1. Tweets that mention Communication Breakdown | Squid In A Box -- Topsy.com
    January 9, 2011 @ 12:58 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rob Hale. Rob Hale said: RT @squidinabox: Blog post! http://bit.ly/gvVzrK Examining communication and people who don't read manuals. #wavesgame […]


  2. Dan C
    January 11, 2011 @ 10:36 pm

    I’m not entirely sure that you successfully sidestepped disingenuity there, what with your claim that men are less likely to read the manual than women :).

    Studies of ‘serious’ applications show that the number of people who read any kind of documentation is so small that any disparity between genders can’t be much more than a rounding error. Oddly enough, though, people are much more likely to claim that they read documentation than they are to actually read it. See this graph from Novick, Elizalde & Bean, 2007:

    I don’t think it stretches credibility too much for me to assert that these findings broadly apply to games, too. That is, players are far more likely to work stuff out for themselves, ask a friend, or just give up, than they are to read a manual.

    I also don’t think that it’s fair to assume that people ignore instructions because they somehow want to create an extra problem for themselves to solve. If that were true then the logical solution would be to build games that satisfy that desire by giving no instructions and letting players figure stuff out for themselves. I’d want to see a lot of evidence before advocating that :).

    Any psychologist will tell you that people are very bad at knowing their own reasons for doing things, and even worse at accurately reporting those reasons in the context of a study. Nevertheless, if you ask people why they ignore instructions, they come up with a fairly consistent set of reasons that, I think, are borne out by the facts.

    What it boils down to is a lack of focus. In a problem-solving context, most people are reluctant to read large blocks of text because they perceive, usually correctly, that the bulk of that text will not usefully apply to them in the context of what they are doing. The majority of almost any instructional text will be either redundant or baffling, depending on the experience level of the reader. Actually, a similar effect applies outside the context of problem-solving too, although much less pronounced.

    Relatedly, people are much more likely to read a short block of text than a long one. Subjectively, I know that, given a sufficiently short piece of text, I will read it immediately without even thinking about it – and I’m pretty sure that the same applies to most other people, too.

    From this point of view, Geometry Wars 2 doesn’t do too badly. The instructional text is concise, probably as short as it could be, and it’s arranged to facilitate scanning. But in an interactive context I agree we should be able to do much better than that, and the approach taken by Everyday Shooter is superior because it displays short snippets of instructional text exactly when it’s relevant, not in advance. Most people will read the text in Everyday Shooter without expending any conscious effort – although I would argue that it could and should be made shorter.

    By the way, discounting the ones that aren’t any good, the total number of games that I’ve developed and finished is zero, so you can take the above with a large pinch of salt. OTOH, I build user interfaces for a living, and I like to think I’ve picked up a few tricks here and there :).


    • Dan C
      January 11, 2011 @ 10:38 pm

      Oops. img tags aren’t allowed. The missing image above is at: http://www.danielcassidy.me.uk/hotlink/help-source-graph.png

    • Rob
      January 12, 2011 @ 10:41 am

      As always my evidence for a gender difference is based on what I’ve observed not what studies have been performed – Of all the girls I’ve watched playing games the majority will read long pages of instructions carefully when presented with them and in some cases will stop gameplay to look things up if they get confused or have forgotten some information.

      Some men will do this but generally only if they aren’t confident in their problem solving abilities in the first place. As most men are very confident in this (often misplaced) they will ignore large amounts of text and dive in. If you have played alot of videogames then this will be even more pronounced even if you are completely unfamiliar with the genre.

      To use an example from the real world rather than videogames: My girlfriend will refer to the manual for the microwave if she has to do something with it she’s not familiar with. I will press buttons until I figure out it out. This may again be more to do with confidence with technology than an innate gender difference but men tend have more technological gadgets and will fiddle more than women which gives them additional confidence in their problem solving abilities when faced with new technology.

  3. And Yet It Moves – Indie-Game or Indie-Art « Kissaki Blog
    January 12, 2011 @ 2:12 am

    […] why I call it art. Controls and GamePlay is introduced absolutely atmospheric and in-place in-game. How it should be. The art style stays authentic but has different topics in different levels, providing variety […]


  4. Krishna Israney
    January 12, 2011 @ 10:00 am

    In geometry wars the design of the player’s ship was “C” shaped with sort of an open mouth design. People might try to instinctively relate it to be able to “eat” stuff.

    In-game tutorials like in the case of EDS might only work when the initial pacing of the game is slow which allows for learning to take place.


    • Rob
      January 12, 2011 @ 10:48 am

      In Deadline the spawn rate starts off pretty slow; certainly slow enough to provide contextual help with the first 2-3 enemies. If memory serves the spawn rate in Deadline is actually tied in part to how quickly you kill the enemies so new players should have a more sedate start than experienced ones.

      In Waves I’m considering adding a “level 0” which is relatively slow paced and after your first level up (which is proof that you have at least mastered the art of shooting something and collecting the experience from it) the game will then start you at level 1 from that point on.

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