Monday, July 30, 2012

Gridiron Solitaire #15: My Favorite Beta Tester

That would be my mom, who is 82 years old.

I've been modifying the help screens, including adding one for both offense and defense titled "Behind the Scenes" (which gives a more detailed look at the A.I. and game mechanics), and I realized that Mom would be the ultimate beta tester for accessibility. She knows quite a lot about computers for someone her age, but she doesn't play games and didn't get her first computer until she was in her sixties.

I want everyone to be able to play the game--if they'd like--but for that to happen, the game has to be accessible. And I figured if Mom can play it without incident, then that's a good sign.

Yesterday, she tried out the game, and she was able to start a new league, modify a team, get to the team hub, and play part of her first season game.

She didn't, however, save the changes she made to her team on the team customization screen. And because of that, I realized that adding the "help referee" to the team edit screen, and having him specifically explain how to be sure a user's changes were saved, would help new players.

When I designed that screen, I thought I was in good shape, because there's a "team license" card that shows all the relevant information, and it's positioned so that the eye is naturally drawn to it before exiting that screen. However, someone who isn't used to playing games wouldn't necessarily make the connection between that "I.D. card" and the current state of a team's vital information. So now the referee makes a specific explanation.

So, nice catch, Gridirion Solitaire beta tester My Mom.

Let's talk about those "Behind the Scenes" screens for a minute and why I added them. Another F&F beta tester (who I very much hope wins an Academy Award someday) said that he was bothered because the CPU defense seemed to be calling plays at random.

Now, there is absolutely nothing random about the A.I., be it offense or defense. There are very specific algorithms, all in reference to NFL averages, to determine what plays get called. I do cap the maximum probability of a play call at 90%, because I don't want anything in the game to be guaranteed, but the playcalling algorithm is very detailed.

However, he didn't know that, because the help screens don't mention it. And because he didn't know there were any playcalling patterns in the game, he didn't except to find any. And because he didn't expect to find any patterns, he didn't, even though the patterns are there.

Specfically, because the 1st down playcalls didn't seem to have a pattern, he assumed that playcalling was random. However, in the NFL, the defensive call on first down is fairly close to 50/50, so in real football, that is the pattern.

What I think is most interesting about this is that our minds are wired to find patterns when we expect them to be there, and wired not to see them when we don't.

I don't want someone to play the game and assume there isn't A.I., because it's one of the strongest parts of the game. So I added the "Behind the Scenes" help screens to help people get a better understanding of the level of detail in the game engine, because the A.I. has enough depth to really be total overkill for a card game.

That's how I wanted it, though, because that's what I wanted to play. I didn't want a solitaire game with football players on the cards. I wanted a football game that uses cards for gameplay instead of a joystick.

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