Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Dad of gamers in training...

I was wondering why my cellular data usage was so high.

Turns out oldest boy installed Hero Academy 2. By connecting his iPad to my phone (safely cradled). While I was driving home with him in the back seat.

He's 7.

We're in trouble. Alternatively, yay?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Apple Store & Connected Toys

Stopped in the Apple Store to get the battery replaced on my old iPhone 6. It's a backup for testing and handing to the kids now that I have an 8 (AR Kit).

Super helpful tech. He's involved in the Austin Makerfaire (need to take the kids!) and does science and tech demonstrations and lessons for kids. And connected me with someone at the ACC GDI (need to volunteer a lecture/workshop for their students).

All while delinting and removing the corrosion from the insides of my old iPhone 6 lightning jack (thought I'd have to replace it -- nope, just needed a scope...)

Pretty cool.

Not as cool: The connected toy I was trying to play with while waiting for my appointment.

It's called a MekaMon. It was annoying to calibrate (bulky item, needs two hands to manipulate, so phone goes where?) and I couldn't figure out how to use it at all.

Turns out "demo mode" was enabled which meant that none of the working options actually... worked.

A helpful salesperson guided me to the actual demo mode, and I was left with this:

Now THAT is a fun UI to parse :)

I don't mean to throw unasked for shade towards this product. I've worked on other connected toys and the UX challenges are not trivial. At a fundamental level, users want to watch and interact with the TOY but they're required to do so via a visual phone interface. See the disconnect.

Strategically, though, the failures run deeper than this. One key to user adoption is that teachers need to be able to figure these devices out quickly AND set up a bunch of them for kids to play with and use.

In my (albeit limited) experience, this has been a failing for Anki, Sphero, and now MekaMon. There's no way for an instructor to easily put the devices into "class room mode" which ideally would:

  • Skip the onboarding (which is usually too long and could easily be replaced by verbal instructions and cooperative play) 
  • Kill the "account creation" (why, God, why...)
  • Set smart defaults
  • Lock the devices into "classroom demo mode". Especially useful for younger kids who aren't able to read yet or figure out the navigation scheme if they exit the demo mode by mistake.
I love volunteering with elementary kids, but the prep work is killer. Having to play through 10 onboarding scenarios, calibrate devices, set students into specific modes, fix things when they exit by mistake... Not fun.

And not fun for the instructor means fewer instructors doing them and less fun sessions.

Which means that kids aren't going to go home and ask for one.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

UX is Fine

New business cards. Check!

New website. Check!

Check it out: UXisFine

New content? Not yet!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Behind the 8 ball, seriously...

Time to start the game list again. So far behind.

  • IGF nominees. Have already review 5, but want to hit my 15 (free GDC Expo Pass). And actually, I love playing all these indie games.
  • Competitor research (for various client engagements).
    • Damaged Core, Lucky's Tale (Oculus)
    • Enter the Gungeon, Nuclear Throne (bullet hell shooter, procedural map)
    • Infinity Wars, latest Faeria patch (TCG battlers)
    • Overwatch (everyone is taking inspiration from their game shell UX)
And, of course I need to keep up to date on my clients' games :)

Will try to blog more about what I'm playing and my thoughts.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons... Heck of a User Experience

Was reflecting recently on a panel I participated on at SXSW this year. I was asked what User Experience means in the context of games. Of course, I said "everything." I was only being slightly facetious.

The basic point I was trying to make was that the creators of games have experiences they want their players to have. When I started in the business, the UX group I worked with focused on "fun". This was always the last question on any benchmark survey filled out to assess game quality. Our goal was to get games to be "very fun" by providing user feedback data to teams throughout the iterative process.

A reasonable strategy.
A profitable strategy.
A boring strategy.

My sons (aged 3 and 4) recently watched me play through Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Might not have been the most appropriate game for kids that age. But what an experience. Difficult subject matter. Scary creatures and situations.

And, inevitably, tears.

The Charlotte's Web Moment: Narrative User Experience

I won't spoil the actual Charlotte's Web moment for the 17 folks who haven't yet played it (seriously, go play it...) but part way through the story I had to pause the game and console two tearful toddlers who were invested in the character and distraught to see it pass on.

Of course, that experience really had nothing to do with GAMEPLAY. We have those moments from time to time with books and movies. Sad things happen. Kids get sad. We talk about it. Just so happens that the narrative design of the game was done well enough to achieve this emotional reaction.

The Final Moment: Gameplay User Experience

For the first 95% of the game, the game play wasn't super interesting or compelling to me. The controls were reasonably intuitive but never felt fluid. In such a short game I never really mastered them, but the game was balanced so as not to punish me too harshly for failure and the challenge curve was shallow.

What I didn't realize was that this was actually just a long setup designed to deliver an incredibly emotional experience at the very end of the game.

The transcendent moment occurred when I had to reimagine how I needed to use the controls in order to finish the game after a major plot point kind of... well... broke them. (sorry for the vagueness, but spoilers...) And after reimagining them, I got to play the new control scheme. And boy-howdy was it ever a satisfying game play experience.

The emotional connection between the brothers wasn't just driven through narrative events. It was reinforced and magnified through the deliberate design of the control scheme.


And as elated as my sons were when we "beat" the game (narrative experience), they really only got to experience part of the elation that I experienced as the player (gameplay experience).