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Design Process Behind the Xbox 360

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the there-are-humans-and-they-have-to-play-it dept.

36

Jason writes "I recently attended a SIGCHI (Special Interest Group for Computer Human Interaction) where the presenters talked through some of the design process and user experience work conducted during the design and development of the Xbox 360. Understanding the user experience isn't just about traditional software any more; Gaming software deserves the same attention to detail graphics software receives."

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Very cool experience from the sounds of it (0, Redundant)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14847235)

And great pics too.

xbox 360 (2, Interesting)

greenism.com (958801) | more than 8 years ago | (#14847246)

As a professional designer, some nice points there that we do actually do as part of the process of making a new product, but as always it skims the surface. What I want to know though is if they are actually worth buying one?

Re:xbox 360 (0, Troll)

RickPartin (892479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14851598)

There are plenty of reviews and user comments out there for the 360 and its games. Plenty of info for making an informed choice. Do you really want this article to degenerate into the same old marketing drivel we see day in day out?

Re:xbox 360 (1)

delicious (879639) | more than 8 years ago | (#14855933)

Article has been /.'d , but as a designer myself I find it interesting that microsoft's controller has gotten such rave reviews (at least compared to ps3's). Knowing people at MS's usability labs, they have fairly intensive usability studies and they throw a lot of money at making sure the entire experience is right. I wonder if Sony's usability department lost it's focus on PS3's controller? I have a feeling they were just lucky with the first design and never really dedicated much time (or money) towards this new one.

Video graphics... (1, Insightful)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14847257)

Gaming software deserves the same attention to detail graphics software receives.

A video game that requires a 20-button gamepad probably equals or exceeds the user-interface complexity of Photoshop. Developers should design better games with simpler controls.

Re:Video graphics... (2, Interesting)

aCapitalist (552761) | more than 8 years ago | (#14847394)

Some games just require complex interaction and there's just no way around it. Not every game interaction is going to be as easy as PacMan. For example, in FPS I like to have all my keyboard input mapped to the left side of the keyboard so I can have my right hand on the mouse. If you look at a game like BattleField 2, I can't even even manage that. "Oh, oh, my chopper is going down...time to bail...hope I can find number 9 on the keyboard for my parachute before I splat". The only other option is lots of menus, and that is even more clumsy.

How do you play something like WoW or EQ2 without a keyboard? I guess it's possible if you don't want to talk much or don't mind a clumsy pointer virtual-keyboard interaction.

Re:Video graphics... (4, Interesting)

akac (571059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14847803)

I think that's where context sensitive keys play in. You should be able to have a key that handles multiple actions depending on the vehicle or type of player you are.

Re:Video graphics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14848868)

You can say things like that all day.

Show me a console port that's successfully pulled it off.

Re:Video graphics... (2)

2008 (900939) | more than 8 years ago | (#14849250)

Making interaction context-sensitive is like having the game play for you. Take it to extremes and imagine a 1-button FPS:
press A to aim,
press A to fire,
press A to dodge,
press A to locate, pick up and use medkit,
press A to become bored,
press A to quit.

It's fair enough for a fun-type game, but some games are meant to challenge. In that type of game having e.g. the fire button also be a context-sensitive use button sucks - you've just pressed the keys for walking up to a door and firing a flak cannon into it, either you've made a silly mistake and should suffer the penalty or you're trying to do something clever with reflecting shots to the person chasing you, which you should be allowed to do.

Re:Video graphics... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14851406)

You obviously haven't played Resident Evil 4. The A button is used to shoot, chuck grenades, tip over items, activate items, jump, climb ledges, kick and talk. There is never an instance where any of the actions get confused. The levels are designed intelligently enough to prevent that. Yet it's probably one of the best games available in its console generation.

Re:Video graphics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14852225)

"Making interaction context-sensitive is like having the game play for you."

No, it really isn't.

"Take it to extremes and imagine a 1-button FPS"

Why? Nobody's recommending that.

"It's fair enough for a fun-type game"

You say that as if games are supposed to be anything other than fun.

Re:Video graphics... (1)

2008 (900939) | more than 8 years ago | (#14852460)

"You say that as if games are supposed to be anything other than fun."

Yes, because playing Go is crazy laugh-a-minute super fun.
Some games are fun, some games are about skill and the enjoyment of mastering something tricky. Some manage to be both. Context sensitive buttons in Wario Ware, hell yes, it's great. But some games demand more complexity and freedom which should be reflected in their interfaces.

Re:Video graphics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14853597)

"Yes, because playing Go is crazy laugh-a-minute super fun."

My only intention for drawing attention to the original, ill-formed statement was to point out that all games are about amusement, a.k.a. fun. There is no exception. If you're playing a game and you're not having fun, there's something wrong with you, or there's something wrong with the game, or both. At that point, the activity just turns into work or an exercise in pointlessness. That includes games where mastery of some convoluted interface is supposedly part of the amusement.

To speak to that point, good game designers shouldn't be pigeonholed into the presumed beliefs that complex interfaces can't be simplified, or that complex sets of in-game actions should require an interface that is equally as complex. They should retain the freedom to throw stupid mechanics out the door. After all, in real life, how often do you think even the newbiest of newbie noobs would fumble about in front of a closed door, wondering with which of their appendages they should reach over and grab the knob (as a noob FPS player might fumble for the appropriate key, assuming that is an available play mechanic in the game being played)? Would anyone in that situation realistically make the "silly mistake" of firing a flak cannon into the door in real life, for failure of making that determination? If so, that might be worth putting to a game that strives so achingly for realism. If not, maybe not.

Re:Video graphics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14856770)

Well, the first part of this discussion is turning into semantics. It's not worth pursuing, because it's about definitions of words rather than videogames, which is what we care about.

Yes, I genuinely enjoy mastering convoluted interfaces. This is Slashdot, for fuck's sake! I use a Linux command line for about 8 hours a day, and I love it.

Shooting a door you intended to open is no doubt very rare. But tripping, dropping your gun, forgetting to pull the pin out of your grenade, all these things are (I would think) pretty common in the confusion of real combat, but don't generally happen in FPS games. So I think it's fair to allow other types of mistakes. People hardly ever fall off fatally high ledges either, but you could still do that in Quake 3. Would you have preferred invisible walls there?
You didn't address my second reason for complexity in a FPS either. Reflecting flak shots was a bad example, but people fire through closed doors to e.g. prevent a potential ambush. So firing point blank at a door is a legitimate thing to do, which a context-sensitive fire/use button prevents. Therefore it's bad.

-2008

Re:Video graphics... (1)

Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14847827)

re-map the parachute key to something like 'q'.

Re:Video graphics... (1)

aCapitalist (552761) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848838)

re-map the parachute key to something like 'q'.

If I was parachuting as much as I was 'alternative firing mode' that might be appropriate. My whole left side of my keyboard is mapped out to the most common actions I do.

Re:Video graphics... (1)

Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14849334)

alt-fire should be right mouse. :P

Re:Video graphics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14854060)

I have no right mouse, nor do I need it.

Though I am horrified at Q as secondary-fire. What does the poster think we have a shift key for?

Re:Video graphics... (2, Interesting)

aiken_d (127097) | more than 8 years ago | (#14847871)

Chording might be a reasonable solution; imagine in your BF2 sceario if the Q key meant controlling the chopper, and holding it down changedd the functions of the other keys on the left side, such that Q+T = bail out.

I'm not saying that's the best solution, just that there need not be a one-to-one correlation between possible interactions with a game and number of buttons required.

-b

Re:Video graphics... (1)

aCapitalist (552761) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848846)

Yes, chording seems reasonable, but I'm not sure how well that would play out on a console.

Re:Video graphics... (2)

devnull17 (592326) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848876)

I think the basic problem is that in most PC games, reaction time is paramount. If you have to press more than one button, you're at a distinct disadvantage.

Menus (1)

British (51765) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848322)

Team Fortress Classic used menus(engineering functions, stealth costumes, etc) activated w/ the right mouse button, IIRC. That wasn't too clumsy. Mind you, you are usually building sentry guns not in the crossfire.

Re:Video graphics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14849515)

To a certain extent you're correct; that is if you believe that the best way for a user to be able to perform an action is to press a button then as the number of potential actions increases so must the number of inputs. Personally I don't subscribe to that thinking though.

When you actually consider Usability, and decide to make things more intuitive, you will recognize that pressing a button to cast a spell is far from the most intuitive (or fun) method of input; in games like WoW spells are usually reflected (in game) by motions performed by the avatar or by a string of words that are said, you could map the spell to a voice command (abra-cadabra) or [with the Revolution's Controller] to a motion of the controller (swish and flick). With a well designed game, your sidekicks no longer have to be addressed through buttons either; in various games you have NPC characters that you can control, in a game like Half-Life 2 you could easily control your troops with voice commands like "Attack", "Fall Back", "Defend", "Retreat", "Follow Me", "Stay Here", etc. it would be both more intuitive and requires 0 buttons.

Re:Video graphics... (1)

cornface (900179) | more than 8 years ago | (#14850456)

With a well designed game, your sidekicks no longer have to be addressed through buttons either; in various games you have NPC characters that you can control, in a game like Half-Life 2 you could easily control your troops with voice commands like "Attack", "Fall Back", "Defend", "Retreat", "Follow Me", "Stay Here", etc. it would be both more intuitive and requires 0 buttons.

Didn't UT2004 offer this functionality?

Re:Video graphics... (1)

bigman2003 (671309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14852660)

Rainbow Six 3 did this - (My experience with it was on the Xbox)

After messing around with it for a few days, I realized that using the d-pad was easier than giving voice commands. The d-pad brought up a little menu with options. Sometimes I would forget what to say- but when the menu was there, I could always figure it out.

But the worst part was the fact that I looked and felt like a total dork, telling a videogame "Breach and Clear on Zulu."

Re:Video graphics... (1)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14851692)

I use very few keyboard shortcust for EVE Online. Ctrl+Left mouse is the most common one to lock a target. Beyond that, everything can be done with the mouse without any trouble. Rightclick opens a menue on just about everything in the game. The only possible problem is going through a menue to warp out in combat if it's laggy and then it's still not that hard.

naming process (1)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848007)

I'm more interested in finding out about the Nextgen-ness of console names. The naming process, of the Xbox 2 err xbox 360, that's what interests me!

Re:naming process (1)

AFairlyNormalPerson (721898) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848109)

360?

It's the number of degrees in a circle! ...And the number of consoles manufactured! ...And the amount you have to pay for it!

Re:naming process (1)

thedletterman (926787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848722)

That's because the xbox 360 wasn't really an Xbox 2.0, it was an Xbox with a new video card and cpu for incentive to buy, with the horrible security system of the original xbox fixed. It was like a Microsoft "do over" for the original xbox.

Re:naming process (1)

Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14849345)

it was named '360' because Xbox2 would sound like it was less than the ps3... 3>2 but 360>3

Re:naming process (1)

PhotoBoy (684898) | more than 8 years ago | (#14853441)

Over a year and a half ago I had an email from GameSpot offering me the opportunity to take part in a third party survey, which turned out to be for Microsoft. The questionnaire presented several potential names for the X360 including Xbox 247, Xbox HD and of course Xbox 360. I think there may have been one or two others but they didn't stick in my memory. I was asked which names I liked the best and why, and what my reasons were for disliking any of them. IIRC I said I liked Xbox 360 the most myself.

They also had a concept logo for the X360 which as it turns out was almost identical to the one that displays when the 360 boots up, except it was on a black background IIRC.

So I believe MS had the name 360 in mind from very early on, before the hardware had even been vaguely finalised. MS jumped Internet Explorer to version 3 at release to make it sound like it was current with Netscape, presumably they did something similar by jumping the name Xbox2.

Re:naming process (1)

darkhitman (939662) | more than 8 years ago | (#14853910)

OXM ran an article on that, actually. Basically, a bunch of guys sat around a table and threw names around for a long time. Then, since that wasn't working, they smuggled in some pot and got the name-factory going.

Slashdotted (2, Informative)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 8 years ago | (#14848804)

This Account Has Been Suspended

Please contact the billing/support department as soon as possible.

Mirrordot? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 8 years ago | (#14851909)

I get a download message, which downloads an empty file. This site is suffering.

Where can I read TFA?

Re:Mirrordot? (1)

jvalal (835653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14852335)

The site should be up now...

Power to the PowerPC Processor (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14869897)

Hello! I just wanted to take the time to point out that the Xbox360 uses old Macintosh processors that are so crappy that even Apple doesn't use them anymore.

    Now Macs have Intel processors, which are extremely shitty compared to AMD processors. :)
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