Presentation: Be Vain

In the instance of game development I think a similar advice should go out to the game developers out there “Make something that plays as good as it looks”. While I concede that graphics are important for an enjoyable game I feel that in many cases less advanced graphics would have been acceptable for improved gameplay.

ChrisVB said:
“Also I think your comments on FoF (“incredibly primitive”, “ASCII interface”) are very demotivational. Somebody is giving away its own hard work for free, a little bit more tact would be nice. Some respect would be nice…”

If I ever get an open source project out there in the “real world”, I would hope that reviewers wouldn’t pull punches just because it was open source. I’m a professional and value honest feedback.

On the other hand, tact is something I’ve never been good at. :wink: So maybe that’s just me.

What’s that thing in the middle of the guitar hero 3 screen? It’s taking up space so I can’t see that monster playing guitar, the speakers, the amps, the lights, the thing that says “ROCK!”, the lightning, the stars, etc. I think the game might look better if they took that thing of the middle.

Although I am still a computer science student, I learned this point through many software demos to non-engineers. People will judge the quality of your software based on the GUI and overall presentation. This struck me as I realized my hard work would probably never be truely appreciated without the help of some art major strumming up amazing work while smoking a doobie.

This is also apparent in the Linux movement. All this talk about Linux being ready for the mainstream has struck up when CompizFusion made its debut in distributions like Ubuntu. Granted CompizFusion is pretty snazzy, it’s just eye candy with no real change in the interface.

Since I’m terrible at rhythm games, I’d rather play the FoF version. The display is much cleaner and therefore would give me a fighting chance. All the prettiness of Guitar Hero just distracts me from the essential part of the display, and thus it’s unplayable for me. Unplayable == unfun.

Then again, I have to browse with Flash and animations turned off, because I simply CANNOT read text if there’s a moving ad on the page.

Thanks. I will not buy GH3 it looks like crap.
Is that supposed to be a guy from KISS? Looks like GWAR. FoF allows you to use your imagination at least. GH3 you are too preoccupied with the fake “rock” motif to imagine you are a star. So very uncool looking. It looks like a preteen Wrestling fantasy or what a bunch of never been cool nerds think is “rock”.

I can see why there is such a problem in the software biz. How can we get our projects right when we think KISS would be “cool” as a Blizard WoW troll?

Honestly, I would believe that the concept of modding would cause the triumph of the PC gamer over the Console. All, of the complaints above about the appearance of GH3 could in many ways be fixed through a number of community mods. I believe however, GH3 was not designed to be a moddable game, which is nonsense to me. Ok, so this rant has little to do with the above blog, but more to do with the state of PC gaming, I still find it relevant.

I couldn’t agree with you more, both on software and Guitar Hero.

I’ve been in many, many design reviews where I’m looking for comments on layout, rounded corners, font size, whitespace…but people look and go, “What if we made that red?”

In the end, that just tells me they are only interested in colors/visuals (read, branding) rather than the overall layout. Of course, that also tells me they trust me in the layout department, which is great. I can do what I want so long as I meet their eye candy requirements.

Sometimes I worry that what looks good to me will not look good to those that matter. This is a legit worry but I more often just do what I think looks good and find that most people enjoy it as well. I think about me when it comes to looks and about the end users when it comes to usability, readability, and functioning.

On video games, I think the Wii is proving that you don’t need to spit shine something to make it fun and enjoyable.

And on Guitar Hero, there’s no need to stop at polishing the game itself…to be a true rock god you need to dress up your axe too!

And to all those that claim FoF looks better…Guitar Hero is as much about the atmosphere it creates as it is about banging in time on a plastic guitar. The sounds, the animations, the characters…they all add to the experience of playing.

I can’t tell you the last time I went to a rock concert that didn’t have lasers, colored lights, sparks, people running around, smoke…this is rock and roll, not Manilow. Guitar Hero is for those people that want to jump off their couch while playing Pearl Jam. Frets is for those just looking for a musical challenge…playing in an orchestra rather than a marching band.

The lack of “chrome” in FoF is not a knock on open-source. Like Jeff mentions, that’s like comparing a town militia to an entire army, it’s hardly fair and you know who wins that battle.

for GH3 you need a NASA’s computer for running it

Actually, it’s just NASA’s video card that you need. Definitely don’t bother with GH3 for the PC unless you have a relatively new $200-ish video card, or you will be sorry…

This is also apparent in the Linux movement. All this talk about Linux being ready for the mainstream has struck up when CompizFusion made its debut in distributions like Ubuntu. Granted CompizFusion is pretty snazzy, it’s just eye candy with no real change in the interface.

I have to admit I had this same reaction when I watched Miguel de Icaza demo Paint.NET running experimentally in Mono under Linux – I was distracted and impressed by the CompizFusion 3D desktop effects as he worked!

In my mind both of them suck because they don’t have volume controls that go up to 11…

Didn’t you do any research into FoF? You can mod the thing to have completely different visuals. Someone on the “Fan Forum” made a mod that makes the thing look quite a bit like GH 2. Yes, that’s right, it’s skinnable.


Yeah, it’s still not GH with all the jumping particles and what not… but who cares? Personally I think that stuff is very distracting when you’re trying to concentrate on a difficult piece.

Hi Jeff,

As one of the authors of Frets on Fire, I would like to say that while I agree with you in principle about the importance of presentation, I do not think the particular comparison you bring up is a valid example. The minimalist approach to the user interface of Frets on Fire was a conscious choice, and I think it has served us well. This is, of course, a matter of taste, which is why we designed the outlook of the game to be modifiable to anyone’s liking.

As for the usage of Python, Frets on Fire was in a way my personal experiment on building a complete game using the language. In retrospect, it was not a perfect choice due to its rather non-straightforward performance characteristics, but the quick time from prototype to production almost makes up for that.

I agree with your argument but I also believe that free software shouldn’t use their cost as an excuse. Also, pay for software generally supports users more than free software (obviously there’s exceptions) since they can afford it. It just makes sense if you don’t treat your consumers well they won’t keep paying for it. Even Microsoft treats their top tier customers exceptionally well.

Also, I shouldn’t have focused on the look aspect I meant to relate it to design. But aesthetics plays a part in design because the look provides subtle cues for the user on how to properly interact with the app. Just look at most of Apple’s apps and tell me that they’re not intuitive. Then look at most Unix/Linux apps and tell me that you don’t have to be a developer to understand what’s going on. Unix/Linux may have a better code base, but to the end user that doesn’t matter.

The corrolary to this rule (which is too true) is that don’t make your demo look too good either. Management will think its done and expect it to be up and running in a few weeks! Keep in mind that any non-programmer who looks at your wares has no effing idea how it works. The only thing they have any grasp of is the UI.

And I ask you, if you showed a typical 15 yo boy the FoF interface and the GH3 interface which would he want to play? That’s all that matters. Good gameplay makes a game great, but appealing UI (to those 15 yo boys) is what makes money.

From these pictures, Frets on Fire looks a little more friendly and WII-like. I can’t decide which I’d rather play from this, certainly some effort have indeed gone in FoF.

Obligatory TheDailyWTF link:

We had our office Christmas party today (I work for a company that produces music software, and most employees are musicians), and one of the highlights was a big plasma screen with Rock Band (part of the Guitar Hero series) on PS3. It drew a crowd as it has an incredibly polished interface and has that ‘wow’ factor. I could not envisage a massive crowd sat round a PC running the open source equivalent. No disrespect at all to the makers of FoF, but the appeal of Rock Band/Guitar Hero is the animation, and the whizzes and bangs. It doesn’t come across from the static screenshot just how engaging the game is.

Having said all that, there’s a horrific bug if you’re playing with the drum pads, where you have to play ahead of the beat. It was only the conductors in the company who could actually do it…

I love the screen shot of GHIII, man look at that baby go! You got some screaming meany as your side kick or avatar, lighting shooting from your frets, your rock meter is completely pegged out, and man LOOK AT ALL THOSE KICKIN AMPS!!!

Then there is FoF, ho hum, sleepy time. Yeah I guess I could go programs some songs, maybe reskin it, maybe even make it LOOK more like the wet dream of a 18 to 20 rock star wanna be.

It seems a bit unfair to compare a game development company that probably spends more on the “look-n-feel” of guitar hero than all of us combined for an entire decade. Does “frets on fire” compete with “guitar hero”?.. absolutely not. it’s likely that are trying to nail down the functionality of the game before tackling the infinitely tough task of how to make it visually appealing. Your critique seems a bit like kicking puppies.