Tuesday, March 13, 2007

missing the obvious

I downloaded the Star Trek: Legacy demo onto my 360 the other day. It never ceases to amaze me how many obvious irritations developers let slip by sometimes.

The demo has no tutorial. Instead, it simply provides a diagram of controls during the loading screen. A tutorial takes resources to build, and perhaps the tutorial function is taken care of in the full game in some other way, so I can accept the controls diagram as the more viable option.

But the diagram only stays up there as long as the skirmish is loading. There is no "Ready?" prompt before leaving the diagram and starting the skirmish. There is no option to access the diagram by pausing during the skirmish. The result is that, unless the player manages to memorize the diagram's information in those 10 seconds or less (and the diagram alone does not answer all control questions, by the way), then the player is left frustrated. Experimenting with buttons during the skirmish helped me very little.

It's such a little thing, that "Ready" prompt. Why isn't there? Likely, because Bethesda never tested the demo on people who hadn't played the game yet. They probably just tested it with people who had been playing for months, already knew the controls, and so didn't notice such an obvious need.

Little things like this with significant consequences pop up in games all the time. Completely fresh testers are needed during each new phase of development; and that goes for demos, too. Looking at the industry from the outside, I had assumed that was common practice for all developers, but problems like this make me wonder.

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