Game Usability Review

Competitive Assessment, Expert Review


Konami revived a classic game from Nintendo when releasing Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. We explain to clients that QA (Quality Assurance) is similar to testing code for bugs, while user-experience (UX) research is similar to testing a game’s design.

Our prior research indicates that game players move through early phases of learning the game interface and basic game controls early on in the game, transitioning to a later phase of more advanced strategy development. These phases correlate to the comparison between QA (basic usability) and UX (more advanced user-experience) research. Again, while Konami excelled at teaching players basic game usability and showing them how to play, the latter felt as if it was left to the wayside.

In the case of Castlevania, the gameplay experience often resulted in button-mashing, where advancement in the game required a sore thumb from tapping the controller rather than formulating strategies to use in-game tools to overcome enemies. The latter (ability to create and test strategies) requires a game design quite different than what was found in Castlevania, where overcoming enemies was typically achieved through rounds of dodging an enemy’s very predictable AI followed by some strikes (before the next dodge was required). Read More →


Castlevania: Lords of Shadow highlights the difference between usability and user-experience research. While QA did a great job with basic usability, effectively teaching the game players how to play, they failed at the overall user-experience in the game.

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