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Pillars of Eternity

April 1st, 2015 by Steve | Comment on Pillars of Eternity | Filed in Video Games

Pillars of Eternity logoI’m super pumped to be playing the game Pillars of Eternity over the past week.

For those not familiar, Obsidian Entertainment organized a Kickstarter campaign back in 2012 to create a spiritual successor to legendary computer role-playing games (CRPGs) Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and Planescape: Torment. To say the Kickstarter was a success would be a wild understatement. They were targeting $1.1 million, but wound up getting over $4 million!

I was very quick to join the campaign. To me, the high-point in computer role-playing was the Baldur’s Gate series, particularly the second game. There was a string of outstanding games cut from that same cloth, like the Icewind Dale series, Knights of the Old Republic series and Jade Empire.

At long last, Obsidian released Pillars of Eternity last week and I’ve been playing the hell out of it since.

If I had to sum it up in one phrase, it’s like Baldur’s Gate II on crack. For those who enjoyed those old games, the controls and interface are immediately familiar. Muscle memory kicked in immediately and I found myself navigating through the game with ease.

The game is beautiful, from settings to character portraits. I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface – there looks like there is a ton of content! I ought to be immersed in the world of Eora for a very long time.

My verdict after the first several hours of play is that it’s an awesome game and a must-have for CRPG fans.

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The never-dying “number of clicks” argument

March 18th, 2015 by Steve | Comment on The never-dying "number of clicks" argument | Filed in user experience

Every so often, I still hear the “above the fold” line – that tired, ancient lament by people who forget about conventions like scrolling. I must not be alone because the blog post (There is No Fold!) I made about it a couple years ago is among the most trafficked pages on this site.

Well, another one that we UXers still have to contend with is the notion that all actions should be achievable in X number of clicks or less, be it one or the storied “3 click rule.”

Though there are compelling cases out there that have long ago disproved this, I think it’s something that’ll never die. Why? Well, it sounds good and noble.

The problem is it’s focusing on the wrong thing, and putting a rigid constraint where it’s not necessary.

What you need to do is make content easy to find and workflows optimized, simple and clear. It doesn’t matter if it takes two clicks or three or five if users can accomplish their intentions without any problems and in a timely fashion.

And of course the best way to confirm that is testing the experience with users.

I felt compelled to vent about this because I heard the number of clicks mantra just this week.

For those needing further examples, check out these tried and true articles:

Stop Counting Clicks (UX Booth)

Myth #2: All pages should be accessible in 3 clicks (UX Myths)

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Graduate School!

March 11th, 2015 by Steve | Comment on Graduate School! | Filed in Personal, user experience

I’m pretty stoked to say that I just got accepted into the Masters program in User Experience Design at Kent State University.

It starts in fall of 2015. I’m excited that I’ll get the opportunity to bolster my career in UX via a well-respected program. You of course learn a lot by doing, but there’s something to be said for the discipline and structure of the educational world.

There are several aspects of the program that I’m particularly looking forward, two of them being the focuses on Content Strategy and Research. Both are areas I’ve touched upon many times in my career but have a lot of room to grow. 

I’ll be sharing my experiences along the way. Until then, I’ll just (im)patiently wait to get started!

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Xbox One

February 4th, 2015 by Steve | Comment on Xbox One | Filed in Accessibility Thoughts, Video Games

Taking advantage of one of the great Black Friday deals, I treated myself to an Xbox One back in late November.

It’s been a great experience overall. I played the hell out of Dragon Age Inquisition, and just last week completed it. In addition to WWE 2K15, I’ve logged some time with Far Cry 4, which has been amazing.

Xbox One

Thus far, I haven’t delved much into the accessibility of the Xbox One. I did happen to notice a couple things that could be better.

Being primarily a Mac user, I haven’t had a lot of experience with Windows 8, which the Xbox operating system is based off. Overall, it’s been reasonably intuitive, despite some missteps – most notably it taking me embarrassingly long to figure out where to find Settings.

My main gripe with the interface, and something my wife commented on the very first time she watched me boot up the Xbox, is how small text is in general. Unless I’m missing something, there is no way to increase it either without altering the overall resolution, unlike most modern operating systems across Mac and PC.

I have decent vision (well, decent when I’m wearing my bifocals!) but it can a strain reading a lot of the labels other than the main navigation, unless super close to the television.

That’s been my only real gripe in what’s otherwise been a great first couple months with the system.

I’ll be delving more into the accessibility of the Xbox One!

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Accessibility and Lawsuits

November 5th, 2014 by Steve | Comment on Accessibility and Lawsuits | Filed in Accessibility News

Statue of blindfolded woman holding scales, signifying justice is blindI just read an interesting article from The Wall Street Journal – Accessibility Claims Expected Over Websites.

It cites an agreement worked with with tax resource site H&R Block, the National Federation of the Blind, and the Justice Department.

The article also forecasts more accessibility claims coming out of increased enforcement of accessibility by the Justice Department.

Now, as I’ve vented about before, one must take the comments section of an online article with a giant grain of salt, since the vast majority of them are ill-informed, if not outright ignorant and offensive. Nonetheless, I found most of the comments on this article interesting.

There was a general sense from the posters that such enforcement is unreasonable to “average Joe” developers and will cost them lots of money and stretch their skills to make their web sites more accessible.

H&R Block logoDepending on the complexity of a web site, it certainly can be expensive to retroactively make a site accessible. But it’s also not an excuse to cry foul about accessibility enforcement and blame on “lawyers being lawyers.”

We’ll see what the months and years bring with this story, and what the Justice Department comes up with and enforces, but if it means greater seriousness about making web sites more usable for people with disabilities, then it sure feels like a potentially positive direction.

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