyber sickness and comfort play are the main concerns in terms of VR. Make sure to recognise the symptoms of sickness in VR: opening mouth, heaving breathing, replacing chair, doing nothing in the game, moving at slow pace.


15. Network. Doing networking and playing games after the conference was great. I really had the opportunity to know more the people involved in the conference. Always make sure to network. :)

I believe that the main points from this day just highlighted the importance and the role of Games User Research as an activity and as a mindset. GUR is not about finding bugs. GUR is about people. GUR is about understanding what people do in games and why they do this – and how the games (developers and designers) provide such interactions. GUR is about a conversation. It is about communication and it does not happen in a vacuum! We need to know how to communicate the research findings in a quick and easy way.

I will definitely share my notes from each talk in further posts. See you all in 2017!

For the full conference, please watch:

And if you want to know more about GamesUR, here is a nice video:

#EWIGCONF 2016 – Design challenges in Virtual Reality games

VR and player comfort
In early September this year (2016) we had the opportunity to attend to the European Women in Games Conference 2016 at the Greenwich University. It was a very good conference, lots of great people from both industry and academia, asking questions about the games industry, diversity and cutting-edge technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR).
In this post I will try to bring a little bit from 1 session that I’ve attended: the VR workshop.

The main topic of the workshop was “Presenting the main issues while implementing Virtual Reality”. In this talk, Laura Dilloway from Guerrilla Cambridge introduced us challenges and possible guidelines for the creation of games in VR environments. I might say that most of the content in the talk was new to me. Laura showed the case of the RIGS Mechanized Combat League, the new game from Playstation that features a combat with robots in different arenas.
First of all, VR is quite new, so we could ask questions like if there are different rules and possible different gameplay in games that use VR, for example. Some of the design challenges are related to player immersion and presence like:

  • Giving the player a body
  • Correct the placement of camera
  • Physical body motion
  • Enduring that everything is in the right place

In fact, as designers we have to review the way the player perceive the world as the position of the camera is crucial.
There is also a challenge related to the sense of scale, which could be conveyed by other elements in the game environment. Crowds and doors are a few examples. The assets need to be in realistic sizes.
Another aspect mentioned by Laura is that when creating in virtual reality you need to test it all the time. We should not underestimate VR! The relationship between 360 movement and fixed point should also be considered.
In the end of the day, interface design is the main strategy when dealing with VR games and player comfort. As a designer you can use optic flow and brightness in order to bring comfort to the player. Try not to use absolute black and white for example. Materials could be used in the same way. For example, when you walk the character you could leave footprints in the sand. For ground rush, the choice for material should be strategic. Designers should also bear in mind that sometimes some details are not rendered with enough pixels.
One point raised by Laura was that everybody’s eyes are different so we need to test with a wider audience. This shows that testing is crucial. Thus, one way to solve this problem of diversity is to bring more choices in the game. Yet, it is still a big challenge. One strategy mentioned in the talk was the use of blinkers in order to avoid peripheral vision by the players.
The biggest question about virtual reality is still player comfort. Don’t take away the camera from the player. One advice is to avoid placing things directly in front of the player. As Laura mentioned, performance is king, and I totally agree. As designers we could use defaults like 60fps and mart usage of dynamic lights and correction of player view camera. By using horizontal lines we could also help the player to situate the camera correctly. It is all about the position of the camera.

Another strategy presented by Laura was that designers tend to “climatize” people through tutorials until they get used to it while playing the game. I think this could be a very successful way to bring people inside the game and provide them all the support and guidance required to proceed in the game. Players should be able to customise their settings according to their preference (always, if possible).

I think that the lessons to take home are that in VR and games we need to test a lot with fresh eyes and we should not be afraid, just because it is new. Using defaults and providing these defaults to the design community could also be one way to make it easier. As it is a cutting-edge technology, we need to share, test and publish as much as we can. We will get there! Thanks, Laura!

Follow Laura here: @GuerrillaLaura

Read more:
On-device motion tracking for immersive VR: Freedom from wires
New RIGS Mechanized Combat League trailer shows off Dubai arena
10 THINGS I LEARNT AT THE EUROPEAN WOMEN IN GAMES CONFERENCE 2016

MacCready, your best friend

In June 2016 we’ve bought the Fallout 4 game, after a long time dreaming of playing it. You’ve probably downloaded the mobile version of the Fallout 4 before the release, right? Fallout Shelter was great – and it taught us a lot about how to survive in Fallout 4. But what called my attention was the idea of having companions during our missions.

First, you start with nothing and then you find a dog – Dogmeat. The dog is cute and makes you feel less lonely during the quests in the wasteland. As we know, if you’re hiding, forget about it – the dog will be around biting things. This changes when you start having a human companion – MacCready.

A funny friend

MacCready is not a typical friend and it takes a while for that to happen. He is a companion and he wants to be paid to do the work. He likes when you steal things and with time he can become your friend, just making jokes during the game. I must admit, Bethesda has done a pretty good job there while developing NPCs. I can’t even say that MacCready is a non-playing character – he makes jokes, he is funny and he is unique. And what is interesting about that is that your decisions in the game can increase or decrease your affinity with companions. Read this post in Reddit and then you will know a bit more what I’m talking about.

Actions vs. Personality

Look at this chart. Things that you do in the game not only impact your overall progress but they also impact the way your companion perceives you. What is fascinating is the different aspects and personalities that emerge from those decisions. What makes such character so believable? Maybe the jokes, maybe the non-expected reactions. This is definitely something to think about. In the end, it is a bit of psychology involved. It makes you think about the things that create and maintain good relationships. Not only that, if your character is a woman you can start a romance!

Copyright: Fallout 4, Bethesda
Copyright: Fallout 4, Bethesda

You’ve been through so many things together, so many quests, so many bad and good moments. I bet this made people feel more engaged with the game.

A lesson from MacCready

In my opinion, there is a lot to learn from MacCready in terms of design and artificial intelligence. First, what makes friends good friends – and how to implement this in games. Technology becomes more human – and we develop a kind of affinity towards it. Now image how this could be used to motivate people to do other things. If you’re recovering from a certain illness or if you want to improve some skills. Having a friend becomes more than just a support. It is a way to match your actions, a way to make you reflect about your decisions. This is just the beginning.

Read more:

Why MacCready is my favorite companion from Fallout

http://fallout.wikia.com/wiki/Robert_Joseph_MacCready

 

Are we heading towards the era of Minimalism?

27554998850_0642879828It was the digital economy, now it is the experience era. Games, gamification, engagement, consumer journey, service design, virtual reality, emotions… All related to experience. Until now. I’ve never watched the movie Soylent Green, but my mum did and I remember that the story was quite horrible and disgusting. Let me tell you what Soylent Green is about. As there was no food in the world, people were eating a kind of powdered food made of other people’s bodies. Nice. Now, just look for Soylent in the Internet. It looks like the movie is not too far from reality – the only difference is the ingredient. But why?

Soylent is a powdered food, made of different whole grains and natural ingredients. The packaging is very clean, the content has a “white” colour – very pale, very clean, very minimalist. There is also another brand, Huel – the same purpose, same style, same minimalist way of life. What is happening with our relationship with food? As some of my friends mentioned, this would work if people really don’t feel any pleasure while eating – or they just “eat for survival”. Can it be a new life style?

Maybe people are taking this idea of minimalist too serious – or maybe they are not. Minimalists argue that they don’t give meaning to things and they try not to excess anything. The idea of “less is more” is taken as a ritual. But what about powdered food? And why using a powdered version? A true minimalist would not buy the food, but he/she would grow it somewhere at home or in the street, right? The minimalist diet is quite similar to the powdered food thing: vegetables. But wait, I’m not saying that powdered food is part of the minimalist diet because I don’t have any reference about that! What I mean about those questions is that it looks like we are heading towards a minimal type of experience – in one way or the other.

Perhaps now people are feeling the pressure to change their life styles without hurting the environment. It is like a type of symbiosis between us and the Earth. As far as I know, it looks like the minimalist lifestyle condemns materialism. And because of that, it is possible that people that want to “buy” a certain life style would feel like buying powered food. It is hard to know without a proper research – but something is definitely going on.

Why is it so hard to find a balance? We all know that we should decrease our consumption of beef for example. Maybe this minimalist style is a reaction to all of it as a way to pay the bill in the name of everyone in the planet. Can we experience enough? And when is it enough? What is missing is a balance. And it looks like our relationship with food is changing. This can be seen since growing vegetables at home (or through the Internet) to eating powdered food. What is the best option? And how can design transform our food relationship? Cultural aspects, for example, are totally related to food. Food waste is also another problem.

Another way to see this is through the movement of Lowsumerism – or just decreasing consumption of things that you might not need. Yet, the challenge is to take it not as radical life style, but knowing what is enough. Experiences, then, should be enough – and satisfying the way they are.

It looks like the minimalist life style is more a reaction than a particular “era”. Is it the best way to solve the problem? We don’t know – but it is worth studying it. I will keep reading more about it. :)

Read more:

A Minimalist’s Thoughts on Diet

 

photo credit: Vegetables at the market via photopin (license)

 

#1 [usability review] Lost Maze

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lost-maze/id1130186793?mt=8
Copyright: ZHIPENG WANG

Recently, I’ve been playing and testing a few apps and games for fun. This week, I’ve tested the mobile game “LOST MAZE”, from the developer ZHIPENG WANG. While playing the game I was looking at elements that were good and easy to use and elements that could be improved. The structure of this post is composed of a small description of the mobile game, followed by good and bad points and a few recommendations. I’ve played this one in the iPad. Hope you enjoy it! :)

Description
The game is a 3D mobile game in which you have different levels of a maze to decide the best way to your home. The narrative is about collecting items that were stolen by “darkness” (represented by black and white interface). You start as a girl and during the game you can buy new characters. The maze is 3D and you can drag the best “way” for your character to pass. This maze is like a “cryptex” and you have to choose the best combination for your character to pass safely. The character walks through the maze automatically. You have the option to “stop” the character and then choose the best way in the maze. You win each time you pass a level. There are many ways for you to lose: you can be eaten by a flower or jump in a wrong way. This changes according to each level.

Good points

The points that I’ve enjoyed in the game were actually the animation and the little story. I think when darkness goes and steals things from the girl’s place it’s quite interesting. When you have to collect the items to put them back to the “map” is quite unusual as well for a mobile game (this one was played in iPad). The music is good too.

IMG_0629

Not so good points

a) In-app purchase surprise

My first comment was: “Why do I need to buy more energy?”. It is not clear what this energy is about. I didn’t realise the moves were related to energy and it took me 4 levels to find this out.

b) Font, typography quality

The button “stop” has a very poor quality, which could give an impression that the game has poor graphics. The same happens in the screen when you click in the red stone to buy more energy. I understand it was a way to create a shade because of the background, but it didn’t look nice.

c) Timing to stop and change the way

Around level 3, when you start having the “jump” I took a long time to stop the character and move the bits to the right position. It could be a bug or something, but it made me feel very frustrated.

d) Win scene

The win scene does not fit the overall style of the game. The graphics look very different and distorted. The idea is good, but the integration was not well executed. I’ve showed other people and their comments were: “the graphics are not good, right?”. You can also see how many steps you’ve taken in this screen, which doesn’t mean anything in terms of the game.

e) IAP icons and red stone

What are the red stones? I think the screen for the IAP is problematic and the icons do not fit the 3D style of the game.

IMG_0630

Recommendations

a) Evidence of energy

As a player, you want to know the consequences of your actions in the game. You could show to the player that when you stop and walk you lose energy. This is not clear in the whole game. Maybe in the first level, when you do the first challenge, it could be evident that you lose energy. Maybe the steps that you’ve taken could show how much energy you lost.

b) Integration of the graphics

The stones and the other icons don’t look 3D. You could redesign those icons for a 3D style. The stones could also have a purpose and integration with the narrative.

c) Stop and walk

This action is not consistent as sometimes you can’t stop and the game forces you to lose. It is important to solve this type of bug very quick!

Conclusion

I would say that it was a good game, but the IAP integration was very frustrating and the bugs made me feel without motivation to continue playing it. In sum, it is possible that those games might need a kind of heuristics of usability related to IAP. For example, as the game as IAP structures, the user should be aware of that. I strongly suggest that UX designers and researchers could come up with ideas to analyse and measure the effectiveness of IAP in games like that.

Game link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lost-maze/id1130186793?mt=8 / Played in 28th August 2016

Lean UX Bootcamp at ustwo

IMG_1199In 2014, I’ve attended to the Lean UX Bootcamp at ustwo, the design company that created Monument Valley. During this day, we had the opportunity to design, build a paper prototype and test a concept for an app. In this post, I will try to come up with some lessons learnt this day and a little bit of the process!
First, we had to design an app for members of a gym in London. For that, the facilitators of the workshop gave us a lot of content to work with. Personas, customer journeys, company’s goals and so on. It was a mix of consumer + company information. We had to translate all this content into something meaningful. In the workshop, this was organised through:
– a box with all the good things and benefits from the new digital app to illustrate our design goal
– hypothesis statements
– assumptions (for each stakeholder involved in the journey)

Translating the content into goals was extremely useful as we could focus and keep our ideas “in place”.

Getting feedback
After a brainstorm, we’ve managed to design the first version of the app in paper. This was our way to start testing the concept. We’ve walked around the company for a “free” participant. As we know, we don’t need many participants to find mistakes. Very simple task, but very useful (I will never forget). We had one observer and one interviewer. The workshop facilitators gave us a guideline for asking questions and interviewing for user testing. We’ve defined a few tasks and asked the participant to give us some feedback. After the feedback session, we’ve shared with the whole group what worked and what didn’t work. This would give us more content for the next iteration.

Refine
After the feedback, we could refine our design in paper. For this stage, we’ve used the app called POP for paper prototyping, to develop a more “contextual” interaction. This means that now users could actually test using a mobile phone. We’ve conducted a small test with the other participants of other groups and shared our overall experience during the process.

What I took from this day was the idea of getting feedback as quick as possible and that using paper could be “basic” but it tests concepts before the whole development.

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To finish the day, we’ve managed to visit the studio where game designers were developing new levels of Monument Valley! This was amazing! It is clear that they use a very similar approach for the design of their games! We know that paper prototyping in games is very useful.

What I took from this day was the idea of getting feedback as quick as possible and that using paper could be “basic” but it tests concepts before the whole development. This is crucial in any type of development (since products to just “ideas”). Since then, I’ve been utilising a very similar approach. So all I can say it’s thank you very much ustwo and IT Utility for the opportunity! :)


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Read more:
UX Bootcamp at Ustwo
User Experience (UX) Design Boot Camp – a lean approach to mobile app development (1 of 3)
Lean UX: Getting Out Of The Deliverables Business
UX resources

The 30 game usability reviews personal challenge #30GURchallenge

That’s it! I’ve decided to populate this space with some game usability reviews, considering many aspects of the game. It includes: usability in general, gameplay experience, IAP design, interface design, mechanics, purpose and so on. And I will tell you why I’ve decided to start this challenge. Eventually I will also discuss inclusive design and accessibility.

If you want to get into the Games User Research world, you need to be fluent in gaming. That is, you need to be able to evaluate, talk and discuss aspects of games. As Seb Long said in his talk in 2016, the hiring process of a GUR professional in the industry includes a usability review task!

So, what is a usability review of a game? In the talk, Seb mentioned words like knowing the audience and sharing best practices. That is, if you’re going to write a game usability review, you need to consider that developers and designers will read your report (they are the audience!). So the communications of the findings is crucial at this stage. Also, we need to highlight good and bad things as well, and provide recommendations.

Considering this, for my personal challenge of 30 (quick) game usability reviews, I will try to use the following structure:

  • Description of gameplay to situate the whole experience
  • Good practices
  • Not so good practices
  • Design recommendations/suggestions for improvement + priorities
  • Conclusion

For the best practices, I’m looking at heuristics of usability evaluation from Desurvire and Wiberg (2009) and Korhonen and Koivisto (2006), especially for mobile games. Since I will be looking for usability aspects, playability will be the key aspect of the game experience.

For the priorities, I will consider the elements that are more urgent and that impact the user experience directly.

The selection of games is a bit random, but I’m trying to play mostly mobile games, tablet games, online and different varieties/purposes (serious games could be part of this list too!).

Why 30? Well, since I am over 30s, I think 30 is a good number (this means that 30 works and it is also part of the Central Limit Theorem and researchers (apparently) like this number.

#1 [usability review] Lost Maze

#2 [usability review]: Tape it Up!

#3 [usability review]: SenSense

#4 [usability review]: Beat Saber VR

#5 [usability review]: Oxenfree

#6 [usability review]: Good Pizza, Great Pizza

References:

Desurvire, H. & Wiberg, C., 2009. Game Usability Heuristics ( PLAY ) for Evaluating and Designing Better Games : The Next Iteration. Game Studies, LNCS Volum, pp.557–566. Available at: http://www.springerlink.com/index/CL1W17LP067K39Q1.pdf.

Korhonen, H. & Koivisto, E.M.I., 2006. Playability heuristics for mobile games. Proceedings of the 8th conference on Human-computer interaction with mobile devices and services – MobileHCI ’06, p.9. Available at: http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=1152215.1152218.

Kultima, A. & Stenros, J., 2010. Designing games for everyone: the expanded game experience model. In Proceedings of the International Academic Conference on the Future of Game Design and Technology. pp. 66–73.

Tourism and Augmented Reality: past, present and future

AR experience at the Casa Batllo
AR experience at the Casa Batllo

When was the last time that you had an experience with AR in Tourism settings? For me, it was in Barcelona, at the Casa Batllo. We could browse through the places around the building and in each particular space it was possible to see the whole house getting life. They gave us some smartphones with headphones and we were just walking around trying to find those mysterious settings around the building. While the phone was browsing for content, I could see a logo – It was made with Unity! In fact, using Unity for AR is quite simple. I didn’t know that!
AR and Tourism is not new. Actually my surprise wasn’t the fact that they were using AR. It was Unity. It is possible that the first AR-Tourism partnership was created in the beginning of the early 2010. For me, it was always like black magic… Very complicated to make!
The potential for Tourism industries and AR is huge. Games could be created in those settings using AR technologies and representations, for example. Another example is in restaurants, while choosing for food in a very interactive menu. But what is the future of AR and Tourism?

Inamo Restaurant (from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW_OnCJShPY)
Inamo Restaurant (from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW_OnCJShPY)

I think AR and Tourism will be everywhere, faster and cheaper. Now that everyone has a mobile phone with cameras, AR is more accessible. And with tools like Unity taking around 5 min to make an AR experience, everyone will be able to create something. This means that AR won’t only work for Tourism, but for everything. In fact, now that everyone could have access to this technology, people from local communities could create themselves an interactive experience!
Of course, a few challenges could be related to immersion. When you’re experiencing an AR interaction you might feel in your own world. That would depend on the type of interaction. In terms of research, immersion is a good area to explore. I remember at the Casa Batllo we had to take care not to walk into people’s feet because we were so immersed into that experience! It always depend. In the restaurant example, everyone was sharing their menu in one table, so it was collectively interactive. But, again, it depends on the context.
The future is not far – it is here and now as we know it! Time for us to build our ideas and leave to the world to experience them! :)

Read more:
Unity tutorial: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfxqfdtxyVA
http://www.justapixel.co.uk/how-to-make-an-ar-app-in-5-minutes-with-unity-and-vuforia/

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