Posts Tagged ‘Nintendo DS’

America’s Test Kitchen: Let’s Get Cooking

April 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Problem: Handwriting recognition fails for players with unique handwriting.

America’s Test Kitchen relies on handwriting recognition in order to type things into the game. When it works, this system is fast and natural.

It doesn’t work for me, though. When I write, I form my letters uniquely. My handwriting is perfectly legible, but my stroke order and pen direction are backwards. I think it may be because my brother is left-handed, and I learned to write from watching him.

The result is that any handwriting recognition program has about a 60-70% error rate when I write. It takes me 2-3 minutes to write a single word in America’s Test Kitchen.

Solution: Always provide an alternate input.

There’s no reason why America’s Test Kitchen couldn’t have a virtual keyboard. It would save me a lot of headaches.

Developers should always be aware that different players have different abilities, or even just different habits. A developer should offer as many different input mechanics, control options, and customization settings as possible.

Sometimes you can’t avoid it. A wheelchair-bound player isn’t going to get very far with Wii Fit. But for many other games, alternate inputs and controls can make the difference between a pleasant experience and a ragequit.


Phantasy Star 0

March 21, 2010 Leave a comment

For this post, I’m just talking about PS0’s single-player campaign.

Problem: Once the player hits the boss, they have nowhere to gain XP.

After adventuring through a dungeon for two hours, the party reaches the area’s boss. Unfortunately, the boss kicks their butt, and sends them back to their home base. The teleporter out of their base will return them directly to the boss fight, and in the meantime, they have nowhere else they can go to earn experience.

The player has two options. They can throw themselves at the boss again, but with no way to gain experience and power, they’re sure to lose. Or, they can abandon their quest and gain XP elsewhere – but they’ll have to spend another two hours going through this dungeon if they want to fight the boss again. (And even then, they have no way of knowing if they’re strong enough yet.)

The main source of this problem is the final boss. She waits at the end of a 2-3 hour dungeon, and is significantly harder than anything else in the dungeon (or in the game.) It’s entirely likely that the player’s party will be eradicated the first few times they meet this boss. I had to gain about 10 levels to beat the final boss, and I tried fighting her every 3 levels or so – that meant that I ran through her entire dungeon 4 times before I was strong enough to beat her.

Solution: Allow players to access XP-building zones while in the middle of a quest.

Phantasy Star 0 has two mission types: quests, and ‘access field.’ The quests have plots and progress the storyline, whereas the field allows the player to run around an area¬† just to adventure and level up. The player can only be on mission at a time, and must abandon their mission to start a new one.

To fix the boss frustration, that restriction should be raised so that the player can be on one quest and one field mission at the same time. That way, if the player gets stuck in their quest progress, they can set the quest aside for a while and run through fields to gain levels and items. Whenever they feel like testing their strength against the boss, they can do so. They’ll jump straight to the boss fight, and the only cost for failure is their time and the cost of the items they use.