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Commuter Game Design


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A presentation on designing (iPhone) games for commuters, highlighting some insights about commuters as gamers

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Commuter Game Design

  1. 1. Presenting: Commuter Game Design For Creative Technology February 2011 E: 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.
  2. 2. 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.
  3. 3. 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.
  4. 4. Findings & Insights
  5. 5. 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.
  6. 6. 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.
  7. 7. 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.
  8. 8. 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.
  9. 9. 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...
  10. 10. 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
  11. 11. 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.  
  12. 12. 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.
  13. 13. Findings & Insights: SoundThere  is  no  denying  that  sound  an  essential  part  of  any  game...
  14. 14. 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.
  15. 15. 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
  16. 16. Findings & Insights: OrientationWe  have  already  mentioned  about  the  space  consideration  around  the  commuter,  now  we  consider  the  device.
  17. 17. 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]
  18. 18. Messages Don’t forget to consider the iOS messages[‘Angry  Birds  seasons’  with  an  iOS  message]
  19. 19. Findings & Insights: LoadingThe  obvious  one,  loading  speed.
  20. 20. 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]
  21. 21. Findings & Insights: Level designDesigning  levels  which  work  well  whilst  on  a  commute.
  22. 22. 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]
  23. 23. 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]
  24. 24. Findings & Insights: Pause & ContinueReturning  to  where  you  were  in  a  game,  from  load  or  from  a  pause.
  25. 25. 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.
  26. 26. 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.
  27. 27. Findings & Insights: ConnectionLast  but  not  least  games  that  need  to  or  want  to  go  online  whilst  on  a  commute.
  28. 28. 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]
  29. 29. THANK YOU…What are your commutinggaming experiences?E: hello@olishaw.comT: @olishawW