COMS E6174 - HW1
The Settlers of Catan was originally a multiplayer board game designed by Klaus Teuber. It was first introduced in 1995 in Germany! It is the first German-style board game to achieve tremendous popularity outside of Europe. In total over 15 million copies of the board game has been sold. It has also been translated into 30 languages. As an expansion, several extended versions are currently available.
Because of its popularity, it is no surprise that Settlers of Catan soon found its way onto the computer and common handheld devices such as the iPhone. We focus on two interfaces available for online game players as Java-based applications.
The seven steps for “Knowledge Acquisition Pipeline” are useful in understanding the positives and negatives for each of the interfaces. The seven stages are discussed in general below:
Both these interfaces have their own sensation and distinction with the use flashy colors, icons and pictures, and various shapes that compose the centerpieces of the display (game board). Segmentation is present through the use of various shapes and picture colors. The contrast presented is typically easy to separate into various components. Recognition is attempted through the use of textures and easily associated materials for the various components to the board game. Interpretation, association and contextualization occur hand-in-hand and vary on each interface.
Note: Since the purpose of this assignment is to discuss the interfaces, we will refrain from discussing the game in detail. However, at times it will be necessary to provide a little bit of background information in areas to make it contextually appropriate for the comparison. In addition, we will only focus on the basic interface and its pieces and refrain from worrying about the logistics of playing the game in relation to the interface.
Interface 1: Settlers of Catan – playcatan.com
Interface 2: Xplorers – games.asobrain.com
Figure 1: (Click to enlarge) Interface 1: Settlers of Catan (playcatan.com). This screenshot is from a game in progress in which three players are still relatively early in the game.
Figure 2: (Click to enlarge) Interface 2: Xplorers (games.asobrain.com). Similar to Figure 1, this screenshot is from a game in progress in which three players are still relatively early in the game.
Interface 1 has a bar of graphical buttons meant to serve as game options/settings. Each button allows the user to control various aspects of the game such as resolution and zooming in and out of the board. Interface 2 only has two buttons. These are two well-accepted standardized buttons for zooming in and out of the board game. In this case, the simplicity of design in Interface 2 seems to be a better choice for design since too many unknown buttons makes it difficult for the user.
GAME PIECES (CITY, SETTLEMENT, ROAD, ROBBER):
Interface 1 is nicer, cleaner, and more appealing to the human eye. The easy distinction between cities and settlements is due to the 3-dimensional nature of the game pieces which makes it much easier to visualize the current status of the game. In addition, the game pieces have different shapes and sizes to help distinguish between the two. However, Interface 2 does not share many of these characteristics. The size distinction between a city and a settlement is very small and on a quick glimpse looks much the same since the pattern is what differs between the two. Cognitively speaking, the patterns and minor size differentiation do not easily distinguish the two from one another. The differences in the roads are similar to the differences mentioned with regards to the cities and settlements. Similarly the roads and robber in Interface 1 is given a 3-dimensional shape and color. However, in Interface 2, the robber is just a black dot on the board.
Interface 1 easily marks the trading ports with target “anchor” symbols. This way the player knows where to build settlements/cities easily. Interface 1 also has pictures next to the ports to easily identify the type of port. Interface 2 on the other hand just has two lines extending out the spots where the settlements/cities can be built. Interface 2, however, also contains pictures to indicate the type of port, but these pictures are not very clear or easy to see.
The available cards function for both Interface 1 and 2 are similar. They clearly represent the cards available with easy to decipher symbols. The colors and symbols used are representative of the functions for each. Interface 1 contains cards that are more since they contain rounded edges, in essence providing a more sleek and elegant décor. Interface 2 contains cards with straight edges which provide a more rough and crude feeling to the interface.
In Interface 1, the game actions are 4 buttons on the left hand size of the player’s screen. These buttons contain symbols representative of the actions. The symbols are easy to decipher and intuitively make sense. Interface 2, the game action buttons are spread apart. Three of them are written in text and are located on the right side of the screen. The fourth action, the rolling of the dice, is located a little above the other buttons. This is not very intuitive since neither the buttons are not all clustered together nor do they all look alike. Textual representation for some buttons and graphical representations for others make it difficult for a first time user to easily play.
PLAYERS AND PLAYER STATISTICS:
Interface 1 has the players distributed around the board. Each player is given an “avatar” to indicate the player and the player statistics are located right beneath the avatar. This makes it easy for each player in the game to visualize the current status of the game by looking at the necessary statistics for the other players. Interface 2 has a listing on the top left hand side containing the names of the players in the game. Interface 2 only provides the current score for each player. To visualize other statistics, one must click over the player’s name. This makes it quite difficult to see the status of the entire game with all necessary statistics as it is only possible to expand information one player at a time.
Given that the Settlers of Catan game is played with other players, the presence of avatars on the board game to represent others in the game provides a nice human touch. Interface 2 does not provide this. In essence even though the player is playing with other humans (or the personalization of the game is missing. This makes the game seem more mundane and perhaps less exciting and human-like.
In general Interface 1 seems to be better designed in terms of interface than Interface 2. Table 1 summarizes the various aspects of the two interfaces as discussed above. Interface 1 is more visually pleasing given the colors, textures, and layout of the interface. Interface 2 uses darker, gloomier colors and has too much information on the screen that is spread apart to make it easy for the player to easily maneuver.
|Table 1: Summarizes the interface designs for each of the interfaces. Shaded cells represent the interface that contained the better design.|
Interface 1: Settlers of Catan (playcatan.com)
Interface 2: Xplorers (games.asobrain.com)
|Game options/settings||Bar of graphical user buttons||Two graphical user buttons|
|Game pieces||3-dimensional pieces with various size and shapes||Flat pieces with no texture and very little color, pattern, and shape distinction|
|Trading ports||Easily identifiable and clearly marked||Not as easily identifiable even though there are markings for port type|
Similar in both interfaces. Easily identifiable with different colors and textures.
|Game actions||Graphical user buttons clustered together||Buttons spread apart in location; Combination of text-based user buttons as well as graphical ones|
|Players and player statistics||Summarized with player icons around the board||Player statistics not easily available and summarized. No avatars to indicate players|