Martin Grider

Owner / Lead Developer
Abstract Puzzle LLC
Usability Lessons From Mobile
Board Game Conversions
The best games stick with us.
…just like the best books or movies.
The difference between movies and
books and games is interactivity.
Usability is a way to think about the
relative difficu...
The best usability is not
remembered.
Often, usability is asked to be:
!
!
● transparent / intuitive / natural / learnable...
Of course some
games do have
memorable
usability.
(Dexterity games.)
The more you do something, the easier it should be to...
But why should you care?
Thinking about your digital game from the perspective of
physical interactions has the potential ...
Of the “actions” performed in
your game, which require physical
interactions?
● In-game examples:
● rotate piece
● move pi...
Shout out to Arnold Lund!
● List of “expert” usability maxims from 1997
!
● Applicable to any sort of HCI (Human Computer
...
On making things intentionally
● Just like any other part of development, you can plan
your Usability, or it will just be ...
Usability lessons for the
Game Screen:
!
Effectively communicating game
information to your player.
The information for th...
Highlight possible actions.
● Before, show how to begin an action
● Mid-action, highlight action targets
● Show non-target...
Clearly show whose turn it is.
● In Carcassonne, the
current player is shown
in three places.
!
● Common techniques:
● pla...
Always animate AI turns.
The user should always know what is happening. ~ Lund
● No AI player animations,
makes for an ext...
●Slide-out drawers
●Popovers or “modal”
windows
●Double-tap for extra
contextual information
!
●(Obviously you have
to def...
Provide linear context.
Minimize the need for a mighty memory. ~ Lund
●Highlight the single last
turn by a player.
!
●A ga...
Usability lessons for the
Game Screen:
!
UI - Tips for the player effectively
communicating with the game.
Everything in i...
Primary Input: Tap & Drag
● Always show
feedback.
● Drag or Tap to
move?
● The answer is both.
● Show a highlighted
state ...
Secondary Touch Input
●Teachable:
● Double-Tap
● Long-Press
● Swipe
!
●Do not use:
● Triple (or more) Tap
● Multi-finger d...
Provide a confirmation step for
complex actions.
Don’t let people accidentally shoot themselves. ~ Lund
● Make it clear wh...
Allow the user to Undo
Everyone makes mistakes, so every mistake should be fixable. ~ Lund
● If an accidental action can b...
Usability Lessons for the
Multiplayer Lobby:
!
Dealing with conflicting goals —
customization vs simplicity.
Keep it simpl...
Pick good defaults
● Make sure “Start Game” is clearly identifiable.
● Provide contextual help.
Even experts are novices a...
It’s not a bad idea to use
(or copy) an already existing UI.
● Familiar UI is good UI.
!
● (Even if it’s not
especially go...
Martin Grider
Abstract Puzzle LLC
martin@abstractpuzzle.com
@livingtech
Summary: Think about Usability.
Make better games....
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Usability Lessons from Mobile Board Game Conversions

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Martin Grider looks at user interface specifics related to touchscreen ports of modern board games. He examines common touch interface paradigms that have emerged in the genre, making in-depth examination of some particularly good mobile board game conversions from the perspective of their UX and UI decisions. Martin also talks about working with Tasty Minstrel Games on the For The Win board game application for iOS in 2012.

The following questions are addressed: What interface elements and control schemes are useful for board game conversion? What UX paradigms apply to board game interactions in mobile, particularly as they apply to the game screen and multiplayer game creation screens? How do these lessons apply to all mobile game development?

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Usability Lessons from Mobile Board Game Conversions

  1. 1. Martin Grider
 Owner / Lead Developer Abstract Puzzle LLC Usability Lessons From Mobile Board Game Conversions
  2. 2. The best games stick with us. …just like the best books or movies.
  3. 3. The difference between movies and books and games is interactivity. Usability is a way to think about the relative difficulty of interactivity.
  4. 4. The best usability is not remembered. Often, usability is asked to be: ! ! ● transparent / intuitive / natural / learnable
 (easy to learn, recognize, perform)
  5. 5. Of course some games do have memorable usability. (Dexterity games.) The more you do something, the easier it should be to do. ~ Lund
  6. 6. But why should you care? Thinking about your digital game from the perspective of physical interactions has the potential to improve your user experience.
  7. 7. Of the “actions” performed in your game, which require physical interactions? ● In-game examples: ● rotate piece ● move piece left/right ● drop piece ● Meta-game examples ● start new game ● view leaderboard ● change difficulty/mode
  8. 8. Shout out to Arnold Lund! ● List of “expert” usability maxims from 1997 ! ● Applicable to any sort of HCI (Human Computer Interaction) ! ● Very nice list to start from Don't overwhelm the user. ~ Lund
  9. 9. On making things intentionally ● Just like any other part of development, you can plan your Usability, or it will just be there without your planning.
  10. 10. Usability lessons for the Game Screen: ! Effectively communicating game information to your player. The information for the decision needs to be there when the decision is needed. ~ Lund
  11. 11. Highlight possible actions. ● Before, show how to begin an action ● Mid-action, highlight action targets ● Show non-targets by disabling or hiding ! ● Common techniques include: color borders, shadows, pulsing or animated buttons, “pointers” after inactivity You should always know how to find out what to do next. ~ Lund Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer, Playdek
  12. 12. Clearly show whose turn it is. ● In Carcassonne, the current player is shown in three places. ! ● Common techniques: ● player color (possibly in a game screen element) ● show the board from the current player’s perspective Color is information. ~ Lund Carcassonne, The Coding Monkeys
  13. 13. Always animate AI turns. The user should always know what is happening. ~ Lund ● No AI player animations, makes for an extremely jarring user experience. ! ● Extra context is also important in turn-based multiplayer, where the last action is not always easily remembered. Ticket to Ride, Days of Wonder
  14. 14. ●Slide-out drawers ●Popovers or “modal” windows ●Double-tap for extra contextual information ! ●(Obviously you have to define “extra”.) Eliminate unnecessary decisions, and illuminate the rest. ~ Lund Hide “extra” information.
  15. 15. Provide linear context. Minimize the need for a mighty memory. ~ Lund ●Highlight the single last turn by a player. ! ●A game log or history. Suburbia, Jeremiah Maher
  16. 16. Usability lessons for the Game Screen: ! UI - Tips for the player effectively communicating with the game. Everything in its place, and a place for everything. ~ Lund
  17. 17. Primary Input: Tap & Drag ● Always show feedback. ● Drag or Tap to move? ● The answer is both. ● Show a highlighted state for tap. Every action should have a reaction. ~ Lund
  18. 18. Secondary Touch Input ●Teachable: ● Double-Tap ● Long-Press ● Swipe ! ●Do not use: ● Triple (or more) Tap ● Multi-finger drag/swipe The user should control the system. The system shouldn’t control the user. ~ Lund Lords of Waterdeep, Playdek
  19. 19. Provide a confirmation step for complex actions. Don’t let people accidentally shoot themselves. ~ Lund ● Make it clear when the turn will be passed to the next player. ! ● If undo is possible…
  20. 20. Allow the user to Undo Everyone makes mistakes, so every mistake should be fixable. ~ Lund ● If an accidental action can be enough to lose a game, you’d better allow undo! ! ● Auto-confirmation of actions is made worse with poor UI.
  21. 21. Usability Lessons for the Multiplayer Lobby: ! Dealing with conflicting goals — customization vs simplicity. Keep it simple. ~ Lund
  22. 22. Pick good defaults ● Make sure “Start Game” is clearly identifiable. ● Provide contextual help. Even experts are novices at some point. Provide help. ~ Lund
  23. 23. It’s not a bad idea to use (or copy) an already existing UI. ● Familiar UI is good UI. ! ● (Even if it’s not especially good UI.) Things that look the same should act the same. ~ Lund
  24. 24. Martin Grider Abstract Puzzle LLC martin@abstractpuzzle.com @livingtech Summary: Think about Usability. Make better games. References / notes:
 http://abstractpuzzle.com/gdc2014/

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