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It's sad that we are like this but it's true, we feel better doing something or using something that we are used to rather than something that is better but different. This makes me think of game controllers nowadays, why do we use game pads? They are quite limitted for certain types of games like RTS or even FPS, surely a trackball would be better right? But it would be impossible to make people switch to trackballs again....

This train of thought, especially the Google Chrome bit ties very nicely into a growing number of compendia regarding usability design, behavioral principles of interaction etcetera that form the foundation of smart design. I was introduced to this topic by our lead UI designer when he showed me these two books (I would highly recommend them as general reference for game designers):



While centered predominantly around designing objects and interactions around a natural usability, the lessons for game designers are numerous and above all the logic often transcends the product divide. The truth is that we live in a world of conventions and it's simply not possible for us to throw that away without alot of iteration.

I think you are absolutely right about design culture by the way. There is a number of innovative designs that make sense and simplify the current trend but which stray too far away from basic usability principles governed by expectation and familiarity and push experienced users into the unknown.

(For example the way that Chrome deals with bookmarks by forcing the user to minimize their immediate reference table - I think everyone has seen the gnarly list of bookmarks collected over years but most people have a way of dealing with it through sorting).

Why am I getting the sense that you are on a bit of a simplify and clarify designs & experiences bender over the last few posts Jonathan? :)

You make a great point about Ico. I played through it just recently and often found myself stumped when solutions were staring me in the face. For instance: it took ages to discover that, when calling Yorda, you can hold the button down to extend a hand for her to grab. Or maybe I'm not recalling that mechanic correctly. Either way, your limited, indirect control over Yorda is perhaps the game's greatest strength, but it's also somewhat counterintuitive for most players.

Martin: I’m in this bender because I’m currently starting conception. It is a good opportunity for me to make sure we don’t over-complicate things. I am definitely interested to explore this “simple but deep” concept. I think we did a few mistakes on Far Cry 2 and I would like to avoid repeating them. Complex goals can be achieved simply and to pull it off it will definitely require a huge effort on my side. I guess this is why my thoughts often go naturally in this direction these days. If I find the time to do a GDC talk this year I guess it will explore ideas of this kind... :)

Thanks for the book references. I will check those out as well as a few others...


Jonathan: I see the wisdom in that kind of pre-production logic where I probably wouldn't have, even 12 months ago. In this case, at least, experience is king. I'm in Beta with my current project now and with time dwindling to full launch, simplicity is fast becoming the mother of necessity (and a fresh new motto for what's left of the design team).

I'm glad to hear that lead designer initiated arguments for scaling back and refocusing on core value are still alive and well in the more 'hardcore' game market - many recent AAA titles seem to indicate the opposite trend even if a deeper reading of postmortems seems to suggest that these, while healthy, often simply get heard far later in the production pipeline then they ought.

As a relatively unsubstatiated rant, your comment brings up an interesting thought. It feels like sometimes games targeted to a more 'discerning' audience try to bridge the gap between last gen & next gen by degrees of complexity - say 4 or 5 levels of counter point, whereas the casual game segment divide is still much more conservative in its scope - games succeed or fail on their core play values much more quickly (extreme example would be the indy area).

In any case, keep those thoughts coming :)

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