Recently, I’ve been playing some Japanese games on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I can’t understand much less read Japanese. So, how do I and many other non-Japanese people play these games? Well, you could look up a translated guide, but in my opinion game design and UI play a much bigger roll. In this blog, I want to share my thoughts on how games implement game design and organize the UI to streamline the player experience.
At the start of almost any game, there will almost always be a start screen. The can be many reasons why a start screen is there, sometimes you can alter the settings or maybe even the language. However, for apps you’ll almost always see an iconic F or blue bird. These two icons represent Facebook and Twitter respectively. Most game uses these buttons to bind your Facebook or Twitter account to game data. What this example shows is the use of familiar icons, and having you recall prior experiences. Remember I mentioned how this example is common, how you’ll almost always see it in the start screen specifically? This kind of game design is reliant on your prior experience in recognizing how these two symbols lead to bind your account. However, once you’ve experienced it, any other developer can use this method and you as the player will recognize it immediately. This can be applied to any concept in a game like mail or accessing the settings. The use of prior experiences is not just used to bind your account.
Another way too rationalize this example is with a fast-food drive through. Although a drive through has nothing in common with binding an account, it works on the same concept of familiarity. A McDonald drive through may differ from a Tim Hortons one, whether it be the difference in signs or maybe where the entrance is located. Regardless, once you’ve experienced going through a single drive through, you can recall on that experience. Even if the process is slightly different from franchises to franchise and the language on the signs is different, the way drive throughs operate is similar enough to each other that you’ll have little problem ordering food.
Unfortunately, sometimes the developers of a game can’t rely on familiarity. Maybe there is a game that’s revolutionary and there is nothing else like it, what will the developers do now? The answer is size and colour. There is a gag in pop-culture relating to a big red button that people aren’t supposed to touch. However, most of the time people touch it anyway. Why? The button catches your attention with its red colouring, and the size makes it easy to access. It’s designed in a way that makes you want to push the button. Game developers use this trick all the time when advertising a feature they want you to use frequently. If there is an over-world map in an RPG to enter a level, there is likely a very high chance that the start button is right in your face. Another example is the gacha, a lottery to obtain new units or some sort of desired item. The developer put this button in your face, because it easy for them to squeeze money out of you like in a casino. In fact, this in your face lottery concept ended up blowing as scandal in 2017 that scars the gaming community to this day. Of course, the main reason it blew up was because it was essentially children gambling. However, we can’t forget the developers intentionally made that lottery system easy to access through the UI.
Finally, what if all else fails? What if the player still can’t figure out they need to do? What’s the last option a developer can employ? The answer is a visual tutorial, one with pictures and arrows galore. Although not often thought about and skipped, a tutorial can really help when there is nothing to fall back on. It will give you an experience to recall, and maybe you’ll even make sense of the UI along the way. The problem is that the developer can’t alway use this option. No one like it when a game holds your hand, and that mean the developer eventually needs to let the player roam free.
Overall, while game design and UI is often overlooked, everything is placed there for a reason. There is always a reason why some icons are bigger than others, or why something feels vaguely familiar. All these things is to make the player feel comfortable and in control, and by extension helps me play Japanese games.