Top 10 Usability Guidelines for Games

Top 10 Usability Guidelines for Games

Pre-game
Appropriate opening display and main menu implementation
 Use a splash screen for an emotional opening sequence, but limit the number of displays before the actual game to the minimum.
Implement the game’s main menu with custom graphics.
Avoid using UI components with standard graphics.
The left softkey should be used for Select or the Options menu, the right softkey for Exit/Cancel/Back.
 
Natural game controls
 Design the game so that it does not require the user to press two keys simultaneously, as this may be difficult on the small keyboard.
Use the navigation key as a primary game control. Users should be allowed to move with the navigation key and select items/perform actions with it.
Use only one key for one command.
Inside the game, the left softkey should pause the game and bring up the main menu or a pause menu. The right softkey is optional – it may be disabled completely. If enabled, it should be used for exiting the game (with confirmation).
 
Game experience
Pause and save
 Single-player games
Provide save game capability (except for very short games).
Provide pause game capability.
Two-player games
The game should go into Pause mode for both players if one of the players is interrupted. It must be possible to continue the game.
The player who was not interrupted should receive information about why the game is being paused. For example, “Waiting for the other player to continue.”
Games with more than two players
 Design games so that the interruption of one player does not interfere with the other players’ game. The interrupted player’s game can be switched to the background without pausing the game or the player can be dropped from the game. The preferred action depends on the game type.
 
Provide feedback
 Provide appropriate status information depending on game type (for example, character health, ammunition, score) clearly. Make sure the amount of status information is not excessive – one or two status indicators are plenty for most games.
Provide clear feedback on essential elements in the game: when a level is completed, when a bonus level is reached, when the players achieve something (score a goal or kill an enemy).
Essential elements need visual feedback so that the game is playable without sounds.
In multiplayer games, provide clear feedback about who has won and lost. Communicate to the user about his/her performance by using “you” instead of a name or color symbol.
In multiplayer games, after the user has sent a challenge to a friend, provide feedback that the challenge has been sent successfully
 
Challenge
 Make your game a minute to learn, and a lifetime to master.
Provide rewards early on to keep beginners motivated. Rewards can be new levels, abilities and weapons, for example. Providing rewards in a random schedule maintains motivation for the longest time.
Provide different difficulty settings, if feasible.
Do not make the game more difficult by altering constants, such as the physics model attributes. Instead the challenge should come from difficult tasks.
Create as engaging AI as possible — challenging, unpredictable but not unbeatable.
When feasible in multiplayer games, provide player-ranking and player matching systems that try to match players of equivalent skill against one another.
 
Don’t cause noise pollution
 Keep the default sound volume close to the volume of the phone’s regular sound — not too quiet, but not much louder, either.
Allow the user to adjust the sound level of both background music and tones.
Sounds must not be too loud or too high-pitched, and users must be able to turn sounds off easily.
In Bluetooth multiplayer games, the background music should be synchronized for all players to avoid an auditory mess.
 
Distinctive graphics
 The appearance of game objects and characters must be easily inderstood.
Different items must appear clearly different and their functionalities should be distinctive as well.
In multiplayer games, characters need to look different enough so that the players can identify who is who.
In multiplayer games, make sure that the colors of the characters appear the same for all players.
 
Provide in-game help
 Provide in-game help to the user. Training mode is the preferred solution.
Add information items, such as tips and hints that are revealed in certain locations or events, to the game.
Allow the player a chance to pause and check game controls easily during a game.
The in-game help feature should not stop the game. The player should be able to skip the help should s/he so choose.
 
Post-game
High-score list
 There should be a high-score list, if it fits the game idea. A high-score list motivates the player to compete against his/her previous score or some friend’s score.
Provide preset results and make getting to the high-score list feel like a reward.
Do not force a player to enter a name. If he/she does, use the last name as a default in the future.
Games become more interesting when players can compare their performance with the performance of possible community members. Give the user the possibility of updating his/her scores to the high-score list of the game community.
Show in the community high-score list both the scores of some of the best players and the scores of players who performed closest to the user.
 
Easy restart
 Provide an easy way to restart single-player game. For example, in the Game Over screen, provide a “Replay,” “Play again,” or “Restart” command, taking the user back to the beginning of the game, with the same settings as before.
In multiplayer games, provide a quick way to start a new game with same opponents.
 

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