RE: Games

11 Sep 2004 - 6:15pm
10 years ago
3 replies
341 reads
Peng.Cheng at n...
2004

It is interesting to think the fact that game is almost the only kind of computer application that is intended to be designed difficult to use. Why? my immediate thought is that all the other applications are tools for us to complete other tasks, so the physical control, the software UI ought to be designed intuitively, which means to cost as less coganitive effort as possible, so that user focus on the tasks rather the tools. But games, each game is a task on it's own, and the difficulty and the challenge of the task is partially expressed by the difficulty in controls, which requires accuracy, speed on the motor skill level and also lots of coganitive efforts, eg remembering complex key combinations in fighting games. It is interesting to recall how proud and excited I was when I trained myself to be albe to execute a super killer when playing King of Fighters. I think that is why you rarely hear people complain a bad game control, because they actively take the difficulty as the challenge, and train themselves to adapt to it.:)

I might have written something totally obvious, but still those are what I have just realized!:-)

br
Peng Cheng

Comments

12 Sep 2004 - 3:16pm
hans samuelson
2003

> From: <Peng.Cheng at nokia.com>
> It is interesting to think the fact that game is almost the only kind
> of computer application that is intended to be designed difficult to
> use. Why?

Quotable reference: page 6 from
Ryan, J. (1991). Some remarks on musical instrument design at STEIM.
Contemporary Music Review 6(1), 3-17.

"Despite all experience to the contrary we continue to think of the
computer as essentially a labor saving device. Though the principle of
effortlessness may guide good word processor design, it may have no
comparable utility in the design of a musical instrument. In designing
a new instrument it might be just as interesting to make control as
difficult as possible. Physical effort is a characteristic of the
playing of all musical instruments. Though traditional instruments have
been greatly refined over the centuries the main motivation has been to
increase ranges, accuracy and subtlety of sound and not to minimize the
physical."

I worked on a custom interface with some Montreal artists last year,
and had to establish a level of challenge at which they felt that their
live performance was adequately risky and skilful. I had to back off
from my initial tendencies toward automation and smoothness, and design
something that was a bit more difficult to use, before they were
satisfied with the quality of engagement. It was an interesting
experience (done in Max/MSP, for those of you who know the environment;
there's an open source version called PureData).

Of course, they then acclimatized to the custom setup, and developed
habits and strategies for dealing with the interface to meet their
particular needs. Power use certainly requires habits, and ideally
good habits at that. My experience as a power user of sound editing
software in the television and film industry—and my observations of
others—did, however, suggest that some level of individual choice was
desirable and did not appear to be the most significant barrier to
productivity; we had other institutional problems that were more
serious! And there's something to be said for being able to develop a
style of one's own...

12 Sep 2004 - 8:08pm
Jef Raskin
2004

On Sep 12, 2004, at 1:16 PM, hans samuelson wrote:

>
>> From: <Peng.Cheng at nokia.com>
>> It is interesting to think the fact that game is almost the only kind
>> of computer application that is intended to be designed difficult to
>> use. Why?
>
> Quotable reference: page 6 from
> Ryan, J. (1991). Some remarks on musical instrument design at STEIM.
> Contemporary Music Review 6(1), 3-17.
>
> "Despite all experience to the contrary we continue to think of the
> computer as essentially a labor saving device. Though the principle of
> effortlessness may guide good word processor design, it may have no
> comparable utility in the design of a musical instrument. In designing
> a new instrument it might be just as interesting to make control as
> difficult as possible. Physical effort is a characteristic of the
> playing of all musical instruments. Though traditional instruments
> have been greatly refined over the centuries the main motivation has
> been to increase ranges, accuracy and subtlety of sound and not to
> minimize the physical."

> it might be just as interesting to make control as difficult as
> possible.

"interesting" possibly. Especially to a sadist. Otherwise a stupid idea.

> the main motivation has been to increase ranges, accuracy and subtlety
> of sound and not to minimize the physical

Often work has been done not so much, for example, to increase range,
but to make it easier to reach the extreme range (e.g. horn). It is
hard to distinguish "increase" from "make easier" in many historical
examples. But there has been much specific effort to make it physically
and mentally easier to play instruments, and none I know of in the
direction that Ryan suggests as "interesting". Examples: extra keys on
woodwinds to avoid awkward fingerings, curvature of the organ pedal
board to facilitate passages played with the feet, transposing
instruments so that the player does not have to mentally transpose, and
many other examples.

12 Sep 2004 - 9:07pm
hans samuelson
2003

>> it might be just as interesting to make control as difficult as
>> possible.
>
> "interesting" possibly. Especially to a sadist. Otherwise a stupid
> idea.

Not much for nuance, are we? Joel is a rather nice man, and not stupid
at all. Nor is he rude, but I can't attest to his sadism or otherwise.
The original quote is especially nicely nuanced, especially if one
considers the idea of making things *appropriately* difficult as a
design challenge on its own terms,.

Part of the trouble is that we have so many computational engineers
working to make control simple (not to say intuitive) that it can be
quite difficult when the time comes to create something with a
desirable and satisfying degree of complexity, particularly physically
and in real-time. In fact, sometimes making things as difficult as
possible does not even make them that difficult... because that's been
made impossible in the logic of the system... But absolutes, and
unqualified statements, are doubtless easier to toss around.

Note though that even the current, psychologically fashionable notion
of "flow" is premised in an *appropriate* degree of task difficulty,
where appropriate does not necessarily equal least.

I am not by any stretch of the imagination denying that certain things
are best done with optimal efficiency. But music just ain't one of
them; after all, wouldn't it be more efficient to be working than to be
wasting one's time with the muses? And how about those protein pellets
for dinner?

> Often work has been done not so much, for example, to increase range,
> but to make it easier to reach the extreme range (e.g. horn). It is
> hard to distinguish "increase" from "make easier" in many historical
> examples. But there has been much specific effort to make it
> physically and mentally easier to play instruments, and none I know of
> in the direction that Ryan suggests as "interesting". Examples: extra
> keys on woodwinds to avoid awkward fingerings, curvature of the organ
> pedal board to facilitate passages played with the feet, transposing
> instruments so that the player does not have to mentally transpose,
> and many other examples.

Although various attempts to redesign the piano keyboard over the years
to make it more efficient were rejected.
And some purist flute players prefer medieval flutes (without keys) for
the sound and/or the physical challenge. And many musicians prefer to
play period instruments (without the technical advances; some lutes are
rather physically demanding, not to say counter-ergonomic) because they
sound better, or perhaps merely because they are there. And some feel
obliged to experiment with microtunings or invent their own Harry
Partch-like instruments to create a unique sound that best expresses
some aspect of the human consition. And some cultures do not feature
any concept of transposition as we know it in the Western well-tempered
tradition, and have not 'progressed' along any path toward making music
easier mentally or physically. And we still can't get anything better
than that damned Stradivarius varnish. So maybe there are some
absolutes after all.

Moreover, there has also been rather a lot of work done to make music
as hard, and as challenging, as possible to play, though I will grant
you that some of the modern composers are sadists. Just ask the
audiences... if you can find them...

By the way, have you thought about campaigning to finally get the US
onto the metric system? That would be a good trick, and one that would
measurably increase efficiency (cognitive and other) in a hurry. And I
won't even be tempted to find any counter-examples... but keep your
excessively efficient hands off my music!

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