You are previewing Game Usability.
O'Reilly logo
Game Usability

Book Description

Computers used to be for geeks. And geeks were fine with dealing with a difficult and finicky interface--they liked this--it was even a sort of badge of honor (e.g. the Unix geeks). But making the interface really intuitive and useful--think about the first Macintosh computers--took computers far far beyond the geek crowd. The Mac made HCI (human computer interaction) and usability very popular topics in the productivity software industry. Suddenly a new kind of experience was crucial to the success of software - the user experience. Now, 20 years later, developers are applying and extending these ideas to games.

Game companies are now trying to take games beyond the 'hardcore' gamer market--the people who love challenge and are happy to master a complicated or highly genre-constrained interface. Right about now (with the growth of interest in casual games) game companies are truly realizing that usability matters, particularly to mainstream audiences. If it's not seamless and easy to use and engaging, players will just not stay to get to the 'good stuff'.

By definition, usability is the ease with which people can emplo a particular tool in order to achieve a particular goal. Usability refers to a computer program's efficiency or elegance. This book gives game designers a better understanding of how player characteristics impact usability strategy, and offers specific methods and measures to employ in game usability practice. The book also includes practical advice on how to include usability in already tight development timelines, and how to advocate for usability and communicate results to higher-ups effectively.

Table of Contents

  1. Preliminaries
  2. Foreword
    1. Games User Research at the Crossroads
      1. One size fits all - it's all story, it's all mechanics
      2. Games are art
      3. The gulf between research and practice
      4. Relying on people successful in other fields - spread of expertise
      5. Promise
      6. A new behavioral/environmental emphasis
  3. Part I: What is Usability and Why Should I Care?
    1. Chapter One: Introduction
      1. 1.1 Why Usability Now?
      2. 1.2 What Exactly Is Usability? How Is It Different from Playability and Fun?
      3. 1.3 What to Expect from This Book
      4. 1.4 Tips for Using this Book
      5. 1.5 Acknowledgments
    2. Chapter Two: Organizational Challenges for User Research in the Videogame Industry: Overview and Advice
      1. 2.1 Overview
      2. 2.2 Introduction
      3. 2.3 Three Well-Known Challenges
        1. 2.3.1 Return on Investment
        2. 2.3.2 Formalized Work Procedures
        3. 2.3.3 Nursing Cross-professional Relations
      4. 2.4 The Publisher and The Developer
        1. 2.4.1 Background
        2. 2.4.2 Stories from the Field
        3. 2.4.3 Reflections on the Results
      5. 2.5 Conclusion
      6. 2.6 Acknowledgments
      7. 2.7 References
        1. Table 2.1
        2. Table 2.2
        3. Table 2.3
        4. Table 2.4
        5. Table 2.5
  4. Part II: Usability Techniques 101
    1. Chapter Three: Interview with Tobi Saulnier, Founder and CEO of 1st Playable Productions
    2. Chapter Four: Games User Research (GUR) : Our Experience with and Evolution of Four Methods
      1. 4.1 Objectives in the Chapter
      2. 4.2 The Opportunity and Challenge of Games Research
      3. 4.3 Researching Play in the First Hour: Playtest
        1. 4.3.1 Behavioral vs. Attitudinal Data
        2. 4.3.2 The Problem
        3. 4.3.3 The Solution
          1. Playtest History at MGS
          2. Playtest Today at MGS
        4. 4.3.4 Things We've Learned Over the Past Ten Years
        5. 4.3.5 Future of Playtest
      4. 4.4 Researching Social/Party Games
        1. 4.4.1 The Problem
        2. 4.4.2 Why Test with Groups?
        3. 4.4.3 Group Size
        4. 4.4.4 Group Composition
        5. 4.4.5 Adapting Usability to Group Settings
        6. 4.4.6 Future Developments
      5. 4.5 Researching Play in the "Real-World": Beta
        1. 4.5.1 The Problem
        2. 4.5.2 Learnings from the Method, and Learnings Applied to Game Design Itself
        3. 4.5.3 Future Developments for Beta
      6. 4.6 The Importance of First lmpressions:Trials and Demos
        1. 4.6.1 The Problem
        2. 4.6.2 Methodology
        3. 4.6.3 What We Learned
        4. 4.6.4 Broader Context
      7. 4.7 Conclusion
      8. 4.8 Acknowledgments
      9. 4.9 References
        1. Figure 4.1
        2. Figure 4.2
        3. Figure 4.3
        4. Figure 4.4
        5. Figure 4.5
    3. Chapter Five: Let the Game Tester Do the Talking: Think Aloud and Interviewing to Learn About the Game Experience
      1. 5.1 Introduction
      2. 5.2 Application of Think-Aloud
      3. 5.3 Limitations of Think-Aloud
      4. 5.4 How to Conduct a Think-Aloud Study
      5. 5.5 Alternative Approach
      6. 5.6 Interviewing
        1. 5.6.1 Preparing an Interview
        2. 5.6.2 Tips and Tricks
        3. 5.6.3 Limitations and Disadvantages
      7. 5.7 Discussion and Conclusion
      8. 5.8 References
    4. Chapter Six: Heuristic Evaluation of Games
      1. 6.1 Introduction
      2. 6.2 Understanding Heuristics
        1. 6.2.1 Heuristics Before Games
        2. 6.2.2 Heuristics in Games
        3. 6.2.3 The Tradeoff: Advantages of Heuristics
        4. 6.2.4 The Tradeoff: Disadvantages of Heuristics
      3. 6.3 Implementation
        1. 6.3.1 When To Use Heuristics: Test Early, Test Often
        2. 6.3.2 How to do Heuristic Evaluation
        3. 6.3.3 Things Not To Do
        4. 6.3.4 Choosing and Developing Your Own Heuristics
      4. 6.4 Conclusion
      5. 6.5 Acknowledgements
      6. 6.6 References
        1. Table 6.1
    5. Chapter Seven: Usability and Playability Expert Evaluation
      1. 7.1 Introduction
      2. 7.2 What Is Being Evaluated
        1. 7.2.1 Game Usability
        2. 7.2.2 Gameplay
        3. 7.2.3 Platform and Game Type
        4. 7.2.4 Cover All the Aspects
      3. 7.3 How the Evaluation Is Done
        1. 7.3.1 Experts
        2. 7.3.2 Double Experts
        3. 7.3.3 External Evaluators
      4. 7.4 When to Evaluate
        1. 7.4.1 Design Documents and Paper Prototypes
        2. 7.4.2 Working Prototypes
        3. 7.4.3 Nearly Complete Game
        4. 7.4.4 Expert Evaluation and Playability Testing
        5. 7.4.5 Multiple Evaluations Instead of One Evaluation
      5. 7.5 Process
        1. 7.5.1 Planning the Work
        2. 7.5.2 Reviewing the Game
        3. 7.5.3 Discussing the Findings and the Possible Solutions
        4. 7.5.4 Reporting the Findings
        5. 7.5.5 Results Workshop with the Game Developers
        6. 7.5.6 Fast Lane
        7. 7.5.7 Rules Used in the Evaluation
      6. 7.6 Heuristics
        1. 7.6.1 Usability Heuristics
          1. Consistency
          2. Provide feedback
          3. Use easy-to-understand terminology
          4. Minimize player's memory load
          5. Avoid errors
          6. Provide help
          7. Simple and clear menus
          8. Device user interface and game user interface are used for their own purposes
          9. Screen layout is efficient and visually pleasing
          10. Audiovisual representation supports the game
          11. Game controls are convenient and flexible
        2. 7.6.2 Gameplay Heuristics
          1. The game provides clear goals or supports player-created goals
          2. The player sees the progress in the game and can compare the results
          3. The player is rewarded and rewards are meaningful
          4. The player is in control
          5. Challenge, strategy, and pace are balanced
          6. The first-time experience is encouraging
          7. The game story supports the gameplay and is meaningful
          8. There are no repetitive or boring tasks
          9. The game supports different playing styles
          10. The game does not stagnate
          11. The game is consistent
          12. The game uses orthogonal unit differentiation
          13. The player does not lose any hard-won possessions
          14. The players can express themselves
        3. 7.6.3 Heuristics Specific to the Platform and Game Type
        4. 7.6.4 Previous Experience and Knowledge of Good Design Practices
      7. 7.7 Summary
        1. 7.7.1 How to Get Started
      8. 7.8 References
        1. 7.8.1 Additional resources
        1. Table 7.1
        2. Table 7.2
        3. Table 7.3
    6. Chapter Eight: Interview with Eric Schaffer, Ph.D., CEO of Human Factors International
    7. Chapter Nine: Master Metrics: The Science Behind the Art of Game Design
      1. 9.1 Overview
      2. 9.2 Background
      3. 9.3 The Techniques
      4. 9.4 Feature Design: Listen to Metacritic but don't be a Slave to Metacritic Source: Multiple Companies
        1. 9.4.1 Themes from High-Scoring Games
        2. 9.4.2 Themes from Low-Scoring Games
      5. 9.5 Take-Aways
      6. 9.6 Feature Design: Morphological Analysis is Analytical Creativity in Action Source: Don Arey, David Perry, Others
      7. 9.7 Take-Aways
      8. 9.8 Mechanics Design—Quantify Types of Emotions Evoked—Offer Three or More Source: Nicole Lazzaro, XEODesign
      9. 9.9 Take-Aways
      10. 9.10 Level Design—Use "Heat Maps" to Track and Quantify User Experience Source: Microsoft User Research Group
      11. 9.11 Take-Aways
      12. 9.12 Level Design—Craft a Balanced Mix of Activities Using "Time Spent" Reports Source: BioWare Corp.
      13. 9.13 Take-Away
      14. 9.14 Level Design—Track Engagement with Bio-sensors to Quantify Player Experience Source: EmSense, Inc.
      15. 9.15 Take-Aways
      16. 9.16 Control Design—Simplify Controls through Measured Complexity Models Source: Activision Central Design and 21st Century Game Design
      17. 9.17 Take-Aways
      18. 9.18 Experience Design—Integrate Playcentric Design throughout Development Source: Game Design Workshop
      19. 9.19 Take-Aways
      20. 9.20 References
  5. Part III: Focus on Special Contexts and Types of Players
    1. Chapter Ten: The Strange Case of the Casual Gamer
      1. 10.1 Hardcore Gamers Are from Mars...
      2. 10.2 Casual Gamers Are from Venus
      3. 10.3 Game Control Schemes: Familiar Interaction
        1. 10.3.1 Casual Games and the Left Mouse Button
        2. 10.3.2 Peripherals for the Casual Gamer
      4. 10.4 User Feedback: A Different Sense of Failure
        1. 10.4.1 Making Every Player a Winner
        2. 10.4.2 Avoiding Confusion through Transparency
      5. 10.5 The Rise of Hardcore Casual Games
      6. 10.6 Conclusions
    2. Chapter Eleven: Interviews about User Testing Practices at PlayFirst®
      1. Craig Bocks, Director of Publishing
      2. Aaron Norstad, Senior Producer
      3. Angel Inokon, Producer
    3. Chapter Twelve: Interview with Roppyaku Tsurumi, Roppyaku Design
      1. 12.1 The Relationship between Localization and Usability
        1. 12.1.1 Localization beyond Translation
      2. 12.2 Camera Algorithm Adjustments Unique to Japan
      3. 12.3 Textual Elements and the Indispensability of Usability
      4. 12.4 How the Right or Wrong Names Can Greatly Influences Usability
      5. 12.5 Usability and the PlayStation 3
  6. Part IV: Advanced Tactics
    1. Chapter Thirteen: Using Biometric Measurement to Help Develop Emotionally Compelling Games
      1. 13.1 Introduction
      2. 13.2 The Nature of Emotion
      3. 13.3 The Measurement of Emotion
        1. 13.3.1 Physiological Measurement of Emotion
        2. 13.3.2 Arousal Measures
        3. 13.3.3 Measuring Emotional Valence with Facial Expressions
      4. 13.4 Measuring the Player's Emotional Experience with Biometrics
        1. 13.4.1 Validation of Facial EMG as a Game Emotion Measure
        2. 13.4.2 Developing a Game's Emotional Profile
      5. 13.5 Practicalities of Using Biometric Measures
      6. 13.6 Applications for Biometric Methods
      7. 13.7 Summary
      8. 13.8 References
      9. 13.9 Additional Resources
        1. Figure 13.1
        2. Figure 13.2
        3. Figure 13.3
        4. Figure 13.4
        5. Figure 13.5
        6. Figure 13.6
        7. Figure 13.7
    2. Chapter Fourteen: Physiological Measures for Game Evaluation*
      1. 14.1 Introduction
        1. 14.1.1 Overview of Our Research
      2. 14.2 Comparison to other evaluation techniques
      3. 14.3 Which Sensors to Choose
        1. 14.3.1 Skin: Electrodermal Activity
          1. Psychological Counterpart
          2. Measurement Devices and Use
        2. 14.3.2 Cardiovascular System
          1. Blood Pressure
          2. Blood Volume and Pulse Volume
            1. Devices and Use
          3. Heart Rate
          4. Heart Rate Variability
            1. Spectral Analysis of Sinusarrhythmia
          5. Electrocardiography
        3. 14.3.3 Respiratory System
        4. 14.3.4 Muscles: Electromyography (EMG)*
        5. 14.3.5 Alternative Physiological Sensors
      4. 14.4 Considerations for Collecting Physiological Data
        1. 14.4.1 People are Different
        2. 14.4.2 Sensors Measure More than User Reaction to Your Game
        3. 14.4.3 Sensor Error
          1. Dealing with Sensor Error
        4. 14.4.4 Other Variations
      5. 14.5 How to Analyze Physiological Data
      6. 14.6 Advanced Uses of Physiological Data
        1. 14.6.1 Inferring a User's Emotional State
        2. 14.6.2 Triangulation with Other Data Sources
      7. 14.7 Conclusions
      8. 14.8 Acknowledgements
      9. 14.9 References
        1. Figure 14.1
        2. Figure 14.2
        3. Figure 14.3
        4. Figure 14.4
        5. Figure 14.5
        6. Figure 14.6
        7. Figure 14.7
        8. Figure 14.8
        9. Figure 14.9
        10. Figure 14.10
    3. Chapter Fifteen: TRUE Instrumentation: Tracking Real-Time User Experience in Games
      1. Objectives in the Chapter
      2. Abstract
      3. 15.1 The Genesis
        1. 15.1.1 Voodoo Vince
        2. 15.1.2 The Problem
        3. 15.1.3 The Solution
        4. 15.1.4 Design Impact
        5. 15.1.5 Our Instrumentation Refinement
        6. 15.1.6 Surveys
        7. 15.1.7 Contextual Data
        8. 15.1.8 Video
      4. 15.2 Putting it Together: TRUE Instrumentation
        1. 15.2.1 A Halo 2 Example
      5. 15.3 Forza 2: Production and Polishing
        1. 15.3.1 The Problem
        2. 15.3.2 The TRUE solution
        3. 15.3.3 Design Impact
      6. 15.4 Shadowrun—Beta
        1. 15.4.1 The Problem: Class Selection
        2. 15.4.2 The TRUE Solution: Class Selection
        3. 15.4.3 Design Impact: Class Selection
      7. 15.5 Crackdown: Demo
        1. 15.5.1 The problem
        2. 15.5.2 The TRUE solution
        3. 15.5.3 Design Impact
      8. 15.6 Next Steps and Resources
        1. 15.6.1 TRUE Instrumentation and the Product Development Cycle
      9. 15.7 Lessons Learned
        1. 15.7.1 Lesson 1: Plan for instrumentation early, make sure there is time for iteration
        2. 15.7.2 Lesson 2: Start with your research questions
        3. 15.7.3 Lesson 3: Keep the number of variables you are tracking to an absolute minimum
        4. 15.7.4 Lesson 4: Build sample reports BEFORE you set your hooks
        5. 15.7.5 Lesson 5: Represent the data visually
        6. 15.7.6 Lesson 6: If possible, have Design specify their design intent so we can compare actual with intended performance
        7. 15.7.7 Lesson 7: Test to make sure your instrumentation is recording data reliably
        8. 15.7.8 Lesson 8: Integrate into the source tree so you always have an instrumented build
        9. 15.7.9 Lesson 9: Instrumentation does not replace other forms of getting feedback
      10. 15.8 References
        1. Figure 15.1
        2. Figure 15.2
        3. Figure 15.3
        4. Figure 15.4
        5. Figure 15.5
        6. Figure 15.6
        7. Figure 15.7
        8. Figure 15.8
        9. Figure 15.9
        10. Figure 15.10
        11. Figure 15.11
        12. Figure 15.12
        1. Table 15.1
    4. Chapter Sixteen: Interview with Georgios Yannakakis, Assistant Professor at the Center for Computer Games Research, IT-University of Copenhagen
      1. 16.1 References
    5. Chapter Seventeen (A): Usability for Game Feel
      1. 17.1 The Gameplay Garden
      2. 17.2 Conclusion
        1. Figure 17.1
    6. Chapter Seventeen (B): Further Thoughts from Steve Swink on Game Usability
      1. 17.3 Game Testing and Homework
      2. 17.4 Three Types of Game Testing
        1. Experiential Testing
        2. Defect Testing
        3. Usability Testing
      3. 17.5 Why Do We Test?
      4. 17.6 Defining Experience
      5. 17.7 Usability and Game Design
      6. 17.8 Clear the Bridge
      7. 17.9 Challenge vs. Obfuscation
      8. 17.10 Detailed Planning
      9. 17.11 The Tetris Test
        1. Usability
        2. Experience
        3. Challenge
    7. Chapter Eighteen: Interview about Prototyping and Usability with Jenova Chen
      1. For Prototypes
      2. For Feedback
    8. Chapter Nineteen: Social Psychology and User Research
      1. 19.1 Why Social Psychology?
      2. 19.2 Some Helpful Social Psychological Findings
        1. 19.2.1 First Impressions
          1. Attractiveness
          2. Maturity (the "babyface" effect)
          3. Dominance and friendliness
          4. Power of the situation
          5. Marks of belonging
          6. Mood management
            1. Emotional contagion
            2. Physical feedback loop
        2. 19.2.2 How to Use these Findings in Design and Evaluation
      3. 19.3 How to Find More Useful Patterns?
      4. 19.4 References
      5. 19.5 Resources
    9. Chapter Twenty: The Four Fun Keys
      1. 20.1 Forget Usability! What Makes Games Fun?
      2. 20.2 Emotion and Engagement in Player Experiences
        1. 20.2.1 Player Experiences Are Not User Experiences
        2. 20.2.2 Emotions Are the Key to Great Experiences
        3. 20.2.3 Emotion's role in Choice/Games
          1. Comparing Engagement Models Reveals Similarities and Open Issues
      3. 20.3 Hard Fun
        1. 20.3.1 Hord Fun Emotions
      4. 20.4 Hard Fun Mechanics
      5. 20.5 How Hard Fun Mechanics Work Together to Create Mastery
      6. 20.6 Easy Fun
        1. 20.6.1 Easy Fun Emotions
      7. 20.7 Easy Fun Mechanics
      8. 20.8 How Easy Fun Mechanics Work Together to Inspire Imagination
        1. 20.8.1 Novelty and familiarity
      9. 20.9 Serious Fun
      10. 20.10 Serious Fun Emotions
      11. 20.11 Serious Fun Mechanics
      12. 20.12 How Serious Fun Mechanics Work Together to Express and Create Value
        1. 20.12.1 Visceral Engagement
        2. 20.12.2 Cognitive Identity and utility
      13. 20.13 People Fun
        1. 20.13.1 People Fun Emotions
        2. 20.13.2 People Fun Mechanics
        3. 20.13.3 How People Fun Mechanics Work Together to Create Relationships
      14. 20.14 A Few Suggestions for Applying the Four Fun Keys
        1. 20.14.1 Improving PX Player Experience for Games
      15. 20.15 References
        1. Figure 20.1
        2. Figure 20.2
        3. Figure 20.3
        4. Figure 20.4
        5. Figure 20.5
        6. Figure 20.6
        7. Figure 20.7
        8. Figure 20.8
        9. Figure 20.9
        10. Figure 20.10
        11. Figure 20.11
        1. Table 20.1
        2. Table 20.2
        3. Table 20.3
        4. Table 20.4
        5. Table 20.5
        6. Table 20.6
  7. Part V: Putting it All Together and Where Things are Going
    1. Chapter Twenty-One: Matrix of Issues and Tools
    2. Chapter Twenty-Two: Interview with Don Norman, Principal in the Nielsen-Norman Group, and Professor, Northwestern University
    3. Chapter Twenty-Three: “Gamenics” and its Potential—Interview with Akihiro Saitō*, Professor, Ritsumeikan University, College of Image Arts and Sciences; Director, Bmat Japan
      1. 23.1 What is "gamenics"?
      2. 23.2 Gamenics and Professor Saitō's Career
      3. 23.3 The Two Objectives and Four Principles of Gamenics
      4. 23.4 Enhancing Button Reliability
      5. 23.5 Current Projects
      6. 23.6 Japanese Culture and Gamenics