Category Archives: Design

Godus–the Addictiveness of Clicking

 

godus

Godus is the new god-game from Peter Molyneux, who invented the genre way back in 1989 with Populous.

You start off with a few people on an island. They build huts, and start to believe in you. Their belief shows up as a purple ball floating over their hut.

You click on the purple balls to accumulate points (the number in the lower left corner).

You use your points on powers (the list on the left side). Reshaping the terrain to help your people cross to new land costs a few points.

godus-1

As your tribe expands you uncover treasure – cards which help your people’s civilization grow. Cards like “Flint” or “Felt”. Find 3 Felt, 2 Flint and 2 Wax cards and you can unlock the “Felt tent” advance, which means your people now build bigger houses, with more people, thus more belief.

You click more to drag out land to help your people build more houses, so you can get more people and more belief, so you can expand.

Soon you have so many people that you have filled up the blue population bar at the top of the screen. A heartbeat announces the near imminent transition, and with a ding and a new card your civilization advances further. You’ve unlocked “Wood Huts”. Bigger houses, more people, more belief.

Collect belief by clicking the big purple balls floating all over the houses. Watch your belief score grow into the thousands. Instead of going up by 5 or 25 it’s now going up by 250 or 500 points.

Now you have enough points to use bigger powers than before. Do more stuff, move more land. Click more stuff.

Clear some land of rocks. Click click click.Belief points +35

Chop down some trees. Click click click. Belief points +15.

Your people are now numerous enough to refurbish an altar they found in the woods. They work on it and polish it up, and after some time a fanfare, a new card appears and a new area of the map opens up for more reshaping, more clicking and hopefully settlement by your people, who can build and multiply, giving you more belief points (click “bing” click “bong” click “beng” click “bing”).

The fact that clicking the purple belief bubbles plays Beethoven one note per click is just icing on the cake.  The disappointed raspberry the game blows at you when you fail to play the complete sonata (all 458 notes of it) is a tiny bit annoying at first. Aggravating after a few hours.

godus_landscape

The scary thing is that the clicking drives multiple reward systems:

  • Clicking purple belief bubbles drives the Belief score
  • Clicking the land uses Belief, but drives expansion
  • Expansion drives new settlements
  • Settlements drives more belief bubbles

Soon you are expanding the map in multiple places at once, so if you are bored with clicking on a stubborn cliff-face, you can move over to the old temple you have found and dig it out of the forest so that your people can refurbish it in your honor.

And then a new fanfare announces a new expansion, and you are off clicking in a newly opened area, looking for easy settlements and suitable paths for migration.

The game feeds you new things to click on at a rate that is just enough to keep you clicking. You can see the nearby areas just waiting to be opened up. You just need a few more people to settle before they can start fixing up the altar to trigger the next expansion.

It is frighteningly easy to lose an hour clicking away. The urge to click a few more times before quitting is always there. A click is such a small thing. It doesn’t take much, and then there’s a few more things to click nearby, and that won’t take long.

It makes Cow-Clicker seem benign in comparison.  Rock Paper Shotgun also worry that it’s more like facebook game than a god-game.

The coming update should reduce the amount of clicking needed, but I’m afraid my wife will find my desiccated husk still clicking the mouse button if I try it.

Ruter Kiosk Fail

image

Ruter# has upgraded the ticket kiosks to support multiple zones. The only problem is that the default zone (1) is not visible when you get to this step in the buying process.

The column of zones scrolls, although you would never guess this from the user interface.

4V is the name of a zone.

The up ? and down ? arrows don’t indicate progress within the steps (the double triangles do this ??), they trigger scrolling. When you push the upwards pointing arrow, the list of zones shifts to show more, including the most common choice (1).

Not exactly a super way of indicating that there are more choices.

Now granted they are hampered by ELMER the UI standard toolkit they are mandated to follow. It doesnt allow for a lot of graphical flourishes in order to distinguish scrolling from standard choices.

But really, would it have killed you to put all the zones up using 2 or 3 columns? Theres lots of room on the right side of the screen thats not being used.

Trouble with Licenses

Hmm so Ive activated a Microsoft product by REJECTing the license.

Am I now in breach of the license? Can I be said to have hacked the software to make it work? Am I now free to do whatever I want with the files?

These are legal riddles which should keep a Microsoft lawyer busy for a few minutes before bedtime

Trouble with Localization

My darling better half is enjoying her new MacBook but the Apple Pages software turned out to be less popular.  After Jens pointed out to me that I can buy a cheap license for Office through the Home-Use Program, I bought a license and downloaded the Mac Office and installed it.

Mac Office 2011 License accept dialog

Note the buttons: ACCEPT (Godta) and REJECT (Avsl)

English version

The same dialog, in English this time.

Notice the subtle difference? (Microsoft has helpfully highlighted it for us)

This explains why I completely failed to complete registration until I clicked the REJECT (Avsl) button. The translation team at Microsoft has transposed the labels making the task impossible to complete unless you disobey the instructions.

The problem has been reported to Microsoft, so hopefully in the future Norwegians wont be baffled by the difficulty in activating the software.

The confusion probably arises from the MS Windows habit of having the OK/CANCEL buttons in the opposite order from the Mac, which tends to put them in the reverse order: CANCEL/OK.

Norwegian/Norsk mode engaged: Hvis du har problemer med registrere/aktivere Mac Office 2011 p OSX, s m du alts trykke p AVSL knappen i dialogen som sier Du m godta betingelsene i lisensavtalen for fortsette.

NSB kiosk fail

image

I needed to buy a train ticket and the easy way to do that was using one of the many kiosk terminals they have scattered around the station.
If only I could find one that worked. They were all displaying a big fat red error message.

After seeing the same big red box on several terminals, i finally read the message…

It was advertising – for trains – in their brand color, RED.

Samsung Android UI

The Android user interface has a few consistency issues. The icons can be moved around the screen by press holding the icon.
SC20110110-224949

So far, so like the iPhone, minus the cute shaking.

However, the icon shelf at the bottom of the newer Android screens is not so easily altered, at least not on the Samsung Touch UI variant. The icon shelf is not editable from the ‘desktop’ at all. The desktop menu has Edit, but that rearranges the order of the screens. Nothing about the shelf here.

Press-hold an icon on the shelf? Nada. Nothing.

Press-hold the Home button, maybe? Nope. That’s recent apps and the running tasks list.

A quick google turns up the answer: the Application program. It has an Edit menu that lets you assign apps to the shelf. Except when the applications App is in list-view mode: then the edit menu item disappears without a trace.

SC20110111-131445

Once switched to Edit mode, the grid of apps icons turn into buttons, but you don’t press them, you drag them to the shelf at the bottom of the screen. You can also drag icons off the shelf to the apps grid.

SC20110111-131455

So we have two different ways of moving icons around: press and hold on the home screens, and drag-drop buttons in a special edit mode in the apps app.

More confusing is the involvement of the apps app in the whole thing. The shelf is part of the screens – there is no obvious link to the apps app.

A better solution would be to use press-hold on the icons on the shelf, and allow the icons to be moved on and off the shelf in the same way as the rest of the screen. The problem here is that the shelf turns into the trashcan when dragging icons. So how can you drag an icon to the shelf when the shelf disappears as soon as you start to drag an icon?

By using a press-hold action on an icon on the shelf to activate the apps app editor. This puts the editor closer to hand, and hides the application app dependency.

Signage on Beijing Subway

While staying in Beijing, you will spend a lot of time travelling around by subway. The signage at the stations and in the subway cars is well worth discussing from an information design perspective.

Beijing takes the same  approach as most other major cities – with dedicated tracks for each line. Transfers between lines requires a walk to a different set of platforms.

When you come down the steps to a platform, the name of the end stations is the first thing you notice. This helps orient you to the correct side of the platform.

DSC02278

As you walk along the platform and look up you see the name of the station, and the ones immediately preceding and succeeding it are shown along the platform, along with an arrow indicating the direction of travel.

DSC02132

This tells you where you are and where you will go. Note that the preceding stations are greyed out to de-emphasize them. The remaining major stations (transfer stations and landmarks) and the end station is marked.

This is a typical use of focus + context. You see the nearby locations, and the overall picture, without being overburdened by details. The complete map of the network is also available on the platform and on the back of your travel-card.  If you need help planning your journey, a red-armbanded helper is nearby to assist you.

Once you get on the train, the travellers task switches to keeping track of where you are, and when to get off. Inside the train is a map above each door, that tracks the current station and the direction of travel. These update in real time.

DSC02277

The red dots indicate visited stations. When travelling between stops, the corresponding dots between stations are half red and half green.

When you arrive at a station, the station name is visible on the pillars outside, and the next stations is also shown underneath in smaller type. Along with the route map inside the train this helps you maintain your own map of the network.

DSC02133

It is re-inforcing the direction of travel and giving you extra context. Context you need if you are going to push through the crowd to reach the door in time.

Despite the helpful markings on the floor indicating where to queue and where to let out passengers, getting on and off the train requires a hefty shoulder and a good push to get out.

DSC02131

Im guessing that a lot of these signage upgrades are a result of the Olympics, but whoever is responsible has done a really nice job with the information design. It helps keep travellers oriented and helps them maintain their internal maps of the subway system. These information hints will become more important as the network grows in size and complexity.

The Beijing subway is growing quickly it has doubled in size since Fay left a few years ago. A new line opened just in the eight months since our last visit in April, and it is on route to become the worlds biggest subway system by 2020.

Democracy and Technology

I had an interesting dream last night – I dreamed about democratic decision making support software. Instead of my regularly scheduled dreams of – well, nevermind. The whole thing is (like all dreams) a bit fuzzy now, but the gist of it was this: a bottom-up wiki-like decision support system with real-time animation and graphics (a bit like an RTS). The wiki enabled reasoning and supporting arguments to be filed and voted on, and allowed alternatives to arise and float up as they gathered support. i.e. avoiding false dichotomies seemed important to my dream.

As people (supporters and opponents) argue and lobby for positions, the decision makers can see the ebb and flow of support on an RTS like map. The map – the terrain – is not fixed, since the appearance of a new consensus position can change the lay of the land. Also, stretching the map metaphor is probably not wise. In reality you would want multiple maps or views on the current state of  opinion.

Democracy is not a simple popularity contest – and the underlying wiki information should provide useful input to the decision-makers.

After waking up, and a bit of googling – there does not seem to be anything quite like this:

  • The Center for Democracy and Technology is more concerned with Internet regulation than with the Democracy part of its name.
  • The Democracy Journal has an interesting article about the topic: how open source wiki technology can make government decisions more expert and more democratic.

The dream is probably affected by some of the projects I’m working on at SuperOffice – and some political discussions before bedtime, but this seems like a generally interesting area.

  • Automatically summarizing information, presenting digests on demand to decision makers. Something like N6 – but wikified.
  • Automatically distilling votes or participant activity into clusters, presenting clusters graphically or as simple charts.
  • Allowing bottom-up participation in the decision making process, and allowing everyone to see the decision basis.

Laws and politics have been likened to a sausage factory before, and while it is easy to ignore where the sausage comes from, we are obliged (I think) as citizens to keep an eye on what goes on inside the factory.

If we can help people make better decisions as well as improve people’s involvement in government, that sounds like a worthwhile goal.

A brief look at the current state of decision-support systems is not exactly encouraging. There is a lot of graphics and statistical modeling and analysis, but the user interaction seems to be very much stuck in the 80s. This is probably just a naïve impression. I hope.

Spore Creatures

  CRE_Noobie-068892e1_ful

The spore creature editor is now available for trial. The results end up looking like this video clip.

The creature editor (even in the limited free edition) is a joy to use, and the flexibility and ease-of-use is remarkable, considering how hard 3D editing is.

The direct manipulation, the responsiveness of the preview to your positioning, the feedback through sound-effects (the spine vertebrae makes click-click sounds as you elongate or shorten the body blob), and the incidental animation of the half-formed creature makes for a fun toy.

It’s not a game yet, but there is a lot of fun in just watching how the creature creator figures out how to make your blob walk and talk.