I’ve shared it with a few people; I don’t have much to add, beyond comments I’d made in your (Jon’s and Erik’s) blogs.
FWIW, I’ve had great success with “Starbucks usability testing.” Go to Starbucks around lunch time and offer to buy someone free coffee in exchange for 15 minutes play testing. Do this no more than five times and you’ll immediately see stuff you’d want to fix.
Avoid talking too much; when someone asks questions (“how do I?”) just ask them to guess.
I’ve done this with traditional IF; the results are utterly catastrophic. I think it’d be worth trying this with A Colder Light.
I find it a bit awkward; moving the mouse back and forth between the bottom of the screen and the keywords feels a little clumsy? I think it’s because I touch-type, so I don’t have to break focus from the story to focus on interface when typing, but I do frequently for this. I couldn’t get into the flow at all. It could be a matter of practice, though.
Ha, I knew that the anti-scrollback screed would be unpopular, but I didn’t expect quite so much reaction, being a bit off-topic and all… Anyway, allow me to try to escape Grinch status by explaining a bit where I’m coming from: For me, however nice scrollback may seem to users, the need for scrollback is a pretty unambiguous design failure. If I as a player need certain information, why shouldn’t that information just be at my fingertips at all times? Should I really have to scroll back and hunt for it? I didn’t realize how much time I wasted on scrollback until I started playing most of my IF on mobile devices; I don’t happen to think hunt-and-flick is very enjoyable, and I’ve pretty well broken myself of the habit now. A number of games have explored ways to keep key information easily available, including remember commands, auto-filling notebook objects, and dedicated windows. I think that this kind of thing is far more useful than just assuming that folks will want to rely on scrollback. (Incidentally, Quixe already truncates scrollback, so scrollback is unreliable as a source of information.)
Once you add broken links to a transcript that I ideally shouldn’t need to use at all, the balance for me tips squarely in favor of truncating the scrollback…
There was one thing that I could have used reminders on in A Colder Light: which combination of runes produced which results (or results at all). I ended up just retrying combinations until I hit on the right ones.
It looks like Juhana may be riding to the rescue soon with Vorple, but my thought was that you could clear links while letting the game control the scope by using two patches to Quixe/GlkOte. First, the game would pass a bit of text anytime the scope changes (i.e., when the player moves to a new room). Patch 1 to Quixe/GlkOte would catch this text via regex, increment a scope context ID variable, and clear the links corresponding to the expiring context ID. Patch 2 would alter Quixe’s printing routine so that links are assigned a class ID equivalent to the current context ID variable. Thus, when the player moves out of the first room, the context ID would increment to 2, and all of the links bearing a class name of “context-1” would be zapped.
The problem with any such system, of course is UNDO… I think you’d want to print the room description after UNDO to ensure that the player has working links. (The default Inform UNDO behavior is terrible anyway.)
Hm, I’d find this far more compelling if we were talking about reading a book. I just don’t think that it describes the experience of playing IF very well. When you play IF, you’re not just reading a big chunk of text. You’re reading small bits–often just skimming them because you’ve seen them before–and after each little chunk of text, you’re stopping to formulate and type a command. Along the way, you’re probably also trying to orient yourself in the game’s spatial world (many people are actually making physical maps!), thinking about puzzles, etc.
I almost never use the status line either, but it’s not because my eyes are locked on the main window. It’s because in 9 games out of 10, the status window has no useful information. But give me a game where the status line is useful, like Bronze, and I’ll use it heavily and happily. The fact that Bronze’s status line was so very well received suggests that other folks will too.
[rant]I also use LOOK all the time. But I LOOK all the time not because I forget where I am, but because looking is easier than scrolling back to the previously printed room description. Another indication that, for me at least, scrollback is a poor second to more immediate ways of getting old information.[/rant]
I like scrollback for more than just refreshing my knowledge of game state, though. You’re right that in general I’d like to have all critical information available to me on screen at the time I need it, or easily retrievable (via LOOK or INVENTORY). But sometimes I also just want to page back to review some nice bit of text or remind myself of something I liked earlier – much the way I might occasionally page back in a book to review a particularly good bit.
With respect to the particular issue of the runes in A Colder Light –
It took me a while to find this, but if you examine one of the constellations you’ve already successfully called, it will tell you what rune name you discovered for it.
Yes, I glossed over the fact that one of the reasons it’s nice for players is that it’s multimodal. When I play on the desktop, I tend to use my transcript file for this kind of thing, because I can search by keyword. On mobile, I don’t tend to do this at all, though I may email the script to myself if I think I might want to look back over it. Overall, I guess I’m just pretty lazy!
I haven’t played Bronze (blush), but I had a real problem with the status line in Rover’s Day Out. It was giving all sorts of information that turned out to be useful, but I just flat-out didn’t notice the information.
I’ve had a similar experience with pop-up windows showing up at the top of the screen; there’s a pop-up window in Reliques of Tolti-Aph that I flat-out failed to notice the first time through, and something similar may have happened in Failsafe (I’m still not sure whether the window failed to manifest in my interpreter or I didn’t notice it).
I deny utterly using quote-boxes for important information ever, in any game I’ve ever written, because it’s a really bad idea. So, yeah. Me against the world on this one. Apologies if I spoiled your game…
I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that during my first three attempts to play the game, I didn’t realize that the house was accessible or implemented. I thought “go inside” just referred to the hatch, so I never clicked it.
Making “home” into a hyperlink would have fixed it for me.