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eelke_folmer

top 10 usability problems in games

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I have compiled all the problems into different categories. We might need to combine certain groups. For now the gameplay category seems the biggest but possibly needs further refining.

Controls

  • Difficult controls (e.g. X-men legends II on the psp has very annoying controls to distribute items you find over the members of your party, you need to go into a menu like 4 levels deep).
  • No reprogrammable keys - game that dont have an interface or even an .ini file to redefine key-to-command mapping.
  • Clumsy option selection via scrolling (usually found on Console game to PC ports, where they were too lazy to rebuild the interface with pulldown menues.
  • Tiny Frequently USed Buttons - example close buttons on popup boxes that eventually give the players a case of 'mouse twitch' from having to endlessly target tiny buttons (which could easily have been made MUCH larger).

Interaction

  • No render lag compensation for input Keystrokes/clicks get queued up and get out of sync with the view -- throwing off eye/hand coordination and causing unintended effect (partucularly with view rotation commands when the frame rate drops due to particularly complex frames).
  • Too many buttons - Sony 4 trigger buttons???, XBox the black and white buttons?? I'm looking in your direction. Learn from nintendo, who in my opinion created the best console controller ever for the gamecube. I don't think we need to return to the atari one button joystick but if a controller has more buttons than you have fingers, you need a usability check:)
  • bad RTS troop controls/commands. Your guys get stuck or walk in circles while your collector dies...all because the movement menu is 3 items deep and you selected look stupid and let everything die by accident.
  • bad controls/bad conversion on computers theese seem to go hand in hand.

Interface

  • No skippable cutscenes especially annoying if your savepoint is just before an end level boss and you have to watch the cutscene that comes with the boss over and over again.
  • Gigantic console interfaces directly ported to PC
  • Bad localization (See FF7 translations)
  • No subtitles for cutseens / voiceover
  • Weirdly handled 3D visualizations of 'over the shoulder' views where terrain behind the player gets in the way (nauseating auto zooming....)
  • Bad Camera angles

AI

  • NPCs that get stuck in weird places or die making a mission impossible to complete, requiring a ...gulp... restart. usually these are console games too so you have to start from the beginning of the level. Bad clippling / scripting.
  • stupid ai in combination with other stuff ex. half-life 2, you say put and a few seconds later they still follow you.
  • team mates in your way: either teammates that goes in your line of fire, while you are firing, or teammates that just stands in your way.

Game quality

  • Crashes -No game is without crashes, although they appear to be more frequent in PC games. Its really frustrating in online poker games if you just had AQ in your hand (happened to me at pacificpoker 2 weeks ago).
  • Load times (e.g. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas) takes a while to load, same for most games on the PSP.
  • not being able to reset configurations out of the game IE getting over zealous with the video settings leading to a resolution that crashes the game. Then searching for 20 minutes to find a configuration file that isnt in text format. very annoying. sometimes you even have to reinstall.

Gameplay

  • No adjustable difficulty level I've selected a particular difficulty level when I started but halfway through the game, the game is just way to difficult too beat, or too easy. Selecting a tougher/easier difficulty level requires you to play from the start again, which i don't want.
  • Infrequent 'chapter' Saves - which force repeats of long sequences of tedious boring repetition (particularly in the hop/skip/jump style games).
  • No cheats to get past poorly designed (tediously repetitious) sections of the game. Some situations require too exact play to get past and having to repeat the same thing more than a dozen times is NOT fun (found most frequently in hop/skip/jump twitch games). Often a buggy game simply doesnt allow the player to actually execute the 'designed' solution.
  • Excessive use of CD-Keys / Cd-Key printed on tiny piece of paper of manual instead of Jewel Box
  • Incomprehensive Multi-player menus (see BF2)
  • If it takes more than 15 seconds to find a server you like, its bad.Include slow server refresh, difficult or lack of server filtering, lack of buddy list and favorites server list
  • In multiplayer games, lack of an ignore/kick command.
  • Games that need system loading time in order to access or parse the main menu. Console games have a huge problems with this since they use disks instead of cartridges.
  • levels that require you to hit a random obscure button that you search 20 minutes for...or in general you need to preform some random objective that is extremely simple, but not clearly alluded to. Clearly bad level design.
  • No attachements Nothing that keeps me interested to keep on playing
  • Memory&Kiling games Games that require you to save, memorize where enemies are, load and then kill everyone.
[Edited by - eelke_folmer on June 12, 2006 11:52:49 AM]

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I am going to elaborate on difficult controls. You know, by the mid 90s, developers got side scroll controls down solid. Then 3D came, and controls went to hell for many games. I stopped playing Kingdom Hearts because I got so frustrated with positioning the camera.

In a related subject, PC games that support a gamepad or wheel or joystick often give you a tough time setting up the controls themselves. It used to be my job to write FAQs on this very subject, so I had to play literally hundreds of games to figure out how to set up controls.

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Bad Camera angles- Dizzy...oh my head.....

No sound tests- I really like the theme from puyo pop fighting against Satan, but the only way to listen to it is to get fight my way to him. Then I have 30 seconds of the song before I accidentally beat him.

X box controller in general- not used to the smaller one even


well, that's all I can think of, cept the fact that some games don't include extras for completing and exploring every little crevice of it, but that's not usability.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Quote:
Original post by eelke_folmer
I want to create a top ten list of most annoying usability problems in games. I'll give you my top 5:
1) Crashes No game is without crashes, although they appear to be more frequent in PC games. Its really frustrating in online poker games if you just had AQ in your hand (happened to me at pacificpoker 2 weeks ago).
2) Load times (e.g. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas) takes a while to load, same for most games on the PSP.
3) No skippable cutscenes (Final Fantasy X) especially annoying if your savepoint is just before an end level boss and you have to watch the cutscene that comes with the boss over and over again.
4) Difficult controls (e.g. X-men legends II on the psp has very annoying controls to distribute items you find over the members of your party, you need to go into a menu like 4 levels deep).
5) No adjustable difficulty level. I've selected a particular difficulty level when I started but halfway through the game, the game is just way to difficult too beat, or too easy. Selecting a tougher/easier difficulty level requires you to play from the start again, which i don't want.

I'm not passing any judgment on the games I've used to illustrate, most of the games were great games. But they could have been better if these usability problems had been adressed.

Which usability problems do you encounter? And which do you find most annoying? Lets create a top 10 list!




6) Infrequent 'chapter' Saves - which force repeats of long sequences of tedious boring repetition (particularly in the hop/skip/jump style games).

7) Tiny Frequently USed Buttons -- example close buttons on popup boxes that eventually give the players a case of 'mouse twitch' from having to endlessly target tiny buttons (which could easily have been made MUCH larger).

8) No reprogrammable keys -- game that dont have an interface or even an .ini file to redefine key-to-command mapping.

9) Clumsy option selection via scrolling (usually found on Console game to PC ports, where they were too lazy to rebuild the interface with pulldown menues.

10) Weirdly handled 3D visualizations of 'over the shoulder' views where terrain behind the player gets in the way (nauseating auto zooming....)

11) No render lag compensation for input. Keystrokes/clicks get queued up and get out of sync with the view -- throwing off eye/hand coordination and causing unintended effect (partucularly with view rotation commands when the frame rate drops due to particularly complex frames).

12) No cheats to get past poorly designed (tediously repetitious) sections of the game. Some situations require too exact play to get past and having to repeat the same thing more than a dozen times is NOT fun (found most frequently in hop/skip/jump twitch games). Often a buggy game simply doesnt allow the player to actually execute the 'designed' solution.

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- No subtitles for cutseens / voiceover

- Excessive use of CD-Keys / Cd-Key printed on tiny piece of paper of manual instead of Jewel Box

- Gigantic console interfaces directly ported to PC
(e.g. http://www.elderscrolls.com/images/art/ob_xbox360/obx21B.jpg)

- Bad localization (See FF7 translations)

- Incomprehensive Multi-player menus (see BF2)

If it takes more than 15 seconds to find a server you like, its bad.

Include slow server refresh, difficult or lack of server filtering, lack of buddy list and favorites server list

- In multiplayer games, lack of an ignore/kick command.

And my all time favorite usability problem:

-Games that need system loading time in order to access or parse the main menu.

Console games have a huge problems with this since they use disks instead of cartridges.

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Too many buttons!!

Sony 4 trigger buttons???, XBox the black and white buttons?? I'm looking in your direction. Learn from nintendo, who in my opinion created the best console controller ever for the gamecube.

I don't think we need to return to the atari one button joystick but if a controller has more buttons than you have fingers, you need a usability check:)

Cheers
Chris

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Quote:
Original post by chollida1
Too many buttons!!

Sony 4 trigger buttons???, XBox the black and white buttons?? I'm looking in your direction. Learn from nintendo, who in my opinion created the best console controller ever for the gamecube.

I don't think we need to return to the atari one button joystick but if a controller has more buttons than you have fingers, you need a usability check:)

Cheers
Chris


This is a matter of opinion though. I can't stand the gamecube controller but I love the Sony PS2 Dual Shock. I think the X-Box has the worst controller ever!

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Quote:
Original post by chollida1
Learn from nintendo, who in my opinion created the best console controller ever for the gamecube.


I also really like the GameCube controller. But, I think it probably has to do with which controller you use most often.

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Quote:
Original post by tstrimp
Quote:
Original post by chollida1
Too many buttons!!

Sony 4 trigger buttons???, XBox the black and white buttons?? I'm looking in your direction. Learn from nintendo, who in my opinion created the best console controller ever for the gamecube.

I don't think we need to return to the atari one button joystick but if a controller has more buttons than you have fingers, you need a usability check:)

Cheers
Chris


This is a matter of opinion t hough. I can't stand the gamecube controller but I love the Sony PS2 Dual Shock. I think the X-Box has the worst controller ever!


Agreed but so is everything else posted in this thread:)

Cheers
Chris

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Quote:
Original post by cdoty
Quote:
Original post by chollida1
Learn from nintendo, who in my opinion created the best console controller ever for the gamecube.


I also really like the GameCube controller. But, I think it probably has to do with which controller you use most often.


Have you ever tried to play a fighting game with that controller? I almost smashed that purple lunchbox into a million pieces!! It's like they reached their pinnacle with the N64 controller, then devolved into that stupid purple...PURPLE!!

Also, the XBox controller S wasn't so bad. However, I'm 6'5", so larger controllers work better for me than most.

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Quote:
Original post by tstrimp
I think the X-Box has the worst controller ever!



Why do so many people feel the need to complain about x-box controllers? I realize that this is just opinion, but I personally don't have a problem with them. I don't see how so many people have trouble with their size. I am only 5' 9" and have relatively small/average hands and I can use it fine. </rant>

Back on topic, I hate crashes and unskippable cutscenes the most. I would venture to say that at least half, if not a majority of people skip cutscenes when they can. Most people just want to play, not watch little movies that are usually cheesy and/or poorly choreographed.

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Quote:
Original post by chollida1
Agreed but so is everything else posted in this thread:)

Cheers
Chris


Unless you can find someone that likes

1) Crashes
2) Long Load times
3) No skippable cutscenes
4) Difficult controls

Then I'll have to disagree with you. There are some real usability issues here that don't involve controller preferences.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
1) not being able to reset configurations out of the game. IE getting over zealous with the video settings leading to a resolution that crashes the game. Then searching for 20 minutes to find a configuration file that isnt in text format. very annoying. sometimes you even have to reinstall.

2) NPCs that get stuck in weird places or die making a mission impossible to complete, requiring a ...*gulp*... restart. usually these are console games too so you have to start from the beginning of the level. Bad clippling / scripting.

3) levels that require you to hit a random obscure button that you search 20 minutes for...or in general you need to preform some random objective that is extremely simple, but not clearly alluded to. Clearly bad level design.

4) bad RTS troop controls/commands. Your guys get stuck or walk in circles while your collector dies...all because the movement menu is 3 items deep and you selected *look stupid and let everything die* by accident

That is all

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Quote:
Original post by tstrimp
Quote:
Original post by chollida1
Agreed but so is everything else posted in this thread:)

Cheers
Chris


Unless you can find someone that likes

1) Crashes
2) Long Load times
3) No skippable cutscenes
4) Difficult controls

Then I'll have to disagree with you. There are some real usability issues here that don't involve controller preferences.


First off I didn't say everything else was a controller preference I just said all the other items where preferences:)

And those are still just opinions. I'd rather had a game with a few crashes than a game that comes out a year later with no crashes ditto for the next 2. 4) is all about controller preferences:)

So in my opinon yes all those are stll just preferences.

You can have a game without them, it may just take longer ot get out and it would be my preference to have the game earlier with a few crashes, longer load times and non skippable cut scenes.

How ever I don't like difficult controls and that's why I pointed out that I thought sony and microsoft had bad controllers. I really like the gamecube controller, thats just an opinion:) I'm not trying to convince anyone else:)

But good dialogue I'll rate you up for being able to make an argument without this disolving into a rant:)

Cheers
Chris

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13) Timesinks. They are bad. Nothing like having to complete mundane tasks for hours to be able to actually play the game. I'd class these as a usability problem as they reliably impede your ability to get on with gameplay.

14) Poor resource management. There's nothing better than playing a game with low quality graphics and textures that takes five hours to load or stutters frequently despite barely using your Graphics card or CPU - it's constantly loading tracts of data from the hard drive and improperly compressing and storing them. You get to play around in frame-drop land for awhile while this happens. Kills my mojo.

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-No-Skip cutscenes are a major pain...
But so are the no-skip levels. There are lots of games that could benifit from more automatic savepoints
so you can go back to particular parts more easily.
Or, the oposite, start the game from a later spot more easily.
*like FEAR. It needs more savespots, since I'd like to be able to go back to each "section" in the game.

-Un-mapable controls / control prefrences that can't be copied between charactors.
There are plenty of games that make you remap your controls for every new charactor, with no way to save that for any other charactors.
Or the controls are flat out stuck as something.

-Constant long load times, my take: Doom3 had really long load times, but the levels were fairly large for the time
spent loading. I never really noticed beyond the first load, since I spent so much time playing.
BUT Half Life 2 was the exact oposite. The levels were really really small. There was a loading screen (with no progress bar)
every 30 seconds or so (expecially in the car and boat levels), and each load took about 2 min to complete.
So the load times should be minimal in comparison to the time spent being able to play.
And quick loads should not take 30seconds (HL2!), neither should restarting a level if you die.

-Instant configuration conflicts.
There are plenty of games that dont have a "safe mode" or "auto-configure" for their settings, and even though you think you meet the
min specs for the game, you come to find out after the fact that there is some issue with nvidia cards that causes it to crash, but only
if shadows are on. But you can't turn off shadows unless you start the game or download a premade configuration file.

-Limited Online Access Prefrences.
Either limited protocol prefrences that keep you from playing on a lan (router stops brodcast msgs, and no directIP play. Or similar issues)
OR
Reliance on some specific server to connect to inorder to play / join multiplayer games, with no options for other multiplayer.

Multiplayer should be imortal. If you can get people together who can play the game, you should be able to (MMO's or other online-based games excluded).
If the company is gone, you should still be able to do a 2 person game, why would i have to log into the main server for that.

-AI.
Some games just have dumb AI. COD2 and COD1:expantion come to mind. They made the uber AI from COD1 stop being uber as an ally, and upped the AI for the enemy.
Rainbow 6 had really dumb teammates, who had something like a 2deg field of view, and never swept for enemys, and so would get shot down
just because they didn't look slightly to one side as they entered the room.
(Swat 4 is exactly the way this should have worked in R6)

If you are going to make AI somehow a game mechanic that is supposed to help the user out, it should help the user.
The few "barny" charactors in HL1 were helpfull. Most RTS allys will end up being usefull. But there are too many
games where the AI is the same for the enemy and ally, but somehow, they manage to nerf the ally side, forcing the user to work though
areas that were designed for a "team" while only the user actually does anything.



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5) No adjustable difficulty level. I've selected a particular difficulty level when I started but halfway through the game, the game is just way to difficult too beat, or too easy. Selecting a tougher/easier difficulty level requires you to play from the start again, which i don't want.


Why not dump the whole difficulty level setting anyway? It shouldn't be too hard to respond to the level of damage the user is taking or the times he dies/crashes/whatever, so why not go for a dynamic difficulty level? This absolves players of making the choice of having to pick a level to begin with (who wants to pick a higher difficulty level anyway if that means you suck all of a sudden?) and it would give each player a unique tailored experience matched to his/her abilities.

With all the other fancy coding and the tons of resources that get poured into art and marketing, this should be a relatively minor expenditure for a professional game team.

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Original post by remigius
Quote:
5) No adjustable difficulty level. I've selected a particular difficulty level when I started but halfway through the game, the game is just way to difficult too beat, or too easy. Selecting a tougher/easier difficulty level requires you to play from the start again, which i don't want.


Why not dump the whole difficulty level setting anyway? It shouldn't be too hard to respond to the level of damage the user is taking or the times he dies/crashes/whatever, so why not go for a dynamic difficulty level? This absolves players of making the choice of having to pick a level to begin with (who wants to pick a higher difficulty level anyway if that means you suck all of a sudden?) and it would give each player a unique tailored experience matched to his/her abilities.

With all the other fancy coding and the tons of resources that get poured into art and marketing, this should be a relatively minor expenditure for a professional game team.

Max Payne did that, iirc.

Anyway, I know this is a bit off-topic, but the main "usability problem" with games is that normal usability rules don't always apply.
When writing any other app, the goal is to make everything as simple, smooth and effortless for the user as at all possible. If you do that with a game, well, you ultimately end up with one big green button with the test "Click here to finish the game". And sometimes, a "usability problem" might even be a vital part of the gameplay. I guess the #13 mentioned above is one obvious example of this. Timesinks? How dumb is that from a usability point of view? And yet, virtually every game rely on them in one form or another.

Ok, just thought I'd go philosophical on your thread... Please continue... [wink]

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Quote:
Original post by tstrimp
I think the X-Box has the worst controller ever!


I had an xbox before I came to canada and I bought a ps2 here. I must say I liked the xbox controller better I keep slipping over the ps2 thumbsticks with my sweaty thumbs. The xbox controller has more grip on the thumbsticks (there is also a little "dip" in the thumbstick that keeps your thumbs on the right place.

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Quote:
Original post by remigius
Why not dump the whole difficulty level setting anyway? It shouldn't be too hard to respond to the level of damage the user is taking or the times he dies/crashes/whatever, so why not go for a dynamic difficulty level?


It already exists see adaptive difficulty level It has been implemented in resident evil 5 for example.

This is pretty funny too:

MAD's 50 Worst Things About Video Games


[Edited by - eelke_folmer on May 8, 2006 1:47:14 PM]

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Quote:
Original post by remigius
Why not dump the whole difficulty level setting anyway? It shouldn't be too hard to respond to the level of damage the user is taking or the times he dies/crashes/whatever, so why not go for a dynamic difficulty level? This absolves players of making the choice of having to pick a level to begin with (who wants to pick a higher difficulty level anyway if that means you suck all of a sudden?) and it would give each player a unique tailored experience matched to his/her abilities.


I believe the reason to this is that you don't know what the player considers "fun". Casual players throw away the game the instance they loose. They are there for fun, not for loosing. On the other hand the Hardcore player want to _beat_ the game, the harder it is the better.

I played through max payne(1 & 2) and fear on the easiest setting to have fun. I really liked "pwning" the grunts. I have played through the cod2 demo on the hardest setting several times, just to get more satisification of completing it. The opposite doesn't work though.

No attachements Nothing that keeps me interested to keep on playing

Memory&Kiling games Games that require you to save, memorize where enemies are, load and then kill everyone.

stupid ai in combination with other stuff ex. half-life 2, you say put and a few seconds later they still follow you.
team mates in your way: either teammates that goes in your line of fire, while you are firing, or teammates that just stands in your way.

bad controls/bad conversion on computers theese seem to go hand in hand.

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Player is sisi problem.
Squealing about hardship, when they should be happy they have the game on theirs PC.

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