Monthly Archives: January 2014

Flappy Bird: A Horrible Game

Today, Mashable posted a story about the new iOS and Android game, Flappy Bird. According to the article, the app ranked at number one in the App Store this week, ahead of social media apps like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. And this angers me. I don’t understand at all why this game has become popular. The helicopter game premise has been done many times. In these helicopter games, the helicopter, in the case of this game, a bird, moves horizontally automatically while the user controls the height, by clicking or tapping the screen. The idea is to get as far as you can, avoiding objects, such as the green tubes in Flappy Bird. Sounds like a simple and fun game right?

No, not at all in the case of Flappy Bird. First and foremost, the game is broken. The first time I downloaded and tried to play the game, upon making my first tap to start the game, Apple’s GameCenter loaded and the banner at the top caused it lag heavily. Not only that, once I lost by hitting a tube, THE GAME CRASHED. ON THE FIRST TRY. That says everything right there. Secondly, the art style is a complete rip off of the original Super Mario Bros. Way to be original Dong Nguyen (the app’s creator). Lastly, the game is just stupid hard. The slightest little tap causes the bird to fly up way too much, causing you to hit the tubes way too easily. In my 10 minutes of playing the game, that is all I could take, I only got a high score of 3.

I just do not understand why this game is the most downloaded app on the App Store right now. People have been posting all over social media about this game, and how much they hate it. Maybe something to do with the snowball effect of “Oh this person is playing and posting about this game, I want to go try it?” I don’t know. When I play video games, I want to be challenged, but nothing like the level of challenge in Flappy Bird. I want to be entertained and have fun when I’m playing a game, and I don’t get any of those feelings when I play it. If anyone has any ideas as to why this game became popular, please comment below, because I have no idea.

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Usability Journal Post #2

In my post last week about the bad Playstation 4 touch buttons, I mentioned when describing the PS4 itself the great controller. So, last week was my least favorite part of my PS4, and this week, it’s all about my favorite part. The Dualshock 4.

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This controller is very user friendly for many reasons. For me, the most important thing I found when first picking up the controller is that feels like it belongs in your hands. It’s shaped so that it fits your hands almost perfectly. It feels very natural to hold, and it doesn’t feel like you have to get adjusted to the controller to use it properly. The controller for the Playstation 3, the Dualshock 3, (see a trend there?) didn’t fit your hands not even close to as well as the DS4 does. Sure, it’s the same basic controller design, but Sony really wanted to change their 17 year old controller design for the new PS4. Seriously, for SEVENTEEN years, since the original Playstation in 1996, Sony used the same controller, except for changing and adding a few minor features along the way, such as being wireless. However, this is also an advantage for Sony, because by using the same basic design for all these years, people have a mental model of what a Playstation controller should be. If Sony was to change the layout of the sticks and buttons, such as change around the order/layout of the shape buttons (X, circle, square, and triangle), I’m pretty sure people would riot. I grew up with this layout and I know personally I don’t want anything less, or more, than the shape buttons, D-pad, two analog sticks, and 4 shoulder buttons.

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Another new design feature that I love is the inclusion of analog sticks with an indented top. This is much better than with the old design, because now it is harder for your thumbs to slip off the sticks, which was an occasional problem with the old dome-top design. Also along the same lines, the L2 and R2 triggers are of a concave shape that also allows for better gripping by your fingers, which you can see in the picture below.

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The last major usability feature of the Dualshock 4 is that the controller has an internal rechargeable battery. When the battery is running low, simply plug the controller into the PS4’s USB 3.0 port and it will charge, even when the console is turned off. Now, I know, this isn’t an exactly groundbreaking feature, as many electronic devices these days have an internal rechargeable battery. Even the Dualshock 3 did. But, I bring this up because the PS4’s main competitor, Microsoft’s Xbox One, uses a controller that still takes AA batteries as its only means of power. Microsoft, what year is it?  Why in 2013 are you designing a video game controller that doesn’t have an internal rechargeable battery? Most likely because they can make even more money on their $70 controller (I might add that the DS4 is $60) by selling rechargeable battery pack kits. But that aside, its very convenient to never have to worry about buying batteries.

The controller is also great for its other features, even though they’re not as usability centered. The touch pad, built in speaker, 3.5mm audio jack for microphones and headsets that don’t have to be proprietary to Sony (unlike Microsoft and the Xbox), the light bar on the back of the controller, and SIXAXIS motion controls. They all work extremely well and only add to, in my opinion, the greatest video game controller ever created. I’ve used a lot of different controllers in my life so far, and the Dualshock 4 for the Playstation 4 is easily my favorite. It’s a very usable electronic device that shouldn’t take long for even non-gamers to get acclimated to.

Website Generates Horrifically Awesome Twitter Bios

Mashable posted this article today about the website: What the F**k Is My Twitter Bio. This website will randomly generate a twitter bio for you following the formula that seems popular to most people today. Short phrases separated by commas, followed up by a couple word sentence. When I look at people’s bios that I follow, I see either a quote or something very similar to this formula. Heck, my twitter bio is this- “Lily ❤ South Western ’12. Lebanon Valley College ’16. DigiCOM major and LVC Football #59.” Which basically fits the formula that the website is making fun of (although the content of it isn’t as stupid).

I think it’s interesting that a lot of people do this, including myself. Why not use sentences or longer than 2-3 word phrases? The only reason that I can think of is to allow people to figure out who you are and what you project yourself to be in the shortest amount of time and reading possible. I also find it funny that some Twitter users will actually use a bio similar to something generated by the website and think that it’s funny and/or cool. When I see a bio like that I usually immediately make a judgement on that person as someone that I dislike, even if I don’t know a single thing about that person other than their Twitter bio.

This topic also makes me think of another social media trend that I dislike- the super popular “technique” of putting a filter on a picture. It seems like a lot of people do it and to stupid pictures too. Sometimes, yes, the filter adds to the photograph. But, most of the time, we don’t care about your sepia filter on your dinner that you ate tonight. My girlfriend loves to put filters on a lot of the pictures she takes on her iPhone and it annoys me. What’s wrong with the original picture? If I want a picture of us together, and it has a filter on it, I’ll actually tell her to take if off before she sends it to me.

Usability Journal Post #1

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For my first usability post, I have chosen my new, shiny, modern looking, and incredibly powerful Playstation 4. This was my main Christmas present, and I’ve loved it so far. It’s had a couple hiccups so far, with booting into safe mode or games crashing on me for no apparent reason, but that’s expected from the first model of anything. System software updates will iron out the kinks over time. But for the most part, I love the PS4. The controller is fantastic, the games look and play amazingly well, and the user interface is great. Very sleek and user friendly. However, with all that said, there are two things that I hate about the PS4 and these things are not very useable at all.

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Pictured above are the two capacitive touch buttons on the front of the PS4. The one on the right is the power button, and the other is the eject disc button. However, unless you look at the quick start guide when opening the PS4 and first attempting to use it, (I mean, who really does? The excitement of opening a shiny new gaming console cannot wait for reading a quick start guide.) you would never know that the buttons actually exist. Like I said, they are capacitive touch “buttons” but they aren’t actually buttons. You, as the user, have no feedback that those buttons actually exist and do something until you press them accidentally and hear a beep, signifying that you either pressed the power or eject button. When it beeps, the action is already in motion before you realized what you did. So, when I was setting up my PS4, I plugged it in before I sat it down on the floor where it would sit permanently. Therefore, as I picked it up to plug in more cables, I accidentally and unknowingly turned on the console before I had any other cables plugged in, or my TV on for that matter. So I had to rush to plug everything in and hope that I either didn’t mess anything up by doing that or that I was missing necessary first time start up info. So that experience wasn’t very user friendly to someone who couldn’t sit and read the quick start guide first, which I suspect that a lot of people don’t.

Not only that, but the labeling of which button is which is AWFUL. As you can see above, the logos or pictures describing either eject or power are INCREDIBLY small. You literally have to have your face up against the console to see those. To take that picture above, my phone was nearly touching the console and the logos came out blurry because I was that close and they are that small. So, in my first couple weeks of using the console, I would sometimes hit the power button, wanting to hit the eject button, which did not make me happy. It takes the PS4 about 15-45 seconds to shut down. (I think depending on how hot it got and how long the fans need to stay on) Then, I would have to wait for it boot up again to attempt to eject the disc again and play another game. One time I even hit the power button AGAIN by mistake. Not very user friendly. Once you have gained experience with the touch buttons, they’re okay, and just okay, but I would have much preferred something that was much more user friendly for the two critical buttons. It is possible to both eject discs and power the system down from the user interface, so I find myself doing that much much more than actually using those awful buttons. Next time Sony, please design your buttons in such a way that I know they exist by just looking at the console.

Vine at One: A Creative Tool That’s Changing Lives

http://mashable.com/2014/01/24/vine-at-one-year/

Today, the social media service Vine turned one year old. It has grown massively in that one year, with at least 40 million users. I myself have an account, and many of my friends do. I find myself on Vine pretty much daily. My nightly go-to-bed routine consists of laying down and watching Vines before I go to sleep. I enjoy Vine because it’s not very time consuming, (as long as you don’t scroll and watch every video on someone’s page, which I have done before) but very entertaining in that 6 seconds. I think that it’s really neat that people can simply own a smartphone, and create all of the wonderful content that is on Vine. No expensive cameras or editing software, just your smartphone. Because it is owned by Twitter, it is easy to find friends that are on both Twitter and Vine from your Twitter account.

The article talks about Viners making good money off their Vines, which I find interesting. It’s apparently much easier to make money on Vine than say, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Some of the famous Viners have gotten acting/comedian jobs from their Vines, which they never would have otherwise gotten, thanks to this social media platform. Other Viners have begun making Vines for businesses and companies, which I find interesting as well. Smart companies are taking advantage of Vine’s explosion and making creative advertisements on Vine. Pepsi is the latest example I can think of recently seeing. Nicholas Megalis has already released a song on iTunes that spawned from his “Gummy Money” Vine, and has a music video currently being produced.

Sure, Vine isn’t perfect, it has its issues just like any other social media platform. Like Twitter, pornography and other sensitive content is not banned from the service. However, on Vine, videos have that content are marked with a warning, and you must tap the video to have it start playing, as opposed to every other video starting to play automatically. Also, Curtis Lepore has been in the news lately for being charged with rape of Jessi Smiles, another famous Viner, and the article mentions this, but I don’t think that had anything to with Vine itself, just an idiot being an idiot. They could have easily met up through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or some other service.

Overall, however, I think Vine is a great social media platform and it’s amazing how fast it has grown over the last year. I hope that people continue to adopt Vine, and close the gap in the number of users between Twitter and Vine. I also hope that it doesn’t get changed too much, and get ruined like Facebook was ruined for me.