May 262006

If Tech Companies Made Sudoku is a funny parody, but I think that ironically, it made me think the opposite.

I’ve gone through the experience a few times recently of “reskinning” a game that I have designed to the “blue squares” level: something ugly, but playable.

And it’s astonishing the difference in reactions and usability that pretty presentation can give. In the post and thread I liked, a lot of folks make fun of the idea of a Sudoku game where putting in the right number is rewarded with a shower of pretty particles, or of the idea of a skinnable interface for the game. But those are often good ideas, because they strike at the heart of usability.

I did a puzzle game once where you were trying to make quadrants of a board be symmetrical. I originally designed it on an actual board, with glass beads. Once I had it working there, I did a version on the computer. When I made it pretty, I put in glass beads and a wooden board. It felt very mellow.

But the mechanics demanded a time clock per move. Mellow was not the right vibe. When I reskinned it (and I rewrote it at the same time, redoing all the code top to bottom), I changed the art dramatically. I changed from glass beads to gems and then to various other things that suggested wealth: pearls, gold rings, and so on. I added little particles when you placed a bead correctly. At the suggestion of playtesters, I changed the way the game worked when you reached the end of a level — before, the level ended as soon as you ran out of beads. After, you had to do a specific task to beat the level: complete one more set of symmetry. You were rewarded with a shower of particles shaped like whatever you had just built.

These purely cosmetic things dramatically enhanced the fun of the experience, and the usability of the game, because they provded cues.

Now, looking at the actual cartoon Sierra made, it’s clear some of the comments scribbled on are stupid. Changing the font of the numbers in Sudoku is a bad idea — you need legibility above all. Making numbers disappear isn’t a crazy idea — the difficult Sudoku puzzles are in fact based on selectively presenting which numbers are visible and which not. Animating the lines subtly isn’t necessarily bad, but should be low priority — unless they can somehow cue when a row or column has in fact been completed correctly. Sound FX when you add a number seems to me like a must-have.

This doesn’t mean that Sierra’s underlying point is wrong; it’s far too eays to add too many bells and whistles and ruin something, just as it’s far too easy to rely solely on bells and whistles to dress up something unremarkable. The best way that I found to design was in fact to start with something as plain-looking as Sudoku, then iteratively add in the glitz and gloss, all the while watching users use the product. Some of that glitz and gloss is going to be necessary, but it’s best to start with unvarnished wood so you know you have the core functionality down.

  15 Responses to “Creating Passionate Users: If Tech Companies Made Sudoku”

  1. once where you were trying to make quadrants of a board be … At the suggestion of playtesters, I changed the way the game worked when you … to rely solely on bells and whistles to dress up something unremarkable. … Original post:Creating Passionate Users: If Tech Companies Made Sudoku by at Google Blog Search: fashion dress up games

  2. Toca un rato de reflexión, ¡qué le vamos a hacer! Pedro Jorge Romero en su artículo “Si una empresa de tecnología hubiese inventado el Sudoku…” hace referencia a otro artículo deRaph koster donde se explica la siguiente imagen: [IMG] A poco que miro el gráfico vienen a mi mente un par de pensamientos. Si tienes una buena idea y funciona por si misma, ¿por qué estropearla?.. … Quizás la estropeamos para demostrar lo

  3. [IMG ] [IMG ] Añadido a esta hora: 17:56:41 | Enlace permanente | Comentarios [1] Si una empresa de tecnología hubiese inventado el Sudoku… …a continuación se plantearía: [IMG ] Y aquíun análisis de la imagen. [IMG ] [IMG ] Añadido a esta hora: 15:54:48 | Enlace permanente | Comentarios [5]

  4. This hits close to home as its very similar to something I’ve worked on recently.

    I don’t think he is really complaining about the need to add a theme to something or dress it up. I think he is complaining about the fact that executive culture (upper management) is often very poor at understanding the value of its product and reduces value judgements to “buzz words” and the snap judgements of a very small focus group of people that aren’t even in the target audience.

  5. […] Comments […]

  6. Yeah, but the reader doesn’t always learn what you want him to, neh? Kinda like games. Raph just cheated. =P

  7. […] Doing something a little bit different again. I have posted this poem before, but I wanted to talk a little bit about taking things away, since I was so recently on the topic of adding things in. And for those of you who don’t usually read the Sunday Poems, this one actually has game design relevance! […]

  8. […] As if all of that weren�t enough, we�re also giving a series of lectures here at the carnival, all talking about how to build your own rides and games:Raph, Theorist of Fun, points us to a Sodoku design parody and questions whether it’s actually good design. […]

  9. code name: sudoku alpha 1.0

    Sudoku es perfecto, simple y terriblemente adictivo, pero no me puedo imaginar qué hubiera sucedido, si por ejemplo, Microsoft lo hubiera diseñado. Seguramente no lo conoceríamos como sudoku, sino, tal vez como Grid Masters IV o DeathNum Continuum,…

  10. […] Y aquí un análisis de la imagen.Author: “–”       Jugada Lucas con Blade Runner   Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2006 17:25:02 +0200La jugada Lucas consiste en sacar continuamente versiones diferentes de las mismas películas. Y ahora van a intentar lo mismo con Blade Runner, porque hay gente a la que le gusta esa peli. Como la película se sacó en los primeros tiempos del DVD, pues anda bastante escasa. Por tanto, para septiembre van a sacar la versión llamada visión del director (lástima que el director fuese miope). Pero el año que viene se cumplen los 25 años de la peli, momento ideal para sacar más dinero. Por lo que planean sacar una edición especial que contendrá la versión original -conocida en algunos círculos como “la buena”-, la edición internacional y la visión del director. […]

  11. […] A while ago I read a blog entry concerning how the Sudoku game would look if tech companies had developed it. Sudoku is perfect, it argues; nothing more is needed, and would in fact lower the simplistic pleasure of the game. This is very true for the game itself, but – as another blog comments – computer games need to think about usability and the fun factor. Sudoku itself might be perfect, but computer implementations benefit from making the game more attractive, appealing and usable. Why else would we play it on a computer, rather than with a pen and paper? […]

  12. […] Y aquí un análisis de la imagen. […]

  13. […] code name: sudoku alpha… enviado por cronos el 03-06-2006 07:49 etiquetas: sudoku, diseño, web sin comentariosen: bitácoras negativos: 0 karma: 0 43meneoscerrado […]

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