The most effective user interfaces aren't invisible. They're sneaky.

The 'best' user interfaces (UIs) are invisible.

Catchy statement, right? After all, UIs like those are the ones you don't notice, cause you're busy getting stuff done.

Except that it isn't true.

The most effective UIs are the ones that make it easy, and even pleasurable for you to do what THEY want you to do.

And what a UI wants you to do may not be what you want to do. (I'll leave the question of 'best for whom' aside for now.)

For example...

Casino UI
Ahh, hello human, I want you to stay with me, and spend money continuously, for as long as possible, so that my owners can profit from you. :D

I want to win! Winning makes me feel great! I'm sure my next big win is just around the corner!
This is rather different from you, the human, saying, I want to stay in this place and spend money continuously, for as long as possible.

Online Shopping UI (E.g. Fashion)
Hi there human, I want you to desire everything I have on offer, and spend as much money as possible, so I'm gonna make buying as easy as possible. As far as I'm concerned, you can't buy too much! :D

I wanna look good to other humans! And I don't wanna be ripped off while I... ooh shiny! I need this! And this! And this! Ooh and this!

Clinical UI (E.g. Doctor)
Hey doc, I want you to accurately record all the relevant information about your patients, so that your patients can get the best care you're able to provide. :D

I want to make sure that I get everything down accurately, so that my colleagues and I are able to help our patients achieve the best outcomes possible.

Usability is ethically neutral - UI design isn't

There's an assumption that UIs that are user-friendly, and 'delightful' have our best interests at heart. From the examples above, this obviously isn't always true. It may not even often be true.

Casino UI is a great example of conflict between what we want, and what the UI wants us to do. We appear to be travelling on the same 'journey', but at the end of the day, the relationship is parasitical at best, and adversarial at worst.

Online Shopping UI has a less toxic relationship with us, as users. At least the UI isn't expressly designed to exploit our human weaknesses for profit. As a merchant's proxy, the UI very reasonably wants to make its goods attractive to us, and make it easy for us to buy stuff.

Clinical UI is what we tend to assume we're getting, even when that trust is unwarranted. It embodies the classic concept of 'best UI'. What Clinical UI wants us to do works hand in hand with what we want to achieve for our patients.

But even if the usability of all three UIs is the same, the ethical contrast between the three UI designs couldn't be more different.

When it comes to usability, it's important to remember that there's no moral value attached to how easy something is to use. Moral value comes into existence when ease-of-use and pleasure is harnessed to directing specific behaviours.

When we look at it that way, it's pretty easy to say: Casino UI is evil, Online Shopping is neutral, and Clinical UI is good.

UX and UI design are essentially the design of systems, products, and interfaces that encourage, reinforce, and reward specific user behaviours.

Whether the outcomes of these specific behaviours are beneficial or harmful to us - as users - is highly dependent on why the product was created in the first place.

So the next time someone tells you that all you do as a designer is 'make pretty buttons', tell them that the pretty buttons are just a small, unthreatening part of designing reward systems for sneaky mind control. ;)

On creating brand identities, writing honorific epics for your supper, and settling.

Fail Safe: Debbie Millman’s Advice on Courage and the Creative Life, Maria Popova

While I understand where she is coming from - we had pretty similar beginnings - if you are a brand consultant and it doesn't bring you joy to shape identities, to work within the constraints of who your clients are, what they want to become, and what they can reasonably be within their current situations...

... then I'm not sure I'd want to pay you top dollar. That's all.

There's nothing dishonourable about writing honorific epics (creating brand identities and everything that goes with it) for your supper. There's no shame in the enjoyment of craftsmanship, in the pursuit of it.

But maybe I'm just saying that because I'm a mediocre nugget who happens to really like writing honorific epics for my supper. And when they have truth and soul in them, even better.

I guess the difference is that while I dreamed of being an illustrator when I was a younger, juicier nugget, and I too, chose the path of stability and sanity that was available when I started out, I don't think I settled.

I think I found something just as good, if different. What I do now - that isn't settling.

Yeah if I'd stayed a print designer, and ONLY a print designer, that would be settling.

But with all the stuff I get to do now, I don't look at illustration and go, 'O woe is meeeee! If only my life had been different I could have had that! How I want that! I (claim) I would give it all for that!'

No. Just no.

The article felt more like a regretful monologue of a 'I wish I was a fine artist' type designer. I've got nothing against fine artists, but I really wish that frustrated fine artists wouldn't work as designers.

Stuff I learned in design school (that they never taught me)

Enemies can be unwittingly helpful
So someone hates you and is being turdy to you, trying to tear you down in front of the class, and your lecturers, in the hope of getting better grades. That doesn't mean you don't listen to them closely and analyse what they've said. Sometimes a grain of truth in it that helps you, even if it burrrrns it burrrrrns. Learning to find those grains of truth is a skill in and of itself.

Someone being better at something than you are, doesn't make you any less good at it
However, it still makes you less desirable in the job market, should you be in direct competition with one another.

Serve your client, not your ego
You may love sword and sorcery, but that doesn't mean you put sword and sorcery into every freaking thing you do. Especially not stuff that has nothing at all to do with it, and whose target market thinks the whole S&S thing is utterly stupid.

Keep your principles, change your designs
Almost, but not quite, the same as the above about serving your client.

...and of course, there's the last thing I only learned when I went out to work.

Sometimes people pay you for the privilege of overriding your professional advice
If you fail to convince them after doing your best to make them understand, and if you leave paper trails (when needed), you've earned the money.

The Man & the Unicorn

Should a man chance to acquire a unicorn at a local Singapore market, this is what he does upon bringing it home:

  • Saws off the unicorn's horn to make it seem more like a horse
  • Underfeeds it so it won't have the strength to run away
  • Both of the above
  • Should the man be a government official, he'll additionally berate the mutilated and starved unicorn for not being a horse, before tossing it into the rubbish heap, grumbling all the while that there just aren't any innovative horses to be found for love or money.


We are all Junundu nao: 2 months worth of reflections on GW2 (and more)

After 2 months of more or less continuous play (moved to new country, job hunting, etc) the nugget did get 2 toons to 80, three into the 70s in Guild Wars 2, before the crispy golden batter did break down into a hopelessly soggy mass of despair.

Though the nugget originally aimed to give GW2 a 'fair' chance by getting five 80s with 1 of each profession maxxed, the nugget could not do it.

Instead, the formerly-juicy-with-adoration-but-now-soggy-with-sad nugget did log off after her poor ranger hit 80, hasn't logged back on since. (Ok, that's a lieTwice after that! Once to donate money to a poor friend who got hacked, and the other time because I was playing MMO-as-chat-client tag with another friend.)

The funniest - or saddest - thing is, the nuggetty toons weren't even affected by the nerfs that went down at the time. (Same time as ranger shortbow 'animation' nerf.)

Nuggety guardian was a hammer guardian, and nuggetty ranger had JUST changed to sword/dagger + axe/horn PBAOE trapper before the nerf. Literally days before. Which, incidentally, the nugget was rather liking - insofar as the nugget liked any of the gameplay in GW2.

Honestly, the only reason the nugget lasted so long was that her soon-to-be-soggy batter wanted so desperately... not to be underwhelmed and unhappy. Didn't work, but let it not be said that a nugget did not try! XD

1 sentence Nuggetty Review of GW2:
"We are all Junundu nao."

... and now, on to FPN - First Person Nugget!

Achievements - They Aren't All Equal
The saddest part of this for me is that I've lost all faith in ArenaNet. GW was the only game I've loved even 1/3 as much as I loved LegendMUD.

I have no problems with games being a business. I happily play PWE titles, and they are the polar rapacious opposite of what I loved about ArenaNet with regards to Guild Wars and the design philosophy behind it.

One of the hallmarks of Guild Wars was the burning idealism behind it that shaped it into the unique creation it is. It goes beyond the later additions like vanquishing, heroes and then all-hero parties, PvE skills. Those things were icing and evolution both. But the core of Guild Wars was the idea that playing could be fun and rewarding in and of itself. That if given the right platform, people could and would play for fun. That the fun could be the reward, because fun could be creative. That was what really differientated Guild Wars from WoW and all the other rat pellet MMOs I've played.

Don't get me wrong, rat pellets have their place, and I do like them. But they are, at heart, carrot-based. Guild Wars is not. Guild Wars gave me a sense of achievement. It still does when I come up with a build that looks like 'lol that can't possibly work... can eet?' on paper that turns out to be brilliant. Rat-pellet MMOs give me... achievements. ._.

And that's just one of the ways where Guild Wars 2 went wrong. How for the love of all that is crispy and fatty and cholesterol-filled in the world, did ArenaNet go from the sheer brilliance of the fights in War in Kryta to those in Guild Wars 2?

Dragon-slaying 101... Err... I mean... 1111111111111111111111
In Guild Wars: War in Kryta, every mob loaded a random skillbar from a pool, which then synergised anywhere from well to brilliantly with all the OTHER mobs also doing the same thing. And to make things even more hilarious and beautiful, the mobs were using skillbars based on the PvE 'meta' builds of the day. Which meant that prior to the content being nerfed (and even the nerfs were timed well), they couldn't be facerolled with the current PvE metas (in Hard Mode). Instead, fights were full of watching your opponents, adapting on the fly, switching targets fast in some cases, knowing when to spike in others... It's the closest I've ever seen to PvP in any game, and it was utterly fucking beautiful.

...and then in Guild Wars 2, ArenaNet has you kill dragons by spamming your 1-key (or 2-key), together with a whole horde of other monkeys also spamming their 1-keys.

I know I keep using the word 'heartbreaking', but there it is. :(

Oh Well, the Art Lived Up to the Hype. And You Can Jump.
Guild Wars 2 has none of the burning idealism that makes GW the unique thing it is. While it's certainly a beautiful game (if you don't think about the armour art), taken as a whole, it's definitely neither revolutionary nor unique.

It's not that GW2 didn't bring any improvements, it's that the improvements were far outweighed by the WTFery.

One Step Forward...
You can now jump.
I've seen people say they couldn't play GW because you couldn't jump with the spacebar. While I totally agree that /jump just isn't the same, I've never understood that point of view. Still, there you have it, in GW2, you can jump. With your spacebar.

You can walk over terrain and fall to your death.
Definite improvement - in GW2 you longer have to walk around that tiny kitten sized rock anymore. I liked that.

There's an Auction House, and you can sell from anywhere!
That's great. I wish more auction houses worked like that. It would be even better if you could also pick up from anywhere. Oh and if the auction house fee wasn't so stupidly high... but more about that later...

New graphics engine
Extremely beautiful, no denying it.

Underwater combat
I think I'm one of the few people who actually liked underwater combat - on all 5 of my toons (Guardian, Mesmer, Thief, Elementalist, Ranger). It is revolutionary for underwater combat to obey a different set of rules. From what I can tell, not only are the skills different (duh), but the damage patterns are also different. Unfortunately, the x, y and z-axis are incredibly buggy, and if you pull a mob up or down from the level it loaded on, half the time it goes invulnerable, while your toon, of course, stays all too vulnerable. Not until GW2 did I appreciate the sheer amount of work Blizzard put into underwater in Cataclysm. I don't recall ever EVER getting axis-based evades underwater in Cata.

Nodes for all
No more node-ninjaing! Now work together to get to that node! This was a definite improvement.

Two Steps Back
Fully customisable UI is gone
In Guild Wars you could drag, drop, resize and reposition anything and everything, anywhere you wanted. That's gone like it never was. You're gonna use ArenaNet's 'vision' of what their UI should be, and that's that.

Your screen is full of you
Unless you play an Asura, you'll notice that you're more important to yourself than ever before. No longer can you zoom way out like you can in Guild Wars, for a tactical view of the battle. Nope, you'll spend most of your time looking at yourself, and if you're a Norn or a big Charr... Lol. Reminds me of being in bear form in Sunken Temple back in the day in WoW.

Two upper torsos with heads talking against a backdrop
Gone are the meaningful, in-world cutscenes. I don't think the voice acting has gotten worse, but the whole backdrop thing made the entire experience of watching my toon interacting with NPCs so utterly disconnected that I ended up turning off all voice acting and just reading. When I bothered to read. There is one bright spark though - Tybalt. I loved Tybalt and his apples. XD

Armour design is leaves something to be desired
Guild Wars armour is beautiful from level 1, and every class has a unique look even across all the different variants. No classes share armour skins. It's perfectly possible to mix-and-match a gorgeous set of armour by combining expensive elite pieces with dirt cheap ones. No armour is inferior to any other in looks. In Guild Wars 2 cloth, leather, heavy armour wearers all wear the same sets of skins until you get to the grindy prestige skins. And there is a definite sense that non-prestige skins are not 'worthy' or real art attention and love.

Combat isn't strategic anymore
How did we go from mobs understanding front/mid/backlines, and healer mobs kiting to force you to fight their frontlines, to mobs whose idea of kiting is to run away from you in a straight line about 200 out, and then in a straight line back?
As for the rest ... just scroll back up and re-read the part about War in Kryta vs GW2 dragons, ok? XD

Economy was built with no idea how a F2P game economy works, and none of the finesse needed to wring every last drop of money from a player and have them be okay with it
Yes, I realise you pay for the box, so it's not even strictly F2P. But when 6USD = 1.5g in a system that has gold, silver, and copper, something is wrong. It just doesn't stretch far enough, and it feels like a swindle. Add that to the ridiculous 10-15% (I forget) tax on all items in the AH, and you really start to feel the squeeze. I made enough to buy the upgrades I wanted, sure, but I haven't felt I've had to be this careful about money in a game in years. And as for friends who'd never played anything but GW? Lol - if you have no idea how the usual MMO economy works (e.g. raw mats sell for way more than crafted goods until you have the very high level recipes...) - good luck.

In contrast, while PWE wasn't always as amazing at it as they are now, they learn and evolve. If you play Forsaken World, their newest in-house title aimed at taking a large slice of the English-speaking F2P market... you'll see that they're very very good at not just squeezing money, but deflecting hostility.

A couple of years ago I played another of PWE's in-house titles, Jade Dynasty, and lol. So long after that I still *resent* the US$20 I had to pay for a flying mount so I could continue to level and do content. Fast forward a few years with Forsaken World, where I've dropped US$130 over a year of play, and I'm happy and not at all resentful. These guys are *smart* and they learn *fast*.

ArenaNet, on the other hand, with GW2, seems to have stuck its head in the sand, or up its own arse, singing, 'Lalalala we have a loyal fan base so we know best!' without bothering to even look at how others in the industry are doing things.

Dynamic events are poorly done
GW2's DEs are basically: succeed and restore status quo vs fail and retake 'blah' until you can ... succeed and restore status quo. They are boring, and feel utterly pointless. And they're set up so that if you fail, even though you still get a reward, it *feels* like a failure. The importance of that feeling cannot be overemphasized, because it's one of the reasons why Rift's DEs work much better.

Rift's DEs have (mostly) timer-based stages that you can complete based on whichever DE it happens to be. This means that if you're alone and you want to do a DE (or close a Rift, really, because that's what they tend to be if we leave out Instant Adventures), you can complete as much of the objective that's set before your time runs out, and you successfully close the rift. There are of course some rifts that are very hard to solo (raid rifts), but by and large the ones spawning all over the world follow the pattern above, and by doing so, they grant players what GW2's DEs fail to - satisfaction and the illusion of control.

Teamwork? Lol.
In Guild Wars, I'd group if I felt like being around people, and I've met some cool folks and made good friends that way. In Guild Wars 2, everyone else is basically another NPC that I hope dies before I do. A simple thing like auto-grouping would help so much with this. Time and again in Rift, (which gives you the option to automatically join the DE group and so see people's nameplates, hp, mana, and role...), I've seen people join the group, assess it... and switch talents / builds to fill the gaps they saw. It doesn't have to be requested of them. There are always people who enjoy tanking and/or healing, and if they see that it's needed, *they will do it*.

In Guild Wars, there are so many spells based around buffing other people because it helps your group as a whole. Splinter Weapon and Great Dwarf Weapon are just two in a whole long list. In Guild Wars 2, you have combo fields that you can't even control properly in the zerg that GW2 is.

Working as a team was built into Guild Wars from the ground up. In Guild Wars 2, that concept's just been ground up. =P

Talent trees added, build diversity and flexibility removed
Not only that, but GW2's talent trees are inferior to the talent trees in other games, let alone the system in the original Guild Wars. Don't give me the whole 'switch on the fly' thing. Rift does that too, and much better. With GW2 talent trees, sorry, traits, NO ONE puts 13 points in one thing and 7 in another as an end build. So why does GW2 have points in increments of 1, when only 5s make a difference? Probably to make the 80 levels feel less pointlessly drawn out.

Lore is gone
There's a bit in Nightfall in Guild Wars where you have to answer questions about the gods. I remember being shocked that I could answer them all even though I never really paid attention to the lore while running around killing everything. It just seeped in. I just KNEW. I found that to be an amazing achievement. In Guild Wars 2, erm... the only reason I know which gods are which are because of all my hours in Guild Wars. In fact, there's a bit in GW2 where you ALSO have to answer questions based on the history of Tyria, and the only reason I could answer them was Guild Wars... not GW2. XD

FFS ArenaNet, don't let your devs post on official forums without vetting with PR or a CM first
This thread
is why. I once thought ArenaNet were brilliant not to have official forums. I thought that it was because they realised that in general, fan forums are far more thoughtful and civil. Now I think they were just incredibly lucky - and never realised it. Not only that, but they're locking any threads on the official forums where people are unhappy. Almost every other MMO company out there has learned the hard way not to do that... but I guess ArenaNet knows better, yeah.

System encourages training mobs & inconsideration
...there is a ridiculous amount of mob training in GW2. Go and read this post. It's hilarious, and it has zmobies. Seriously, zmobies and training! How could it get better! (I'd stick with just reading the OP's posts though.)

Lack of Trinity isn't well implemented
If Guild Wars was a lovingly done Magic: The Gathering the MMO, then Guild Wars 2 is a Diablo clone poorly ported to MMO space.

The thing about Diablo clones is that they give players a degree of self-sufficiency that GW2 doesn't. Just because you can quaff a potion the moment the effects wear off doesn't mean that you can stand there and tank everything, all the time. Just that single change - being able to use your utility skill the moment the effects wear off - would make GW2 play much better. As it is, GW2 combat alternates between 1-key mashing while taking no damage, and hoping someone else will take the hits (or dodge them) while your endurance regens and you wait for your utility skill to come off cooldown.

In nuggetty conclusion...
...and I still love Guild Wars.

...and all I have is this long rant. ;)

This is what happens when your ad agency doesn't actually care about YOU.

Yes, I admit it, I clicked on "Popular". And then I was royally pissed off. (That 'navbar' is an advertisement, by the way. See how helpfully it's labelled.)

If this ad agency's KPI was clickthroughs, not conversions, then I'm pretty certain this ad is getting results.

Unfortunately, of course, once users realise they've been tricked, their instant reaction is to close the site in disgust. The last thing on their minds is even LOOKING at whatever it was the site was selling.

One could argue that the agency was doing nothing wrong - their client probably demanded clickthroughs as KPI, and on this, I'm sure they deliver. But the reaction after click-through in no way helps their client.

An agency that cared about their client would realise that what the client (and every client, really) wants is conversions. Yes, an ad banner cannot guarantee conversions. But if the banner pisses off the users it brings to a site, you can bet it'll guarantee a lack thereof.

Guild Wars 2: OMG ANet, seriously, WTF?

Four Days. That’s it. I honestly thought that once my account was linked I would get quite some time to lock down my Guild Wars character names. Let’s see, I have 10 character slots in Guild Wars with the majority of characters being over five years. Guild Wars 2 comes with 5 character slots… perhaps? I have four days to decide how many character slots to fill with old names or risk losing them. Or, in profitable terms, I have four days to decide how many character slots to buy.