Presenting: Commuter Game Design For Creative Technology CT365.net February 2011 E: email@example.com T: @olishaw W olishaw.comHi Im Oli Shaw, I’ll be talking about a (lite) study I’ve been doing into commuters playing (iPhone) games and some of the design principals from the research.
Who am I ?I am part anthropologist, part strategist and part creative who has been designing for progressive products and services since 1998. Whilst I dont hold a PhD I do get to utilise a lot of anthropologic practices in my work.
The study... ‘A (lite) study of how commuters use (iPhone) games during their journey’I conducted a range of contextual interviews with regular commuters who enjoy playing games on their journey, and utilised my own extensive experience of playing games whilst on the move.I say iPhone gently as a lot of the resulting design principals & considerations from the insights could easily be applied to most mobile gaming platforms.
Journey types Journey methods ranged as much as the lengths of commutes people undertake twice a day.Commuting journeys take anything from 20mins to over 1hr 30mins and (in London) often require multiple methods of transport within the same journey.
Key points of play - Waiting for transport - During transport - Changing transportWhile waiting for transport is an opportunists opening for a quick game, it might be a minute or it might be more than 10 minutes.Each transport change over offers another opportunity for a game whilst waiting for the next connection to arrive.
Repetition > Familiarity It doesn’t take long for a commuter to become so familiar with they journey it often feels like they are on auto pilot.A regular commuter knows the journey so well that they no longer need to pay to much mind to their surroundings and often instinctively know when their stop is, leaving them more time to enjoy their gaming / media consumption.
Game length 2 mins > 5 mins > 10 mins ... 30+ minsThe length of time a commuter has for a game varies greatly from a couple of minutes while waiting for a ride, to 30+ mins while on a longer uninterrupted route. And not forgetting the interrupted continuation, a couple of minutes whilst waiting for a ride, then a short break whilst getting on the particular transport and finding a seat, then continuing playing for a longer duration.
The perfect environment When your squished between people on a packed journey, getting the use of both hands can be a game in itself!When the environmental aspects of playing games whilst commuting on public transport are far from perfect, with distractions and obstructions everywhere; fellow passengers, the driver of the transport, tannoy messages which need to be either observed or ignored...
Findings & Insights: Game ControlsAs already mentioned its not always easy to have the use of both hands whilst on a commute, here are a couple more things to consider
Accelerometer Waving around like someone with a bee under their jumper is not always desirable in a conﬁned space.While the accelerometer provides an interesting method of controlling a game, the commuter gamer often struggles with using it when the space around them is limited or if they dont wish to perform a ‘dance’ for the other passengers to gawp at.‘Edge’ offers a range of control methods to play by.
Precision Being required to perform surgically precise actions whilst on a moving vehicle can be a request too far.When games require very accurate and precise actions / controls in a game it can often negatively affect the commuter gamer who is at the mercy of whom ever is driving the mode of transport they are on. Or the cities maintenance of the road/tracks, a bump in the wrong direction and its game over.
Findings & Insights: SoundThere is no denying that sound an essential part of any game...
Sound controls Much like the environment the commuter gamer plays in, their sound needs vary just as much.While a commuter gamer will often play as much and as often as they can during their journey, they are not always able to be lured in by the glowing screen -‐ like when they need to get on or off the transport, or walk to a connecting part of their journey. But while they cannot always be looking at the screen, they can have a continues sound track to the entire journey and will often listen to a podcast, audiobook or music for the length of the commute and intersperse the journey with gaming at convenient moments.
Sound controls - Allow iPod music to continue to play in the background game - Separate the games SFX & Music controls - Have volume controls not just on / offLet the commuter continue listening to their journeys soundtrack whilst dipping in and out of your game, they may want to keep the sound effects but lose the games music. Having volume controls is important as the games sound levels may differ to the sound level coming from the iPod player and more control helps the commuter get the right balance of both‘Bejeweled 2’ has a good control of sound
Findings & Insights: OrientationWe have already mentioned about the space consideration around the commuter, now we consider the device.
In your hands When headphones are in, the iPhone needs a little more consideration when gaming.An ergonomic issue of where the headphone jack sticks out when you have headphones plugged in (to drown out the bustle of rush hour), is relatively easy to fix by enabling the game to work in either rotation, simple but sometimes forgotten.[‘Fragger’ main menu screen]
Messages Don’t forget to consider the iOS messages[‘Angry Birds seasons’ with an iOS message]
Speed is paramount A dedicated commuter gamer will squeeze every opportunity out of a journey to play - even if they can already see the bus coming.When isn’t loading speed important, right? It’s especially vital with commuter gamers, as they will often have short but frequent gaps between modes of transports, or unknown lengths of waiting time before then next ride arrives -‐ quickly getting into a game is vital.[‘Plants vs Zombies’ loading screen]
Findings & Insights: Level designDesigning levels which work well whilst on a commute.
Short levels Byte size levels & plenty of them.There where 2 types of level that seemed to appeal to most commuters, the first are short ‘quick’ levels and to have lots of them to plough through during the journey which allow for plenty of instant gratification and a sense of accomplishment at the end of the journey.It’s worth noting that with this model having a way of skipping a tricky level is a desirable quality in a game, most commuters dont want to stuck play the same level again and again for their morning’s game time, but they will often come back to have another go on the way home or the next day. [‘Cut the rope’ level select screen]
Long levels Like reading a book, a few chapters at a time.The other type of levels that where preferred are long level, like in Grand Theft Auto where the user can complete a part of the ‘story’ at a time and similar to bookmarking come back to the point they left it in the morning on their way home and do a couple more ‘chapters’. [‘GTA China town wars‘ game screen]
Findings & Insights: Pause & ContinueReturning to where you were in a game, from load or from a pause.
Continue from load Once the game has loaded, getting back to where you were quickly is crucial for the commuter.If the games interface makes you navigate back through 4 levels of menus to load up the level you were last on there is valuable gaming time lost. And could be considered that you’re still in the games ‘loading’ phase.‘Burnstar’ has a continue option on the main menu to quickly get back to the level you where last on.
Auto pause Automatically pausing the game, when the commuter has to quick put their device away or answer an incoming call / text.A game that can pause itself when the iPhone is put to sleep and into the commuter’s pocket, or when they need to answer an incoming message is crucial. Even the most conscientious commuter has the occasional off day where they are so focused on a game that they are about to miss their stop and need to rapidly get out of the vehicle.‘Angry Birds’ is a particularly good example of how to do this right.
Findings & Insights: ConnectionLast but not least games that need to or want to go online whilst on a commute.
No Signal Dont rely on having an internet connection, with a mobile location comes connectivity issues.In London (and presumably a fair few other cities) depending on the route and length of the commute, connection to the internet will range from limited, interrupted to no service, this is especially true when on the underground. But the overground can be just as patchy when entering and leaving the city.Games that rely on an internet connection or spend a long time trying to connect to the internet when loading up or to continually check scores, awards, share, etc.[‘Bejeweled 2’ Blitz notification]
THANK YOU…What are your commutinggaming experiences?E: firstname.lastname@example.orgT: @olishawW olishaw.com