City 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.

Next up, City 2048.

Tutorials

city2048-onboarding

First how to play screen teaches the basics of the game and appears quite soon when starting up of the game. It is mostly textual though, but legible, readable and brief.

The progressive and animated appearance of the game’s graphical elements help the player to identify these areas by attracting his attention and highlighting the structure of the interfaces.city2048-tuto-later-achievements

The tutorial is split in different message boxes across the game. The first one teaches how to play, then informing the player about new and advanced features as he unlocks or needs them, or highlighting  features the player did not notice / access yet.

city2048-introduction-new-featuresFor example, the level of the biggest buildings is highlighted when reaching a certain level, while the “undo” bonus is explained when unlocked.

As you can see, the message appears as the player is trying to perform an interaction. It disrupts the gameplay in this situation by interrupting the player’s task. In this session, it was not considered too intrusive or annoying by the player though.

Interactions

city2048-undo

Contextual interactions are suggested, acting as a reminder, for things the player might not have learnt from the tutorial and are only needed later in the game, such as the option to undo a move to play on by using a bonus.

It is a good way to reduce the information load in the tutorial and maintain a positive experience by providing the user with the information he needs when he needs it.

The interaction itself also requires less effort of the user, since it is oblique. Even in games where the tiles are horizontal and vertical, the players touch interactions tend to be oblique rather than straight up or to the side. Not only does it contribute to the nice look and feel of the game, it is also more consistent with the player’s natural movement and is more friendly to thumb-based gaming.

city2048-designAlso, when the player is fast, notice how the feedback doesn’t block the interactions. The previous score increase finishes to rise as the next one already appears. This contributes to make the game feel smooth and increases the feeling of reward from the score.

It also avoids frustration of the player who is sometimes forced to play more slowly than he’d like just because the animations aren’t finished.

Player strategies

city2048-progress

city2048-timer-endSlower interactions, with occasional pauses to make the right sequence to get a higher level building. Each action requires thought and is based on conscious decisions and planning.

In city 2048, this behaviour is observed slightly more frequently than in other games.

city2048-alive-planeThis might be because the tiles are slightly more difficult to determine : the player needs a little more effort to distinguish the different types of buildings, and their order in levels, compared to simple numbers.
Players also display a more contemplative behaviour, enjoying the aesthetic pleasure of their construction, that feels alive, thanks to small details and animations like passing planes.

Feedback

city2048-feedbackUnlike the other games reviewed before, city 2048 focuses its feedback on the score increase, by displaying the amount of points earned for an interaction in the game area, rather than next to the score.
city2048-feedback2
The tiles merging and appearance animations are more classically based on size variations that are visible and help to notice the changes in the game state.

Menus & options

While the score and bonus / gameplay menus appears on top, this game has a different approach to screen layout : main menu items are directly visible at the bottom at the screen. They don’t intrude because most of the time, they will be hidden by the player’s hand, allowing him to focus anyway on the game’s content rather than the menu’s content. On the other hand, this might result in input errors, but I never saw it happen during a game session.

What did we learn from this game ?

  • Making the different menus appear progressively allows the player to get an overview of the screen layout and where to find what kind of information by attracting his attention on the different areas and elements.
  • Splitting tutorials to explain features progressively as they appear or become more important reduces the effort to get into the game and contribute to an extended positive experience. Beware though that it doesn’t disrupt the game flow too often, or at critical moments in the game. Here it works.
  • Guiding the user when he is stuck and has an available bonus he didn’t use contributes to maintain a positive experience and contributes to learn how to use the game.
  • Oblique interactions are more in-tune with the player’s typical interactions even on a non oblique grid, it feels more natural and comfortable.
  • In city 2048, the player can interact with the game even if the animations from his previous actions are not complete. This makes the game flow more smooth and seamless. The interactions feel natural and rewarding.
  • Displaying the score increase above the tiles makes them more visible, and allows the player to understand the value of each one of his interactions and movements, allowing him to define a more long term strategy to make moves that give more points. It takes attention away from the total score that is more attractive in other games.
  • Menus placed at the bottom of the screen are directly visible without drawing too much attention from the game, compared to a menu on top, or menu items hidden behind a button. The menu should have error prevention implemented though, and can be overlooked if not properly introduced since it will likely be hidden by the player’s hand often.

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