Presentation: Be Vain

Frets on Fire is an open source clone of Guitar Hero. It's a great idea. Think of all the user-created songs we could play! My excitement quickly faded after I downloaded it and tried it out.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

Ironically, Frets On Fire started life as a different beast altogether: it won the game division of Assembly 2006. Notably, the demoscene is almost entirely focused on presentation and appearances. So I have no idea why you’ve chosen FoF to chastize. They almost certainly know this already, and it’s rather a victory for open source that the game came with source at all! And if they hadn’t, then what can you do? Call the scene dying?

But I’ll jump to their defense. If you’re playing Guitar Hero, you don’t have fucking time to look at some fatass in KISS makeup. I find the background distracts from the playability, especially when the camera pans or zooms. The only time I really notice the presentation is when it distracts me from actually playing the song, or I fail out and watch my avatar hold his head in shame on stage. The last build of FoF I played seriously didn’t feature any of these distractions. Of course, I think it also failed to feature hammer-ons – I should probably re-evaluate it.

This is an example where screenshots don’t do justice.

Of course, if you make something that looks good but has no functionality behind the pretty GUI, the client would be ecstatic and more than happy that you’re “well on your way to completion”. lol.

Of course truly good software has to have all aspects: functionality, reliability, performance, usability and appearance.

I once spent most of a two hour demo being told repeatedly (and in increasingly heated language) that I had completely misunderstood the needs of the users and my prototype was complete crap. Everything we’d designed so far would have to be scrapped and started over.

The problem?

There were two important pages: one a brief summary of order status, the other an unbelievably long and detailed page crammed full of every detail of the order you could possibly imagine.

My mistake?

The button “view order” took you to the summary page, not the detail one. It needed a second click to go wading in detail.

It took all of about 2 minutes to swap those around when we got back to the office.

But the myth that the design team was terminally incompetent scarred the project for a long time.

In my opinion, the GH3 UI looks way too cluttered.

We once had a demo almost fall completely apart because our software (not custom, it’s sold to many companies) referred to a certain unit of sales as an order. This was completely unacceptable to the potential client. They ranted and raved about how the software was completely unfit for their company. The funny thing was, that we had already been through every feature with them. It was the perfect fit for their company, it was just that one “insignificant” piece of terminology.

After a bit we were able to get them calmed down and back on track. What went a long way towards getting them to listen was the embedded Virtual Earth control. Nothing special, just maps of addresses entered into the system for local shipping information. However, we’d never gotten around to removing the 3d button, and now it’s never going away. The 3d birds eye view rendered them all speechless enough to get the meeting back on track.

Presentation indeed.

GH3 looks horrible! Most games look nice these days but aren’t as playable as older, far less pretty games. But people are fickle and will go for stuff that looks nicer. That’s why low-end so-called hifi equipment is covered with flashing lights, buttons etc, whereas proper amps have a power switch and a volume control.

Of course truly good software has to have all aspects: functionality, reliability, performance, usability and appearance.

Perhaps, in the same way that personality is more important than looks in dating. It is.

But you have to be able to get people to give you a second look before they can possibly find out how great your personality is!

Once, when developing a web application, I changed the text on the menu links and took it from something that “completely missed the point” to “was just perfect”.

while i agree with you on the main point (make it look hot, etc.), don’t bag on fof. it’s written in python. python was never really meant to render graphics. it sacrifices some performance to trade in for really easy programming. python reads almost like english, all the time.
but doing the simple trig needed for fof, for every frame, while still running smoothly, is quite an achievement for python as it is.

Try using a les Paul with Marshall amp, or a strat with a wahwah peddle and you’ll find that graphics aren’t an issue ;0)

Actually, I prefer the presentation of Frets on Fire. It’s not as slick as Guitar Hero III, and it could definitely be improved, but I feel that the latter screenshot is too cluttered. And it’s totally geared to boys/men (what kinda troll is that on the left anyway? :-P).

I’m a woman and I know girls that play guitar and I think they would enjoy playing along their favorite songs (pop / rock or otherwise). If that’s the only skin Guitar Hero III provides, than I wouldn’t want it…


I’d take your comments with a pinch of salt. For a game, a pure graphical presentation takes more weight than, say, a control application for an industrial gravel works.

The game needs to be enjoyable to use, but the control application needs to be easy to use. Yes, usability and presentation is important here too, but in this case it can involve making the display simpler, less cluttered, and using less graphical elements.

Anyway, who’d want to play a game that was easy to complete?

If I had some batch processing software that was important for a sysadmin to put in a script, I’d want to avoid any graphical UI like the plague - but I’m still doing this to make the software more usable. Just the usability goals are different.

Off-topic remark: Why has the guitar in these games only got five strings?

Aicho said: I’m a woman and I know girls that play guitar and I think they would enjoy playing along their favorite songs (pop / rock or otherwise). If that’s the only skin Guitar Hero III provides, than I wouldn’t want it…

There are no girls on the internet. Don’t be ridiculous.

A few years back, my clients thought that I did an amazing job with a very crappy UI. I had changed the button colors!

Ritchie, that’s a cross between a bass and a lead, so you can play both :slight_smile:

Frets on fire is quite nice for the fact that it’s free :slight_smile: I made a small video of it some months ago ( )

How come free/opensource software gets to hide behind the excuse “We’re free so deal with it!” or “We’re opensource so why don’t you code it!” I’m an end-user I will happily pay $120 for something that looks nice and plays well rather than download some crap software that happens to be free. Also, when I pay for something I know that there’s a responsible party that I can address my concerns to. And that this software has a viable future and won’t just disappear someday. I’m aware of apps like Firefox that make their money from Google, but they don’t have the level of support that I get from evil-doing Microsoft.

The successful opensource/free software companies do well because they don’t hide behind these lame excuses. Firefox has ambitiously claimed they will fix any security vuln in “10 fu*king days!” (even though I’m moving away from Firefox due to their security vulns, but their extensions are so damn good).

No users really care about development cycles, language used for development, how slick that one regular expression parsing method is on line 2700, or even that you use a bug tracker (I know, shocking). All end-users want are great useful apps that work. And the apps that look nice probably work well and are easy to use. The look is really a signal to the consumer that you care for your application enough to worry about the complete package not just the code.

“Anyway, who’d want to play a game that was easy to complete?”

I have no idea what you’re saying here. Do you mean this ironically, or are you commenting on how the interface adds fake difficulty, or are you truly claiming that gamers want a challenge first and foremost? Most don’t, at least not one that lasts for more than a few seconds – games like Guitar Hero are different because you can enjoy yourself and get a sense of accomplishment on every skill level, even without “completing” the game.

Be vain. Make something that looks as good as it works.

Unfortunately for FOF, it DOES look as good as it works :frowning:

Bad example, i’d prefer fretsOnFire, no doubt.

for GH3 you need a NASA’s computer for running it, whereas for FretsOnFire you can play in any average computer.