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  • GameSpy: Please? Maybe a Thank You? - Page 4
    I ve only had the displeasure of dealing with people like this a handful of times in my EverQuest life If there is one thing I ve learned when it comes to the EverQuest auction system it s take notice of it Learn how much things go for A great site called Allakhazam s has a huge item database with an average market value for most products In Closing Even though we all adventure kill camp trade and live in the same world defined by Verant s boundaries and rules Verant has left the door open for people to develop their characters in the way they see fit This is a good thing as it makes each character unique But it goes beyond simply choosing your race class deity weapons armor items jewelry and trade skills You can choose which path you want to take on how you want to be viewed by others Though some may see this as a meaningless observation the manner in which you interact with others and the way you conduct yourself says a lot about the person behind the monitor controlling that character This in turn defines how others will interact with you Some compassion please It s true in EverQuest just as in real life you have to treat others the way you would expect to be treated in the same situation Treat others with respect and courtesy and in most situations you ll reap the benefits in time Remember that people talk and so you could find yourself in bad standing with the others around you if you become known as someone who annoys harasses defrauds or is generally not someone people want to group with With Verant giving us the freedom it has we have in effect created our own little

    Original URL path: http://www.gamespy.com/articles/491/491748p4.html (2016-02-16)
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  • GameSpy: Telling Stories Without Telling Them - Page 2
    and gain a more personal involvement with them and their surroundings Cutscenes have a major drawback though One minute you re watching the 2D isometric battlefield of a real time strategy game for instance and the next you re watching a short film The lack of a unified storytelling method calls undue awkward attention to itself When you go back to the main game after a cutscene you re reminded just how far you are from living out a movie Divided storytelling methods cause problems with numerous games You can see it in the heavily story oriented Deus Ex for instance Through meticulously crafted visual and audio environments the game viscerally draws you into its world through a first person perspective Once again though the use of dialogue to advance the story causes problems When your alter ego J C Denton speaks with another character the game awkwardly switches to a third person view of both characters Then you can only choose from a few set dialogue responses The effect snaps you out of the game world with a jerk and shatters the illusion of taking part in the story and forming your own character through free action Are you J C Denton or are you just watching him Deus Ex has been called an RPG or a shooter RPG hybrid If much of your role is set for you can it truly be an RPG though Just being able to boost character stats or solve puzzles in multiple ways can t create a complete role playing experience You need to be able to take on a role fully with all that entails Half Life s cast of characters Scientists Perhaps game designers could tell immersive stories more effectively if they concentrated more on how films and books draw us

    Original URL path: http://www.gamespy.com/articles/491/491778p2.html (2016-02-16)
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  • GameSpy: Telling Stories Without Telling Them - Page 3
    you hear a recorded voice reminding you of proper work safety procedures for the facility The voice tells you about the game world and your place in it by implication but the voice is also a part of the game world There s no omniscient outside narrator to break the spell A few lines of text also appear during the opening sequence to tell you that you play Gordon Freeman a research scientist handling classified anomalous materials Very few words are required After all you don t need a narrator riding in your car to tell you that you re driving to the mall You know from the context In the case of the Half Life introduction you learn the basics from the sights and sounds around you You largely fill in the rest through your actions in the game The designers hand you a story outline with a few important vivid details You then essentially write much of the story yourself More from the Mesa It seems that game designers have too often tried to tell stories by employing the methods of other media too literally In doing that they ve often forced us to passively experience set linear stories in ways that draw us out of the action and break the illusion of participation in the game world and story What makes computer games so different and exciting is the interaction they offer and it seems that some of the most engaging immersive memorable stories that games tell are ones that we discover or actively shape as we play As technologies like artificial intelligence computer graphics voice recognition force feedback surround sound and virtual reality advance we can hope that designers will find more novel ways to draw us into their imagined worlds while telling vivid memorable stories

    Original URL path: http://www.gamespy.com/articles/491/491778p3.html (2016-02-16)
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  • GameSpy: Designing A Good Interface - Page 2
    means that actions taken with the interface map neatly to the user s experience When a button for a more detailed screen is pushed the detailed info smoothly glides into place as if it were a real screen This also provides what psychologist Donald A Norman calls knowledge in the world iii In other words the user does not have to memorize a series of steps and actions instead they are presented immediately on screen in such a way that the user can examine the possible options choose one and even learn more about it by right clicking before committing to the action Since the game is not under time pressure this means that inexperienced users can browse all possible actions carefully while over time as knowledge becomes in the head Norman Design of Everyday Things actions become speedier and more efficient Alpha Centauri is very good at putting knowledge in the world At any time when a unit is selected on the main screen it can be given commands by right clicking it Right clicking causes a menu to pop up much like a file in Windows98 This maps to a well known convention right clicking things causes a sub menu to pop up It also means that keyboard shortcut keys do not need to be memorized instead the command can be chosen from a list that exists whenever it is needed in precisely the place that it is needed While this is convenient it does violate some of the aesthetic appeal of Alpha Centauri in many places the interface is made to resemble real world objects but while in the real world we can not right click on subordinates and be presented with a menu of possible options The user in Alpha Centauri is given excellent feedback when

    Original URL path: http://www.gamespy.com/articles/491/491801p2.html (2016-02-16)
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  • GameSpy: Designing A Good Interface - Page 3
    are meant to be pressed Further they are not consistent as some of the boxes on the right are buttons which call up a dialog box and others are not and have no effect if pressed This inconsistency can cause a headache for the user while a simple affordance like a three dimensional recess around the box of any button would clear things up dramatically Figure 4 Further the interface from screen to screen is not necessarily in the same form as is the main screen For instance when one enters a tactical combat with an enemy ship the screen looks entirely different The right hand information boxes are gone and the lower edge commands are entirely different This makes the user s mapping of experience from the main screen impossible and requires the learning of a whole new interface Figure 4 Very few affordances are given here also A common affordance in many games is to change the shape of the cursor depending on what the cursor is over If the cursor is placed over a target it changes into the shape of a targeting reticule This indicates to the user that clicking at that time will cause a selected weapon to discharge Not so in MOO2 when engaged in tactical combat the cursor never changes shape Further when the scan button is depressed which changes the cursor into a scanning device which will give detailed information about the ship it is over but only if left clicked the cursor changes color from red to green but does not change shape This is impossible to detect for a color blind user and is subtle enough that even experienced gamers will forget they are scanning and click on a ship expecting to attack Why not change the shape and size

    Original URL path: http://www.gamespy.com/articles/491/491801p3.html (2016-02-16)
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  • GameSpy: Designing A Good Interface - Page 4
    users could play against each other on the Internet Anyone with a connection to the Net and a copy of the game could play against people all over the world whereas before players either had to be on a local network or connected via dial up modem from computer to computer RTS games boomed in popularity and players sought any competitive edge against each other they could muster Speed of deployment was a critical factor in this search StarCraft was very similar to its predecessor WarCraft WarCraft was set in a fantasy world and in some ways this made it easier to design an interface Users easily understood that weapons and armor were manufactured at a forge while wizards came from wizard s towers and so forth There were many cultural conventions that WarCraft could trade on to make the interface easily understood which was not quite as true with the science fiction themed StarCraft We have historical examples of what a blacksmith looks like while we don t really know what a spaceport looks like To solve this problem Blizzard made good use of the interface tricks it had learned from games of the past make everything happen on one screen and allowing the user to use only the mouse if so desired This meant using an important feature that is now a standard of the genre the contextual cursor Figure 5 To be fair StarCraft was not the first game to use the contextual cursor but it definitely does it the best When any unit in StarCraft is selected right clicking on some thing in the game world will cause that unit to interact in whatever way makes the most sense While it is possible to press an attack button or a move to button it is not

    Original URL path: http://www.gamespy.com/articles/491/491801p4.html (2016-02-16)
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  • GameSpy: Designing A Good Interface - Page 5
    that an academy is necessary to create marines with flamethrowers known as FireBats the game will actually instruct the user on how to build an academy and what it can be used for the first time it is encountered Similarly anytime something that does not have an obvious affordance to it is encountered a pop window appears explaining its purpose The game s interface helps the user create a good cognitive map of its possibilities while slowly weaning the user off of that help In no time flat the user is clicking away at a frantic pace Figure 6 Not so with Star Wars Rebellion viii by LucasArts Billing itself as a real time strategy game Rebellion made some design errors which made the game nearly unplayable and very unsuccessful in the market place In Design of Every Day Things Donald Norman frequently jokes about poor design saying that it probably won an award and this appropriate to Rebellion The interface is aesthetically very appealing and is inspired by the well known style of the Star Wars movies However the visual appeal is entirely at the expense of usability The main display room is a stunning galactic panorama with advice and feedback given by C 3P0 or his evil Imperial counterpart depending on which team you are playing Figure Six The tiny computer screens as well as the multiple boxes on every side of the panorama call up additional screens of information or possible commands Yet none of them are the most important functions of the game To get to the screens in which combat might occur buildings and resources are constructed or missions are embarked on and the player has to click on a screen element that is not obviously a control while all around it are screens boxes

    Original URL path: http://www.gamespy.com/articles/491/491801p5.html (2016-02-16)
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  • GameSpy: Designing A Good Interface - Page 6
    in future missions Ultimately because the controls for Rebellion violate nearly every precept of good design it is a nearly unplayable game Since the user s interaction with a game equates to the enjoyment of the game this renders Rebellion thoroughly un enjoyable as anything other than a visual spectacle The most basic mistake of a designer is to forego usability in favor of some other principle In this case ease of use affordances good cognitive mapping and feedback were sacrificed for the sake of aesthetic appeal creating a game that is pretty to watch but not fun to play Games are made or broken on how fun they are to play Any game designer is going to have to keep that in mind at every step in the design process They are facing a demanding audience of users with vastly differing levels of skill and yet some succeed magnificently while others fail utterly Designers like Sid Meier apply the fundamental principles of Human Computer Interaction religiously their games are full of instant and informative feedback give plenty of visual cues to function affordances map to real world examples easily and provide knowledge within the context of the game that prevent players from having to memorize command sequences Any product designed with those principles will be easy and pleasurable to use but a game will succeed solely on how much fun it is to interact with Game designers take note make your interface robust easy and simple and you will be a long way towards making a great game Resources i Microprose Games Sid Meier s Civilization Based on the board game by Avalon Hill ii Firaxis Games Sid Meier s Alpha Centauri iii Norman Donald A The Design of Everyday Things Doubleday 1988 iv MicroProse Games Master of Orion

    Original URL path: http://www.gamespy.com/articles/491/491801p6.html (2016-02-16)
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