29 July 2013

Solstice Arena UI

Lots of things to say about the UI of Solstice Arena (SA), an ipad MOBA by Zynga.

Gameplay of Solstice Arena

SA is a traditional MOBA adapted for the ipad. Players first pick a character among the dozen available. Characters can get various advantages by selecting/buying a potion before the game starts. Matches are 3 vs 3, and typically last from 5 to 10 minutes. One team starts on the left, the other on the right.

Players can buy equipment using coins, which they gain automatically at a rate of around 1 per second, as well as by collecting a chest standing in the middle of the map (100 coins at once per character in the team). Players also amass energies to increase their power. All the controls are based on the player's taps. Players can also send signals such as "retreat" or "attack this target" to each other.

There is no character leveling within a match: during a match, a character becomes stronger only by collecting energies and buying equipment. Completing a battle rewards a character with XP, and the player with valor points. Valor points can be used to buy characters or potions, or level up characters without fighting with them. When characters level up, the player can improve one of that character's skills. Gems are the in-game currency bought with real money.

UI problems

To get from the main screen to a game with 2 other human players takes 9 taps and about a minute of waiting when I'm not doing anything but watching a blank screen. Plus it's 10 to 20% of a match's duration! This is way too long...

Let's look at some of these 9 screens and critique them.

  • 75% of the screen, in width and height, are taken by an ad.
  • The left icons all have a blue background with some swords, and it takes a few seconds to distinguish them.
  • The Redeem Code button is next to my nickname and level, which is itself next to my valor points, my gems, and my friends. Quite a mess.
  • Communities keep the game alive - and the giant ad to join the forum says that too. Then why is the Friends button so small? Why do I need to tap the button to see which of my friends are online and I can play with?
  • Logout button: Zynga has decided to not use the iOS's built-in game center, but rather forces players to authenticate through their own servers. Hence the need to log in... As a result, I can't invite the friends I'm playing with in other iOS games.
  • It took me a week to spot the button to invite friends to join a fight.
  • Too much information: when I'm going to fight, I do not care about the price in gems or valor points of a character. I should not have to scroll to pick Kyra, which I have unlocked and reached max level (15) with. In fact, all characters should fit on one screen.
  • There is no difference between the "previous screen" button (left arrow at the top left of the screen) and the top-right corner cross. Why having both?
  • There is so much information in such small font that I did not notice the potion slot in the middle of the screen.
  • If "one potion is always free", why not selecting it by default and save me two clicks that I ALWAYS will do, unless I forget?
  • Why displaying the small picture, and not rotating/animating the full 3D model like in the previous screen?
  • Play tip: good.
  • 30-second waiting time for a 5-minute match is way too much.
  • The ready check is here only to check that players did not leave within the 30 seconds (or more) that they were in the queue. If you reduce the time in queue, you may not need the ready check anymore.
  • If one of the 3 players does not click within 10 seconds, the whole match is cancelled, all players return at the end of the queue, and wait for another 30 seconds. The players who ready-checked should be sent to the head of the queue instead.
  • My character has 100 sun for 0% cooldown reduction (what is the point of sun, then?), and 10 moon for 3.51 movement speed (then why is my character aligned with sun?). I was expecting the other way. I guess it is thanks to the fury potion, but it is quite unclear.
  • Exit button is not a red cross, and is not in the top right corner.
  • The head equipment bubble could target my character's head, but it's instead targeting his belly. Why? Because there is actually a much smaller and quasi transparent model superposed over my character's pelvis.
  • Why is the reason I'm reporting not next to the player I'm reporting? It looks like the reason is common to both players...
  • The reporting window/box does not have to overlay the victory screen. The reporting could take place in the victory screen itself.
  • When reporting a player, I only see his name and the name of his character. I should also see what his avatar looked like, instead of having to remember it. I could also see some stats about that character (eg number of kills or time spent in the base). Recognition rather than recall.