Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bad Interface: Civilization IV

The game: Civilization IV

The background: Numerous times over the course of the game the player is asked to choose from a list technologies that determine the units and improvements available in play. Certain items on each list are emphasized through the addition of the word "recommended" right next to those items.

The problem:
The placement of the word "recommended" next to particular items introduces a bias toward those items. This is fine for new players, but for slightly more experienced players the game's recommendations can become an obstacle to uninhibited choice. After all, if the player thinks the game has selected the best of all the available choices, why should he pick anything different? This kind of player lacks the experience necessary to make the best choices on his own, and the game's interface hinders the player's acquisition of such experience by interfering with the free exploration of the game's technology tree.

The solution: One way to solve this problem is to separate the game's recommendations from the main technology selection interface, through the use of a second-level advisory interface. If that is not desired, another approach is to limit the use of such hints to the easiest difficulty levels, avoiding their use at higher difficulties.

1 comment:

Walter Lutz said...

Doesn't seem to me like a big problem. As the player becomes more advanced, he'll learn he needs to employ a research strategy. If he doesn't figure that one out, no interface improvement will help him win the game.