Words 2048 usability evaluation

As part of a benchmark series, we will look at many 2048 games out there to see how they compare, and highlight best practices swell as common pitfalls for this type of games.

Let us start with words 2048.

Game goal

words2048-lvl1Though it may seem obvious, the goal of the game isn’t cristal clear from the start. The word above the grid might not be seen, and the change of color might be subject to blindness to change. Even if the player sees the word he should spell by playing, they are unlikely to understand the game mechanics just fro seeing it there, even when playing.

Feedback & signs

words2048-goaldiscoveryThe choice of colors and feedback on the word are confusing. At first, RED is used to to highlight missing letters, then the whole word turns red when it is completed. This is created contradictory signals which makes understanding the progress less intuitive for players.

On the “level completed” screen, the word appears in RED, which, unless you’re in japan, is associated with a negative impression (cancel, don’t drive, danger…). It doesn’t feel like success. The same goes for the red “play next” button. For us westerners, it is less inviting.
words2048-feedbackgoalwords2048-goal-bitofwordIn the second level, the goal is still unclear: all letters are blue from the start, then the E highlights in RED, but right before the player has an E in his grid, the letter was back to grey.

The RED highlight helps the user understand it is missing, but generally the use of colors feels inconsistent and confusing.

What is not clear throughout levels is whether all letters of the word create the goal, or if the target is just the one red letter from the start.

words2048-feedbackUnlike the feedback on the progress towards the goal, the feedback on the gameplay interactions are very good. Merging cells seem to move forward slightly and appearing new letters grow from the center of the cell. These animations really help the player understand what’s happening.

Player strategies

Note on the previous video the interaction dot: the player slides his finger forward, in a motion that will have no effect on the newly appearing letter. This is a behaviour that we will often observe in this kind of game: the player often makes decisions on a direction he repeats, and changes only when no actions are left. So it is usual to observe players try to move letters up 3 to 5 times in a direction that won’t work before they realise it and change directions.words2048-difficultyprogress

When observing sessions of this game, players appear to play slightly slower than when player other games of the like (1 to 2 interactions per second instead of 2 to 3). Comparing to other games, reactivity, speed and length of the feedback animations can play a role in this behavior.

Privacy & security

words2048-locationaccesswtfOn a side note, Words 2048 ask permission to access the user’s location when starting up the game.  The user will not see the benefit for him to allow this, and will probably deny the game the information.

Don’t waste time integrating this kind of feature.

I understand it may be useful for targeted ads, however the sweet spot lies in the area where your business goals overlap with user needs. This is not one of those sweet spots.

Menus & options

words2048-confirmbeforequitThe game clearly asks confirmation before closing, with straight forward choices.

What did we learn in this game?

  • Consistent use of color helps the player understand the game’s goals and progress
  • Brief but clearly visible feedback after moves help the player understand the gameplay
  • Long animations on feedback can slow down the player interactions to understand and regulate their actions.
  • Players don’t decide every single move in this kind of game, they are also likely to decide by “series of moves in the same direction”
  • Culture has an effect on understanding: while in japan RED is associated with “ok”, it is not an appropriate color in Europe or North America for positive feedback, rewards or positive actions like “next level”
  • If your game doesn’t involve geography in its gameplay, it is unlikely players will be ok with sharing their location, specially if you don’t provide a good reason to.