Constructive Criticism pt1 - Game Design and User Experience Considerations

DISCLAIMER

  1. I am well aware that the game is translated and managed by a localised team, and that the original game is the source of all mechanics and design choices. However, as I do not speak Japanese and I am a player of the Americanised version, and a resident of Europe, I'll post my feedback here and hope to be heard and considered.

  2. There is no disrespect intended in the following post below. The text may contain dry humour or sarcasm, as the text was intended for my fellow industry professionals and not necessarily for the general public, with Studio Lounge Chat in mind and nothing too serious. I will try to refrain from sounding offensive, but I'm an Eastern European barbarian, I come from a different culture and I do not always necessarily resonate with what's considered Good Manners for an American individual. I'm trying, honest.

  3. All my criticism is intended to be factual and to the point. I may be wrong, because I'm human. Y'know, Human Error. There we go, I'm getting sarcastic already.

Anyway, here goes the critique.

USER EXPERIENCE PITFALLS

  • Invasive Pop-Ups. A lot of the time you have no idea why your Mouse/Controller stopped working, only to notice that there is a small text popup of an npc addressing you in the middle of doing something. Other times you are trying to progress from A to B and get a sudden exposition to a tutorial which may or may not be clear or relevant to you at the time. This is a fairly uncomfortable design.

SUGGESTION: Add a questionmark icon next to major features that offers said popup. Make the text of this popup as clear and easy to follow as possible. This game has many features, several of which come with their own risk to your enjoyment of the game.

  • Unclear Tooltips. Some Quest Briefing Tooltips tell you which Quest to choose. Others do not. This is a major issue for new players, whom you want to effectively teach how to successfully play your game rather than make them feel lost and confused. I'm not the only one who's killed an enemy type a dozen times, never to receive credit for that enemy type, because I wasn't in the right version of the area instance.

SUGGESTION: Since there are various versions of the same zone, such as Expedition: Forest, ARKS Missions in the Forest, Advanced Quest: Forest etc, following the custom that some Tooltips tell you what level each enemy you must hunt down needs to be, and rarely even which mission to take, it would be amazing if all mission Tooltips informed you of this, even in the Client Orders list.

  • Confirm/Decline Inconsistency. Yes, No, Cancel. As old as information technologies. Yet in many cases, especially when you do not have the required item space for a purchase at an NPC store, your OK/Not Ok button is basically the same and you are caught in a circular loop of "Yes. Cancel. Yes I do want to cancel. No I'm not saying no, I'm saying yes. Wait, I said no, I want to exit the menu, why am I in the menu I'm exiting?" which is often a good way to have a user tear their hair out when they are pressed for time by Mission- / Event-Timers and nagging teammates.

SUGGESTION: A good way to resolve user experience with menu confirmation is to have a Yes Button and a No Button. Action1 and Action2, A and B on the XBone Controller, or whatever you want to call it. That way I won't be pressing "OK" to Cancel something when I actually mean "NO" and just want to backpedal out of a menu to quickly make room in my inventory.


GENERAL GAMEPLAY PROBLEMS

  • Skill Tree. The game tells you that you do not have a Reset Pass and then it is not sold. In a game where you are given a handful of classes with a bunch of powers and skills, you will experiment. This is human nature. To not be able to readily reset your skills in an RPG, is a massive setback. This is something the more prominent games recognised twenty years ago and have been an integral part of the genre ever since.

SUGGESTION: Make Skill Tree Resets cost SG. 5SG per point, 200 for the whole tree. Or something, your game, you decide the prices.

  • Matchmaking. Currently this game is a Massively Singleplayer game, not an MMO. The option where you can join an ongoing party may put you into a group that's been at it for a while, or even with someone who does not even want you as an ally.

SUGGESTION: A matchmaking system would be divine.


ECONOMY ISSUES - Facts and Solutions

Bots show up where there is an economic imbalance in a game. Many excellent games have had them and several of these excellent games vanquished them by tackling this pressing matter. While it's a hard pill to swallow, Bots are an illness borne of a game's own design flaws. Consider them CyberFleas. If your pooch is not given a bath, it will get fleas. If your game is exploitable, exploiters will swarm it.

1. Limited Time Items - These are the harshest offenders of imbalancing the game. When the average mortal can make about five million in any reasonable time frame, and there are items costing ninety million, you know that "gold sellers" will be having a lot of fun leeching off your economy. SOLUTION: Make a full time Cash Shop that always sells every piece. People will still buy, and the market won't crumble.

2. Cost Inefficient Systems - Crafting with RNG eating more resources than you can reasonably make is another pitfall of the genre that older, wiser games have solved. Rather than having resource caps and limits, introduce time limits which can be shortened or absolved with player currency. It takes 5 days to forge your Nemesis weapon but with 500 SG you can make it happen instantly.

3. Player Currency - Open Markets are risky, but there are games out there that do it well because they limit acquisition rate and acquisition requirement. Look at how Warframe's Platinum functions. Remove AC, make SG a Player Currency.

The biggest truth is: Time is money, make the game work that way.

Addendum

Good ways to get rid of Bots:

  • Strengthen the registration process. This is not something that I can discuss because I do not understand the underlying code. But it seems that making accounts for PSO2NA is too easy and too quick.
  • Disallow the use of Special Characters other than ",.()?!' in your chatbox.
  • Filter repetition with an algorithm that detects posting patterns and warn, then mute player characters whose posting is read as "spam" for 30 to 300 seconds depending on severity and frequency.
  • Filter word combinations with an algorithm that reads and reacts to the combinations of "Sum of Money, Website, Meseta" etc. I'm sure there are tables out there for this already. Basic devtools at this point.
  • Hire active game masters if you can afford to as a last resort, if it's more economical to cover every timezone than to get code written.

EDIT: Item previews need to be clearer. Ctrl+Clicking a piece of Basewear or Innerwear in your inventory should display it on your character. Currently there is no way to preview innerwear.

EDIT2: The market search function is errenous. It works on a preconcept list rather than searching for what exists, so certain items cannot be searched for based on keyword, not even if you know the category.

@S2-s-Flask-Abuser

Matchmaking. Currently this game is a Massively Singleplayer game, not an MMO. The option where you can join an ongoing party may put you into a group that's been at it for a while, or even with someone who does not even want you as an ally. SUGGESTION: A matchmaking system would be divine.

You are actually able to manually join a party / session from the quest counter. You will get a list of parties which you can join when you do so.

Party leaders do have the option to customize aspects of their session, including who can join or not.

Matchmaking would be good as an option, but keeping with serious tradition, being able to join up with anyone from a list of sessions should not go away completely and its something that a few other games, Monster Hunter World included, do to this day.

@Leonkh99 Don't misunderstand, I do not want this function to go away. The main issue is with AQs, where sniping a team is serious tedious business especially as the menu kicks you all the way back out if the party already started, but it does not tell you that it has until it kicks you all the way out of the menu.

Clicking through it once or twice is whatever but the other day I did it 27 times before I gave up.

No, I'm not patient, just stubborn.

@S2-s-Flask-Abuser Then perhaps how about a layout like this:

QUEST COUNTER

Matchmake

  Multi-Block Matching

  Same-Block Matching

Search Party

  Search by Parameter

  	<You set the conditions to search for the party, default parameters are very open ensuring that nearly every party is listed>

  Search by Friend

  Search by Alliance

  Search by Recent

Create Party

Side note, when creating the above I didn't yet take into account the Multi Party Sessions but I figured it would be a good time to bring up how creating parties worked in the original Alpha 1:

<Quest Category> alt text

<Pick Quest> alt text

<Pick Multi Party Session to Join> alt text The buttons above let you create a new Multi-Party Session

<Join a Party within that Session> alt text

@Leonkh99 Whatever works. Item previews need to be better too, added that to the list.