Category Archives: Gaming and communities

2.5 year old with an iPad

You might have already seen the video with a 2.5 year old using an iPad, but if not, just go check it out.

What was interesting to me in watching the vid is that my daughter (1 year, 11 months) uses the iPhone exactly like the kid in the video. And I really mean exactly – she has exactly the same usage patterns and usability problems. Based on seeing this video and my experience with Kerttu, it’s beginning to dawn on me that most kid app haven’t actually been tested on kids, and that Apple most certainly isn’t testing the iPhone OS on kids.

Some of my findings:

Apps have about 2 seconds to impress a 2 year old. This is not the same as a 2 second attention span – she has no trouble concentrating on an app for an extended period of time if it’s fun. Boring, long-lasting load screen with no music results in immediate kill. Put a nice picture and loading music in an app and you get about 5 more seconds to load the content.

Buttons really do need to look like buttons. Any graphic that doesn’t immediately say it’s touchable is as good as nonexistent.

Non-primary application flows need to have less UI priority than primary flows. This should be a given, but it’s not. Most of the kid apps have non-essential things like high score board and app info buttons placed in the post-game screen more prominently than the primary Play Again button. This means Kerttu kills most games with the home button when a game ends and then re-starts the app to play a new game, as that’s more intuitive than actually pressing the replay button.

iPhone OS multitouch needs improvements. Most namely, the OS needs to start ignoring accidentally resting one’s finger on the side of the screen. What’s happening now is, if your finger rests on the touchscreen, every press on the screen registers as multi-touch, which breaks almost all apps. I’d have assumed it’d be easy to ignore fingers resting on the side by default, and allow apps to explicitly say they want to detect this gesture as well.

iPhone OS really needs a lockdown mode. The existing features for controlling what the device can do are great, but the OS is lacking some primitive things like being able to put deleting apps behind a password. I’m assuming I’ll get K a iPod Touch or iPad at some point, but I’m dreading the amount of app reinstalls I’ll end up having to do. Maybe Apple will see kids as a market segment one day and do something about it, but I’m not holding my breath.

And related to above, I have a suspicion that K will never really want to use a traditional computer in her life. She completely refuses to get how to use a mouse already, and keyboard is something that makes fun noises if you hit it. Except for the space bar in the living room, which she knows pauses the TV so she can go do something else. And talking about TV, K’s expectation is that when you see people in the telly, they can hear you when you talk to them – a result of doing video calls. We’ve had one tantrum happen as a result of K’s aunt being on TV, and not responding to the increasingly agitated greetings from K. :)

The Evolution of Habbo Hotel’s Virtual Economy

Right, it’s been around a week since GDC 2010 and I’m running out of excuses to not post about anything about it, so here’s the easiest bit – slides from my virtual economy talk. Get them here.

There’s a nice writeup about the talk at malvasia bianca so I don’t have to explain most of the slides. Ada Chen also has a writeup.

There’s a comment in Malvasia’s blog that I want to comment. In my presentation, I argued the real world has a bunch of currencies being used actively, including euros, dollars, frequent flyer point systems, grocery store bonus point systems, shares, options and a pension fund. I made an attempt at simplifying the discussion by not calling these economic instruments – which they are. I do agree these are not interchangeable as examples, but from “design perspective” the only practical difference is the level liquidity for any of these types of assets.

Sure, shares give you control, but in practice I’d assume vast majority of today’s shareholders do not have enough shares of any stock they own that this would play any role in their ownership of the share. Any and all bonus point systems that allow you to purchase goods are currencies, even if they’re not fiat money. And from my perspective, my options and pension fund is as good as virtual until I have the money in my account (somewhere in the cloud), which might or might not ever happen.

Hence, there’s a ton of various types of value structures measured in numeric points of one type or another, which we deal with every day in real life, and don’t complain that much about it. So why would having more than one system in a virtual world be a problem?

When platform goes bad

Seems there’s some trouble brewing at Facebook. I’ve no idea if this is specific to Finland in some way, but Facebook Connect has been going up and down for the past two weeks so I’m failing to authenticate using the feature and AJAX calls on my stream are failing to load.

I’m now trying to add a new email address to my account, and when I click the link on the verification email sent to my new address, register.facebook.com drops the connection on loading the confirmation page. I actually did get the page to load once, but the confirmation failed to be registered.

WatchMouse’s API status claims Facebook’s authentication API has been fairly stable, but I suspect the login API they’re monitoring is not telling the actual truth.

I’ve had other people complain to me about this, so I know it’s not just me.

For all I know, this could of course be some server that’s gone bad in Facebook’s cluster, which they’re using for Finns. If I had to make a guess, this is caused by Facebook rolling out backend tech related to their upcoming changes, and something’s gone wrong.

What this has caused though, is that my trust in Facebook’s ability to maintain a platform stable enough to rely on as a business has been severely damaged. I was on my way to becoming a full time envangelist of the platform, but given my problems as a user, I’m not so sure anymore.

A Finn convicted of WoW account theft

Thought this might be an interesting precedent: A Finnish man was just convicted in in Finland of World of Warcraft account theft, and has to pay 4000 euros in compensation to the victim of the account theft. The really interesting bit is, the compensation sum was calculated based on the market value of the account if bought from the open market. I’ve no idea what the repercussions of this are on the longer run – if my account is now worth a couple thousand, could I sue Blizzard if I lost access due to their fault?

I can’t find any English language news bits on this, will link if I do.

News at YLE, Taloussanomat in Finnish.

The other side of iTunes Store

Apple’s been getting so much crap recently about problems with developer service with iTunes that I just had to share this bit of customer service I got as a customer of the store.

I sent the following two days ago to Apple’s iTunes support:

Hi!

I just had iTunes 9 ask me to reauthorize my computer after an update and was surprised that iTunes claims I have 5 computers authorized. I’m currently using 3 authorized computers total, and I know I lost 1 authorization a few years ago when I sent my Powerbook for service and the replaced motherboard caused the authorization to disappear. However I’m at loss as to where the 1 additional authorization has gone, and it’s a bit scary that I’m up to the max with just 3 machines running iTunes.

I tried an old workaround of trying to deauthorize the computer a couple times after the authorization to see if the count would have gone down, but that didn’t help.

I wonder if you can see how many of the authorizations have been used recently? I’d at least assume you might be able to notice the authorization destroyed by Apple service hasn’t been used for years, and clean that up from my count.

Thanks, Sulka

and got the following reply after a couple hours:

Dear Sulka,

I understand you are needing the computers on your account to be de-authorized. My name is XXX and I am more than happy to work with you until everything has been resolved to your satisfaction.

I have deauthorized all computers associated with your iTunes Store account. You can now reauthorize the computers that you intend to use.

… snip couple links to support articles …

In the future, if you find you have reached 5 authorizations due to system upgrades, you can reset your authorization count by clicking “Deauthorize All” on the Edit Account Information screen. Keep in mind that you can only use this feature once a year. The button will not appear if you have less than 5 authorized computers or if you have used this option within the last 12 months.

I hope this helps you. If you need further assistance or have any questions, feel free to reply to this email and I will be happy to assist. It was a pleasure assisting you Sulka. We here at the iTunes Store appreciate your business.

Sincerely, XXX, 
iTunes Store Customer Support

My expectation based on dealing with customer support of most companies was that I’d maybe get a reply a day or two later, and that I’d have to fight to get any computers deauthorized. I was slightly stunned that the issue got resolved in a couple hours and just happily went to sign in on a couple of the machines I use with my iTunes library.

Now, the real kicker was the following letter I got today:

Dear Sulka,

This is XXX, with a follow-up. I haven’t heard from you and wanted to make sure that your request was handled to your satisfaction. You’ve truly been a remarkable asset to the iTunes Store Family and as such I don’t want to leave you without any type of resolution, so if you do not respond, I will be closing this request. I hope that you continue to enjoy the iTunes Store and would like to thank you for being such a wonderful member of our family. If you find yourself with any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to send me an email.

Have a wonderful day!

This is the most adorable response I’ve ever got from a customer service representative, ever. Yes, it certainly goes a bit over the top telling me how wonderful I am, but I have to confess it made me warm and fuzzy inside. The contrast to the passive-aggressive letters some CS reps are sending that tell me to f*** off with my problem is just so mind-blowing that I just had to blog this. And I can assure the rep will be getting a 5/5 rating when the followup request comes in.

(CS representative name censored.)