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Heuristics for Tabletop Games

Christina A. K
offel

DIPLOMARBEIT
05/1/0305/013
eingereicht am
Fachhochschul-Masterstudiengang

Digitale Medien
in Hagenberg

im September 2007

c Copyright 2007 Christina A. Koel



Alle Rechte vorbehalten

ii

Erkl
arung
Hiermit erkl
are ich an Eides statt, dass ich die vorliegende Arbeit selbststandig und ohne fremde Hilfe verfasst, andere als die angegebenen Quellen
und Hilfsmittel nicht benutzt und die aus anderen Quellen entnommenen
Stellen als solche gekennzeichnet habe.

Hagenberg, am 5. September 2007

Christina A. K
oel

iii

Contents
Erkl
arung

iii

Preface

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Kurzfassung

viii

Abstract

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1 Introduction
1.1 Thesis Outline . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2 Tabletop Games
2.1 Board Games . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.2 Video Games . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.3 Denition of Tabletop Games . . . . . .
2.3.1 Display Methods . . . . . . . . .
2.3.2 Input Devices . . . . . . . . . . .
2.3.3 Classication of Tabletop Games
2.4 Survey of Existing Tabletop Games . . .
2.4.1 Tabletop Platforms . . . . . . . .
2.4.2 Independent Setups . . . . . . .

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3 Tabletop Games and Evaluation


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3.1 Usability Studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
3.2 Heuristic Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
3.3 Evaluation of Tabletop Games . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
4 Evolution of the Suggested Heuristics
4.1 Existing Heuristics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.1.1 Game Heuristics for Tabletop Applications
4.2 Evaluation Setup . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.1 Games to be Evaluated . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.2 Evaluation Environment . . . . . . . . . . .
4.2.3 Evaluators . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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CONTENTS

4.3
4.4
4.5
4.6

4.2.4 Evaluation Process . . . . .


First Set of Heuristics . . . . . . .
Second Set of Heuristics . . . . . .
Third Set of Heuristics . . . . . . .
Results of the Heuristic Evaluation

5 Final Heuristics
5.1 Cognitive Workload . . . . . . . .
5.1.1 Categorization . . . . . . .
5.1.2 Explanation . . . . . . . . .
5.2 Challenge . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.1 Categorization . . . . . . .
5.2.2 Explanation . . . . . . . . .
5.3 Reach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.3.1 Explanation . . . . . . . . .
5.4 Examinability . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.4.1 Categorization . . . . . . .
5.4.2 Explanation . . . . . . . . .
5.5 Adaptability . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.5.1 Categorization . . . . . . .
5.5.2 Explanation . . . . . . . . .
5.6 Interaction . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.6.1 Categorization . . . . . . .
5.6.2 Explanation . . . . . . . . .
5.7 Level of Automation . . . . . . . .
5.7.1 Explanation . . . . . . . . .
5.8 Collaboration and Communication
5.8.1 Categorization . . . . . . .
5.8.2 Explanation . . . . . . . . .
5.9 Feedback . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.9.1 Categorization . . . . . . .
5.9.2 Explanation . . . . . . . . .
5.10 Comfort of the Physical Setup . . .
5.10.1 Categorization . . . . . . .
5.10.2 Explanation . . . . . . . . .

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6 Conclusions and Future Work


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6.1 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
6.2 Future Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
A DVD Contents
75
A.1 Master Thesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
A.2 Forms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
A.3 Literature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75

CONTENTS
A.4 Videos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A.5 Websites . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Bibliography

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Preface
The present thesis was developed as a masters project in the Digital Media graduate program at the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences
Hagenberg.
This work would not have been possible without the help and support
of many people, whom I would like to thank. First of all my gratitude goes
to my supervisor, Michael Haller, who supported me in a great way. I also
want to thank Jeremiah Diephuis, who was patient enough to correct my
English. Furthermore, my thankfulness is dedicated to Christoph Richter,
who was so kind to support me with his professional knowledge in the eld
of usability.
Additionally I want to thank all the volunteers that participated in my
heuristic evaluation and everybody who contributed to my thesis by the
means of information, papers, pictures and valuable input.
Last but not least I want to thank my parents Anna and Walter for their
support in all possible forms and my boyfriend Wolfgang for his superhuman
patience, his feedback and his encouragement. I love you guys.
For aunt Hedy.

vii

Kurzfassung
Augmentierte Tabletop-Spiele schlieen die technologische L
ucke zwischen
gew
ohnlichen Brettspielen und Videospielen. Diese neue Art von Spielen
er
onet eine groe Vielfalt an moglichen Unterhaltungssystemen.
Mit dieser Entwicklung steigt aber auch die Notwendigkeit der Evaluierung der Gebrauchstauglichkeit (Usability) von Tabletop-Spielen. Die vorliegende Arbeit pr
asentiert ein umfassendes Set von Heuristiken zur Evaluierung dieser hybriden Brettspiele. Es umfasst alle Facetten, die TabletopSpiele bieten: Gameplay und Gamestory, das virtuelle Interface und die
speziellen Grundvoraussetzungen, die augmentierte Tabletop-Spiele mit sich
bringen.
Die Heuristiken bez
uglich Gameplay und Gamestory wurden auf der Basis umfangreicher Literaturrecherche aus bereits existierenden Heuristiken
zur Evaluierung von Videospielen erarbeitet. F
ur jene Heuristiken, welche
die speziellen Voraussetzungen von augmentierten Tabletop-Spielen betreffen, wurden vier verschiedene Iterationen entwickelt. Um die Anwendbarkeit
und den Nutzen der Heuristiken festzustellen, wurde die dritte Version der
Heuristiken in einer formalen heuristischen Evaluierung getestet. Die Ungereimtheiten, die w
ahrend dieses Prozesses gefunden wurden, konnten eliminiert werden. Die Ergebnisse bildeten die Basis f
ur die letzte Version der
Heuristiken, die in dieser Arbeit vorgestellt werden.

viii

Abstract
Since the late 1990s researchers started to investigate augmented tabletop
games that are bridging the gap between traditional board games and video
games. New types of hybrid games are developed, opening a wide variety of
possible entertainment systems.
With this development the necessity to evaluate the usability of the designed tabletop games increases. The present thesis introduces a comprehensive set of heuristics designed for the evaluation of tabletop games. They
contain all facets oered by tabletop games, such as game play and game
story, virtual interface and the special conditions of augmented tabletop
games.
The heuristics concerning game play and game story are retrieved by
extensive literature review on existing work in the eld of video games evaluation. For the heuristics regarding the special conditions of augmented
tabletop games, four dierent iterations have been developed by the author.
To test the applicability and the usefulness of the heuristics, the third
set has undergone a formal heuristic evaluation. The ambiguities discovered
during this process have then been claried and the ndings have founded
the basis of the nal heuristics introduced in this thesis.

ix

Chapter 1

Introduction
Over the last decade the video game industry has experienced a boom and
new digital game halls have been introduced and have gained in popularity.
New types of games have come into existence, and new interaction methods
and input devices have been included into game play. With this growing
number of applications, a sound basis for the evaluation of these systems
is also required. Due to the wide variety of possible applications no general
guidelines or denitions can be assumed. This situation applies to the eld of
pervasive gaming as well as to tabletop applications and augmented tabletop
games, a hybrid form of video games and traditional board games.
In [55] the missing knowledge of which kind of application should be used
with which kind of tabletop setup is claimed to be one of the major problems
in tabletop applications. This is also the case for the eld of tabletop gaming.
Again, there is no standard conguration for either tabletop applications,
such as augmented workspaces or for augmented tabletop games. Therefore
most of the time software developers have to design their own setup before
designing a game. This leads to ve major motivations for the development
of tabletop games:
To test the possibilities of a known system.
To experiment with/develop a new system.
To test interaction methods.
To test the collaboration of people using tabletop systems.
To develop a game.
The latter is the least applied reason for developing augmented tabletop
games. Most papers researched for this thesis had the main objective to
develop a game for research intentions and not for the purpose of the game
itself.
Because of their novel state, tabletop games are mostly developed in
research facilities by researchers specialized in engineering. Due to their ed1

CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION

ucation they are not trained in human factors and therefore are not familiar
with the correct procedures of evaluations. To facilitate the evaluation process, this thesis will introduce heuristics for the evaluation of tabletop games.
Heuristics are considered a discount usability inspection method, since they
enable fast and cost-ecient detection of usability problems. The presented
set of heuristics should form a well-grounded basis for the evaluation of current augmented tabletop games. During the development of the heuristics,
several iterations have been performed. Altogether four dierent sets have
been designed and will be introduced. Furthermore, existing heuristics for
the evaluation of video games will also be reviewed. Nevertheless the heuristics are kept general and can be rened for dierent applications.

1.1

Thesis Outline

After a short introduction to board games, video games and augmented


tabletop games and their advantages and disadvantages in chapter 2 the
employed display methods and input devices are described. Furthermore an
overview of the existing tabletop games and tabletop engines is also provided. Chapter 3 presents a brief introduction to evaluation and places special emphasis on the issue of evaluations in tabletop gaming and heuristic
evaluation. In chapter 4 a survey of existing heuristics for the evaluation
of video games is given and the heuristics relevant for tabletop games are
summarized. Additionally these heuristics are critically reviewed. Furthermore the rst three sets of heuristics for the evaluation of tabletop games
are introduced and critical feedback is given. In addition the applicability of
the heuristics will be described using an exemplary heuristic evaluation and
the results of this evaluation will be presented. The nal version of the suggested heuristics will be introduced in chapter 5. A summary, nal remarks
and future work can be found in chapter 6.

Chapter 2

Tabletop Games
Traditional board games were introduced centuries ago and since then they
have enjoyed great popularity among all age groups and genders. In the
course of time, dierent genres of board games were developedall enhancing their social aspects. Compared to this, video games were introduced
only in recent time but nevertheless currently entertain millions of people
by providing them adventurous stories and great graphics.
Although video games and board games seem to dier from each other
and appear to have very diverse strengths, it is possible to combine the
advantages of both in one game. Therefore we are facing a new generation
of hybrid board games such as Comino (gure 2.1).
The following sections will give a very brief overview of the properties, ad-

Figure 2.1: Comino, an example for a hybrid board game (cf. section 4.2.1).
Picture courtesy of Jakob Leitner.

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

vantages and disadvantages of board, video and augmented tabletop games.


The emphasis will be placed on important characteristics such as the effect of the game type on the players communication and collaboration. The
aspects mentioned will not address the quality of the games, only certain
social features will be discussed. Furthermore distinct properties of tabletop
games will be described, a classication will be introduced and a selected
number of existing games presented.

2.1

Board Games

The oldest board games such as Senet [20, 48] date back to 2000 BC. Since
then board games have been played all over the world and have increased in
popularity, especially since the beginning of the Second World War [10].
In general, board games are played by two or more persons sitting in
a relaxed environment around a normal table [34], as depicted in gure
2.2. Sometimes these game sessions are arranged as special social events,
where friends meet to spend time with each other [30]. There are even game
conventions where players from all over the world come together to play.
Especially when talking about role playing games, big social events have
become important. According to [30] the social environment connected to
board games is responsible for their success.

(a)

(b)

Figure 2.2: Typical image of friends playing a traditional board games: (a)
Ludo and (b) Activity.

The exceptional social situation [63] in board games is not just created
by the players sitting around the table; it is also created by the players interaction with each other and the game board. When players sit together they
are able to observe facial expressions and gestures face-to-face, which allows
players to draw conclusions from the opponents intentions [15, 30]. Additionally the setup motivates people to talk with each other, which enhances
communication. Due to the nature of the game played, competitiveness and
collaboration are also encouraged, which leads to a rich experience for the

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

players [30]. Generally, most board games are designed in a non-oriented way
(each player has the same view of the board) and are very portable because
of their low-tech setup.
In addition to the social aspects of board games, aesthetics is also an
incentive for playing board games. Some games, especially war games employ hand-crafted and hand-painted sculptures [30], such as the Warhammer
series1 . In this game players do not only enjoy playing the game but also appreciate the opportunity to customize their sculptures or collect them [10].
Furthermore the (mostly simple) rules of the game can be exibly adapted
to the demands of the players [15].
Although board games are very adaptable to the users, they are restricted in terms of immersion. The interaction between the player and the
game board is limited to the constraints of the physical playing pieces itself
(e.g. board size or number of cards) and all possible permutations of such
games are limited to the playing eld of the game board [15, 30]. Expansion packs and custom-made rules (e.g. for kids or house-rules as applied in
UNO2 ) help to create new versions of an already known game. Hence the
constraints only apply to the physical components of board gamesthere
is no limit to the players imagination [15]. Although board games provide
numerous possibilities for game play, they will be unable to reach the visual
and acoustic possibilities provided by video games [30].

2.2

Video Games

Video games can be distinguished into computer games and console games.
Computer games are traditionally played on personal computers while video
games are usually played using so called game consoles such as the Xbox
3603 [44]. Throughout this thesis the term video games will be used for both,
computer games and console games.
Video games were invented in the 1940s as simple games with lowresolution graphics and simple game play (a short history and a categorization of video games can be found in [20]). State-of-the-art video games
typically employ the latest technology and provide realistic graphics and
sound eects. Additionally, the target group of video games has advanced
to dierent age groups, nationalities and genders [62].
Generally, video games require the player to sit or stand in front of a
game console or a personal computer (see gure 2.3). Due to the spatial restrictions (limited monitor size, only one keyboard/mouse) most computer
games are played by a single player, eectively making them single user
systems [29, 31, 61]. Until about 10 years ago multi-player video games also
1

http://www.games-workshop.com/, copy on DVD


http://www.pagat.com/invented/uno vars.html, copy on DVD
3
http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/hardware/x/xbox360coresystem/, copy on DVD
2

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

(a)

(b)

Figure 2.3: Users playing (a) console and (b) computer games. As it can be
seen, especially computer games are an isolated activity, even when played
in multi-player mode.

employed split screens and hot seat modes. Using this technology more players were able to play at the same time on one computer (e.g. The Settlers
II4 ). Since computers have become more aordable and ecient and computer networks have spread in recent years, the use of split screen and hot
seat technology has decreased. In case of multi-player games, the users are
spatially separated and located in front of dierent computers, not requiring
them to extensively communicate with each other [29] (cf. sense of awareness). Nevertheless some computer games such as Enemy Territory: Quake
Wars5 or World of Warcraft6 require communication about tactical situations or the further progression of the game.
Although multi-player games encourage the players to communicate, the
level of communication and collaboration cannot be compared to that of
board games. Hence, playing a computer game can be considered an isolated
activity [31]. Nevertheless computer games enable people that are apart
(i.e. from all over the world) to play with each other.
Console games and arcade games do allow multiple users (usually between two and four) to compete against each other. However, console games
require the players to sit next to each other in front of a monitor/TV set
which limits the interaction to player-system [29,34] (see gure 2.3a). Therefore the interpersonal communication is not enhanced [43,61]. Modern game
consoles such as the Nintendo wii7 or the Sony PlayStation 38 allow for different input devices other than commonly used game controllers [43]. This
leads to richer interaction with the system and also enhances collaboration/competition between the players. However, the players are still focused
4

http://www.bluebyte.net/ger/products/siedler2/, copy on DVD


http://www.enemyterritory.com/, copy on DVD
6
http://www.wow-europe.com/, copy on DVD
7
http://www.nintendo-europe.com/NOE/en/GB/system/wii topic1.jsp, copy on DVD
8
http://uk.playstation.com/ps3/hardware/, copy on DVD
5

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

on the interaction with the system rather than on the interpersonal communication/collaboration.
The content of video games can be very diverse and immersive for the
player, allowing for complex environments and realistic situations. Tedious
tasks such as counting of points is usually performed by the computer. Additionally, the game makes use of acoustic and optic enhancements and can
be interrupted, saved and resumed later [15].

2.3

Definition of Tabletop Games

Trends have shown eorts to bridge the gap between traditional board games
and computer games [4], answering the demand for socially rich gaming experiences. This is accomplished by augmenting physical games with digital
aspects and digital games with real playing pieces (i.e. tangible objects) [62].
These so-called pervasive games are played in human environments such
as parks, schools or are integrated in everyday objects such as furniture
(cf. [5,26]). Augmented tabletop gamesor simply called tabletop games or
augmented board games, form a special section of pervasive games and pervasive games can be categorized as augmented reality (cf. [1]). Augmented
reality works with real objects and environments that are augmented with
virtual objects [7]. Hence tabletop games can be classied as a part of augmented reality. This means that there are dierent interaction methods ranging from augmentation using head-mounted displays to simply projecting
images on real objects on the table. The heuristics introduced in chapter 5
only apply to tabletop games which meet the following conditions:
The main display methods are front projection, rear projection and
displays (e.g. no head-mounted displays [9]).
The players are at the same location when playing (e.g. no distributed
gaming as described in [40]).
The main interaction occurs through the table surface (e.g. no common
pervasive/mixed reality games [27] or exertion interfaces [39]).
Tabletop games merge the advantages of traditional board games and
video games [2, 30] (see gure 2.1). They combine the social interaction and
the physical activity of board games with the visual, acoustic and haptic
possibilities of video games [15]. The players sit across the table and are
therefore able to deduct the other players intentions by observing their actions [61]. They are focused on the game board as well as on each other since
certain aspects of a game need discussions. Furthermore the inactive players
can also participate in the game by expressing their opinion or participating
in common actions [61]. Hence the special group dynamics of board games is
maintained. Magerkurth et al. [30] additionally suggest that the game board
should still remain the most important input device.

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

The technical enhancements of the game board allow tasks that are perceived as cumbersome to the players such as shuing cards, building the
game board, watching the rules or counting the points to be taken over by
the computer [30]. Thus, the player is able to fully concentrate on the game
itself (e.g. tactics). Also the size of the game board can be variable and the
players can travel a map which surpasses the tables dimensions [30]. Another advantage taken from video games is the capability to save the status
of the game and resume it later [43]. Private interaction can be realized using PDAs or headsets so that the players get access to information which
is meant for their eyes or ears only [15, 29, 30, 34]. If it is not possible for
the players to meet at the same location, distributed tabletop gaming has
already been introduced (cf. [65]) but as mentioned earlier, these games will
not be treated by the heuristics introduced in this thesis.
The following sections provide a short description of the technical setup usually employed for tabletop games which satisfy the preconditions
stated before. Display methods as well as the employed input devices will
be treated.

2.3.1

Display Methods

The selection of the appropriate display system for tabletop games depends
on various variables such as the game play, the environment, the interaction method and the application area of the game. It should be set up in
a way that it does not disturb the game play. Generally, the display methods employed for tabletop gaming can be assigned to the categories front
projection, rear (or back) projection and built-in diplays.
Front Projection
Front projection or also called tabletop projection utilizes a projection from
above onto a (light) table surface. Figure 2.4 shows an example of a typical
setup of front projection systems.
It consists of a projector mounted above a table surface. Usually the projector is either mounted on the crossbar of two stayers or on the ceiling. The
construction based on stayers is especially susceptible to concussions. Hence
the projection can be moved which might result in the necessity to recalibrate
the system. The resolution of the projection is usually quite lowaround
1024 768 pixels with recent projectors. Generally front projection can be
considered to be the cheapest display method because it does not need an
especially constructed table. An overview of the advantages and disadvantages of front projection when employed for tabletop games is provided in
table 2.1.

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

Figure 2.4: Typical setup of front projection sytems, containing a projector


mounted on a stand above the table surface.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Occlusions (coverage of important information).


Limited gestures (caused by the
possibility of occlusions).
Faulty recognition of markers
(caused by occlusions).
Game board always displayed on
top of the objects.
Strongly dependent on the light
situation.

Cost eective setup.


Easy to build setup.
Scalable image.
Possibility to augment real objects.
Flexible setup (almost every
tracking method can be applied).
Employment of touch-sensitive
surfaces or special position aware
input devices possible.

Table 2.1: Advantages and disadvantages of front projection systems in


respect of augmented tabletop games.

Back Projection
Back projection systems or also called bottom-up projection systems generally consist of a table with a transparent (or semi-transparent) surface,
a projector (resolution 1024 768 pixels) mounted below the table usually projecting onto a mirror which is reecting the image on the back side
of the transparent surface (see gure 2.5). Table 2.2 gives an overview of
advantages and disadvantages of back projection systems.

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

10

Figure 2.5: Typical setup of a back projection sytem, containing a projector


projecting onto a mirror which is mounted below a transparent table surface.

Advantages

Disadvantages

Not highly susceptible to concussions.


Elegant look (technology not visible).
No impact of occlusions (more
natural interaction).

Required minimum height.


Bulky construction (required distance between mirror and projector; uncomfortable positions for
the players).
Not
universally
compatible
(e.g. to the DiamondTouch [12]).
Augmentation is dicult (only
transparent objects).
Dependend on the light situation.

Table 2.2: Advantages and disadvantages of back projection systems in


respect of augmented tabletop games.

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

11

Figure 2.6: The Entertaible setup [63] with an embedded display, which
supports multi-touch and object recognition. The Entertaible is developed
by Philips Research, Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Picture courtesy of Jettie
Hoonhout.

Built-in Displays
Displays embedded in the table surface are another possible display method.
Usually plasma or liquid crystal displays are employed for this kind of tabletop systems. Figure 2.6 shows a typical setup for built-in displays and the
major advantages and disadvantages of this type of setup are shown in table
2.3.
Advantages

Disadvantages

Lower sensitivity to the light situation.


High display quality (brightness
and resolution).
No impact of occlusions (more
natural interaction).
Multiple tracking methods possible (camera and touch technology).
Objects such as drinks can be
placed on large frames.

Limited display size.


Protection is needed for the display.
Limited view-angle of liquid crystal displays.
Very expensive (especially when
using plasma displays).
Augmentation is dicult (only
transparent objects).

Table 2.3: Advantages and disadvantages of back projection systems in


respect of augmented tabletop games.

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

2.3.2

12

Input Devices

Tabletop games open the possibilities for new interaction methods. Not only
mice but also further communication methods and input devices can be
employed. Hence also the players body can become an input device [61].
Corresponding to Scott et al. [55] there are two varying approaches for
using input devices in tabletop computing. First of all they suggest using
dierent devices for dierent types of tasks, whichaccording to them
leads to a more ecient completion of the tasks. The second approach would
be employing one input device for all tasks, which would mean that there is
no switching between devices and also no acclimatisation necessary.
Furthermore the type of interaction can be either simultaneous (concurrent) or based on a turn-taking system [46, 55]. Again, the interaction-type
depends on the kind of application developed.
The following sections provide a short overview of the input devices
mostly employed in tabletop gaming.
Generic Input Devices
Mice, keyboards and game-pads can be understood as generic or traditional
input devices. Corresponding to [61] these devices do not help to create
meaningful gestures because the hands are usually needed for the input
and not moved extensively. Furthermore fellow players are not aware of
the others intentions because they are mainly concentrating on the display.
This phenomenon is called workspace awareness [17, 61], which is mostly
dependent on gestures, gaze and voice.
In [64] several usability studies of dierent input devices on tabletop
systems have been conducted. The results show that mice (and other indirect
input devices) can lead to problems identifying the position of the mousecursor. Especially in multi-user applications players have to keep track of
their own cursor which causes unnecessary cognitive strain. Nevertheless
indirect input methods provide certain advantages such as ergonomics and
avoiding occlusions.
Since tangible applications such as tabletop games should support different and adequate input methods (e.g. tangible objects), keyboards do not
seem appropriate for most of the applications, especially because of the spatially limited construction of the table, which usually includes no space for
the keyboard. Moreover the choice of the input devices is dependent on the
game play. For example, some games such as Pictory [59] (gure 2.7) integrate the keyboard interaction as a basic construct of the game playthe
same applies to game-pads (see Neon Racer [28]).

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

13

Figure 2.7: Pictory [59] uses the keyboard as primary input device.

Pen-based Input Devices


Recently the utilization of pens or styli for tabletop games has increased [16,
25]. According to [64] pen-based systems as well as touch systems allow for
interpersonal interaction through gestures and gaze. Therefore the players
get notied about the opponents intentions more easily.
Pens allow for more natural and direct interaction with the system. Furthermore styli avoid unintentional input through hands or objects placed
onto the table surface. Generally, pen-based input devices can be distinguished into devices that need a special kind of paper or pattern for the
interaction, such as the ANOTO pens (e.g. DP201 (Maxell)9 as shown in
gure 2.8, SU-27W (Nokia)10 and SU-1B (Nokia)11 ) and devices that do not
need them, such as the Activepen (Promethean)12 or scrivo.1 (Plawa)13 .
Touch-Input
The direct and intuitive interaction with the system through touch-input
(the objects are manipulated exactly where they are displayed) leads to
high appreciation by the users [64]. Especially multi-user and multi-touch
systems have proven to be quite appropriate for games. Furthermore touchinput systems enrich the interaction and collaboration between the players
9

http://www.maxell.co.jp/e/products/industrial/digitalpen/index.html, copy on DVD


http://europe.nokia.com/su-27w, copy on DVD
11
http://europe.nokia.com/su-1b, copy on DVD
12
http://www.prometheanworld.com/uk/server/show/nav.1687, copy on DVD
13
http://www.plawa.com/support/downloads/manuals/scrivo1/scrivo1 manual english.pdf
copy on DVD
10

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

14

Figure 2.8: In PenWars the ANOTO pen is used to create tanks and give
them orders (cf. section 4.2.1).

by freeing the players hands for gestures.


Compared to generic input devices such as mice, touch-input enables the
player to detect her cursor-position on the device at any time which further
allows to provide accurate and direct feedback [64]. Another positive aspect
of touch-input is thatdepending on the technology employednot only
ngers, but also pens can be used for the interaction.
Disadvantages of systems operating with touch-technology are a loss in
accuracy when not using a pen, occlusions caused by the hands of the players
[64] and staining of the table surface due to interaction with dirty ngers.
Furthermore, physical objects might inuence the usage of the system such
as beverages or other objects that are placed onto the surface.
The DiamondTouch table14 , which is depicted in gure 2.9 and MS Surface15 are two common examples of touch-input systems. Besides these commercial approaches, Staahl et al. [57] have tried to employ traditional touchsensitive displays that are embedded into the table surface.
Tracked Physical Objects
Tracked physical objects or also called tangible objects are another way of
interaction with the system. Tangible objects allow the users to touch real
objects and manipulate them on the table surface (see gure 2.10). This
makes the interface more intuitive than touch-input since it provides the
possibility to directly interact with objects in 3D.
Furthermore physical objects allow multiple users to interact with the
14
15

http://www.merl.com/projects/DiamondTouch/, copy on DVD


http://www.microsoft.com/surface/, copy on DVD

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

15

Figure 2.9: MERLs DiamondTouch table in use [12].

Figure 2.10: Players interacting with tracked physical objects on the tabletop surface while playing Neon Racer (cf. section 4.2.1).

table at the same time. As in traditional board games, the players need
dierent sets of gurines to play dierent games. Moreover the customized
gurines can be technically enhanced (cf. [2]) and therefore provide the players with additional feedback. Hence, the players only need one table and the
according set of tangible objects to play various dierent games. Generally
it is up to the player to move the objects across the map, but there have
also been approaches for gurines that are moved by the computer using an
array of electromagnets [45].
Until now several dierent tracking techniques have been developed. Optical tracking, mostly using infrared technologies (for example as in [34]), is

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

16

a very popular tracking method. Usually a camera, mounted next to the


projector is capturing the displayed area. The captured image is then undistorted and the objects are recognized (e.g. using infrared lters or markers).
Furthermore also magnetic elds or radio-frequency identication (RFID)
technology as in Tjass [23], Wizards Apprentice [47] and STARS [30] are
employed.

2.3.3

Classification of Tabletop Games

Milgram et al. [37] categorize mixed reality into real environments, augmented reality, augmented virtuality and virtual environments. In [23] a
similar but narrower approach for augmented tabletop games is introduced.
The author of the present thesis proposes to apply the Milgram categorization on tabletop games with a focus on the involvement of virtual and real
objects. Therefore the following six categories can be obtained:
Pure reality board games.
Augmented reality tabletop games.
Mixed reality tabletop games.
Augmented virtuality tabletop games.
Pure virtuality tabletop games.
Further approaches.
The following sections will provide a short description of the essential
points of each category.
Pure Reality Board Games
Pure reality board games are traditional board games as described in section
2.1. This type of game does not contain any kind of computational augmentation. An example of such a game is The Settlers of Catan16 , shown in
gure 2.11.
Augmented Reality Tabletop Games
The central point of augmented reality tabletop games is still the physical
interface, e.g. real playing cards, real board, real tabletop, real bat etc. The
entire interaction is concentrated on the physical part and the basic principles of the game function without electronic interfaces. Games that t into
this category are Tjass [23] and PingPongPlus [18] (see gure 2.12).
16

http://www.catan.com/, copy on DVD

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

17

Figure 2.11: The Settlers of Catan, an example for pure reality board games.

Figure 2.12: PingPongPlus is an example for augmented reality tabletop


games. The picture was taken from [18].

Mixed Reality Tabletop Games


Mixed reality tabletop games integrate the real world as well as the virtual
world. Ideally, a symbiosis between the two worlds is built. The game would
not work without either part. Mixed reality tabletop games that have been
developed so far are Phong [23], False Prophets [34], STARS KnightMage
[2931], STARS Monopoly [2931], MonkeyBridge [3], TetraTetris [8] and
YellowCab [63] (see gure 2.13).

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

18

Figure 2.13: YellowCab played on the Entertaible [63], an example of mixed


reality tabletop games. The Entertaible is developed by Philips Research,
Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Picture courtesy of Jettie Hoonhout.

Figure 2.14: Neon Racer is an example for augmented virtuality tabletop


games. Image taken from http://neonracer.net.

Augmented Virtuality Tabletop Games


The core element of augmented virtuality tabletop games is the virtual interface and the virtual environment. The entire game is played virtually.
This concerns the game board and/or also the interaction methods. Real
objects are merely used to remotely interact with the game, but do not have
a major impact nor are essential to the game play. Moreover the game could

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

19

Figure 2.15: Warcraft III, an example of pure virtuality tabletop games


played on the DiamondTouch table. Picture taken from [61].

Figure 2.16: ApartGame, an example of so-called further approaches for


augmented tabletop games. The picture was taken from http://www.weeblegames.com/thebrath/participaties.htm.

be played without them. Neon Racer [28] (see gure 2.14) is one example
for augmented virtuality tabletop games.
Pure Virtuality Tabletop Games
Pure virtuality tabletop games are common available computer and arcade
games that are played using a tabletop system. These kinds of games completely function without any tangible object. The game is purely virtual

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

20

and either a keyboard or a touch screen is used as input device, such as in


Pictory [59], The Sims [61] and Warcraft III [61] (see gure 2.15).
Further Approaches
In case of further approaches, the applications cannot be distinguished into
the ve previous categories. Although their interaction might be purely virtual, they cannot be considered as traditional computer games. ApartGame
[62] is an example of this kind of games (see gure 2.16).

2.4

Survey of Existing Tabletop Games

The following sections will provide a brief overview of some tabletop games
developed so far. The author of this thesis distinguishes the available games
into tabletop platforms and independent setups. A short description gives
an introduction to the concept of the platform and the games developed.
The informations are based on the contents of the cited papers and more
information can also be obtained from them.

2.4.1

Tabletop Platforms

Tabletop platforms are actual platforms for the development of multiple


tabletop games. In this section the platforms as well as the games developed
for the platforms are described shortly. All games introduced try to unify
the advantages of normal board games and computer games and enhance
the players communication and collaboration.
STARS [2931]: The hardware setup of STARS bases on the principles
of Roomware components as introduced in [58]. The players do not
only have access to public information, moreover private information
is provided by headphones and PDAs. The dynamic game board can
have extensive dimensions (clouded by the fog-of-war) and the major
objects can be rotated towards the active player. Game sessions can
be saved and resumed by putting RFID tags onto the table surface.
The following games have been developed for the STARS platform so
far:
STARS Monopoly (electronically enhanced version of the board
TM
game Monopoly ).
STARS KnightMage (players have to survive in a dungeon and
are leaded by a game master).
Candyland (hybrid village).
Entertaible [63]: The Entertaible was partly built according to the
guidelines from Scott et al. [55] and is using a new touch technology,

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

21

a LCD panel, shape recognition and physical game pieces (see gure
2.17). The Entertaible is mostly light independent and waterproof. The
following games have been developed for this platform so far:
YellowCab (taxi drivers working in Manhattan).
Weathergods (pleasing the gods with goods for rain in the Arabic
savannah).
Others (Scrabble, Soccer, Pong, etc.).

Figure 2.17: The Entertaible [63] is developed by Philips Research,


Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Picture courtesy of Jettie Hoonhout.

ApartGame [62]: ApartGame is a custom-built tabletop gaming


platform for games in public. The surface is divided into 16 sectors
with a circular screen in the middle. The games implemented so far
are mostly adaptions of already existing and well-known computer
games:
Collapse (multi-player cooperation version of Tetris).
Hitando (3 level multi-player competitive game, groups of players
have to hit their color appearing on the screen 15 times in a row).
Others (e.g. Oball, Snake, Sequencer, Memory, Reversi).
DiamondTouch [12]: The multi-touch table, which was originally
built for working purposes, is commercially available since 2001. So
far front projection is needed because of the opaque surface of the
table. The recognition is enabled by an array of antennas that is builtinto the tabletop and the capacitive receivers that are connected to
the players (usually they are sitting on it). Until now, the following
games have been tested and developed for the DiamondTouch table:

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

22

The Sims (adapted version of The Sims17 ).


Warcraft III (adapted version of Warcraft III18 ).
TetraTetris [8] (multi-user Tetris game).
TViews [35]: This platform is suitable for multiple applications such
as picture sorting, web browsing and dierent games. The real-time
multiple object tracking system detects tagged objects (called pucks)
and works on a combination of acoustic sensing and infrared recognition. The following games have been developed so far:
Pente (traditional pente game).
Springlets (improvisation by manipulating virtual springs).

2.4.2

Independent Setups

Independent setups are dened as tabletop installations that have been designed for one specic game and usually are not reusable for other games.
Wizards Apprentice [47]: This game was designed according to
the principles of game design and is related to role-playing games.
The wizard (game-leader) helps his apprentices (players) to defend a
kingdom against evil forces. The interaction occurs through specially
designed gurines and the interaction style is based on normal board
games. Wizards Apprentice is written in Java and the detection of the
gurines and other game elements is through RFID technology.
False Prophets [34]: This setup consists of a tabletop display system
for the depiction of common public information and hand-held devices
for personal and private information for the six players involved. The
detection of the playing pieces is enabled by a custom-built sensor
interface and infrared diodes applied to the gurines. The dynamic
map contains four dierent terrains and the players have to discover
their team members through their movement over the map and the
solving of logic puzzles.
TJass [23]: TJass was designed as an augmented card game, to help
novice and expert players in playing the dicult game Jass. It is supposed to be non intrusive and very transparent by providing assistance
directly on the game board via a TFT display, LEDs and sound. Besides counting and displaying the scores, decision assistance is also
provided using dierent colored LEDs. This prevents the players from
making mistakes and cheating.
17
18

htt://thesims2.co.uk, copy on DVD


http://www.blizzard.com/war3/, copy on DVD

CHAPTER 2. TABLETOP GAMES

23

Phong [23]: Phong was designed according to the game play of the
original game Pong and is played using a real paddle and a virtual
ball. The virtual objects are visualized using a front-projecting system.
Loud speakers allow virtual items to appear more real (e.g. sounds
accompanying the ball). Throughout the game the players can collect
bonuses such as attractors, expulsors or obstacles, which they can place
on the board using a stamp. Furthermore also physical objects using
RFID technology can be placed on the table surface to inuence the
ball.
Pictory [59]: In Pictory the two playing teams have to defend their
castle by taking turns at entering and guessing search keywords. One
team starts by entering a creative search keyword. The opposing team
then gets a set of pictures displayed, which is retrieved by an online
search algorithm from dierent search engines. This team has to guess
the according search term. The only input method for the front projection setup is the keyboard.

Chapter 3

Tabletop Games and


Evaluation
The following chapter will provide a short introduction into usability and
heuristic evaluation, a usability inspection method. Moreover, the issue of
evaluations in connection with tabletop games will be discussed briey.

3.1

Usability Studies

The principles of ergonomics have been introduced in the middle of the 19th
century. They form a scientic discipline treating the system consisting of
human, environment and tasks. Usability should not be understood as a
scientic discipline, but as the quality of a technical system. Moreover it
treats the design of systems according to the ndings of ergonomics. [53]
The usability approach denes a usable system not only as a comfortably usable system, it also states that the system should support the user
in reaching her targets [53]. Hence usability engineering is the methodical
process of creating usability and a usable system [53]. The main goals of usability evaluations are to assess if a system is usable and to discover usability
aws. The so-called usability problems are supposed to identify problems of
the system.
More information about usability and usability inspection methods can
be found in [42].

3.2

Heuristic Evaluation

The term heuristic evaluation was coined in 1990, when Molich and Nielsen
suggested their set of ten heuristics for the evaluation of software applications [38]. Since then heuristics for dierent kinds of applications have been
developed and improved.

24

CHAPTER 3. TABLETOP GAMES AND EVALUATION

25

Heuristic evaluation is commonly considered to be a discount usability


method. According to Nielsen, heuristic evaluation is a very ecient usability method with a good cost-benet ratio, which can be applied early and
repeatedly in the development process [42].
Generally, heuristics can be considered as rules of thumb that describe
the aordances of the users to a particular system and heuristics are formulated more universally than usability guidelines. The quality of heuristics
can be distinguished through the simplicity of assigning the usability issues found to the corresponding heuristic. Should there be ambiguities or
misunderstandings, the heuristics are not formulated properly and therefore
should be re-written [53].
Furthermore it should be up to the evaluator to state whether the conditions are met in a specic situation or not. Hence, the heuristics should
provide enough information and should be formulated clearly enough to enable the evaluator to judge all eventualities of a system [53].
Heuristic evaluations are usually conducted by dierent kinds of evaluators. The evaluators, or also called experts or specialists can be distinguished
into novice users without any experience in this eld or in usability experts,
domain experts and double experts with advanced experience in the eld
of usability as well as the application area of the system. According to [53]
and against previous statements made by Nielsen [41], domain experts are
good evaluators since they not only evaluate the adequacy of a system to
the tasks, but are also able to assess the working process.
During a heuristic evaluation, three to ve specialists inspect a system
and evaluate the observance of the system with recognized and established
usability principles. According to Nielsen, even only one evaluator is better
than none [41], but nevertheless the more evaluators are testing a system,
the better. The number of errors discovered signicantly increases with the
rst three evaluators and it is said that most of the usability issues can
be detected employing three to ve experts (see gure 3.1). Nevertheless
Faulkner [13] gives a critical review on the prots of a higher number of
evaluators.
For traditional single-user applications, as described in [42], only one
evaluator at a time is supposed to systematically inspect the system. The
inspectors go through the system several times (at least two times) to discover major and minor usability problems. The problems are either written
down by the evaluator herself or verbalized to another person present during the evaluation process [41]. Sometimes usability checklists facilitate the
evaluation process.
Depending on the type of system that is tested, the evaluation process
can take between one to two or even more hours [41]. Afterwards, the discovered problems are collected and eventually debrieng sessions are held.
At the end, the list including all found usability problems is given back to
the evaluators in order to rank the severity of the found problems [42].

CHAPTER 3. TABLETOP GAMES AND EVALUATION

26

Figure 3.1: The ratio between evaluators employed and usability problems found, as described in [41]. Dierent evaluators discover dierent problems; hence 3-5 evaluators are supposed to
nd the majority of usability issues. The picture is based on
http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/heuristic matrix.gif.

Heuristic evaluations do not cover all possible usability problems and


one big disadvantage is that the evaluation does not provide ideas on how to
x the problems found. Nevertheless heuristic evaluation allows to evaluate
systems early in the design process, since the evaluator is not using the
system [41]. Hence, also paper mock-ups can be evaluated using heuristics.
Additional information and practical examples on heuristic evaluation can
also be found in [51].

3.3

Evaluation of Tabletop Games

The large variety of augmented tabletop games hinder the application of


one single universal evaluation method. Furthermore an iterative process
throughout the design of a tabletop game is suggested. This approach should
combine dierent usability evaluation methods. Early in the design process
heuristic evaluation is suggested. Later on, user testing and cognitive walkthrough appear to be promising.
Especially heuristic evaluation seems to be mostly suited for tabletop
interfaces because it provides a wide area for usability testing. Heuristics
are usually able to cover a broader range of applications and therefore seem
suitable for the evaluation of tabletop interfaces.
It is generally suggested to use extensive prototyping before starting the
project. For example, in the Wizards Apprentice project [47] low delity
prototyping was employed. Concerning the prototyping, diverse techniques

CHAPTER 3. TABLETOP GAMES AND EVALUATION

27

can be used, starting from paper mock-ups to incremental prototyping.


In [55] Scott et al. analyzed state of the art tabletop systems, literature
and results of current conferences as well as their own experience in the
eld of tabletop computing. With the outcome of this analysis they suggest
eight specic guidelines when designing tabletop applications, which are as
follows:
...
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.

Support interpersonal interaction.


Support uid transitions between activities.
Support transitions between personal and group work.
Support transitions between tabletop collaboration and external work.
Support the use of physical objects.
Provide shared access to physical and digital objects.
Consider the appropriate arrangement of users.
Support simultaneous user actions.

...
As can be seen from the facts introduced above, traditional recommendations for software and tabletop project development apply. Furthermore
general guidelines developed for tabletop applications can also be used and
adapted for the development of tabletop games.

Chapter 4

Evolution of the Suggested


Heuristics
The main objective of the present thesis is to develop a set of heuristics for
the evaluation of tabletop games. This heuristics are supposed to cover the
dierent aspects of augmented tabletop games. Heuristics for the evaluation
of video games have recently been introduced and their portability to pervasive games has already been tested by Rocker et al. [50]. The heuristics
presented by the author of this thesis will mainly focus on the special characteristics of tabletop games such as the requirements of the setup and the
extended possibilities oered by tabletop games.
This chapter starts with an introduction and discussion of existing heuristics for video games and their portability to pervasive games. During the
development process of the heuristics, three sets of heuristics have been developed prior to the nal version introduced in chapter 5. The dierent sets
of heuristics are discussed in terms of their weaknesses and why they are
inappropriate and require modications. Additionally, the evaluation setup
and the games employed for the evaluation of the heuristics are introduced.

4.1

Existing Heuristics

Currently no heuristicsbesides Nielsens general heuristics [41]are available for the evaluation of augmented tabletop games. Nevertheless heuristics
for the evaluation of state-of-the-art video games have recently been introduced and supported by many sources [11, 14, 21, 50, 54].
Table 4.1 provides a short overview of the major milestones in the evolution of heuristics for video games. This information has formed the basis for
the adapted version of video game heuristics in section 4.1.1 and has been
taken into account for the phrasing of the nal heuristics in chapter 5.

28

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

Year
1980

1982

2001

2002

2004

2006

Description
Thomas Malone was the rst one to present the idea of using heuristics to evaluate games [32]. His heuristics mainly
focused on educational games, not possessing the graphical,
acoustic and computational possibilities that current video
games oer. Malone categorized his heuristics into challenge,
fantasy and curiosity.
Malone tried to distinguish the benets of computer games
and to adapt them to productivity applications [33]. He still
considered his heuristics to be suggestions, not requirements
for games.
The so-called 400 project1 was invented by Hal Barwood
and Noah Falstein and invited (and is still inviting) game
designers from around the world to submit rules for game
design to improve the quality of the developed games and to
help game designers do their work. As of March 2006, 112
rules have been formulated, due to the lack of submissions,
mostly by Noah Falstein.
Melissa Federo [14] tried to assess the applicability of
Nielsens heuristics to video games and discovered that they
were rather usable. Furthermore she developed a set of 40
heuristics, categorized into game interface, game mechanics
and game play.
Desurvire et al. [11] released a new set of veried heuristics, the HEP (heuristic evaluation of playability), based on
the heuristics introduced by Federo. These heuristics were
categorized into four sections which are game story, game
play, game mechanics and game usability. The heuristics
were proven to be eective through further evaluations.
R
ocker et al. tested the adaptability of the heuristics introduced by Desurvire et al. to pervasive games [50]. The
researchers assumed that the heuristics introduced for game
play and game story only considered aspects that were not
related to the game platform. The categories game mechanics and game usability were deemed to be platformdependent and had therefore been reconsidered. The results
of the study have shown that the game mechanics heuristics
are the same for all types of games.

http://theinspiracy.com/, copy on DVD

29

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS


Year
2006

2007

2007

30

Description
Nokia released a set of heuristics for the evaluation of
the playability of mobile games [21]. Their heuristics form
a framework that is distinguished into dierent modules,
which are game play, game usability and mobility. The modules do not have to be evaluated at the same time and should
be able to be applied to other kinds of games, not only mobile games.
T-CUA (Table-Collaboration Usability Analysis) was developed by David Pinelle and Carl Gutwin [49] and is based on
the Collaboration Usability Analysis (CUA). It helps to evaluate collaborative groupware, especially issues in connection
with teamwork. The CUA framework has been adapted to
tabletop applications and can be seen not as a set of heuristics, but as summary of typical tasks.
In April 2007 Noah Schaer released a white paper introducing a new version of heuristics [54]. According to his opinion,
the heuristics introduced so far are too vague, dicult to realize, more suitable to postmortem reviews and not applicable during the design process. He provides a set of detailed
heuristics with graphical examples for each heuristic.

Table 4.1: Milestones in the development of heuristics for the evaluation of


video games.

As mentioned, the existing heuristics for the evaluation of video games


have inuenced the formation of the heuristics introduced in this thesis.
Nevertheless some critical remarks can be given on the work presented in
table 4.1. For example, Federos heuristics [14] appear to be supercial and
sometimes incomplete and to some extent mainly applicable to role playing
games. The heuristics introduced by Desurvire et al. [11] did not touch the
problem of challenge in games.
The author of this thesis does not strictly adhere the game play and
game story aspects as introduced by Rocker et al. [50] and they have been
reconsidered (see enumeration in section 4.1.1). Since tabletop games can
be considered to be a part of pervasive games (see section 2.3), it can be
assumed that parts of the guidelines introduced by Rocker et al. [50] also
apply to them.

4.1.1

Game Heuristics for Tabletop Applications

The main objective of this thesis is to present heuristics applicable for the
evaluation of tabletop games. Therefore the author of the present work proposes a modular framework, consisting of game play/game story, the virtual

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

31

Figure 4.1: The authors proposed modular framework for the evaluation
of augmented tabletop games consisting of game play/game story, virtual
interface and aspects related to the special properties of augmented tabletop
games.

interface and aspects and features targeting the special properties of tabletop games (see gure 4.1). The sections game play/game story cover the
areas related to the game play and the developed story of the game. The
virtual interface can be understood as the displayed virtual and not physical interface the player interacts with (e.g the projected game board). The
enumeration at the end of this section will present the heuristics concerning
these aspects. The heuristics targeting the special properties of augmented
tabletop games will be introduced in chapter 5.
As mentioned in section 4.1 the portability of video game heuristics to
pervasive games has already been successfully demonstrated (cf. [50]). The
heuristics are taken from Desurvire et al. [11], Federo [14], Nokia [21],
Rocker et al. [50] and Schaer [54]. Statements contained in quotation marks
represent cited sentences from the afterwards mentioned sources. The remaining heuristics are not direct quotations, they only refer to the denoted
sources as regards content.
The heuristics taken contain the main aspects of video games that are
also applicable to tabletop games and have been generalized and summarized
into dierent categories. For example, the importance of the consistency of
the game is mentioned by Koivisto et al. [21] as well as by Desurvire et
al. [11]. Therefore this problem has been combined into one single heuristic
(heuristic number 8):

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

32

Game play/game story


1. The player should be presented clear goals (e.g. overriding goals)
[11, 14, 21] early enough [11, 14] or be able to create her own goals [21]
and should be able to understand and identify them [54]. There can
be multiple goals on each level [14] (short-term [11] and longterm
goals), so that there are more strategies to win [14]. Furthermore the
player should know how to reach the goal without getting stuck [54].
2. The player should receive meaningful rewards [14, 21]. One reward
could also be the acquisition of skills [14] (personal and in-game
skills).
3. The player should feel that she is in control [11,21,54]. That includes
the control over the character [11] as well as the impact onto the
game world [54]. Changes the player makes to the game world should
be persistent and noticeable [11]. Furthermore the player should be
able to respond to threats and opportunities [54].
4. Challenge, strategy and pace should be in balance [21]. Challenges
should be positive game experiences [11].
5. The rst-time experience is encouraging [21].
6. The meaningful game story should support the game play [21] and
be discovered as part of the game play [11].
7. The game does not stagnate [21] and the player feels the progress
[21, 54].
8. The game should be consistent [11, 21]. This includes consistency between the game elements and the overarching settings as well as the
story [11]. The story should suspend disbelief [11] and be perceived
as a single vision [11], i.e. the story should be planned through to the
end.
9. It should be clear whats happening in the game, the player should
understand failure conditions and be given space for making mistakes
[54].
10. There should be variable diculty levels [14] for a greater challenge
[11]. The game should be easy to learn, but hard to master [11].
11. The game and the outcome should be perceived as being fair [11, 14].
12. The game itself should be replayable and the player should enjoy playing it [11]. Nevertheless challenging tasks should not be required to
be completed more than once (e.g. when dying after completing a hard
task) [54]. Furthermore the challenge should create the desire to play
more [11].

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

33

13. The articial intelligence should be reasonable [14], visible to the


player, consistent with the players expectations [11, 50] and yet unpredictable [14].
14. The game should be paced to apply pressure to but not frustrate the
player [11, 14].
15. The learning curve should be shortened [14] (if possible by using the
available trends [11, 50]). The users expectations should be met [11,
50] and the player should have enough information to get immediately
started [11] (or at least after reading the instruction once [54]).
Tutorials and adjustable levels should be able to involve the player
quickly [11].
16. The game emotionally transports the player into a level of personal
involvement (e.g. scare, threat, thrill, reward, punishment) [11].
17. The game play should not require the player to fulll boring tasks
[21].
18. The game mechanics should feel natural and have correct weight and
momentum [14].
Virtual interface
19. The player should be able to identify game elements such as avatars,
enemies, obstacles, power ups, threats or opportunities [54] (orthogonal unit dierentiation [21]). The objects should stand out (contrast,
texture, color, brightness), even for players with bad eyesight or color
blindness and should not easily be misinterpreted [54]. Furthermore
the objects should look like what they are for (aordance) [54].
20. The acoustic and visual eects should arouse interest [14] and provide
meaningful feedback at the right time [11, 14, 50]. Hence the eects
should give feedback to create a challenging and exciting interaction
and involve the player by creating emotions [11, 50]. The feedback
should be given immediately to the users action [11, 14].
21. The interface should be consistent in control, color, typography and
dialog design [11, 14] (e.g. large blocks of text should be avoided, no
abbreviations [54]) and as non-intrusive as possible [11, 14].
22. The player should not have to count resources like bullets, life [54],
score [11, 14], points and ammunition [54]. This relevant information
should be displayed and the critical information should stand out [54].
Irrelevant information should be left out [54].
23. The menu should be intuitive and the meanings obvious [54] and
perceived as a part of the game [11].

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

34

24. The player should know where she is on the mini-map if there is one
and should not have to memorize the level design [54].
25. The player should be able to save the games in dierent states [11,
14, 50] (applies to non arcade-like games) and be able to easily turn
the game o and on [11, 50].
26. The rst player action is obvious and should result in immediate positive feedback [11].

4.2

Evaluation Setup

The following sections describe the setup, the games evaluated using the
heuristics, the participating evaluators and the evaluation process.

4.2.1

Games to be Evaluated

For the evaluation of the planned heuristics (cf. section 4.5) the games introduced in the following were chosen.
Comino
Comino [25] is a multi-player tabletop game which was developed at the
local university. The major components are virtual and real domino bricks
that can be placed on the table surface (see gure 2.1).
The bricks are supposed to be placed on edge in one row. When the rst
brick is knocked over, all subsequent stones should be knocked over by a
chain reaction. To successfully nish one level of Comino, the rst (start)
and last (end) brick have to be connected in this way.
Comino is played on a rear-projection table with a special surface that
allows to simultaneously localize multiple digital pens. Using these pens, the
players can position virtual domino bricks on the projected map. The terrain
limits the area where domino bricks can be placed. If it is not possible to
connect the start and end bricks only using virtual stones, real domino bricks
can be used.
Especially constructed portals allow to connect the virtual world with
the real world. Using these portals, the real bricks can be knocked over
by the virtual ones and vice versa. During the evaluation of the heuristics
presented in section 4.5, Comino was always played by two specialists.
PenWars
PenWars [16] is a real-time strategy tabletop game which utilizes a digital
pen interface (see gure 4.2). Using this interface, players can draw tanks in
order to compete against the opponents units. The only resource available

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

35

Figure 4.2: Playing PenWars. The tanks can be moved through peninteraction. Picture courtesy of Adam Gokcezade.

to the players is a certain amount of digital ink for each participant, which
eects the number of units that can be created and their attributes.
The tanks properties are represented in its size and shape. A large tank
for example is stronger than a smaller one, but at the same time slower and
less exible in its movements. To win the game the player has to carefully
consider the properties of the opponents units, in connection with the map
on which the game is played, when creating his own tank units. PenWars
was evaluated by two players throughout the entire evaluation process.
Neon Racer
Neon Racer [28] is an augmented reality tabletop game that combines virtual
and physical aspects in one interface (see gure 4.3). The game is based on
traditional racing games. Each of the one to four players holds a game-pad
for the navigation of the players small starship which is supposed to race
along a given course. The ships have to pass virtual checkpoints to obtain
points. Furthermore the ships can pick up objects to improve their skills
such as sheep-mines, health bonuses, speed arrows or ammunition.
Additionally real objects (such as cans or fruits) can be placed onto the
table surface to be included in the game as obstacles. When the ships collide
with the physical objects, their course changes and they lose health points.
Hence, also bystanders can inuence the outcome of the game by randomly
positioning objects on the table and by taking sides. The game is limited
to ve minutes per game and the winner is the player who has achieved the
highest score by passing the checkpoints.
The real objects are tracked by a camera that is mounted on the bottom
of the rear projection setup. During the evaluation, Neon Racer was always

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

36

Figure 4.3: The Neon Racer Setup combines physical and virtual interaction. Picture taken from http://neonracer.net.

played by three players at the same time.


Casa Memo
Casa Memo is a memory game created by ABC-Ware2 (see gure 4.4). Originally the game was created as computer game, but for the evaluation of the
heuristics this game was played on the DiamondTouch table. The game can
be played by one to four persons. The main goal is to nd the most pairs
of cards as fast as possible by ipping over hidden cards with a mouse click.
The graphics can be changed according to the players preferences. Other
customizations can be made by entering the time the graphics should be
displayed, whether matching pairs should be removed from the eld or not
or adjusting the diculty level.
For the evaluation of the heuristics the game was played by two players
in multi-player mode.
MaeD
MaeD (gure 4.5) is a digitalized version of the common known game Ludo
and was developed by Uwe Hartel3 . MaeD can be played by two to four
players or as a single player game against the computer.
During the evaluation of the heuristics, MaeD was played on the DiamondTouch system by two players. Through the projection onto a tabletop
2
3

http://www.abc-ware.de/casamemo.htm, copy on DVD


http://www.uwisoft.net/, copy on DVD

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

37

Figure 4.4: A picture of Casa Memo, a memory game.

Figure 4.5: MaeD, a digital version of Ludo.

surface the computer game was converted into a tabletop game. Furthermore this game oered the opportunity to investigate the suitability of such
games for tabletop interaction. MaeD was only evaluated by the rst three
evaluators and was taken out of the evaluation program due to time constraints.
Springer
Springer is a freeware game based on the rules of chess, where the knight
is the main counter. The goal of the game is to develop a good strategy in
collecting points without losing them and without getting stuck.

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

38

Figure 4.6: A picture taken from Springer on the DiamondTouch table.

Springer was also developed by Uwe Hartel4 . This rather simple game
was included and removed from the evaluation program for the same reasons
as MaeD (cf. section 4.2.1).

4.2.2

Evaluation Environment

The formal evaluation of the third set of heuristics (section 4.5) took place
at the Oce of Tomorrow laboratory5 at the Upper Austria University of
Applied Sciences Hagenberg. Two dierent setups were used to play the six
games presented in section 4.2.1, a front-projection setup (see gure 4.7)
and a rear-projection setup (see gure 4.8). The participants were asked to
evaluate Comino, PenWars and Neon Racer on the rear-projection setup and
Casa Memo, MaeD and Springer on the front-projection setup.

4.2.3

Evaluators

A total of twelve evaluators were involved in the evaluation of the heuristics.


As already mentioned in section 3.2 three to ve evaluators are sucient for
a heuristic evaluation [42]. Since this evaluation was conducted in order to
investigate the applicability of the introduced heuristics, twelve evaluators
deemed to be appropriate.
The volunteers were students and employees from the local university.
Two evaluators had no knowledge in the eld of usability, ve evaluators
had basic to medium knowledge of usability and four could be considered
as usability experts. Five evaluators regularly play computer games, ve
4
5

http://www.uwisoft.net/, copy on DVD


http://www.oceoftomorrow.org/, copy on DVD

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

Figure 4.7: The front-projection setup employed in the evaluation. As described in section 2.3.1 the setup consists of a projector, the DiaomondTouch
table, a camera mounted next to the projector and a workstation computer.
Picture taken from [56], courtesy of Thomas Seifried.

Figure 4.8: The rear-projection setup during the heuristic evaluation. As


already mentioned in section 2.3.1 all technical facilities are placed inside of
the construction.

39

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

40

Participant's expertise
7
6
6
5

5
4

4
3
3
2

2
1
0

usability

gaming
no knowledge

basic knowledge

tabletop games
expert

Figure 4.9: The experience of the volunteers participating in the heuristic


evaluation. Altogether four usability experts, ve gamers and two experts in
the eld of tabletop gaming participated in the evaluation.

have basic knowledge of gaming and two do not play computer games at all.
Furthermore six participants had no experience with tabletop games, four
had basic knowledge in this eld and two evaluators could be considered
experts in tabletop gaming. The chart in gure 4.9 shows these numbers.
Taking all the dierent aspects into consideration, it can be said that two
double-experts (tabletop gaming and usability) and three medium experienced volunteers (usability and gaming) participated in the evaluation. The
evaluators were aged between 22 years and 41 years, with an average of 28
years.
To eleven out of the twelve evaluators German was their rst or second native language with good English knowledge. One evaluators mother
tongue was English. For ten participants the evaluation session was held in
German, nevertheless providing the evaluators with the written heuristics in
English. One evaluation session was held in English.
Since all games oered multi-player functionality, the evaluators were
arranged in groups of two. Considering that tabletop games are supposed to
enhance collaboration and communication it seemed to be best to evaluate
the games in teams so that also these aspects could be observed. In the case
that no team could be found (e.g. due to problems scheduling the appointments), a non-involved student was asked to perform the evaluation with
the evaluator. Furthermore it was sought to arrange the teams in a way that
at least one member was experienced in usability. Additionally the players
also had the possibility to discuss the evaluation process afterwards which
again revealed interesting issues.

4.2.4

Evaluation Process

Depending on the number of games evaluated (four to six), the time the
evaluators spent playing the games and the duration of the feedback session,

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

41

Figure 4.10: The researcher explains the rules of Comino to two evaluators.

the evaluation took between two to four hours.


At the beginning of every evaluation session the teams of participants
were quickly introduced to the topic of the evaluation and were asked to
sign a consent form. Next, the heuristics were presented and extensively
explained to the volunteers (including examples). Each participant obtained
a sheet of paper which showed the eleven heuristics with the core statement.
Additionally the verbal introduction into the area helped them understand
the heuristics better.
The sequence of the games to be evaluated was counterbalanced so that
learning eects or other inuences would not aect the overall results. Each
game was introduced separately to the players and any initial questions were
answered (see gure 4.10).
When the main rules and game play were clear, the players were asked
to familiarize themselves with the game by playing it once. Afterwards the
players had to examine the game a second time and verbalize usability problems. If the participants felt that playing the game two times was not enough,
they had the possibility to replay the game up to six times.
When the volunteers were nished playing, they could take some refreshments from the buet and were asked to categorize the usability problems
they found into the given heuristics. During this task they had the possibility to examine the game and to add further problems to the list. At the
end, they were invited to have a look at the heuristics to nd potential other
problems that they might have overlooked before. Each game was evaluated
according to the procedure above. The sessions were videotaped and pictures
were taken of the players while performing the evaluation. The permission
to record the sessions was given by the participants signature in the consent
form.

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

4.3

42

First Set of Heuristics

The rst set of heuristics was developed according to existing research trials.
The following list gives a short overview of the rst heuristics, their content
and their the sources the information has been taken from:
Target Group: The game should be suited for the target group, which
mostly ranges between ve and 40 years of age. The applications for
the target groups range from learning games to pure entertainment
games. [30, 47, 62]
Game Environment: The game should be suited for the environment it is played in. There are dierent types of game environments
for tabletop games such as schools, halls and living rooms. Furthermore the environment can also inuence the acoustic feedback (not
perceivable because of the loud atmosphere). [31, 61, 62]
Table Design and Setup: The design of the table and its setup is
very important, especially for ergonomic and usability reasons. Heightadjustable tables are recommended when working with children. Furthermore it might be more comfortable for longer game sessions if the
players are able to sit in front of the table. [30, 55, 62]
Complexity of the Interaction Method: Since four out of the six
tabletop categories introduced in section 2.3.3 do not mainly rely on
traditional input devices such as keyboard, mouse or game-pad, the
interaction method is very important. When playing tangible games,
the interaction happens mostly through real-world objects (see also
section 2.3.2). Therefore it is essential that the interaction style is
very natural and easy. [2, 23, 30, 31, 34, 47, 55, 6163]
Direct Interaction between Players vs. Single Player: Tabletop
games reportedly increase collaboration and communication between
players. Therefore multi-player games are favorable. Nevertheless it is
also interesting to investigate the possibility of single-player games and
their impact on the experience of enjoyment/ow. [30, 55, 61, 63]
Screen/Display Orientation: Generally it is suggested that tabletop games are always oriented towards the current player in order
to even the chances and the diculty for all players. Several existing
games already implement this feature. Nevertheless it is questionable
if it is really necessary and if the participants signicantly notice the
dierence. [31, 55, 62]
Importance of Flow and Fun/Enjoyment: Games should generally be fun and enjoyable to play and so should tabletop games. The
diculty is nding out how to measure fun and enjoyment and to investigate the impact of ow on such games. There are several papers
treating the topic of owalso in the gaming area. [6, 19, 24, 30, 43]

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

43

Projection: There is no precise rule which kind of display system


should be used for projection. Generally back and front projection as
well as embedded displays are frequently used. So far it has not been
investigated which kind of projection is preferable. [30, 63]
Communication Channels/User Collaboration: Tabletop games
increase collaboration and communication between players. This is a
result of the special way of interaction originating in the nature of
tabletop games and tabletop interaction in general. Compared to normal computer games it is more natural to talk and discuss dierent
aspects of the game than to sit in front of a screen without seeing the
faces of the other gamers. [2, 23, 30, 34, 47, 61, 62]
User Testing: Some evaluations that have been conducted in this area
suggest employing iterative user testing. Therefore a product should
be frequently tested by participants during the development process.
[47, 62]
Feedback: The impact of feedback must not be underestimated. Users
prefer to hear or see a direct result of what they have just done. [2,30,
47, 61]
Game Genres: So far it has not been investigated which kind of
genres can be played with tabletop games, therefore no literature references are given. There might be some genres that are more suitable
for tabletop interaction than others. Furthermore this could also lead
to collaboration between the player and the spectators even during a
single player session.
The rst draft of the heuristics presented above could be described as
important aspects in the development of games rather than as heuristics.
After consulting a specialist in the area of usability and further literature
research, it was clear that severe changes had to be made. The following
enumeration indicates the reasons for the reformulation of the rst set of
heuristics:
1. The majority of statements were not formulated as proper heuristics.
2. More general information than facts is included (e.g target group).
3. Some heuristics are not explicitly designed just for tabletop interfaces
(e.g. target group).
4. The statements are not aordances of the user to the system (e.g. table
design).
5. Some facts do not have any impact on the development of tabletop
games (e.g. user testing).
6. The goal of a game has been stated instead of a proper heuristic
(e.g. ow).

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

44

7. The descriptions only include an overview of the state of the art and
not a possible solution (e.g. projection).
8. The evaluation process itself which actually includes the heuristic evaluation, has been considered as a heuristic (e.g. user testing).
9. Untested theories have been included (e.g. game genres).
As a result, the phrasing of the heuristics has been improved and the
problems discovered (as shown above) have been considered in the consecutive version of the heuristics.

4.4

Second Set of Heuristics

In the second version of the heuristics, the problems found as described in


section 4.3 have been considered. The heuristics have been rephrased in order to be more appropriate and understandable. Furthermore the categories
have been slightly changed and additional information has been added. The
following list shows the improved heuristics. Additionally a short explanation and review are provided.
Keep your Target Group in Mind: When designing and testing
tabletop games, the target group should always be kept in mind. This
is essential not only for usability issues but also for economic reasons.
For the usability part the target group matters because if a game is
too mature, it might not be fun for children to play and vice versa.
This information describes a process regulation rather than a heuristic.
Furthermore the dierentiation between children and adults is very
shallow.
Consider the Game Environment: The game environment has a
considerable impact on the success of the game. Moreover it is the
core issue for the entire tabletop design process; everything should be
aligned to the surroundings. All factors should form a symbiosis with
the game environment.
The statement above is not a heuristic, because it is not an aordance
of the player to the system (rather an aordance of the environment
to the game).
Table Setup and Design: When designing a tabletop system, the
interdependent key factors dimensions and comfort should always be
considered. They depend on the environment as well as on the reach,
the physical capabilities of the target group and the game play.
The information provided is very important, but phrased too generally.
More attention needs to be drawn to special areasseparate heuristics

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

45

should be formed. Heuristics should not include exceptions for special


conditions.
Complexity of Interaction: The complexity of the game should be
adapted according to the situation and the environment the game is
played in. This also applies to the nature of the interaction.
The statement is too generally formulated. Moreover two separate
heuristics concerning the interaction and the level of automation can
be phrased.
Projection: The projection system employed depends on various variables such as game play, environment, interaction method and the application area of the game. It should be set up so that it does not
disturb the game play at any time.
The information provided is no aordance of the player to the system.
Furthermore these aspects can be found in the heuristics concerning
comfort, reach and examinability.
Communication Channels/User Collaboration: The communication and collaboration are enhanced because of the nature of tabletop games and tabletop interaction in general. The technology is not
supposed to interfere with the communication/collaboration, moreover it should support it in a decent way. As with traditional board
games, tabletop games are socially adaptable and therefore guidelines
for board games can also be applied to this new type of game [47].
This heuristic describes an important aspect of augmented tabletop
games.
Feedback: Feedback helps the user to understand what she hast just
done and reassures her that she has done what she has intended to do.
Feedback can be purely visual or acoustic, but most of the time it is
applied in a combined form [2]. Nevertheless the feedback has to be
obtained at the right moment. Feedback timed badly and in the wrong
amount can confuse the players.
The feedback given is an essential aspect of games in general.
View: The view can be understood as the perspective from which the
player is looking onto the scene. Third-person, isometric and top view
appear to be most natural and intuitive for tabletop games.
This is a more descriptive statement than a formal heuristic. Furthermore proof through specic evaluations is needed since there is no
literature available.
Game Genres: Since there has not been a formal evaluation of possible game genres for augmented tabletop games, is suggested to comply
with the game genres that have already been tested (e.g. racer, puzzle,
strategy, etc.).

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

46

It is hard to formulate a heuristic that is connected to the game genres, especially since no universal denition of game genres is available.
Further research is needed in order to formulate a heuristic concerning
the game genres.
After the second set of heuristics has been developed, it has been formally
proven against available literature on heuristic evaluations (such as [42]).
Furthermore also feedback from usability experts and experts in the development of tabletop games has been taken into consideration. The review
sections in the enumeration above provide a summary of the comments obtained. The heuristics have been modied according to them. Moreover the
following third set of heuristics has been developed based on the suggestions.

4.5

Third Set of Heuristics

The third set of heuristics was tested through the heuristic evaluation, as
described in section 4.2.4. At the end of this chapter the results of the
evaluation are presented.
Since the nal heuristics are based on results of the formal evaluation
of the heuristics presented below, the concept of these heuristics has been
adopted to them. The following enumeration indicates only the third set
of heuristics with the core statements. A more extensive description of the
heuristics can be found in chapter 5, which presents the nal heuristics. A
critical review of the heuristics and an overview of the changes made is given
in section 4.6.
1. Cognitive Workload: The cognitive workload which is not connected
to the game play, i.e. in connection with the view, the screen orientation and the input methods should be minimized.
2. Challenge: The system should be designed in a way that the challenge
satises the preconditions of a tabletop setup and the target group.
3. Reach: The reach of the players should be adapted to the requirements
of the game play.
4. Examinability: The players should not be hindered to examine the
area necessary by the game play.
5. Adaptability: The system should be adaptable to the players in terms
of the setup.
6. Interaction: The interaction method should satisfy the expectations
of the player and follow the game logic.
7. Level of Automation: The player should be able to execute all actions relevant to the game by herself.

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

47

8. Collaboration: The technology should support the collaboration in


a decent way.
9. Communication: The interpersonal communication should be supported by the entirety of the game (game play, setup, etc.).
10. Feedback: Feedback and feedthrough should be adapted to the possibilities of tabletop games, used adequately and be provided to the
players when appropriate.
11. Comfort: The design and setup should be comfortable to use and not
require the player to take an awkward position. The construction of
the setup (including the display) should enable the user to stand/sit
in a comfortable position.

4.6

Results of the Heuristic Evaluation

The heuristic evaluation of the third set of heuristics helped to discover


whether they are usable and clearly formulated or not. The results and the
feedback of this evaluation inuenced the formulation of the nal set of
heuristics (see chapter 5).
During the heuristic evaluation of Comino, PenWars, Neon Racer and
Memory, the evaluators discovered a total of 299 usability issues. For a brief
introduction into usability and a brief description of usability problems refer to section 3.1. The following statements present an excerpt of usability
problems found by the evaluators:
There is no feedback if the ink is used up (feedback, PenWars).

Figure 4.11: In PenWars the selection of tanks can be dicult because


the object has to be encircled in a particular way.

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

48

It is not possible to select multiple tanks (interaction, PenWars).


It is dicult to select objects (interaction, PenWars, see gure 4.11).
Children are too small to reach over the table (reach, PenWars).
The table is too high for children. They would knock over real stones
(adaptability, Comino).
The cables used are disturbing (the visibility) and contradict modern
technologies (examinability, Comino, see gure 4.12c).
One input panel is not enough (reach, Comino).
The control is not intuitive and hard to learn (cognitive workload,
Neon Racer, see gure 4.12a).

(a)

(b)

(c)

(d)

Figure 4.12: (a) One player is trying to get familiar with the complicated
and unusually mapped controls of Neon Racer. (b) Two evaluators sharing
one input panel while playing Comino. The sharing of the device led to
problems and delays, but nevertheless also encouraged the communication
between the players. (c) The cables needed for the Comino interface can
occlude necessary information. (d) An evaluator is trying to reach over the
DiamondTouch table while examining Casa Memo.

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

49

The cords of the controllers are too short and the player is not free to
move around (comfort, Neon Racer).
It is not possible to reach over the table (reach, Casa Memo, see gure
4.12d).
Figure 4.13 indicates the distribution of the usability problems found
throughout the four games mentioned above. After similar problems were
classied, 138 usability problems were left. For example, the issue concerning
the input panel (see gure 4.12b) for Comino was mentioned several times by
dierent evaluators and hence has been combined into one usability problem.
The distribution of the categorized problems per game can be seen in gure
4.14. Especially during the evaluation of Comino and PenWars many similar
problems were named, which led to a reduction of over 50 % of the usability
problems found.
Uncategorized usability issues found per game
120
97

100
81
80

73

60

48

40
20
0
Casa Memo

Comino

Neon Racer

PenWars

Figure 4.13: The usability problems found per game. During the evaluation
process the most usability problems were found through the evaluation of
PenWars and Comino.

As mentioned in chapter 3.2 the quality of heuristics can be distinguished


by the ease of assigning problems to them. The heuristic evaluation of the
set of heuristics introduced in section 4.5 has shown that a total of 74 out
of 299 heuristics have been assigned incorrectly. Figure 4.15 indicates the
number of usability problems assigned to each of the eleven heuristics. In
gure 4.16 the distribution of the erroneously assigned heuristics is shown for
all heuristics. This may lead to the conclusion that the heuristics concerning
comfort and interaction are formulated ambiguously and therefore cause
the major problems. This might not be correct, since there is no relation
between how many usability issues have been rightly and wrongly assigned to
this heuristic. Therefore gure 4.17 indicates the percentage of erroneously
assigned heuristics per heuristic. All together, a 25 % failure rate can be

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

50

Categorized usability issues found per game


50
44

45

43

40
35
28

30

23

25
20
15
10
5
0
Casa Memo

Comino

Neon Racer

PenWars

Figure 4.14: The number of categorized issues per game after combining
similar usability problems. Comparing this gure with gure 4.13 it shows
that the classication helped to minimize the problems found for more than
50 % in the case of Comino and PenWars.

Usability issues found per heuristic


70

64

62

60
50
40
30
20
10

27

33

32
23

18

16

12

Figure 4.15: The number of usability issues found per heuristic. The most
frequently used heuristics were the ones concerning interaction, feedback and
comfort.

determined, which means that 25 % of all usability problems found have been
assigned to the wrong heuristic. Especially the heuristics concerning comfort,
collaboration, challenge, communication, examinability and interaction seem
to be problematic and need further renement.
Some of the problems can be traced back to the little amount of time
the participants had to become familiar with the heuristics (it is hard to
memorize eleven facts in only 15 to 20 minutes) and their limited expertise in
conducting heuristic evaluations. Another reason for the misunderstandings
could be the written heuristics, provided only in English, which might have

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

51

Incorrectly assigned heuristics per heuristics


20
18
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0

18
16
12
8
6

5
1

Figure 4.16: The number of wrongly assigned usability problems found


per heuristic. Especially the heuristics concerning comfort, interaction and
challenge have frequently been assigned incorrectly.

Percentage of wrongly assigned heuristics


60

55

50

43
38

40
30

28

25

22

17

20
10

40

13

Figure 4.17: The percentage of erroneously assigned usability problems


indicated per heuristic. The heuristic concerning the comfort was used incorrectly in 55 % of cases.

lead to diculties in translating them to German.


Further and deeper examination of the results and feedback obtained
from the evaluators have shown that particularly the heuristic connected to
comfort was dened too broadly and not clearly enough. Comfort has often
been mistaken for adaptability (and vice versa) and interaction.
Furthermore the evaluators found it hard to distinguish between problems connected to collaboration and communication. For example, during
the evaluation of Neon Racer and PenWars the evaluators stated, that the
game did not encourage communication and collaboration between the play-

CHAPTER 4. EVOLUTION OF THE SUGGESTED HEURISTICS

52

ers. They obviously categorized both issues as one. Hence it seemed to be


more appropriate to combine them in the nal version of the heuristics (see
section 5.8).
The evaluators frequently categorized problems with cognitive workload,
reach and feedback as interaction issues. For example, while playing Casa
Memo, some evaluators categorized the problem of reaching over the table
as an interaction issue. On the other hand, also interaction and challenge
problems have been categorized as cognitive workload. Especially issues connected to the diculty of the game itself have been assigned to troubles
connected to the cognitive workload. Furthermore interaction and cognitive
workload have been mistaken as challenge. In particular problems with the
controls, which are not connected to the game play, such as the navigation
task in Neon Racer, have been categorized as challenge-related issues.
Hence the heuristics concerning comfort, interaction, cognitive workload,
challenge, collaboration, communication, adaptability and examinability had
to be rened. The heuristics concerning reach, level of automation and feedback seemed well dierentiated and were not supposed to undergo drastic
changes.
Through the heuristic evaluation the heuristics introduced in section 4.5
(third set of heuristics) have proven to be applicable and helpful for the
evaluation of augmented tabletop games. Nevertheless, some grave ambiguities in the formulation of the heuristics have been discovered. Therefore the
here presented results form the basis for the changes made to the third set
of heuristics (see section 4.5). The resulting nal heuristics (see chapter 5)
are assumed to be formulated clearly. Moreover, together with the heuristics
for the evaluation of game play/game story and the virtual interface (see
section 4.1.1) they are supposed to form a valuable resource for the evaluation of tabletop games, which can be integrated into the development and
evaluation process.

Chapter 5

Final Heuristics
The subsequent sections include the last iteration (currently) of heuristics
for the evaluation of augmented tabletop games suggested by the author
of this thesis. Together with the heuristics for game play/game story and
virtual environment, introduced in section 4.1.1, the heuristics for the special
conditions of tabletop games form an eective tool for the evaluation of all
aspects tabletop games provide (see gure 4.1).
The heuristics presented in the following are the result of a formal heuristic evaluation conducted on the previous version of heuristics (see section
4.5) which proved applicable for the heuristic evaluation of tabletop games.
In section 4.6 a critical review of the third set of heuristics, on which the nal
heuristics are based, is described. The ambiguities discovered by the evaluation process have been claried and the heuristics have been improved.
Nevertheless further improvements can be made to enhance the quality of
the heuristics and testing of the entire framework is recommended. Therefore the heuristics as well as the framework do not claim to be exhausting
and can be understood as a guide for the heuristic evaluation of tabletop
games.
The tendency for misinterpreting certain heuristics was discovered during the heuristic evaluation. In order to clarify these misunderstandings,
subcategories of the heuristics are introduced. The categories are meant to
support the heuristics and clarify potential obscurities. The ten heuristics, as
described in the following sections, are still valid and can be applied without
the subsections. Nevertheless the heuristic evaluation has shown that some
kind of dierentiation might aid the evaluators, especially when they are
not completely familiar with the heuristics and their meaning. For a better
overview of the suggested heuristics, the following enumeration will provide
the ten heuristics with their subcategories.
1. Cognitive Workload: The cognitive workload which is not connected
to the game play (i.e. in connection with the acquisition of skills, the

53

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

54

view, the screen orientation and the input methods), should be minimized.
Acquisition of Skills: The learning curve should meet the possibilities of augmented tabletop games.
Display-related Exhaustion: Exhaustion, caused by factors
connected to the display (e.g. perspective, orientation) should be
minimized.
Input Devices: The cognitive workload in connection to the use
of input devices should be minimized.
2. Challenge: The system should be designed in a way that the challenge
satises the preconditions of a tabletop setup and the target group.
Diculty: The diculty should meet the skills of the target
group and should satisfy and be dened by the input devices.
Competition/Collaboration: The game should be designed in
a way that the competition/collaboration between the players
help forming the challenge of the game.
3. Reach: The reach of the players should be adapted to the requirements
of the game play.
4. Examinability: The players should not be hindered to examine the
area required by the game play.
Virtual Examinability: The displayed interface should enable
the player to examine and comprehend the provided information.
Real Examinability: The player should not be hindered by real
objects to examine the information necessary to interact with the
game.
5. Adaptability: The system should be adaptable to the player in terms
of the setup.
Adaptability to the Player: The system should be adaptable
to the needs of the player.
Adaptability to Dierent Target Groups: The system should
be adaptable to dierent target groups.
Adaptability to Other Systems: It should be possible for the
tabletop game to be played on other setups.
6. Interaction: The interaction method should satisfy the expectations
of the player and follow the game logic.
Industry Standards: If available, industry standards should be
met.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

55

Controls: The controls should meet the players expectations


and be intuitive, consistent and naturally mapped.
Orthogonal Unit Dierentiation: The design of the objects
employed should ease the comprehension of their usage.
Proportions: The proportions employed in the game should be
realistic and conform to the game play.
7. Level of Automation: The player should be able to execute all actions relevant to the game by herself.
8. Collaboration and Communication: The interpersonal communication and collaboration should be supported by the entirety of the
game (such as game play and setup).
Collaboration: The entirety of the tabletop system should support the collaboration between the players.
Communication: The communication between the players should
be supported by the entirety of the tabletop system.
9. Feedback: Feedback and feedthrough should be adapted to the possibilities of tabletop games, used adequately and be provided to the
players when appropriate.
Feedback: Adequate feedback should be given at the right time.
Feedthrough: When required, feedthrough should be provided
to other players.
Environment: Feedback and feedthrough should be adjusted to
the environment.
10. Comfort of the Physical Setup: The construction of the setup
(including the display) should be comfortable to use and not require
the player to take an awkward position.
Duration: The comfort of the physical setup should be given
through the entire duration of the game.
Position: During the game, the player should be able to take a
comfortable position.
Further explanation for each of the ten heuristics and their subcategories
can be found in the subsequent sections.

5.1

Cognitive Workload

The cognitive workload which is not connected to the game play (i.e. in
connection with the acquisition of skills, the view, the screen orientation
and the input methods), should be minimized.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

5.1.1

56

Categorization

The cognitive workload can further be categorized into:


Acquisition of Skills: The learning curve should meet the possibilities of augmented tabletop games.
Display-related Exhaustion: Exhaustion, caused by factors connected to the display (e.g. perspective, orientation) should be minimized.
Input Devices: The cognitive workload in connection to the use of
input devices should be minimized.

5.1.2

Explanation

The players cognitive workload should be adapted to the game play so that
the player is not overburdened in a way that the challenge of the game is
negatively inuenced.
As already stated in section 4.1.1, heuristic number 15, it is an important
goal to keep the learning curve short [14]. Therefore it is important that
the player nds the skills easy and fun to acquire [11]. Depending on the
game play, the kind of game and the interface, the acquisition of skills can
be very easy, taking only a few minutes, or quite extensive. Nevertheless
an appropriate aid such as help les or tutorials should be oered to the
player [11]. For example, when games are supposed to be set up in a gamehall environment, the interface should be easy and understandable without
the need of a manual or a supervisor. Generally these installations are of
short duration. Van de Mortel et al. [62] claim that the fun-factor of those
temporary installations comes from the ease of understanding and the shorttime involvement of the participants. By contrast, games that are planned
to be played in more private surroundings and for an extensive period of
time (e.g. role-playing games), need to be more dicult to be a challenge to
the players, even after hours of gaming. In this case the game play will need
some sort of introduction by a supervisor, narrator or a manual [54].
Since vision is still the primary sense when interacting with an augmented tabletop game, the display is very important. Hence, overexertion
caused by display-connected issues can cause serious discomfort. Concerning the perspectives, the most employed ones are top (see gure 5.1), thirdperson and isometric view. These perspectives seem to be very natural and
intuitive for humans. The cognitive workload is not as hard when somebody
looks down onto an isometric display than onto a rst-person view. Therefore
the rst-person view (e.g. in shooter games) is more natural when sitting
in front of a monitor. This is supposed to minimize the cognitive workload
created by aspects not related to game play.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

57

Figure 5.1: Two players playing PenWars, a game designed using top view.
The picture is taken from above to demonstrate the players impression of
the game.

The orientation of the tabletop surface can be stated as another example


for additional cognitive workload [22]. In [30, 31] Magerkurth et al. recommend the orientation of the displayed board towards the current player. This
is supposed to even the chances as well as the diculty. Nevertheless inadequate rotation can cause confusion for the players to follow the game. For
example, if the well-known board game The Settlers of Catan was always
rotated toward the active player, the rotation would be confusing rather
than helpful. Additionally, the quality of the display is inuenced by the
resolution of the projected image.
Furthermore complicated input devices can also cause unnecessary cognitive overexertion. For example, when input devices are dicult to use
the players will concentrate on their handling instead of concentrating on
the game play. Therefore it is recommended to conform to available industry standards. Since augmented tabletop games can employ new devices,
this might be dicult to accomplish, nevertheless familiar standards should
preferably be kept. This heuristic only applies to issues directly related to the
input device itself and not to potential problems concerning the interaction
with the system (e.g. selection of objects).

5.2

Challenge

The system should be designed in a way that the challenge satises the
preconditions of a tabletop setup and the target group.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

5.2.1

58

Categorization

The heuristic concerning the challenge can further be categorized into:


Diculty: The diculty should meet the skills of the target group
and should satisfy and be dened by the input devices.
Competition/Collaboration: The game should be designed in a
way that the competition/collaboration between the players helps to
form the challenge of the game.

5.2.2

Explanation

The extended possibilities of tabletop setups should be used to design an


appealing game play. Thus, the challenge should be dened by the tabletop
setup. This also includes the challenge produced by input devices (see gure
5.2). Here the challenge should meet the possibilities provided by novice
input devices as well as by generic input devices. Furthermore also the target
group the game is designed for, inuences the challenge of a game [36]. For
example, children tend to have a faster reaction time, better vision and
hearing than adults, therefore they also need more challenge in these areas
whereas adults could be challenged in content-relevant matters.

Figure 5.2: In Comino the challenge is created by the symbiosis of virtual


and real elements employed in the game. The real domino stones are able to
knock over the virtual ones and vice versa. Hence the players have to be very
careful not to accidentally touch any stones.

Tabletop games are not only inuenced by pure physical and virtual
aspects, they are also inuenced by social factors [2, 31, 47, 63]. Therefore
collaborative and competitive tasks can provide additional challenge for a
game. One should not confuse the challenge with issues connected to the
interaction (section 5.6).

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

5.3

59

Reach

The reach of the players should be adapted to the requirements of the game
play.

5.3.1

Explanation

Not every game requires the players to reach over the entire table. Furthermore the reach should be adapted according to the requirements of the game
play. In games such as Comino (section 4.2.1 and gure 5.3b) the players
are collaborating table-wide and frequently changing their position around
the table. Hence, they do not have a special private workspace. Other games
such as chess, NeonRacer (section 4.2.1 and gure 5.3a) and PenWars (section 4.2.1 and gure 5.3c), where the players are positioned face-to-face,
assign a certain private space to the players.

(a)

(b)

(c)

Figure 5.3: (a) The contrast between private workspace and public
workspace when playing Neon Racer. The private workspace is represented
by the interaction with the game controller. The use of the public workspace
is demonstrated by the two players reaching for the same object. (b) The
table-wide collaboration when playing Comino. In order to interact with the
game, the players have to reach over the table and frequently change their positions. (c) The players private workspace demonstrated on PenWars. Each
player has an operational area (the base) in front of them. For other purposes
(e.g. attack of the enemy) they are able to reach further.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

60

The players can operate within the private space (usually about half of
the table when two players are involved) but also further in the common
or public space. The reach can be expanded by adjusting the height of the
table to the needs of the players (adaptability, section 5.5).
Generally, a rule of thumb in designing tabletop applications states that
every person involved should obtain her own private workspace and be able
to reach the public space as well as the other parts of the table [52]. Since
the game play might even require the opposite, this rule should be adapted
to the requirements of the game play.
The reach of a person is dierent depending on whether the person is
sitting or standing. Toney et al. [60] have conducted a formal user study,
investigating the dierence of reach between people that are sitting and
standing. Other meaningful information such as the average comfortable
working height and the distance from the table have been gathered by them.
Hence, even a person that is sitting should still be able to reach over the
center of the table.
Furthermore, when players are required to share input devices, every
player should have access to the device. Should this condition not be given,
more input devices (e.g. one for each player) are to be provided.
Moreover the reach should also satisfy the target group. For example,
the reach of children is less than the reach of adults and the reach of seniors
tends to be less than the young adults.

5.4

Examinability

The players should not be hindered to examine the area required by the
game play.

5.4.1

Categorization

The heuristic concerning the examinability can further be categorized into:


Virtual Examinability: The displayed interface should enable the
player to examine and comprehend the provided information.
Real Examinability: The player should not be hindered by real objects to examine the information necessary to interact with the game.

5.4.2

Explanation

The examinability is dened as the area of the tabletop surface that the
player is able to examine visually according to the game play.
The virtual examinability allows the player the comprehension of information provided by the displayed interface. This means that public information is displayed in a way that each player has the same opportunity to see

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

61

Figure 5.4: When playing Casa Memo, the players examinability was impaired by occlusions casted by their hands.

it. Private information on the other hand should be displayed in a way that
the player obtaining this information has the capability to freely examine it
without other players seeing it (e.g. using additional displays or hand-held
devices [30, 31]). Furthermore the perspective should be chosen so that the
player can distinguish objects and read texts. During the heuristic evaluation several players complained that the sheep displayed in Neon Racer (see
section 4.2.1) were too small to be perceived as sheep. Nevertheless the perspective aspect of the examinability should not be confused with the one of
the cognitive workload.
Real examinability can be understood as the players possibility to see
the displayed objects on the table surface without physical objects hindering
the perception. Shadows and occlusions might appear due to objects placed
on the surface or players gestures or reaching over the table [64] (in case of
front-projection, see gure 5.4). Additionally cables needed for input devices
or other technical aids can also occlude objects and cast shadows.

5.5

Adaptability

The system should be adaptable to the player in terms of the setup.

5.5.1

Categorization

The adaptability of tabletop systems can further be subdivided into:


Adaptability to the Player: The system should be adaptable to the
needs of the player.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

62

Adaptability to Dierent Target Groups: The system should be


adaptable to dierent target groups.
Adaptability to Other Systems: It should be possible for the tabletop game to be played on other setups.

5.5.2

Explanation

Tabletop systems should be able to meet the players needs. For example,
players might need to take dierent seating positions during a game session.
The setup should be adaptable to dierent positions of the player as well as
her preferences.
The system should be able to be used by all players represented by
the target group. If a game is designed for children and adults, both of
them should be able to use the setup without problems. For example, when
working with children, the height of the table is important. Generally the
table is too high for them and they have to stand up, lean on/over the
table or even have to stand on the table in order to be able to interact
properly [30]. This again might also disturb the tracking system (camera) or
the touch-interface (e.g. when using the DiamondTouch table). When only
children are playing, the tabletop could be lowered so that children can play
at a table-height that is comfortable to them. Additionally the game space
should be adjustable to the number of players.
Furthermore the game should not necessarily be bound to one setup.
In the future, dierent setups might be commercially available. Hence, a
tabletop game that is platform independent will be needed. If it is required
by the game play, the setup should be portable.

5.6

Interaction

The interaction method should satisfy the expectations of the player and
follow the game logic.

5.6.1

Categorization

The interaction between the player and the game can be further subdivided
into:
Industry Standards: If available, industry standards should be met.
Controls: The controls should meet the players expectations and be
intuitive, consistent and naturally mapped.
Orthogonal Unit Dierentiation: The design of the objects employed should ease the comprehension of their usage.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

63

Proportions: The proportions employed in the game should be realistic and conform to the game play.

5.6.2

Explanation

Players do have some idea of the interface and controls they are going to use.
Therefore these interfaces should conform to industry standards, if available,
and be usable in a very natural, easy and understandable way [41]. Nevertheless the interaction should happen according to the game play. For example,
the game logic might require the players to nd out how to interact with a
system (cf. Comino, 4.2.1). This also inuences the level of enjoyment in a
game, which again makes the input method very important for the entirety
of the game. It is essential that the interaction style is very natural, intuitive
and easy [23, 30, 47, 50, 55, 6164].
Concerning the interaction between the player and the system, certain
industry standards are available for traditional video games [11, 14, 50, 54].
Some of them can also be applied to tabletop games as well. For example, the possibility to save longer gaming sessions and continue them after a
while [43] is of certain importance for more complicated tabletop games. Additionally it has to be taken care that unintentional actions such as pointing
to something, resting an elbow on the surface or placing a physical object
onto the surface that does not belong to the game play (e.g. a drinking glass)
do not disturb or inuence the game. For example, such a disturbance can
happen, when placing an elbow on the DiamondTouch table (see gure 5.5.
The controls employed should be intuitive, naturally mapped, consis-

Figure 5.5: During the left players turn, his opponent (person on the right)
accidentally rests his arm on the DiamondTouch table, which results in unintentional input.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

64

Figure 5.6: The interface of Comino is perceived as very intuitive since the
virtual domino bricks are behaving the same way as the real domino bricks.

tent and meet the players expectations (see gure 5.6). It should be easy
for novice players to become familiar with the controls. If allowed by the
game play, the controls should be customizable by the player. Frequently
used information should stand out and be easy to reach. Additionally it
should be hard to activate the wrong control. These aspects have already
been partially considered in video game heuristics, introduced by Schaffer [54], Federo [14], Desurvire et al. [11] and Rocker et al. [50]. Taking the
advanced possibilities of tabletop games into account, this heuristic gains
special importance.
The term orthogonal unit dierentiation was coined by Harvey Smith1 . It
means that units are distributed over orthogonal axes. Dierent objects have
dierent capabilities and meanings. This principle can be applied to articial
intelligence as well as the game interface and the controls. Furthermore the
objects should enable the user to easily understand its purpose, see gure
5.7.
The proportions of the game elements as well as those of the real objects should be realistic and conform to the game play. For example, during
the heuristic evaluation, the tanks in PenWars were perceived as too large.
Generally they should be designed small enough that they can easily be
identied [54] but not too large, so that ten tanks ll up the display and it
is hard to move. The same applies to all elements of a game, such as the
size of the game board. If the game board is too small, the players will soon
reach the end and the game will be boring. When a game board is too big,
the players might get frustrated, because they feel like they will never reach
the other end.
1

http://www.gamasutra.com/features/gdcarchive/2003/Smith Harvey.ppt,copyonDVD

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

65

Figure 5.7: When playing Comino, the orthogonal unit dierentiation allows
to deduct the purpose of the dierent objects.

5.7

Level of Automation

The player should be able to execute all actions relevant to the game by
herself.

5.7.1

Explanation

All actions that are perceived as boring and rather unimportant to the game
should be performed by the computer. Nevertheless the actions that are
essential to the game play should be accomplished by the player herself [30].
The computer is supposed to help the player without restricting her.
In this case, the best examples are card games. The player feels comfortable when the computer takes over dicult tasks such as counting the
score or shuing the cards [23]. When talking about board games the task
of rolling a die should be left to the player [30]. For example, when playing MaeD (section 4.2.1) during the heuristic evaluation, the participants
claimed that the computer was cheating because they felt that the computer was rolling the die in its favor (see gure 5.8). Hence, those tasks
should still remain to the player, since it gives them a sense of control.
Additionally, it forces the social interaction between the players, by skillful
rolling techniques and the possibility to cheat [29, 30].
Furthermore, Magerkurth et al. [30] also suggest that non-player characters should not be moved by the computer. By also providing exible and
not completely xed sets of rules, the game could be slightly adapted to the
players and the environment, leading to a richer gaming experience. Furthermore Koivisto et al. [21] recommend to exclude boring tasks by executing
them automatically. The interaction should suciently be balanced between

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

66

Figure 5.8: When playing MaeD, the die could be rolled by clicking onto
the according image. The computer then automatically generated a random
number. The players had the impression that the computer was cheating by
favoring its own gures.

the real world and the virtual interface [30].


As mentioned in section 2.3.2, traditional input methods such as mice or
keyboards are seldom used. Avoiding such input devices extends the number
of possible alternative input devices and distinguishes tabletop games from
traditional computer games [30], opening the possibility for more entertainment. This makes the input method very important for the entirety of the
game.

5.8

Collaboration and Communication

The interpersonal communication and collaboration should be supported by


the entirety of the game (such as game play and setup).

5.8.1

Categorization

The heuristics concerning collaboration and communication can further be


categorized into:
Collaboration: The entirety of the tabletop system should support
the collaboration between the players.
Communication: The communication between the players should be
supported by the entirety of the tabletop system.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

5.8.2

67

Explanation

Tabletop interaction in general and hence also tabletop games increase the
collaboration and communication between players. This concept has already
been introduced in sections 2 and 4.3. When including an augmented table,
new social situations are created.
The technology is not supposed to interfere with the collaboration; moreover it should suciently support it, as depicted in gure 5.10. Therefore the
game play should be designed to encourage collaboration or even competitiveness. The entirety of tabletop games (design, setup, game play) should
aim on enhancing collaboration between the players. According to [61] good
collaboration consists of
...
People sharing a common view.
Direct input methods that are aware of multiple people.
Peoples ability to monitor how others directly access objects on the surface.
How people communicate to each other and interact atop
the surface via gestures and verbal utterances.
...
One major part of collaboration on tabletop systems is so-called workspace awareness [17, 61]. Workspace awareness is the understanding of the
other players intentions. This mostly depends on gestures, gaze and voice.
Through ones actions, the other players can deduct intentions and react
accordingly.
Concerning the communication, tabletop interaction is more natural for
talking and discussing dierent aspects of the game (see gure 5.9) than
sitting in front of a screen without seeing the faces of the other gamers in
traditional video games [30, 34, 61]. Players have the impression of knowing their fellow players better when playing on a tabletop than playing a
computer game. This also applies for complete strangers who are put together as a group. Nevertheless the success of the game also depends on the
composition of the group that is playing.
Therefore the entire system should support the communication between
the players. For example, the setup should be built in a communicative way
[30] and the game play should demand the players to talk with each other
about dierent situations which might be either collaborative or competitive
(see gure 5.11). According to Koivisto et al. [21] a game should give the
players reasons to communicate and to express themselves. This especially
applies to tabletop games.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

68

Figure 5.9: Two players discussing the game.

Figure 5.10: Comino encourages the close collaboration between the two
players (player 1green bricks, player 2yellow bricks).

5.9

Feedback

Feedback and feedthrough should be adapted to the possibilities of tabletop


games, used adequately and be provided to the players when appropriate.

5.9.1

Categorization

The heuristics about the feedback given to the players can be subdivided
into:
Feedback: Adequate feedback should be given at the right time.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

69

Feedthrough: When required, feedthrough should be provided to


other players.
Environment: Feedback and feedthrough should be adjusted to the
environment.

5.9.2

Explanation

As stated by Jakob Nielsen [41] feedback cannot be underestimated in any


kind of software application (see also section 4.1.1, heuristic number 20).
This also and especially applies to tabletop applications.
Feedback is meant for the person executing the current action and helps
her to understand what she has just done and reassures her that she has
done what she has intended to do. Feedback can be purely visual, acoustic or
haptic [43], but most of the time it is applied in a combined form [2,11,14,50].
For example, when clicking on a button, the display of the button changes
and a distinct sound is played in the background to support the graphics
and the input device vibrates slightly to conrm the action.
Feedthrough [17,61] helps the other players to follow the current players
actions when more people are playing (gure 5.12). Moreover messages that
appear accompanied by a sound help to notify the players that something
important has happened [47].
Too much feedback, especially graphical feedback, can confuse the players. Although the right amount of feedback at the right moment can be
encouraging or even rewarding for the user [11, 14] (e.g. the player succeeds

Figure 5.11: Two evaluators working side-by-side while playing Comino. In


order to solve the tasks, the players have to discuss their strategy and be
aware of what the co-player is doing. The discussions as well as the close
collaboration create a familiar atmosphere.

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

70

Figure 5.12: By observing which tank is selected by the opponent it is


possible to adjust ones strategy accordingly.

in a mission and receives a special icon for it).


Each kind of feedback depends on the environment it is used in. When the
noise level of the surroundings is elevated, the players are not able to hear the
acoustic feedback/feedthrough and hence it is useless. This limits the interaction and therefore leads to less enjoyment. Furthermore the illumination
of the environment can inuence the quality of visual feedback/feedthrough.

5.10

Comfort of the Physical Setup

The construction of the setup (including the display) should be comfortable


to use and not require the player to take an awkward position.

5.10.1

Categorization

The comfort of the physical setup can be further subdivided into:


Duration: The comfort of the physical setup should be given through
the entire duration of the game.
Position: During the game, the player should be able to take a comfortable position.

5.10.2

Explanation

The heuristic concerning the comfort is only connected to the comfort provided by the physical setup and not the usability of the interface. The comfort is measured by the impressions of the current player. It is only applied

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

71

Figure 5.13: During longer gaming sessions it is more comfortable for the
players when they can sit. Here it is important that they are able to change
their position without inuencing the quality of the system. Nevertheless the
seating position should suce the aordances of the player as well as the
preconditions of the system (e.g. adequate distance between the player and
the table).

to the present system without the possibility of changing it according to


the players needs. If changes should be required, the possibility of those
changes can be evaluated through the heuristic addressing the adaptability
(see section 5.5).
The dimensions of the tabletop setup are closely connected to its comfort [52]. The table should be designed according to the aordances of the
environment. Therefore the table should be constructed in a way that the
players can either conveniently stand or sit at the position designated by
the game play. Furthermore also the shape of the table should be adapted
to the audience. For example, young children prefer to stay closer to each
other than adults when interacting on a table. Moreover they prefer to sit
side-by-side, while adults prefer to sit on the opposite of each other [55].
Therefore the arrangement of the players around the table should be made
according to the game play.
The players should feel comfortable during the entire duration of the
game. For longer game sessions it is comfortable, when the players are able
to sit in front of the table (see gure 5.13). Therefore the players should
be enabled to freely move their feet below the table. Bulky systems tend to
force the users into awkward seating positions. According to Scott et al. [55]
they do not even allow for natural interaction. Hence a closed setup such as
used for the Neon Racer game (section 4.2.1) might not be the best choice.
The display system is supposed to be chosen in a way that the players
comfort is not inuenced. For example, when using rear-projection systems,

CHAPTER 5. FINAL HEURISTICS

72

the required minimum height and the bulky construction of the table might
inuence the players position [55]. As already described in section 2.3.1,
back-projection needs a mirror to be applied at a certain distance from the
projector and the table surface in order to be able to cover the entire surface. Hence, the table has to have a minimum height, which most of the
time requires the players to sit in an awkward and uncomfortable position
or even to stand upright [55]. Furthermore the bulky construction does not
allow players to rest their feet under the table, which again leads to a rather
uncomfortable and unusual seating position [55]. Additionally potential seating positions, such as a low sofa or a certain distance to the table can be
perceived as uncomfortable (gure 5.13). Moreover some setups require the
participant to hold a designated position during the game (e.g. when using
the capacitive receivers for the DiamondTouch interface).

Chapter 6

Conclusions and Future


Work
The subsequent sections provide a short summary of the present thesis as
well as prospects for future work.

6.1

Summary

This thesis introduces the issue of augmented tabletop games as well as


their evaluation. Furthermore a method for a systematic categorization of
the dierent kinds of currently available tabletop games is described.
To cover all aspects provided by augmented tabletop games, a set of
heuristics consisting of heuristics concerning the game play/game story, the
virtual interface and the special preconditions of tabletop games has been
developed. The heuristics applying to game play/game story as well as to the
virtual interface have been collected through literature research of heuristics applicable to video games. Moreover the existing heuristics have been
combined and partially reformulated for the employment for tabletop games.
During the development of this project, four dierent sets of heuristics
concerning the special conditions of augmented tabletop games have been
developed. For a better understanding of the nal version an overview of
this evolution is provided in this thesis. The third set of heuristics has been
tested through a formal heuristic evaluation. The results have proven them
to be useful and applicable to the evaluation of tabletop games. Nevertheless
heuristics are still considered to be an inexpensive evaluation method and do
not cover all aspects of the games designed. Therefore dierent evaluation
methods should be applied throughout the development cycle of a tabletop
game.
Since some obscurities have been discovered through the heuristic evaluation, the heuristics have been improved and subcategories have been added
to the nal outcome. The subcategories are supposed to oer additional help
73

CHAPTER 6. CONCLUSIONS AND FUTURE WORK

74

in case of ambiguities.

6.2

Future Work

Because of the temporal constraints of this thesis it was not possible to test
the nal set of heuristics. Nevertheless, due to the success of the third set of
heuristics, the improved nal version is supposed to support the evaluation
of tabletop games. For the future development of the presented heuristics,
extensive testing of the nal version of the heuristics would be recommended.
In case that further evaluations of the heuristics proof them to be helpful,
dierent kinds of tabletop applications can be included into the heuristics.
For example, the inclusion of distributed games as well as Head-MountedDisplays (HMDs) would extend the possibilities of the presented heuristics.

Appendix A

DVD Contents
File System: ISO9660 + Joliet
Mode: Single-Session DVD

A.1

Master Thesis

Path:

da dm05013.dvi . . . .
da dm05013.pdf . . . .
da dm05013.ps . . . . .

A.2

Forms

Path:

/forms/

consent.pdf . . . . . . .
eval report.pdf . . . . .
heuristics.pdf . . . . . .

A.3

Literature

Path:

/literature/

nokia.pdf . . . . . . . .
vidiot.pdf . . . . . . . .

A.4

Videos

Path:

/videos/

Master thesis (DVI-le, without graphics)


Master thesis (PDF-le)
Master thesis (PostScript-le)

Consent form
Form to ll in the reported usability issues
Short introduction to the eleven heuristics

Mobile Game Playability Heuristics


Dont be a Vidiot

75

APPENDIX A. DVD CONTENTS


session1.avi .
session2.avi .
session3.avi .
session4.avi .
session5.avi .
session6.avi .
summary.avi

.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.

A.5

Websites

Path:

/websites/

.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.

Evaluation session 1
Evaluation session 2
Evaluation session 3
Evaluation session 4
Evaluation session 5
Evaluation session 6
Summary of the heuristic evaluations

abc-ware.de.pdf . . . . Casa Memo


blizzard.com.pdf . . . . Warcraft III
bluebyte.net.pdf . . . . The Settlers II
catan.com.pdf . . . . . The Settlers of Catan
enemyterritory.com.pdf Enemy Territory
europe.nokia.com1.pdf
Nokia SU-1B
europe.nokia.com2.pdf
Nokia SU-27W
games-workshop.com.pdf The Warhammer Series
maxell.co.jp.pdf . . . . Maxell DP201
merl.com.pdf . . . . . . DiamondTouch table
microsoft.com.pdf . . . Microsoft Surface
nintendo-europe.com.pdf Nintendo wii
oceoftomorrow.org.pdf Oce of Tomorrow
pagat.com.pdf . . . . . Uno Variations
prometheanworld.com.pdf Promethean Activepen
scrivo1 manual.pdf . . . Plawa scrivo.1
Smith Harvey.ppt . . . PowerPoint Presentation explaining
orthogonal unit dierentiation
theinspiracy.com.pdf . . The 400 Project
thesims2.co.uk.pdf . . . The Sims
uk.playstation.com.pdf
PlayStation 3
uwisoft.net.pdf . . . . . MaeD and Springer
wow-europe.com.pdf . . World of Warcraft
xbox.com.pdf . . . . . . Microsoft Xbox 360

76

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