Tina K. Russell

November 23, 2009

The Click and the Dead

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 11:29 am

David Sirlin is a familiar proponent of increased simplicity and usability in video game interfaces. It's a principle he put into practice rebalancing Street Fighter II for Super Street Fighter II HD Remix. At Montreal International Game Summit, he continued the theme with a polemic that used the famous writing handbook The Elements Of Style by Strunk and White to argue that a design must do its best to avoid needless effort on the player’s part.

Using one of William Strunk’s celebrated style rules, “omit needless words,” as a basis, Sirlin took the audience through an entertaining series of case studies demonstrating obvious pitfalls overlooked by many developers.

via MIGS: Every Click Counts | Edge Online.

Hotel Dusk, a game that is very dear to my heart, had one glaring problem that came close to ruining the entire experience (and makes me tepid about the sequel announcement): despite being the most text-heavy game I’ve ever played, you could not press A to finish displaying a block of text. You had to wait for the text to draw itself, letter by letter, onto the screen, at the end of which you completely forgot what you were reading. It was maddening.

Okami made a similar mistake, except only for scenes deemed important by the developers. The thing is, Okami also let you skip entire cutscenes. I never wanted to skip the unimportant cutscenes because I could rapidly advance through the text and read it quickly, but skipping the important cutscenes was always a wicked temptation. That is, a decision they probably made to ensure you paid attention to some cutscenes only made me want to skip those ones. (facepalm)

The moral of the story: little annoyances matter. They can add up to a serious blemish on your game (and one, sadly, that reviewers will generally fail to point out).

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