“Usability” Voting Category

Posted by (twitter: @iandioch)
September 4th, 2012 1:55 pm

I’ve been thinking that there was something missing from the Ludum Dare voting categories (and apparently I’m not the only one). Mr. Zarzecki gave me an idea as to what that was, but I think I’ve found an answer that’s a little less specific and a little more versatile (imho): “Usability“.

You know that game that has the great graphics, catchy chiptune soundtrack, and unique ideas, but is let down by its controls? Have you come across a game that is great once you get it going, but is a pain to get running? Or perhaps you’ve just played a game that looked fine, but ran at 4 frames per second?

Usability is a category that defines the user’s technical experience of the game, or how easy it is to actually use, never mind play. It includes everything from the player’s experience in unzipping, installing, or loading the game (EDIT: read my EDIT!), to the UI, controls, and framerate. It incorporates the user’s interactions with the program, outside of the game itself. It could even include how easy the menu is to navigate, or how awkward it is to get the game running on your calculator.

I realise that I’m new here, and that it is totally not my place to make suggestions like this. However, I think that Ludum Dare could really benefit from an addition like this. Perhaps my fresh new perspective is an advantage?

If you like the idea of Usability, or have a suggestion for an alteration (or a completely new category, whatever) feel free to shout about it in the comments. Zed (of Flibble fame) also has a suggestion for a new “Narrative” category, if you want to discuss that too. Or, if you have the power to actually make this happen, I beg you to at least consider it.

So. Usability. That’s my jam.


EDIT: Okay, a problem in my original idea has appeared, and that is in my mentioning of the installing/unzipping experience being included into the Usability score. This of course would be completely biased to web games, which would limit people to Flash, Java, etc. I’m sorry guys! That didn’t occur to me at all when this idea first popped into my head. So that element obviously cannot be included into it. But I still think we need this category, or something similar (“Polish” as one person suggested? But it doesn’t include controls).

21 Responses to ““Usability” Voting Category”

  1. johnfn says:

    I really like the idea of a category for controls, but I don’t like the idea of a category incorporating how easy a game is to play. After all, such a category would be dominated by Flash and HTML5 games, which isn’t very meaningful. It’s not like I went to extra effort to code in Flash, or like anyone cares. 😛

  2. Dan C says:

    Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.

    So that’s a thousand and two times in total I guess.

  3. dj_pale says:

    I think this is a good category. An important thing is how good you are at guiding through instructions and how to grasp the game. I think it might replace the humor category since it is not always relevant.

  4. Dan C says:

    Actually I may have overstated my support there.

    johnfn is probably right that including the ease of installation would probably not end up being very useful. It is something I would like a lot of people to pay a bit more attention to, although I’m by no means blameless on this front myself.

    Some people seem to specialise in making games that are almost impossible or unpleasant to play for technical reasons: text that’s difficult to read, items that are difficult to see against the background, unpredictable controls, etc. That almost always ends up impacting on my rating for “fun”, or sometimes “graphics”.

    Is it useful to have a specific rating for this? I’m not sure. I like the idea of specifically encouraging people to think about usability, but I’m not sure I’ve come across a case where poor usability hasn’t damaged the other ratings, or where good usability hasn’t helped them.

    • iandioch says:

      What about in situations like when the framerate is very low? That might not be applicable to any of the other categories. Or just simple things like not naming your zipfile “ld48” or “[Theme]”?

      • sorceress says:

        The trouble with framerate is that it is hardware and driver dependent, so it’s often times a reflection of the player’s system configuration, rather than the game.

        With this in mind, it’s normal for games to come with a list of system requirements, which describes the hardware and drivers needed to get a satisfactory framerate.

        For example, Quake 4 has greater system requirements than Quake 2, and a smaller percentage of computers will meet those requirements… meaning the game is less usable?

        I feel it’s only fair to judge a game when it is running on a computer that meets the game’s stated system requirements.

    • RawBits says:

      If you are watching my review series then you will find cases where everything is wrong but I have fun anyway. For example in this last episode (6) is a game where clipping is bad and hard to control the character because it and because you can’t tap the jump button for a lower jump. But I love the restart button at the end because a lot of games don’t have any restart option even if you need it badly. Btw I don’t think bad controls affect the graphics or audio… and you can have fun playing with a bug too or read the jokes in the game for the humor.

  5. RawBits says:

    So for my 2 cents. I specially hate bad controls in games – or bad behaviour – and this has to be reflected somehow. Any category can have high points and in the same time the game itself is unplayable.

    Well I like the idea to incorporate other technical stuff in one category, but downloading/zipping and these things are not really a good idea as you will not play a game if you have hard time downloading and such. The low framerate is another thing that shouldn’t be included because that isn’t the creators fault that you have crappy equipment. I have a crap PC for gaming and sometimes I can’t play a game but like it’s stated in this site I leave a comment telling that and it’s done. You know it’s hard to develope for different PC setups…

    Narrative is in the Fun category in those kind of games I think. But mood has been added to the categories because of the theme “alone” inspired mostly games that could be rated from this side. I was surprised it’s in there now. It shouldn’t be. As for the opposite side where is the category what was for rate someones attitude to the community? I like when I can read about games during the compo to get interested and motivated more. And I think it is included the responses to comments too – including helpfulness.

  6. Excellent suggestion. Usability in the broad context of the game’s UI and its ability to teach a player without being ham-fisted would be a really good criterion.

  7. patrickgh3 says:

    I really like this idea. But I think that only in-game experiences should count toward it. Downloading, unzipping, installing, etc. shouldn’t count imo. Things like how hard are the menus to navigate, does the game tell and explain the controls well, do you understand what is going on around you. I would like to see a rating for these kinds of categories. These are kind of different than if the controls work right, are there severe glitches, are the graphics hard to differentiate.

    What I’m trying to say is, if we add a new category, it should be one that does not intertwine directly with existing categories, such as Graphics or Fun. The category should be centered around aspects of the game that aren’t directly part of the gameplay or main content, but do affect the overall feel of the game.

    I know my wording is pretty hard to understand. Sorry about that. But maybe this will give you guys some ideas.

  8. Puzzlem00n says:

    Personally, I think the more categories, the better. More ways to win, am I right? Of course, the abusability (it’s a word!) of the thing with downloads vs. online is indeed likely to happen, even subconsciously.

  9. mohammad says:

    Of course, I don’t mind how it ends up.
    I’m fine with the way the rating works in general.
    Play more games, get seen more.

  10. raarlac says:

    I think a “Polish/refinement” category would be awesome. Polish is a decisive factor to me when I rate a game. It’s the most clear result of how you managed your time finishing the game.

  11. iandioch says:

    Edited the OP. I see now that Usability could never include installing or anything of the sort. Sorry guys! But I still think that we need a new category along the same lines, be it “Usablilty” or not.

  12. I’ve been thinking the same (and specifically, I agree with raarlac — a ‘Polish’ category would be perfect). There have been a couple games I’ve played that I really wanted to like, but had some nasty bug or flaw in logic that crippled the game, and my only recourse was to deduct a point from ‘fun’ or ‘overall’, when it probably didn’t deserve that penalty.

    Having a category specifically for this would remove that negative influence from the other categories, and give people some extra incentive to take a little time to spit-shine at the end to create a quality, polished final product.

    As for your edit comment, “Polish” totally includes controls. It’s the all-around feeling that this is a quality, finished product, and every aspect has been thought about — including whatever input devices you might be using (a couple games I tried couldn’t be played with a touchpad, for example). Really most things that fall outside the other current categories could be grouped into a ‘polish’ category, I think.

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