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Simplicity in game design! Burn your rules?

12-16-2009, 06:52 PM
#1
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Victoria BC
Posts: 1,170
Simplicity in game design! Burn your rules?

We are living in a world of impatient Human Beings! You want me to do what? Read instructions and rules ? You are kidding right? It seems dealing with the functionality and simplicity of an app is just as important as the content.

What are your customers doing to avoid reading your copy? They are experimenting with the app, to see if it shows them how to play the game. They are ready to play, is your game transparent enough to digest their ignorance?

So imagine designing your app to be " play tested " instead of being studied?

A huge percentage of gamers want to dive in to the action immediately with out bothering to read a single line. Why? Let us call it " The spoon feed syndrome". Information is provided not conquered! Instant playability is required!

The game world is probably the most tolerant to this behaviour, since experienced gamers have a built in catalogue of knowledge that help them tackle any new game. They know what to do by sacrificing the first few games to bad scores. Meanwhile in a matter of a few test moves the game mechanics become second nature to most.

The best way to explain this theory is by dissecting one of my games.
1 to 25 is my best game to explain what a developer can do to simplify their app.

We started with six buttons at the bottom of the game (redo undo erase check etc.) We wanted to give the players all the bells and whistles. The functionality of the app was perfect. But wait! Six buttons that basically all are working towards the same end result (a correct solution) seemed like overkill. I got so mad with the perfect solution that I asked one question? Why do I need six buttons? What about one button that has the same end result. Guess what? The "Purge button" actually replaced the 5 other buttons. The app actually turned out a lot better because using some common sense to chip away the excess baggage made 1 to 25 simple to play.

So now the app was stripped down to the simplest form of functionality, what about those hated rules! Eliminating the rules all together is a huge step, that requires a leap of faith most developers aren't willing to take. It gives your public the chance to critic your app. "Great game but the lack of rules made it hard to learn" ( even if it isn't true)

So the solution was to provide our audience with two sets of rules, "Quick Rules and Rules".

Click on "Quick Rules" and three sentences spell out how to play the game.


But here is where a killer sentence was placed directly under the three sentences!

Playing the game is the best way to learn the rules!


So here is the challenge to all developers. Simplify your apps to the point where they can't be any easier to play. It takes a lot of courage to go simple , but transparency and ease of play are key factors of great game design.

Most of us are striving for perfection and miss the opportunity of simplicity.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing! Use it wisely!
12-16-2009, 06:58 PM
#2
Joined: Jun 2009
Location: London, UK
Posts: 3,741
I used to read the manuals for Genesis games on the car ride home... sometimes on the toilet

...although I do admit that these days I skip manuals quite a lot, but that's mainly due to almost every game having a tutorial section. They didn't always have them, you were just thrown into level one in the heat of battle, pretty much forcing you to RTFM.

  /l、
゙(゚、 。 7 ノ
 l、゙ ~ヽ
 じしf_, )ノ

12-16-2009, 07:01 PM
#3
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by Syndicated Puzzles View Post
We are living in a world of impatient Human Beings! You want me to do what? Read instructions and rules ? You are kidding right? It seems dealing with the functionality and simplicity of an app is just as important as the content.

What are your customers doing to avoid reading your copy? They are experimenting with the app, to see if it shows them how to play the game. They are ready to play, is your game transparent enough to digest their ignorance?

So imagine designing your app to be " play tested " instead of being studied?

A huge percentage of gamers want to dive in to the action immediately with out bothering to read a single line. Why? Let us call it " The spoon feed syndrome". Information is provided not conquered! Instant playability is required!

The game world is probably the most tolerant to this behaviour, since experienced gamers have a built in catalogue of knowledge that help them tackle any new game. They know what to do by sacrificing the first few games to bad scores. Meanwhile in a matter of a few test moves the game mechanics become second nature to most.

The best way to explain this theory is by dissecting one of my games.
1 to 25 is my best game to explain what a developer can do to simplify their app.

We started with six buttons at the bottom of the game (redo undo erase check etc.) We wanted to give the players all the bells and whistles. The functionality of the app was perfect. But wait! Six buttons that basically all are working towards the same end result (a correct solution) seemed like overkill. I got so mad with the perfect solution that I asked one question? Why do I need six buttons? What about one button that has the same end result. Guess what? The "Purge button" actually replaced the 5 other buttons. The app actually turned out a lot better because using some common sense to chip away the excess baggage made 1 to 25 simple to play.

So now the app was stripped down to the simplest form of functionality, what about those hated rules! Eliminating the rules all together is a huge step, that requires a leap of faith most developers aren't willing to take. It gives your public the chance to critic your app. "Great game but the lack of rules made it hard to learn" ( even if it isn't true)

So the solution was to provide our audience with two sets of rules, "Quick Rules and Rules".

Click on "Quick Rules" and three sentences spell out how to play the game.


But here is where a killer sentence was placed directly under the three sentences!

Playing the game is the best way to learn the rules!


So here is the challenge to all developers. Simplify your apps to the point where they can't be any easier to play. It takes a lot of courage to go simple , but transparency and ease of play are key factors of great game design.

Most of us are striving for perfection and miss the opportunity of simplicity.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing! Use it wisely!
TLDR

..ironic?

Water Your Body (ON SALE $0.99)
http://apps.google.com/#1iPhoneApp
Tic Tac Pro (FREE)
New and Noteworthy!
12-16-2009, 07:12 PM
#4
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Victoria BC
Posts: 1,170
Bravetarget,

Creativity and simplicity are separate entities. I was encouraging the creative juices on your post. Your group seems to understand the streamlining and simplicity aspect of app design quite well. Impressive.
12-16-2009, 07:20 PM
#5
Quote:
Originally Posted by bravetarget View Post
TLDR

..ironic?
Okay, I admit it. I smiled at that comment.

It is blatantly obvious that people do not read the instructions.

I spent a lot of time working on controls for Flickitty, completely eliminating any sense of onscreen controls. We have a single menu button, with no other HUD elements (unless you start a task). Our navigation arrow does most of the work to point you toward your goal.

I want people to experiment with Flickitty- it isn't linear, but I wouldn't go so far to call it open ended.

A ragdoll physics platformer:Flickitty
The artist: randall schleufer
Twitter: @FlickittyiPhone
12-16-2009, 07:25 PM
#6
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 330
Quote:
Originally Posted by Syndicated Puzzles View Post
Bravetarget,

Creativity and simplicity are separate entities. I was encouraging the creative juices on your post. Your group seems to understand the streamlining and simplicity aspect of app design quite well. Impressive.
I appreciate the compliment! I did actually read the whole thing before posting, but someone was going to throw that in there eventually so I got it out of the way quick.

As far as staying on topic goes, we recently got some negative feedback on our app, Water Your Body, because the woman using it didn't notice the undo button. She may have seen the button, but wasn't sure what it did. So in turn, she complained that you couldn't remove a container if you placed it in error.

To address this unexpected concern we included a Help section in our update (in review atm).

The design we took for the Help section, which we felt was the least wordy while still visually stimulating, is just screenshot the app, and photoshop numbers with arrows pointing to interface elements, then at the foot of the screenshot you put a verrry short description of what that part of the interface will do.

You see? I think those methods definitely bring simplicity.

Water Your Body (ON SALE $0.99)
http://apps.google.com/#1iPhoneApp
Tic Tac Pro (FREE)
New and Noteworthy!
12-17-2009, 11:01 PM
#7
Joined: Jul 2009
Location: Victoria BC
Posts: 1,170
A picture is worth a thousand words. It is that simple.