Sunday, 4 October 2009

Assassins Creed quick game usability assessment

Assassins Creed - PC version

I will be putting down my thoughts on various games from a user experience perspective here. Here's my first review...

Good game. Hard controls.

It's a great sandbox. Players can complete missions in a variety of ways, they're free to explore and experiment new techniques and find new
ways to play - always a good sign. Allowing players to play their own way allows players to entertain themselves - messing around or playing seriously whenever the feel like doing so.

The game encourages flow, it's so easy to run, jump and climb all over the city. Very little cognitive effort is involved in performing actions - players just move without having to stop and think what to do next.

The controls are too complex.

*Please note - I'm discussing the PC version*

To get a gauge of how complex controls are you could use
control dimensionality (as described by Activision Central design, and 21st Century game design). This pulls a games controls into a number, so you can do direct comparisons with other games to see how much more or less complex 1 games controls are compared to another. Simply put, the less complex a games control, the better. The control dimensionality is calculated below:

3D movement (in/out, left/right, up/down) = 3
2D camera = 2
8 key actions (left hand (high/low profile), right hand (high/low profile), run/walk (high/low profile), head, target lock) = 8 * 0.5 = 4

Total = 3 + 2 + 4 = 9

There's no way of knowing if this is too high or too low without comparing it to other games. I'm going to stick my neck out and say it's high... As this blog continues we'll be able to compare this to others.

The complex controls are accentuated by the game using modes (high and low profile). This means the same buttons perform different actions depending on the mode the player is in. This can cause real problems. In my experience modes will always cause confusion, and especially when under time pressure (like playing a game).

Also the game is a poor port onto the PC from the console versions. The on screen advice tells you to press the trigger button (advice for those using the 360 controller). The manual isn't much help either... There's 6 pages summarising all the actions possible, but I spent about 5 minutes trying to work out what buttons were for what actions.

The game controls were a risk. Ubisoft should (and probably did) have tested the controls with users as soon as a working prototype was available, before committing to any significant degree.

Also take more care and attention on porting to the PC. Put the right controls on the screen, or at least remove the on screen prompts. Ensure the new manuals for the new version include the controls.

What do you think? Do you agree with my thoughts? Or do you think I've over exaggerated it's problems?

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