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Heuristic Evaluation in Game Design

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jwalduck
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Joined: 09/06/2011

In my other life as a web developer I often do heuristic evaluations, that is testing a website against quite broad best-practice principles (the heuristics) to see where improvements can be made.

I have been thinking for a while that a similar process could be applied to game design, so over the last couple of days I have put together a list of heuristics.

The heuristics and how to use them can be found here

I would be interested in opinions and feedback. Do you think you would you find this process useful? Can you suggest any improvements.

Dralius
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Joined: 07/26/2008
Heuristic Evaluation in Game Design

I left you a comment.

BTW nice site. I wish i could afford your services.

jwalduck
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Joined: 09/06/2011
Heuristic Evaluation in Game Design

Thanks for the comment.

When I work on websites I am usually evaluating a design done by the previous developer (who is typically long gone). That's very different from looking at your own work, which is how a game designer will be working in the early iterations of their design.

In that case heuristics can be used as a sanity check - an opportunity to take a more objective look at something the designer will be very invested in.

jwarrend
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Heuristic Evaluation in Game Design

Hmm; my primary comment is that it's virtually identical to the criteria laid out in Kramer's article. I've tried applying that article to a couple of designs, and it can certainly be a useful excercise. At the same time, I think it may be too easy for a designer to rationalize things, and so one may have a tendency to highlight those aspects of the game that do meet these criteria but fail to notice the elephant in the room of the ways that a game may fail to meet them. I suspect that I could take any of my games and highlight all the ways that the criteria are met, pat myself on the back and claim "success!"

In that sense, I think that these criteria may be necessary but not sufficient to ensure that a game is good. In other words, this is a useful list of guideposts that all good games will possess, and so as a checklist, it's quite useful. But a game can have all of these and still be not that much fun to play. I wonder if there are additional categories that are needed, or if good games just have some "je ne sais quoi" element that you can't put into words but you know it when you see it. I think of this as a "hook" or a "twist", and can give examples of what it looks like in certain games, but it sort of defies bullet-point level description for some reason.

My only other comment is that some of the criteria are substantially more important than others. For example, "meaningful choices" is quite a bit more significant than "first/last player balance", or at least, the solution to a problem in the latter is probably easier than the solution to a problem in the former.

Still, as a distillation of Kramer's article, I think it does a good job, but I would still recommend designers read the article for the slightly more fleshed out version, and to read it in the words of the master himself.

-Jeff

Xaqery
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Heuristic Evaluation in Game Design

jwarrend wrote:
I would still recommend designers read the article for the slightly more fleshed out version, and to read it in the words of the master himself.

Where is the Article?

jwarrend
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Joined: 08/03/2008
Heuristic Evaluation in Game Design

It's linked to on the site. It's an article that first appear in the Games Journal a few years ago. Here's a link to the article. A must read for any designer.

-Jeff

jwalduck
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Joined: 09/06/2011
Heuristic Evaluation in Game Design

Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for the positive comments.

Failing to notice the elephant is always going to be a problem of self critique - I see it in web design just as much as game design. Heuristic evaluation then becomes a tool, just one of many, to shift your perspective and uncover what is hiding in the elephant sized blind spot.

The eveluation is not just the heuristics, but also the process of having others evaluate that design. Again it is a case of trying to flush out hidden elephants.

Some points will be more weighty than others and that would be reflected in the severity you would assign the problem. There will also be the case where the only way to address failings in some of the points is to rewrite the game to an extent it is something different entirely, perhaps negating anything else you have learned from the process.

I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on what is missing from the list. In one sense "players want to play again" is a kind of catch all for the "je ne sais quoi" element. I was debating if it even belongs as as it is a very vague catch-all, but then again it is possibly the single most important question on the list.

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