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Live Blogging from GDC Austin - Ace Usability and Avoid Kobayashi Maru

Session with Nicole Lazzaro of XEODesign.

Usability is crucial in all games, but especially children's games.  Nobody likes to play with or use things that are difficult to use.  Should be a great session!

3:00PM - Session is subtitled 'A Pre-Flight Check List'.  I love it!  XEODesign uses emotions players feel -> improve games.  7 emotions displayed on the face, hard for people to fake.

Hacking what's fun from the player's perspective.  4 Keys to Fun:

Imagine the audience of your game.  Would your mom like it, would some stranger on the bus like it?  Paint the type of player engagement with verbs.  Frustration.  Discovery.  Curiosity.  Schadenfreude.  Excitement. Relaxation.  Generosity.  **People like games best when they can move within 3 of the 4 play styles.**  Socializing in games helps achieve some of these well because you are interacting with friends.

The iPhone has a deep emotion profile.  (YES!  This is why people are so upset when they're stolen or lost!)  Stroking, tapping someone's hand is affectionate, and this is what we do to our iPhones!  (GREAT OBSERVATION!)

Two wheels of a bike.  Back wheel = controls/usability.  Front wheel = choice/can they have fun?  Center of bike = rider not thinking of either of these things, simply having FUN!

Part 1 UX - Reduce Complexity.  Look at game and simplify it!  Reduce the amount of work players have to do to put their feet on the bike's pedals.  Don't overwhelm people with things they can do.  The more things users must click to do what they're there to do, the more users will drop off and leave you.  When it all fits in your head at once, players feel good and comfortable.

3:28pm "Just push the button!"  Keep buttons clickable.  Bounding box should be cursor to cursor and a half bigger than the icon.  Texture on buttons is bad.  They should stand out.

Players don't read.  (YES I AGREE!)  Many games have too much text.  You shouldn't have to read things to understand.  No more than 5 to 10 words.  Only an alphabet and a half wide (abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz) so players can scan it.  Blue background is bad for visual acuity. 

"We'll fix it in the tutorial!" = Band Aid approach.  Don't go there!  "They'll love the game once we teach them!" You won't get to teach them.  Don't go there either.  Halo 1 tutorial = excellent.  Koi Pond = intuitive = excellent.  Have lots of sandboxy play in tutorial, not step by step instruction.  Give the player feedback during play.  Great feedback example = Peggle.  When Ode to Joy plays, you know you have succeeded.

iPhone icons are like personalizing your phone, displaying what you like and value.

Diner Dash 4 - prizes are things like coffeemakers that make the game more challenging.

There is a sin wave within the flow channel.  (WOW!  There definitely is.)  Game should get more challenging with time, and still provide periods of rest & relief.

Social bonding, overcoming obstacles together = unique bonding.  (Note: This was touched on in the Kids & Parents session on Wednesday.)

Leverage over the shoulder play & sharing.  Lines of sharing should go in a circle.  Vampire Game on Facebook is one directional.  Once I bite you, there's nothing for you to do to me.

4:02pm Cheat!  Do lots of usability testing with friends and family before formal testing.  Don't help them play, just watch their reactions and actions more than what they say in a survey.  Then, don't fix every small issue of your problems.  Instead, look at the larger system problems as a whole and fix those.  Communication systems, feedback systems, etc.

Always connect core activities with loops.  They should flow from one to the other.  You shouldn't have to back out of one activity to get to another.

Find Nicole's slides from this and other presentations here.

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