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A sample wire frame from a fictitious eye wear company.

A sample flow chart from a fictitious eye wear company.

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Successful video games and video game systems can be made or broken depending on their interface.

Take the Ninetendo Wii for example:

Instead of increasing control pad features and graphic processing power like rivals such as Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, the Wii is designed around an almost entirely haptic interface. The Wii interface propelled the once ailing Nintendo brand to the front of the pack, with the Wii outselling both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

In John Maeda’s book, The Laws of Simplicity Maeda states that the first law of simplicity is to reduce.

A balance is struck between how complex something has to be and how simple something can be.

Using this first rule I will analyze several popular video games, both new and old, pointing out the strength and weakness of each. In addition to Maeda’s principle of simplicity I will add my own principle as it pertains to video game design:

The interface must not occupy our minds, Instead we should be so immersed as gamers that our interaction with the game allows us to momentarily forget ourselves and the real world. This is the hallmark of a great game experience.

Wii Sports (Wii)

Wii Sports is an excellent example of a simple intuitive interface. To play tennis you swing your control pad like a tennis racquet. To hit a baseball, swing your controller like a bat. The best part is: it matters how you swing your raquet/bat/ect. just like in real sports. The haptic control of the Wii opened this platform to traditionally non-gaming audiences by simplifying the control scheme: now people in nursing homes could play, mom and pop could play, and the Wii took center stage as an inclusive easy to learn family gaming system

The weakness of the Wii and Wii sports is the same thing that makes it great. This system will not appeal as greatly to traditional gamers who enjoy mastering the complexity of games such as Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy or one on one fighting simulators such as Soul Caliber.

Rock Band (Multiple Platforms)

Rock Band breaks the mold of traditional games by allowing the gamer to be experience being a rock-star using fairly intuitive controls. Though not haptic, the gamer is immerse din the experience by the simplicity of play that focuses more on rhythm and coordination than memorization of button combinations. This game succeeds because of a combination of great interface with an immersion into a basic fantasy for many people: to be talented, famous and musical.


The weakness of this game is…well it’s hard to find a weakness for a game that is perhaps more popular than anything out there in 2008. I would imagine the weakness is that the game is focused on coordination that certain gamers may lack, thus making the game incredibly frustrating.

Lego Star Wars (PSP)

Lego Star Wars brings out the best qualities of the PSP: a fully featured traditional video game experience on a tiny handheld. Nothing is spared in terms of graphics or game play compared to the PS3. The PSP is easy to hold and the controls are intuitive for what they are. Although there are many more buttons for this game than say Wii Sports, the buttons and their functions are logically organized. Could this game experience be made simpler? Perhaps. Not bad though for a game designed for children yet enjoyable for adults. The right mix between complexity and simplicity if haptic control is not an option.

The weakness of this game is that there is no clear objective for the uninitiated. I saw most participants have difficulty figuring out what the objective is.

Monkey Ball (iPhone)

Considering the constraints associated with iPhone game development, namely each game being played by using the iPhone accelerometer or touch screen, Monkey Ball is a smashing success. The gameplay is simple, with the player rolling a monkey filled ball through various floating levels. A simple game with many levels and an acute attention to what makes a small form factor game fun: bold graphics and simple controls.

Monkey Ball’s weakness is what makes it great. The sensitivity of the accelerometer may be too much for some, making the game frustrating.

Pacman (Internet)

Pacman is a unique game. It was one of the first internationally successful video games and it remains successful decades later. This is due to the absolute simplicity of the games design. Nothing can be taken away from the game so in a sense it is boiled down to it’s pure gaming experience. Maeda would approve of this game as it is zen like in it’s simplicity and design.

The weakness of Pacman is that it is too simple for those wanting a game with depth, such as an interactive story line, or character growth/options.

Scrabulous (Internet)

Scrabulous quickly became one of the hottest games on Facebook due it’s simplicity and multiplayer gameplay. A casual game, Scrabulous is perfect for those who are often on Facebook and looking for ways to socialize and game at the same time.

The weakness of Scrabulous is that it no longer exists. Scrabble sued for copyright violation and now a less popular official Scrabble game has replaced Scrabulous on Facebook.

Tower Defense (Internet)

Tower Defense is a game of skill/achievement that is presented in a very straightforward way: you place defenses along a path in such a pattern as to stop the invaders. I noticed that some people could not get into this game at all, playing for a few minutes and then leaving for something else. I, on the other hand know this game well and it has consumed many hours of my time. Why? I think it works for me because it is simple enough to play a few rounds without getting caught up in a story, but complex enough in strategy to hold my interest.

The weakness of this game is that it is ultimately too simple for me once I figure out the underlying srategy/pattern for winning. This may be similar problem for others.

Conclusion:

After observing my own feelings towards these games as well as the other participants reactions, I came to the conclusion that a game must have one of two things. Both if possible:

A clear goal and clear presentation of the game space.
An intuitive interface.

Almost everyone understood and enjoyed Rockband and Wii Sports. These two games have both a clear objective and an intuitive interface.

On the other end of the spectrum are games like Lego Star Wars. Most people could not figure out what the objective was or exactly how to play, therefore they moved on quickly to some other game/platform. Tower Defense elicited about the same response for those that failed to read the rules of the game before playing; I imagine that without a context (the rules) Tower Defense appears random.

-Kirk

Group 3 discussed The Cluetrain Manifesto.

From this discussion we agreed on four salient points found in the book relating to Com546:

1. Customers are now part of a connected network (over the Internet.) These customers are talking to each other more than in the past.

2. Businesses need to talk in the language of thier customers, not in P.R. (public relations) language.

3. E-businesses will thrive when they understand and meet their customer’s needs in the networked world.

4. E-commerce has gone full circle form open conversation (the ancient marketplace) to controlled conversation (Industrial revolution top down consumerism) to open markets once again (in the Internet age.)

We also hit upon two intriguing ideas in The Cluetrain Manifesto:

1. Companies can gather knowledge from within by facilitating an atmosphere of open conversations.

2. E-business allows consumers to return to personal interaction with the seller much like in the markets of the past.

The last thing we discussed was the historical positioning of The Cluetrain Manifesto.

To put it simply:

The Cluetrain Manifesto is positioned at the beginning of large scale adoption and use of the Internet during the late 1990’s.

Reading Reflection #7

Christensen’s vision of a wireless world of data is spot on in my opinion. The convergence of voice, data and video in one place, whether it be at the home computer or the smart-phone, will leave telco and cable providers rushing at each other in full battle mode. Both services will have to eventually carry the same services. Whether it be VOIP or transporting conversations as text messages, this convergence means that at last all means of communication can be on hand anywhere you go. With Apple’s iPhone we see the rudimentary beginnings of this convergence. If one were to add local WiFi capabilities to the iPhone as well as software akin to Skype, the telco’s would lose a lot of their relevance. Why go through the hurdles of long distance charges, area codes and country codes, when all you need is an AOL screen name that you can select and instantly chat, share video and text message for a relatively cheap price?

It is possible that telco’s will inhibit WiFi capability as well as the ability to use VOIP programs on a smart-phone in order to protect their existing networks. On the other hand, I don’t see it being too long until a smart 18 year old somewhere in the world unlocks these abilities in a phone or a Chinese company breaks this potential OPEC like stranglehold and releases a phone that can do it all. In the long run it may be better for the telco’s to admit that their network business may need to be cannibalized in order to expand into new VOIP spaces.

The only downside to convergence with the smart-phone at the center, is the physical limitations of the phone itself. Some things just can’t be done well on a tiny screen. Gaming, movies, word processing and design work come to mind as applications that are ill suited to the physical limitations of a smart-phone screen.

It will be interesting to look back ten years from now on our present day confusion. Perhaps a holographic projected screen will overcome the limitations of the current smart-phone?

Questions:

1. How will the smart-phone disrupt the laptop and pda markets?

2. How can WiFi be provided as a public utility? And if it is will it be regulated?

3. How long until hackers find vulnerabilities in our smart-phone systems and further compromise privacy and financial security? Will this dampen adoption?

Our group had two distinct questions this week:

1. How might uses and gratifications theory inform how eGovernment might best serve citizens?

For the first question we created a ‘Use’ and ‘Gratification’ matrix.

Use——> Gratification

Citizens file taxes online.——> Citizen gets tax return sooner.

Citizens access government info online.——> Quicker access to government documents and forms such as Driver’s Education manual.

Government distributes documents online.——> Less paper is used, cheaper, protects environment.

Citizens have direct communication with Government.——> Government is more responsive to citizens; Government can track external communications and receives feedback.

By looking at the matrix, we decided that both the Government and the Citizen benefit from the use of eGovernment. It’s a two way street where people receive information form their government as well as communicating their needs more efficiently, while the Government saves money and receives valuable feedback from the citizens.

The second question was slightly different from the first:

1. What social and cultural factors might shape eGovernment?

Our group discussed how the actual web portal may be tailored to specific cultural norms in an attempt to make that portal more friendly and accessible to each culture. For example, having a web portal in Spanish as well as English. The user experience rather than the information itself can infrom eGovernment.

Thank you Fluffy for your enlightening comment.

This brings me to my questions based on reading #6:

1. With politics mobilizing on the web and with an exponential increase in anonymous participants, will meaningful discussion get buried under useless or inflammatory commenting?

2. With freeping of Internet polls and the lessening of the online poll’s relevancy due to this abuse, will the online poll die out or be overhauled with improved fraud detection?

3. The virtual landscape of the Internet is limitless. In this way it is unlike a finite ‘commons.’ How will a new definition of the Tragedy of Commons take this into consideration? Is it necessary to have a 2.0 version of the Tragedy of the Commons at all?

ps. I accidently erased my questions when posting before because I was looking at the word count without them. I then posted sans questions, then looked at it again just now and re-added them. My apologies for splitting this entry into two bits.

Reading Reflection #6

The theory of The Tragedy of the Commons states that a commons such as the air or the sea would be hard to protect because each person’s negative impact would not directly affect that person, while the gain from polluting each, such as getting rid of garbage or emissions, would directly benefit that person. In the end, the individual negative impacts would eventually destroy the commons making it unusable for anyone.

In the digital age we are finding that the commons now extend to the virtual landscape of the Internet. This was really not a problem in the early years of the Internet when there were few ‘polluters’ and many positive ‘contributors.’ With the exponential rise of Internet use by the world’s population, we are beginning to see the first stages of Internet pollution and the degradation of the Internet commons: spam email, computer viruses, mass emailings of jokes (fun for you, maybe not so fun when you get 20 a day yourself) and the nefarious pop-up ad. So far society has created technologic solutions to minimize these things, however eliminating them may be impossible.

This brings me to the newest form (or maybe an old form in new clothing) of Internet pollution: ‘freeping’ of Internet polls and forums for political reasons.

From the Urban Dictionary:

“To slew or cheat an online poll by repeatedly voting (clearing cookies, using proxies) or to make a blog appear to be commented by numerous posters by the same means. (From the practices of the Free Republic or “freepers”)

One political group that has become nefarious for this is the Ron Paul campaign. Whether Ron Paul is aware of this or not, numerous polls have been ‘freeped’ to show a wildly unbalanced voting pattern in favor of Ron Paul over any other candidate. Sometimes as many as 30 separate votes will come from the same IP. In other cases, numerous fake commenters will stack a comment section in favor of one candidate in a coordinated attack.

Welcome to politics on the web!