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Shattering The Boundaries: Sidhe's Big User Testing Gains
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Shattering The Boundaries: Sidhe's Big User Testing Gains


December 1, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next
 

Suck and Blow (No, Really)

Being able to control the ball using gusts of wind came about more as an accident than anything. One of the fundamental limitations of traditional brick breaking games is the intermittent, disconnected nature of the control over the ball.

During a session when we were throwing ideas back and forth, I suggested one where we had a vortex which would suck in the ball and then get blown out someplace else on the screen.

While it was not implemented, our producer Alan Bell took the idea of the vortex and suggested we have it as a permanent mechanic within the game where we could use wind to control the ball. Remember at the start when I said that new ideas can cause new problems? This gave us headaches!

During my user-testing sessions it was safe to say that people just didn't get it. They would press the blow feature and the ball would go one way but they had no idea why -- because it seemed that no matter where they were on the screen, the effect was the same.

The other problem was that they could continuously blow and keep the ball on the far end of the screen, happily letting it smash the bricks on its own. While this had the positive effect of destroying the bricks, it also made the game pretty uninteresting.

This fed into yet another problem, in that users were simply forgetting about the bat. Because they had the ball on the far side and were able to keep it there, when it did eventually come back they were so focused on blowing that they would actually miss the ball.

All these problems lead to a game which was not particularly well received during the user testing sessions.

The initial suck and blow gave the user full control over the ball, no matter where it was in relation to the bat, as shown below.


Bat and ball blow

After watching a fair amount of users playing and going over the videos countless times, I thought we were perhaps giving the user too much control over the ball.

If they're in the bottom right of the screen and they can affect the ball at the top left, then of course they would be confused. So I suggested we make everything localized whereby the ball is only affected in the vicinity of the bat. This is shown below.


Localized suck and blow

Another user testing session was scheduled; up until this point, the game had been scoring quite low on my user surveys and I was wondering what else would go wrong. But you can imagine my delight when the first user sat down and got the hang of the suck and blow on the first try. The best thing about this was that it wasn't a one-off -- they all got it!

But this refinement went further than just fixing the control problem. People were now paying close attention to what was happening within the game -- paying close attention to the bat and the ball, for starters.


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

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