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手机游戏能否无视易用性设计原则?

发布时间:2013-06-12 08:51:58 Tags:,,,,

作者:Jens Peter Jensen

许多成功的游戏似乎都忘了易用性,而那曾经是开发者在开发游戏时从头到尾都在考虑的问题。

所谓产品的易用性,也就是容易使用和学习人造产品。自计算机诞生以来,这个概念一直作为优秀的软件设计的核心特征。当然,它是经过了漫长而艰难的过程才成为软件开发的主宰,将用户留在易用性的黑暗时代好多年。

回到文本界面标准的时代,一般用户如果不看详细的指南或教程,根本不会操作电脑。今天,因为市场上的操作系统已经全面标准化了,几乎所有人都不需训练就能操作电脑。在过去20年,易用性一直统治着操作系统,从Windows 95到Windows 7的发展历程清楚地反映了这一点。

Bahamut Vs CoC(from gameanalytics.com)

Bahamut Vs CoC(from gameanalytics.com)

易用性的分裂

随着手机游戏的飞速发展和竞争加剧,有些开发者似乎在设计中忘记或选择忽略易用性。看看今天的苹果应用收益排行榜,游戏之间的易用性差距非常大。以Mobage的《Rage of Bahamut》和Supercell的《Clash of Clans》为例,这两款游戏都位列美国的收益排行榜前10名,标志着它们成为手机游戏中的大赢家。它们并非同一类型的游戏,玩法上无法进行比较。但是,就易用性方面而言,它们的差距却是十万八千里。

beware the lowres dragon(from gameanalytics)

注意图片中的龙分辨率很低(from gameanalytics)

最近有人评论《Rage of Bahamut》,大意如下:

“东京开发商Cygames最近宣布,它的2千万玩家中有一半人在玩《Rage of Bahamut》,使之成为世界上最流行的游戏之一。真是令人吃惊,因为这款游戏根本就是一堆垃圾。”

Rage of Bahamut(from gameanalytics)

Rage of Bahamut(from gameanalytics)

(玩家必须滚上滚下才能找到想要的动作,文本太多,按键太少,让玩家不知所措。)

在Metacritic网站上,《Clash of Clans》的评价很好,得分达到74。设计师在设计这款游戏时显然考虑到易用性,所以游戏的UI设计得非常吸引人和直观。相反地,《Rage of Bahamut》的UI令人困惑不解、不灵活,简直就是丑陋,足见设计者的易用性方面的考虑是多么混乱和狭隘。

Clash of Clans(from gameanalytics)

Clash of Clans(from gameanalytics)

(UI用醒目的图标清楚地表显活动和状态。)

新风气

然而,差劲的易用性似乎没有拖累该游戏的赢利能力,这不禁让我们疑惑:为什么?为什么手机游戏消费者不介意易用性上的糟糕设计?如果消费者总是对的,那么糟糕的易用性应该不成问题,那么为什么还要花那么多时间和精力研究易用性?作为游戏开发商,其目标应该是制作能挣钱的好游戏,以便维持公司的运作。但游戏开发商的唯一目标就是挣钱吗?

现在看来,消费者似乎能接受几乎所有产品,而市场上也充斥着相同或雷同的游戏。这意味着当同质化游戏互相竞争时,易用性更好的游戏应该最终获胜。同样地,在留存率方面,如果其中一款游戏具有更加流畅、易用的界面,另一款相似的游戏应该很难留住玩家。

可悲的是,良好的易用性并不难达到,设计师可以找到若干条关于发现和解决易用性问题的指导方针。这些指导方针并不要求用户测试,并且一天就能执行完。不过,使用它们找到的易用性问题可能需要很长时间才能解决。

Jacob Nielsen于1995年1月1日提出了10条易用性启发法。他的指导方针虽然历时近20年,仍然像当初一样实用。

易用性问题降低游戏品质

通过游戏指标,有若干种不同的办法来发现易用性问题。但一般来说,易用性是最难追踪的方面之一。这是因为必须寻找用户在使用产品时犯的错误和遇到的困难。这意味着必须区分用户行为和用户意图——这简直是一道哲学难题。而且,可能也需要深入的定性用户测试,这并不总是好做法,因为有时候甚至用户也没有意识到自己的意图是什么。如果使用得当,玩家指标可以确定用户意图,并将其与玩家行为做比较,从而发现易用性问题。

例如,如果用户打开某个菜单却什么也没做就退出来了,可能暗示着用户的目标并不是那个菜单。如果这种事发生的次数足够多,那就表明用户是误打开那个菜单。再看看用户在犯错后接下来做出什么行为,那可能是用户的真正意图所在。在许多情况下,如果用户不断打开退出不含重要信息的菜单,可能是因为界面难以使用。

另外要观察的是禁止行为,如把东西放在可操作的区域之外,在不具备条件的情况下建立某物,或甚至简单到点击并没有活动存在的区域。这些都表明用户正在尝试做一些不能做的事。如果用户花更多时间点击并不存在的东西,肯定是UI出了错,除非设计者的意图就是激怒用户。

记住,如果用户犯错,并不是用户的错,而是游戏的设计方式导致用户出了错。

如果用户觉得太难执行自己想做的活动,他们会停止尝试,甚至永远地离开游戏。随着苹果应用商店的竞争进一步加剧,消费者寻找下一款游戏实在易如反掌,所以具备良好的易用性等于让游戏赢在起跑线上。

为了卓越的设计,但愿这股无视易用性的风气会很快消失,而不是持续弥漫;但只要消费者继续在糟糕的设计上砸钱,像《Rage of Bahamut》这样的游戏就会继续霸占排行榜。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转载,如需转载请联系:游戏邦

Usability in mobile games: the triumph of bad design?

by Jens Peter Jensen

Many successful games seem to have lately forgotten to include usability, which used to be the alpha and omega for game development, in their development process.

Usability is defined as both ease of use and ease of learning to use a man-made object. It is a concept that has been at the core of good software design ever since the beginning of computers. It was, of course, a long and hard road for usability to dominate software development, leaving users in a usability Dark Age for many years.

Back in the days of the text-based interfaces standard, the average user would simply be unable to operate a computer without a large manual or specific training. Today, with the operating system standard dominating the market, anyone can sit down in front of a computer and use it intuitively, without any training at all. The progress of usability in operating systems has been enormous in the last 20 years, and comparing Windows 95 to Windows 7 clearly demonstrates that.

The usability schism

With the very rapid development and brutal competition characteristic to mobile games, it seems that some developers have forgotten or chosen to disregard usability in design. When looking at the top grossing mobile games on Apple’s App Store today, there is a very wide gap between the games there in terms of usability. Take for instance the two games Rage of Bahamut, by Mobage, and Clash of Clans, by Supercell. Both are in the top 10 grossing games in the USA and this marks them as big mobile games successes. They are not the same genre and they are not going to be compared in terms of gameplay. Rather, they will be compared in terms of usability, where they are miles apart.

Beware the lowres dragon!

Wired recently reviewed Rage of Bahamut, and they were not impressed, to put it mildly.

“Tokyo-based developer Cygames recently revealed that half of its 20 million overall players are playing Bahamut. That would make it one of the most popular games in the world. That’s surprising because it’s also a real piece of crap.”

The player must scroll up and down to find the desired action, most times there are a lot of text and few buttons to press, leaving the player disorientated.

Clash of Clans has gotten very good reviews and has scored a 74 on Metacritic. The game is clearly designed with usability in mind and it does a very good job of making the game inviting and intuitive. Rage of Bahamut on the other hand is very messy and incomprehensive, with a UI that is confusing, restrictive and just plain old ugly.

The UI clearly displays possible actions and status overview with easily recognizable icons, inviting the player to tap on them.

New customer trends

The ugliness and blatant disregard for usability however does not seem to influence the grossing power of the game, which brings up the question: Why? Why don’t the consumers of mobile games mind bad design and usability? If the customer is always right, and bad usability is not an issue, why should anyone spend time and money on making good usability? As a game developer the goal should be to develop a game that makes a profit, so that the company can continue to exist. But should that be the one and only goal of a game developer?

It now appears that the consumer will consume almost anything and that the market is also full of similar and identical games. That should mean that when similar and identical games compete, the one with the better usability would eventually win. Also in terms of player retention, it should be more difficult to keep players hooked, if another similar game shows up with a smooth, easy to use interface.

The sad thing is that good usability is not that hard to achieve, there are several guidelines that can help designers to find usability problems and deal with them. Those guidelines do not even require user testing and can be applied in a single day. The problems found using them might take longer to fix however.

Here is Jacob Nielsen’s 10 usability heuristics from January 1st 1995. This guideline might be almost 20 years old but it is as relevant and useful as ever.

Instead, you could view this 3 minute video explaning his concepts.

Usability trough game metrics

There are several different approaches to detecting usability problems through game metrics, but as a rule, usability is one of the most difficult aspects to track. This is due to the fact that you
are looking for user mistakes and difficulties in playing the game. That means it is necessary to distinguish between user action and user intention, which is almost a philosophical matter. This might also require thorough qualitative user tests, which is not always the best approach as even users are not always aware of their intentions. Player metrics can, if used intelligently,identify user intentions and compare it to the player actions, and that way find usability problems.

For instance, if users go into a specific menu and go out again without taking any action, it can indicate that the user did not intend to go in that menu. If this happens often enough it indicates that the users often end up in that menu by mistake. Then it is interesting to see what action the users take after making the mistake, as that action could be the actual indented action. In any
case, if users keep going in and out of menus that are not displaying critical information, the interface might not be easy enough to use.

Something else to look for is prohibited actions, like placing something outside the designated area, trying to build something without the correct prerequisites, or even something as simple as tapping the screen where no action exists. These all indicate that the user is trying to do something but is unable to do so. If the user spends more time tapping on nothing then something, there is clearly something wrong with the UI, unless it is designed to infuriate the user.

Remember that if the user makes mistakes, it is not the user that is doing something wrong, but the game that is designed in a way that determines the user to make mistakes.

If the user finds it too hard to perform the action they want, they will eventually stop trying and stop playing the game, most likely for good. With the level of competition in the App Store, customers will have little trouble finding something else to play with, so good usability is critical right from the start.

For the sake of good design, hopefully this trend of ignoring usability will dissipate sooner rather than later, but as long as the customer keeps spending money on bad design it is likely that games like Rage of Bahamut will stay strong in the charts.(source:gameanalytics)


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