User Interface Accommodations that Make you Money
Revised: 14 Dec, 2010
You don’t—and shouldn’t– notice a good game user interface. That’s because
controls that are presented in a way that matches the natural flow of the game
preserves and even enhances the game’s immersiveness.
Specific examples include: control layout, hotkeys, and tabbing, colors, audio,
including speech, sounds, and music, and game speed.
These are requirements for gamers who are blind, deaf, motion-impaired, or
otherwise specially challenged. If they aren’t met, often these gamers can’t play
your game. To the degree that they are not met, many gamers who are not
specially challenged won’t play your game because it doesn’t “feel” right.
Keyboarding is essential to the blind gamer. It’s also faster in many
circumstances than mousing. Your hard core sighted gamer is going to
appreciate a consistent and complete set of hotkeys.
They’ll also appreciate a sensible tab order. Both will blame you for an awkward
tab order or, God forbid, a major control that can only be moused. If I lose a
game because of one awkward control, you will hear about it. It can also destroy
that immersiveness you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
Motion-impaired gamers need controls they can hit. Placement varies by specific
motion-impairment. Some need close placement. Others need greater spacing.
However, the motion-impaired and non-impaired hard core gamer all need
controls that are big enough to hit. Please note Apple’s fish-eyed control bar on
Chording is difficult at best for the motion-impaired, especially those using one-
switch controls. It also means more keys for a hard-core gamer to forget in the
heat of battle; another reason not to buy your game.
Subtitles and captions are generally associated with the deaf. But what about
the gamer who has the sound off so mom, or the sleeping spouse, or the boss
doesn’t hear? Subtitles lacking non-speech sounds or indication of who’s
speaking lose you that immersiveness, and possibly a customer.
The majority of gamers are still male. Most color-blind people are male. How
many customers have you lost because of ill-chosen colors?
Being able to minutely control your water-ripple effect may seem cool, to you;
but how about being able to control the volume or turn off the background music
and sound effects? Then the blind gamer can hear your controls and all of us can
avoid that damn punk-techno-rap Marketing swears is the next big thing.
Even gamers who are not specially-challenged have different preferred modes
of communication. Some read better, some hear better. Why not present both?
An example is putting text on your maps and buttons. It not only makes your
game playable by blind gamers, but gains you the text-oriented gamer you might
And don’t lose the newbie because your game is too hard, or the hard core
gamer because it’s too easy. A game speed control is the cheapest way to
broaden your customer base and avoid endless tweaking.
The conclusion is obvious: even if you have no intention of making your game
accessible to the specially challenged, you leave money on the table if you don’t
consider these same issues when designing your user interface.
And don’t disregard a very large segment of your potential customer base—
Eleanor Robinson – Eleanor’s information is on our contact page!
7-128 Software LLC