Playtest insights on Amanita’s Botanicula : interaction design and the complexity of puzzles

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 10.39.23PART 2 Botanicula is a “relaxed game perfect for hardcore gamers, their partners, families and seniors”; A point and Click adventure by Amanita Designs, who already won our hearts with Machinarium.

I’ve had the chance to test this game with two teenagers: Joe, a core gamer, Alex, a casual gamer and Robin, a 5 year old little girl, a 66 year old grand mother and a zen-game loving mom. Here’s some highlights of their player experiences.

Tested on PC/Mac

This review includes screenshots and details of the end of the game, beware of spoilers

Continue reading Playtest insights on Amanita’s Botanicula : interaction design and the complexity of puzzles

Playtest insights on Amanita’s Botanicula : goals, guidance and storytelling

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 10.39.23Part 1 Botanicula is a “relaxed game perfect for hardcore gamers, their partners, families and seniors”; A point and Click adventure by Amanita Designs, who already won our hearts with Machinarium.

I’ve had the chance to test this game with two teenagers: Joe, a core gamer, Alex, a casual gamer and Robin, a 5 year old little girl, a 66 year old grand mother and a zen-game loving mom. Here’s some highlights of their player experiences.

Tested on PC/Mac

Continue reading Playtest insights on Amanita’s Botanicula : goals, guidance and storytelling

Game review : Catherine’s Tutorials and Controls Usability Review

Tutorials & Controls in Catherine’s nightmares

In this article, we are going to have a closer look at Catherine’s controls and tutorials. Let’s have a look at how players accomodate awkward controls by moving from using the stick to using the less input-error-prone directional arrows. Next, we will see how even the good tutorial of Catherine can fire back when too much explanations discourage users from using game features.

Continue reading Game review : Catherine’s Tutorials and Controls Usability Review

Problem solving in Catherine and how the interface design decisions influence player performance

Catherine is a game about problem solving. Players need to learn techniques, chunk them to remember them easily and detect patterns in the environment to know when to use which technique to progress in the game. Repetition also leads them to over-learning : techniques become automatic and allow the player to be faster and to reach higher awards as he masters the game mechanics and execution.

Continue reading Problem solving in Catherine and how the interface design decisions influence player performance

Catherine’s game Interface usability review : how mismatching mental models affects player experience

Catherine is a mature game about adultery and pushing boxes. Don’t run away, it’s the good kind of pushing boxes. Just let me take you through the first steps of the game.

Tested on PS3

Continue reading Catherine’s game Interface usability review : how mismatching mental models affects player experience

How games user research lead us to make our game harder

Making user friendly games doesn’t mean making them easier. Regardless, developpers still often make this mistake. The purpose of games user research is to ensure the player’s experience matches the designer’s intent. This can lead to simplify interfaces and remove unwanted challenges from the game, such as confusing controls. It does not imply removing any meaningful challenge though.

To illustrate that games user research can actually lead to making games harder, I will tell you the story of Olympus Naumachia. Game user research made this game quite a bit harder, yet less complicated.

Continue reading How games user research lead us to make our game harder

Where there is a will, there is a way : playtesting during the pre-production phase

A while ago, I was talking with one of the students in game user research from ENJMIN. He was eagerly waiting to have the first game prototype to start testing and had a lot of ideas. He was at a loss however as to what to do meanwhile.

In my experience, not having a game prototype is a non issue : that’s when everything can still be changed, it’s the perfect time for testing! Many solutions exist to be able to test concepts and gameplay mecanics even without a prototype. With little help from the developers, game designers it is possible to design a test and anticipate some or most of the major usability issues before having a game to playtest. This article proposes an overview of solutions to still be able to conduct tests early in the development process.

Continue reading Where there is a will, there is a way : playtesting during the pre-production phase

Choisir le support de test le plus pertinent en pré-production

Dans un précédent article, nous avons abordé plusieurs solutions pour être en mesure de réaliser des tests utilisateurs dès la pré-production de jeux, même en l’absence de prototype, en s’appropriant des outils de conception et des méthodes créatives pour ne pas être limité par cette contrainte.

Pour certaines questions, jeux, supports, interactions, l’une des méthodes sera particulièrement adaptée. A l’inverse, d’autres offriront de piètres possibilités pour éclairer le sujet qui nous intéresse à un instant t, dans un contexte précis. Le présent article récapitule les points forts de ces méthodes, telles qu’expérimentés sur mes projets, et les limites que j’ai pu rencontrer pour vous aider à choisir la méthode que vous pourrez adapter à vos besoins.

Continue reading Choisir le support de test le plus pertinent en pré-production

L’ergonomie en pré-prod : comment travailler sans prototype ?

J’ai échangé récemment avec un étudiant qui se trouvait face à un dilemne. Il avait bien compris la valeur ajoutée des tests utilisateurs, mais se trouvait coincé par l’absence de prototype du jeu pour apporter les réponses attendues par son équipe.

Cette problématique est classique en phase de conception. L’ergonome dispose heureusement de nombreux outils en dehors des tests utilisateurs qu’il peut mettre en oeuvre, du focus group à l’analyse concurrentielle, en passant par la construction de persona.

Mais pour l’ergonome qui a des questions bien précises auxquelles la meilleure réponse vient malgré tout de tests utilisateurs. Et j’ai une bonne nouvelle :
tant que rien n’est développé tout peut être fait!

Cet article vous présentera quelques outils pour réaliser des tests, même à partir d’un simple pitch.

Continue reading L’ergonomie en pré-prod : comment travailler sans prototype ?