Playyoo Game Creator: Beachball of Death


Here’s a link to a game my son Bobby and I created called “Beachball of Death”. Mac users, especially early Leopard adopters, will know all too well about this frustrating phenomenon. You’re hip deep into a project, have been lax on saving, and bam… it rears it’s spinning ugly head for all eterninty (or until you force quit)… Anyway, here’s our quick description of the game:

    Don’t you hate it when the beachball of death ruins your day? Play now to get even on Mac OS X 10.5!

While this is very tongue-in-cheek and the game is kind of lame, it clearly demostrates the power of access and general enablement that Playyoo is creating for the everyday gamer with an idea. Specifically, Playyoo’s Flex powered Game Creator allows users to create their own simple games in six different generic gaming scenarios. While we chose the “Pong” genre, there is a variety of puzzles and other game formats to choose from. Our example took literally a half-hour from idea (it was all his, he’s already scarred by the beachball at a ripe 8 years old) to viewing and playing on a mobile phone.


The interface does a good job letting the user know what steps to follow in order to complete the game, however, we did come across a few instances where the screen went all white untill we clicked blindly on the page (state management in Flex?). All in all, it’s amazing that this engine can publish reliable Flash Lite compatible swf content through a web interface. The business model is also sound as well as you can only gain access to your content, whether created with Game Creator or uploaded, through Playyoo via your mobile’s net connection leaving all sorts of advertising opportunties (see $$$). Now the flash developer in me finds this archaic… where’s my swf??? But to the everday user they get what they want which is access to great content. It’s also an interesting solution to the rights management and piracy concerns I’ve heard rumblings about in the Flash Lite community as of late.

Lastly, a reminder of the contest they have running with big cash prizes. You have up until the 15th of February 2008 to enter your games in the contest and every game you make in Game Creator or otherwise is automatically entered in the contest. So get cranking!


Mobile Devices + Feature Length Films


Watching this frank video of avant-garde filmmaker David Lynch on movie-watching on cellphones has raised a question that’s been in the back of my head for quite awhile. Can you truly enjoy feature-length films on a portable device with a comparable impact to what you would experience in a theatre? We’re talking 100 minutes plus here people. There’s no question that with battery life and movie compression that you could, but the bigger question is would you really want to?

I first had this dilema when I had a long flight to Geneva in 1999. With my Powerbook G3, complete with DVD drive and PCIMCA Mpeg card (a $700 upgrade at the time) I popped in the recently released Matrix DVD. The whole plane noticed since the line for the bathroom was two rows away. I was inundated with questions, oohs, and aahs. But I remember being immediately concerned that I would somehow miss some of the impact of such a great movie on that measly 12.1″ screen. I found that in the following years, I would only watch movies that I didn’t really care about on plane rides, saving the Oscar contenders for my home theater. There was something sacred about the environment you consumed the medium in then, and there still is now, even with technology allowing us to consume it virtually anywhere, anytime.

Mobile devices are great for quick format videos like you get at youTube. Those funny, viral, quick laugh or gross-out videos are perfectly tailored for when you have a little downtime. I’ll even allow for a half-hour sitcom like the Simsons being worth it in some situations. But only a masochist would want to squint their way through Apocalypse Now on an iPhone.

I think crazy Dave is right on. I really think gadget geeks have a parallel with that age old question of why a dog would lick itself you know where. So why would you watch a 3-hour movie on a 3″ screen? ‘Cause you can dawg! ‘Cause you can!

Bad usability: Not just online

I recently happened upon this challenging puzzle trying to visit my local grocery store.


Things that immediately pop out:

    The word “Enter” spelled in RED
    The RED “No Smoking Sign”…
    The RED “These premises are being watched” sticker…

I mean, they might as well hang a “Do not Enter” sign there instead, maybe some orange cones on the sides. I stopped dead in my tracks when faced with this. It wasn’t until I read them that I understood that this was indeed an entrance. But I shouldn’t have to, it should be glaringly obvious that something is an entrance, just like when something is a “Place Order” button on your website. It reminded me of a seminar I saw by Brendan Dawes a few years back about how easy it is to make easy things difficult to understand without putting the proper thought into them. He showed some examples far worse (and funnier) than the one above.

The same can be applied to information architecture and usability on-line no matter what front-end technology you use (Flex, Flash, Html, Silverlight, etc..). It’s not often clear when usability has been executed well, and that’s usually the proof that it has been. It’s only when you realize that things are a challenge to interact with is when usability becomes noticeable.

It’s like I’ve said before, your customer’s are just trying to give you their money, so don’t make it harder by creating obstacles for them to do so. Customer interaction and experience is crucial to doing business online, so spend the time to get it right!