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Feature: Playtesting Swords & Soldiers On PS3

Jeroen van der Heijden with Dutch usability research firm Valsplat explains how his company playtested the upcoming PS3 version Ronimo's WiiWare-derived RTS Swords & Soldiers, in a
July 28, 2010
Bringing a game tailored for the Wii Remote over to PlayStation 3 and its dual-stick controller is a tricky challenge, one that developer Ronimo had to figure out first-hand with the side-scrolling WiiWare real-time strategy game Swords & Soldiers. In a new Gamasutra feature, Jeroen van der Heijden with Dutch usability research company Valsplat explained how his firm playtested the changes Ronimo made for the PS3 version of Swords & Soldiers, which on Wii relied heavily on point-and-click functionality not available on Sony's console. "The main goal was to test the usability of the in-game controls and HUD. Since the quick and semi-conscious point-and-click is arguably more difficult with the traditional Sony controller than with Wii Remote, Ronimo had to rely less on aiming and more on button combinations," said van der Heijden. "The new controls also required a new HUD," he added. "Therefore, we wanted to know if the button mapping and screen display info felt intuitive enough to leave precious mental resources for snap strategic decisions in a chaotic battle." Gameplay testing was only part of the task, as Valsplat secondarily wanted to determine the usability of the game's menu. "Point-and-click was replaced by tabbing navigation using the right analog stick. Would it work? Can players adjust settings, and easily start a game? Do they read and understand the popup text explaining a menu item?" The usability company dipped into its database of 5,500 people, narrowed that down to 140 people to email, and then the company selected seven males and one female who would play the game under the watchful cameras and eye-tracking devices in Valsplat's usability lab. To see what changes Ronimo made based on the usability data and how Valsplat gathered that information, read the full Gamasutra feature, available now.

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