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易用性设计可增强所有用户的游戏体验编辑本段回目录

从过去几年的电子游戏博客和网页搜索“易用性”一词,你可能会找到大把关于“如何实现(易用性)”的文献,这个问题为何是游戏开发者必须重视的话题,以及人们对适应装置(游戏邦注:adaptive devices,日常生活中的适应装置包括很多家里、办公室或者学校中普通物体的改装物,可以让肢体残疾者更轻松地进行自理和完成工作)的看法。

这其中隐藏了一个观点:有人称为残疾者设计游戏是一种额外劳动,它必须服务于扩大财源的目的,或者它是一种展示先进技术发展的举动。

但处理易用性问题并不只是为了某类群体行方便,要知道手机震动功能最初是为了方便听力障碍者而设计,而智能输入法原先则是为帮助学习障碍者而发明。

我们大多数人都不把这些日常科学技术当回事,认为它们的存在是理所当然的,但它们实际上是人类致力于造福残疾人士的绝佳例证。

Eleanor Robinson是7-128 Software(游戏邦注:该工作室专注于开发易用性游戏)的首席运营官,她介绍了公司设计游戏的一些基本原则:

“每制作一款易用性游戏的用户界面,你都要重视尽可能让UI更为简便。假如要让盲人驾驭你的UI,那就要让他们在无需正常人所依赖的视觉提示下执行操作。也就是说你得关注按键排列的逻辑性和一致性。这样也可以方便所有用户的操作。”

EA也许可以不在乎用户需在《NHL 10》中应对设置极其繁琐的菜单,育碧也不会因《刺客信条》的退出游戏界面共有11个操作步骤而流失客源。但需要注意的是,游戏的易用性设置并不只是添加不同的操作方法,易用性游戏设计师在制定这些决策方面与其他开发者并不相同。复杂的UI很可能成为生意泡汤的产品杀手,而非考验用户耐心的设计。

正如Robinson所言,降低复杂度不但对残障者大有帮助,所有用户也能从中受益,“如果你所有游戏的控制系统都采用一种简单的设置,那么只要掌握了其中一款游戏的操作方法,那就可以节省不少摸索学习的时间,触类旁通地领会其他几款游戏的控制方式。”从MMO游戏领域中,我们显然已经可以看出这种说法的合理性。不少新款MMO游戏都借鉴了《魔兽世界》的UI风格,从而提高了游戏操作的易用性,而《魔兽世界》的UI设计也提取了许多MMO游戏UI的精髓。

她表示许多行动障碍者在游戏过程中,无法在同一时间控制两个以上的输入按键,如果你设计了一个只需敲打同一个按键的UI,那么更容易记住自己常用的按键,加快游戏进程。”

那些操作简便的游戏常收获大量的媒体赞誉,《边缘战士》推出的一键式SMART系统开创了第一人称射击游戏操控方式的先河。而需要多种按键输入的PC控制方式,却总是备受诟病,因为有不少玩家更青睐简单操作的设置。

“我不知道有多少新手玩家总是因为反应过慢,赶不上游戏进程而受挫,如果他们可以让游戏速度放慢,这些游戏任务看起来就不会这么可怕了,他们可以等到自己更上手了再加快速度。假如他们由此得到乐趣和获得成就感,也会更乐意购买今后上市的相关游戏。”

游戏阀限已成为市面上《My Football Game》和《My Golf Game featuring Ernie Els》这两款最有趣易用性游戏的基本特点。这两者是由VTree LLC公司与EA Sports联合出品的游戏,使用了基于《Madde》和《老虎伍兹PGA巡回赛》的同种代码。VTree LLC首席执行官兼总裁Chuck Bergen在采访中说明了这类游戏的设计过程。

My_Football_Game(from gamasutra)

My_Football_Game(from gamasutra)

“在《My Football Game》这款游戏中,设计人员的主要任务就是将其划分为23个独立版块,以便每个人都能玩游戏,建立健全认知能力,或者掌握如何使用自己的适应装置玩游戏,让游戏速度降至20%,对脑部受损的患者,或者成人自闭症用户来说,这种设置有助于他们根据自己的速度体验整个足球赛。”

“我们让玩家体验训练环节,他们先适应传球、踢球等不同游戏功能,经过这第一关之后,你就可以进入第二关,并且开始进行五对五的训练,掌握更多游戏技能。到第三关游戏设置就和市场上的常规游戏无异了。”

体育类游戏经常带有演练功能,《NHL 11》就拥有一套健全的玩家训练机制,支持用户在数量有限的电脑玩家环境中,先适应不同的控制方式,或者实践防御或进攻战术。

这些训练机制所缺乏的是速度阀限,这并非建议所有游戏都要采用这种设置,使用可调整速度的训练机制,将不同等级或关卡拼凑成整体任务。但对那些含有竞争元素的游戏来说,这种技能学习方法却无疑非常管用。

第一人称射击游戏玩家的生死存亡常取决于其爆头技术,这种技巧很考验玩家的记忆力,或者说他们根据在不同距离和高度射击的经验,调整枪支瞄准角度的能力。那么开发商是不是也可以设置一个带有速度阀限的爆头训练环节,以方便那些数年后重返这类游戏的玩家快速上手?

制作易用性游戏的计划方法很适用于那些传统游戏设计师,“我们与家长、治疗专家或老师坐下来随意交流,可以了解更多详情……我们设计、制作出了易用性游戏,但实际上他们在这一点上的建树比我们更早,在我们开始涉足这一领域时,他们就已设计出了相关解决方案。”

任何项目正式开工之前的市场调查,当然都会增加额外的投入成本,但比起关键时刻的投资,或者设置一个指示器预防游戏开发后期出现不可预测的问题,这种做法真的那么重要吗?

Bergen认为,“我们从设计之初就要切合自己的目标,你不能用一种方法设计第一关,然后到第三关时,又发现第一关的设计不能通向第三关。所有的设计内容都要同时完成。”

加州桑尼维尔艺术协会游戏设计指导Halimat Alabi主要研究易用性游戏设计方法,他也承认开发一款易用性游戏确实需要制定更多计划,但你在前面多投入了10%,就可以在后面获得更多回报。

Bergen主要探讨这类游戏的经济效益,而Alabi则从设计的学术角度,指出人们对易用性游戏设计的一些误解。“许多游戏设计师设置了一些可方便残疾群体的功能,但他们却并非关注这一点,他们只是想为用户提供更多选择,想提高用户对游戏的情感依赖,增加游戏体验的粘性。并没有多少公司会专为残疾者而制定决策,但他们确实满足了不同群体的需求。”

例如,DS游戏设计师会为老人和孩子制作游戏,这也为介于老人和少儿的中间群体提供了便利,“如果电子游戏市场自然发展,那么易用性游戏设计与常规游戏设计之间的鸿沟也会逐渐消失”。

FarmVille的箭头指示(from gamasutra)

FarmVille的箭头指示(from gamasutra)

Alabi举例指出,“《FarmVille》中的箭头只是一个很简单的视觉效果,你收割时它会指向植物,养殖时会指向动物;草丛中出现蛇的时候,该区域就会变成红色。这款游戏还植入了一些额外的音效,这些设置看似简单,却有助于不会看游戏任务的幼儿和文盲用户的理解。”要知道《FarmVille》只是一款设计比硬核游戏要简单得多的社交游戏,但它却是证明易用性与盈利性并不冲突的典范。

Valve Software公司的Mike Ambinder也证实了易用性与盈利性可以无缝兼容的说法。

Valve在残疾人游戏群体中拥有极高的声誉,其推出的可通过适应装置操作的游戏更是备受推崇。

他表示“我们为残疾玩家作出的调整(游戏邦注:包括隐藏字幕、色盲模式、单人游戏暂停、更简单的难度级别、可重复标示的按键/按钮、鼠标感应设置、鼠标、键盘和游戏手柄综合使用等设置)可以同时提高普通用户和残疾人的游戏体验。”

“例如,这两种玩家群体如果中途想休息或者离开,都可以使用《求生之路2》当中的暂停设置,游戏中添加的字幕也可以方便玩家处理游戏对话/音效信息,让他们根据自己的需要切换不同的可替换性媒介。”

求生之路(from gamasutra)

求生之路(from gamasutra)

“我们也许能设计出一种最理想的游戏体验,但前提是我们作出的任何一种调整都应该能够让两种用户(正常人和残疾人)同时受益。举例说,在原版的《求生之路》中,幸存者的身上并没有可显示其所在区域的发光设置。我们在第一次测试时认为,其他玩家的口头语言表达已经足够传达相关信息,促进他们之间的团队合作。但很快就发现这一点远远不够,因为这种设置并不能完整描述出相关区域的情况,也无法实现富有粘性的游戏体验。后来我们就在每个成员的身上添加了轮廓光线(可通过墙壁透视),突出每个角色所在位置,从而强化了团队成员之间的沟通和交流(尤其是那些听觉和语言障碍者)。”

随着Wii和Kinect技术的发展,我们相信游戏易用性很可能更上一层楼,开创游戏领域的新纪元。“我们对各种可替换性的控制设备一直都很好奇,并不断进行市场调查,体验各种非传统控制器,希望从中找到可增强游戏体验的新出路。”

“我们现在对眼球追踪技术非常好奇,并设想可以借此支持玩家使用眼睛充当输入控制方法。也许将来我们可以让眼球作为鼠标光标的替身,让玩家眨眨眼来驾驭输入方式。在这种技术的基础上,我们再添加其他可代替按键输入的操作,那么就有可能同时省略鼠标和键盘(或游戏手柄)这种设置。”

减少围绕“易用性设计”的争论并专注于使游戏更具可用性,或许有助于我们转变思想观念,认识到易用性设计并非增加成本,而是增加价值的做法。易用性设计是可用性的加强版,它能够让所有人同时受益,鼓励开发者应对挑战,尝试更多变化,深入挖掘,最终都会极大丰富我们的游戏体验。

游戏邦注:原文发表于2010年11月23日,所述事件以当时为背景。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,作者:Dennis Scimeca)

Resetting Accessibility in Games

by Dennis Scimeca

[To what end accessibility? Gamasutra speaks to Valve and other developers about creating games for different audiences about the very good reasons you should consider making your game more easily played.]

Aggregate the most popular video game blogs and websites over the past four years, search for the word “accessibility,” and you’re likely to come up with a handful of “how-to” articles, economic arguments for why this is an issue for game developers to pursue, or spotlights on adaptive devices.

There’s an implied divisiveness here: the idea that designing games for the disabled is extra work, an extra step worth pursuing for remuneration, or an interesting display of technological evolution.

But tackling accessibility isn’t just about improving access for some. Vibrating phones were originally designed as an accommodation to the hearing impaired. Predictive text was meant to assist the learning disabled.

Most of us take these everyday technologies for granted as advances meant for the general public, but they’re sterling examples of the phenomena that when we improve circumstances for the disabled, everyone benefits.

Eleanor Robinson is the COO of 7-128 Software, a family-friendly development studio operating out of Salem, Massachusetts. Her company focuses on the development of accessible games, and she discussed some of their basic design methodologies:

“Any time you are developing a user interface for an accessible game one of your high priorities is to keep it as simple as you can,” Robinson said. “If a blind person has to navigate your UI, they have to do it without the visual clues that sighted people have. This means you have to pay attention to things like making the tab order logical and consistent. This helps everyone to navigate your software more easily.”

Electronic Arts could afford to let users futz through the extremely dense layer of menus for NHL 10. Ubisoft didn’t worry too much about Assassin’s Creed hitting the PC with a UI that required 11 steps to quit the game. It could be argued that rather than employing a different methodology altogether, accessible game designers simply don’t have the same leeway as other developers in making these decisions. Difficult UI becomes a deal-breaker rather than something to try the user’s patience.

“Lack of complexity is a bonus for not only the handicapped person, but for all users,” said Robinson. “If all your game controls are laid out in a similar fashion, when you have learned to play one of them, the rest are relatively intuitive and don’t require a lot of learning time.” Certainly this is an apt description as to precisely what we’re seeing in the MMO genre. New titles offer instant accessibility to genre veterans by playing off the tried-and-true World of Warcraft UI style which, in turn, was a distillation of all the successful MMO UI concepts which preceded it.

“Many motion-impaired users can’t manage to hold down two or more keys at the same time for a game action,” Robinson said. “If you design a user interface that requires only single keystrokes, you have made it much easier to remember the key you want to use and to speed up the game.”

Reviewers regularly praise games with critical non-chording elements, especially when it comes to cover mechanics. Brink’s new one button SMART system stands to revolutionize the way first person shooter gamers handle movement. Conversely, multiple-key-press PC control schemes are often cited as turn-offs for gamers who instead turn to simpler, control pad setups.

“I wonder how many beginning gamers get discouraged and stop playing a game because things are happening too fast for them to react to since they are just learning how to play the game,” Robinson said. “If they can slow the game down a little, it is less intimidating and they can speed it up as they get more used to the game. They would also be more inclined to buy future games if they have fun and success with [the first one].”

The game throttle has actually become the basis for what may be two of the most interesting accessible games on the market. My Football Game and My Golf Game featuring Ernie Els are produced by VTree LLC in conjunction with EA Sports, and are based off the same code as Madden and Tiger Woods PGA Tour. Chuck Bergen, the President and CEO of VTree LLC, was the keynote speaker at Games Accessibility Day in Boston earlier this year, and spoke with us about the process of designing these games.

“In [My Football Game] the main thing was to break it down into 23 separate pieces for individuals to be able to play and to be able to build up cognitive muscles, or learn how to play with their adaptive devices, to be able to slow the game all the way down to 20 percent,” Bergen said. “[For] someone with a traumatic brain injury, or an adult with autism, it gives them a chance at their pace to build up [skills] to play the whole football game.

“We take the player through practice rounds. You just pass, you just kick, and get used to the different features of the game. That’s level 1. Then when you go into level 2, you might have five-on-five drills and tasks, and start picking up more of the game. Level 3 is really just like the [regular] games out on the market.”

Sports games often feature drills. NHL 11 has a robust suite of player drills to allow users to get used to the tweaked controls from the previous iteration, or to practice offensive or defensive strategies with limited numbers of computer players on the ice.

What it doesn’t have are speed throttles for these drills. This is not to suggest that all games should be broken down at the granular level into composite tasks with adjustable-speed drills, but for titles in competitive genres this sort of skill-attainment methodology could be immensely useful.

First person shooter players often live or die by the headshot, which boils down to muscle memory, or knowing how far to adjust weapon angles based on experience taking the shot from varied distances and heights. Imagine the potential utility of a headshot drill with a speed throttle for the FPS gamer trying to work his or her way back into the genre after a few years’ absence.

The planning methodology that goes into producing an accessible game holds potentially valuable lessons for traditional game designers.

“We sit down with the parents, therapists, or teachers,” Bergen said. “It’s much more personal and we get much more detail [than traditional game designers get]… We design it, we build it, but in reality they design everything we do. It’s all done up front even before we start.”

There are assuredly extra costs associated with this sort of focused market research before any programming takes place, but would they be greater than the costs of crunch time, or calling an audible during the late stages of game development when unforeseen problems pop up?

“We have to hit our mark from the beginning of the design,” Bergen said. “You can’t design level 1 a certain way and by the time you get to level 3 and you design that, find out that level 1 doesn’t help you get to level 3. All of them have to be done at the same time.”

Halimat Alabi is an instructor of game design at The Art Institute of California-Sunnyvale, and focuses on teaching accessible game design methodology. “It does take more planning [to create an accessible game],” Alabi said, “but what you put in on the front end, an extra 10%, can pay off hugely at the back end.”

Where Bergen discusses these issues in terms of the economics of successful sales, Alabi comes at them from the academics of design, illuminating what may be a fundamental misunderstanding of accessible game design concerns.

“I think a lot of game designers are putting in functionality that helps the disabled community, but they’re not calling it that, and they might not be aware that that’s even what it is,” Alabi said. “They’re trying to give the user a wider range of experience, they’re trying to up emotional engagement, they’re trying to raise the stickiness of whatever the experience is. There aren’t as many companies making decisions based on disability, but they are giving various demographics what they need.

For example, game designers with the DS designing for the older demographic, and for kids. That’s made it much more accessible for those of us who are in the middle.” If the market for video games is naturally widening, then the perceived gulf between accessible game design, and design which may not specifically take these issues into account, may be a misconception.

“It’s a very simple visual effect, but [FarmVille] put an arrow over your options in the game,” Alabi said. “You have a little arrow over the trees for you to harvest, a little arrow over the animals for you to feed, areas get red when there’s a snake in the grass. There’s also a built-in redundancy with sound effects. That absolutely helps the disabled gamer, helps the child gamer, helps the gamer who is not literate enough to read the goal.” Given, Farmville is a social game and thus a far simpler design than complex hardcore titles, but it neatly reinforces the idea that accessibility and profitability are not always set in opposition to one another.

We wanted a solid example of design that seamlessly blends commercial and accessibility issues, and spoke with Mike Ambinder of Valve Software.

Valve is highly-regarded in the disabled gaming community, particularly for their work with adaptive control devices.

“Most of the accommodations we make for disabled gamers (closed captioning/subtitles, colorblind mode, in-game pausing in single player, easier difficulty levels, re-mappable keys/buttons, open-microphones, mouse sensitivity settings, use of both mouse and keyboard and gamepads, etc.) stem from functionality added to improve the experience of both able and disabled gamers,” Ambinder told us.

“For example, both groups of gamers benefit from the ability to pause Left 4 Dead 2 if they need to take a break or escape from the action, and the addition of subtitles allows all gamers to process the in-game dialogue/sound effects through an alternative visual medium if that is their preference.

“We may design for an optimum experience, but any accommodations we make to extend the accessibility of our games should benefit folks (both able and disabled) who choose to consume our content in an alternative fashion,” Ambinder said. “For example, in the initial implementation of Left 4 Dead, there were no glows around the survivors indicating their location in-game. In our first experiments, we thought that verbal cues transmitted from other players would be enough to enable cooperation and to guide players to teammates in need.

“We soon found out that more information was required, as relative locations could not be adequately described in sufficient detail nor with sufficient speed to enable a cohesive experience. To remedy this, we added in the glows (visible through walls) which silhouette each teammate and provide a salient, visual cue to in-game location — improving the communication between teammates for all gamers (and especially for gamers who have difficulty hearing or speaking).”

As the Wii and Kinect demonstrate, increasing usability through accessibility can open up exciting new avenues of gaming that permanently change the playing field. “We’re always curious about alternative control devices and are constantly researching and playing around with nontraditional controllers in the hopes of finding an approach that might lead to an interesting gameplay experience,” Ambinder said.

“In particular, we’re intrigued by the potential of eyetrackers and the eventual ability to let gamers use their eyes as active controller inputs. For example, it may be possible in the future to let the eyes act as a proxy for the mouse cursor, letting gamers transmit navigation and targeting inputs via eye movements. If you couple this approach with the use of blinks or other proxies for button presses, you may remove the need for a mouse and keyboard (or gamepad) all together.”

Eliminating the narrative of divisiveness around “accessible design” and rather focusing on usability will turn these sorts of considerations from an added cost into a value add. It’s the innovation behind improved usability that winds up serving us all, and the more we can encourage game developers to tackle the challenge, the more varied, deeper, and ultimately enriching our gaming experiences will become.(source:gamasutra

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