July Design Challenge – Winner Announced!July 23, 2021 By Amy Green We love our monthly one-button design challenges because we believe that the more game designers practice considering the player, the more creative and inclusive they’ll be in their future game designs. For July, our community considered how they could make Mario Golf games a one-button experience. Mario Golf: Super Rush just came out, but we opened the challenge to all games in the series. Nintendo isn’t known for accessible design, so their titles tend to leave a lot of room for improvement, and the entries we received were really creative about how they could approach Mario Golf with a wider range of players in mind. Our winning entry this month was submitted by Jonah Monaghan. Here is his entry in its entirety, followed by commentary from our judges, Mike Perrotto, a Playability Initiative Game designer and Amaury Français, this month’s guest judge and a previous one-button design challenge winner. Mario Golf: One-Button Design Introduction This is a submission for the July 2021 Design Challenge for The Playability Initiative. Looking at Mario Golf, there are a few challenges we need to overcome in shot mode: Lining up a shot Setting spin on the ball Using a special shot Using the rangefinder Selecting the club Taking the shot Additionally, we need to overcome the movement when out of shot mode, which breaks down to: Moving the character Using the characters Special Dash Sprinting Once the player is within range, it seems like there are no additional buttons that need to be pressed as they are immediately brought into the shot mode. Then the cycle repeats. Shot Mode In this section, we’re going to explore how the shot mode will function and explain the best way to tackle the six challenges identified earlier. To provide players access to all the available mechanisms that the game provides, each shot will go through a series of steps. Step 1: Club Selection When the player reaches their ball, their first action will be to select their club; this will bring up a club selection menu where they can see all the possible options. The player can cycle through the options as they see fit by pressing the button. If the player stays on a certain option for a certain amount of time (determined by the player in their settings), then that is the selected club for the shot. As seen on the diagram above, the range finder is also in this menu. If the player selects the rangefinder, they will be sent to Rangefinder Mode, which is covered later in this document. This allows the player to look for information to make the best decision on which club to use. Step 2: Lining Up the Shot Similar to selecting a club, players will confirm their shot selection by waiting for a timer to reach zero (time determined by individual player’s settings) however, this timer functions slightly differently from the club selection timer. Players can press the button to move their shot in a direction and reset the timer; after the button is released, the timer will begin counting down. Once the timer reaches zero, the direction that the button moves the shot switches. As seen in the diagrams below, each button press will move the shot over a little (could also be a hold mechanism, however, a tap mode is more accessible). Additionally, when it is time to swing, a signifier will be provided to warn the players of an upcoming swing, ensuring players don’t accidentally swing when they want the direction to switch. Step 3: Power the Shot Powering the shot will work identically to how it is done in the game: players will tap the button at the desired power. Step 4: Spin and Super Shot While the original version of the game has players selecting their Super Shot before the power is selected. In order to save resources, spins and Super Shots will be combined in the same step. Like the club selection, shot actions are determined by an interactive menu. After the power is selected, the player will be presented with a menu to choose their spin, functioning the same way as the club selection menu. Since spin can’t be applied to a Super Shot, the two actions can be combined into one menu. Step 5: Taking the shot Finally, now that the shot is prepared, players can take the shot like they normally would, timing their hit to their power. Rangefinder Mode Currently, the game’s rangefinder mode seems to be based on gyroscope motion (not very accessible, Nintendo). Additionally, the top-down view of the map seems to be a very important way to scope out the course. Therefore, the rangefinder mode will be a combination of the top-down menu and the rangefinder in one menu. This menu will play through an animation that guides the player through the course. For example, in the image below, slopes will be marked with color and other non-color-based signifiers to identify slopes on the course. As the animation pans through the map, other key locations will be noted as well as their relevant details, as seen in the additional diagram below. Without a video to showcase this concept, the best way I can explain is to compare it to the animations shown when reaching a viewpoint in Assassin’s Creed or activating a radio tower on Far Cry 3. Moving Around the Map Without access to a joystick, movement will be restricted to a pathfinding system in which the player will automatically move towards the ball. This leaves one final problem to solve: how to distinguish between walking, sprinting, and Special Dashes. This section will attempt to answer this problem as well as identify concerns that may come from a pathfinding system. Why Pathfinding Won’t Break the Game It looks like some of the Super Shots are intended to hinder movement, such as adding ice to the field. However, pathfinding won’t nerf these abilities as players will either have to deal with the consequences of the Super Shot and walk/shoot through it or go around. While the addition of pathfinding would remove some player agency, I find it unlikely that a player would choose to go through a hazard such as ice or bombs unless they had to. This may impact some of the strategy required when moving with characters such as Luigi; however, this can be accommodated by changing the location of the shot since your character runs directly to it. Sprinting and Special Dashes While players will move automatically through the course, the consumption of stamina still needs to be balanced. To do so, players will be able to toggle between sprinting and walking by pressing the button; however, that leaves special dashes. The way I’ve chosen to tackle this problem is to base the player’s action off of their remaining stamina. If the player has enough stamina while sprinting, they will do their Special Dash then walk to recover stamina. If the player does not have enough stamina while sprinting, they will begin walking. In considering this entry, Mike Perrotto said, “The thoroughness here is much appreciated. Button cycling and then stopping on the desired entry is becoming a very common design consideration with regards to accessibility, and it fits perfectly here as well for selecting clubs, direction, and spin. Adding the “Recommended” flare is also a nice touch. Using color-coding to denote slope changes during a preview of each hole is a great way to combine the range finder and distance map into one tool. Being able to visually see differences at a glance instead of trying to aim the range finder via motion controls is extremely helpful. I like your solution to running towards the ball in Speed Golf modes. Choosing when to dash or use your super moves will feel satisfying and important.” Amaury Français added, “Nice job! Overall, a great understanding of the different elements that need to be revisited and thought about in the game. The mockups are also explicit enough. Radial menus are probably the best way to go for selections like this. In addition, I especially really like the handling of the movement and the decision between sprinting or using the special dash depending on the stamina. It is one of those one-button implementations that feels natural and doesn’t need to jump through hoops to achieve what a player with a standard handheld would probably do. I also really enjoy the critical thinking and making sure the changes won’t break the game like the pathfinding. As a more critical observation, I think all these radial menus would fit very well for a slower gameplay, like the standard golf mode. For the golf rush mode (the one when you play in real-time and run through the map), I feel like all those menus add a lot of selection time where the game mode is meant to be fast-paced and intuitive. The recommended choice for the golf club, for example, is excellent, but you could also just force that default choice for the sake of speed. However, as I said, those radial choices are the best way to go for the standard golf mode. Good job!” Our next entry came from a first-time participant in our game design challenge. Charles Love is not a game designer but had great ideas, and we loved having the opportunity to review his entry. Here it is in its entirety, followed by our judges’ feedback. My idea comes primarily from the old PS2 boss fighting clichés where you press a combination of buttons as you attack to deal more damage or do a cooler attack. This accessibility option could be more targeted to younger players. So here is my idea: The player is presented with puzzles/questions. (I think a way to select difficulty would be cool.) After the puzzle/question is presented, the player can press the button when they are ready to see answer options. Then in X second intervals, an answer is presented. If the player thinks the presented answer is correct, they press the button. If they don’t press the button after X seconds, another answer option is presented. Once they select an answer, they can press the button one more time to confirm the answer. This can help prevent accidental clicks and misclicks from affecting the player’s answer outcome. If the player gets the answer correct, the player makes a strong and accurate swing; if the player gets the question wrong, they make a weak and inaccurate swing. The more questions they answer correctly, the faster/fewer swings they take to finish the hole. Now that being said, I am not sure if this pulls itself too far away from how the game was intended to be played. I think I’d have a ton of fun playing a game like this anyway, though! When Mike Perrotto reviewed this entry, he said, “First and foremost, I love that you’re going out of your comfort zone and throwing your hat into the ring here this month! We hope to have you back again in the future! This immediately feels like a very interesting mode. I would love to see this fleshed out a bit more as I’m left with a lot of questions on how certain aspects would work exactly. Would the questions be general trivia? Specific to the game itself, maybe quizzing the player on things they’ve learned already? Math/Geometry? This would be a very cool feature included in the story mode, perhaps. I, too, want to play this game!” Guest judge Amaury Français added this feedback, “Thanks a lot for trying out! Your entry is full of very interesting ideas. And we shouldn’t forget that this isn’t just a competition for the best design but also a way to explore new opportunities for accessibility in video games. If we just go exactly by the rules, then this design is obviously straying far from the initial golf gameplay. But at the same time, it opens up to some very exciting ideas and design opportunities that I think nobody has done before, which is to ignore the fidelity of the game, and even its intended gameplay, to propose something that fits ultimately much better with a one-button design. Turning a simple golf game into quiz golf is a very good idea, as golf, in general, has a great range of amazing shots to bad shots. Just like answers, that can be amazingly good, or terrible, or anything in between. Your gameplay also has a very interesting twist on the usual “choose your answer” quiz type, where you only have one answer at a time, and you don’t know how many other options there will be until the right one pops up! This leads to much more excitement and tension than usual quiz games (where you can compare all the available answers straight away). Seeing designs like this, that venture in designs I had never thought of, should be encouraged more, either by explicitly allowing them, or even better, by doing some months where we propose much more open designs that just keep the basic theme of the game like you did. Thanks a lot for this submission!” Our final entry for July came from Damien Fargeout and was acknowledged as our honorable mention entry for the month. Here it is in its entirety, along with our judges’ commentary. Mario Golf Super Rush One button Gameplay Intentions I want to give the closest experience to the original game. Game Feel I’m based on videos to understand the game feel. Mario Golf : Super Rush is the newest Mario Golf game out on Nintendo Switch, following the line of previous games out on Nintendo’s previous hardwares. It is a solo/multiplayer game playable with two joysticks with one main objective : -Put the ball in the hole with the fewest strokes possible. On the basis, there is no pressure in playing. All the challenge is about the precision of your shot (except in different modes). The pleasure is to play golf with Mario’s character. Speed Golf It’s one of the new multiplayer modes of Mario Golf Super Rush. Unlike the original mode, you have to be quick in your shots and be the first to put the ball in the hole. The dynamic is different as described by the following loop : One Button Gameplay: opportunities and constraints Can the game require press and hold? Answer: No press and hold. (Holding pressure on a button for specific lengths of time may be challenging for people who are using adaptive buttons/switches.) Does pressing a screen count as a button? Answer: Yes, tapping on a screen can count as a button, so long as tapping the screen accomplishes the same thing no matter where you tap on the screen. No targeted tapping to accomplish different objectives (As this would essentially create unlimited buttons.) Can the design utilize the joystick as well as one button? Answer: No, everything the player needs to do should be able to be accomplished with a single switch or button. Can the design use a double-tap feature? Answer: No. Players who have low motor control may not be able to tap a button quickly enough a second time to have it register as a “double-tap” instead of as a second single tap. Design that relies on double-tap bars users with slower response times from ever choosing the “double-tap” option. The game is pretty made for one button-gameplay for the basics. As a designer, you have to give access to the effects and the gameplay’s nuances. My proposed solution is different extra-menus to control the directions by different “roads” in multiplayer Speed Golf mode and new gameplay for the putter mode. Two phases In Speed Golf mode, you have two phases to take into account : The shoot First, the player has to give a direction to his/her shot. With one button, the camera can automatically follow a quadrant of 90 degrees. The speed can be previously chosen in the menu. The player has to select his/her angle by clicking one time. Secondly, the player has to choose power and effect to this ball. The power is adjusted by a gauge: one click to start the cursor to move up, and another click to stop the cursor at the power chosen. Again, the speed can be adjusted in the menu. For the effect, it’s basically the same thing, but you can move the joystick while the cursor is moving up. With one button, the game can ask directly to the player if he/she wants to give effects to his ball by menu displaying propositions: A selection runs between items at a speed preselected in a menu. Switch clubs Automatically, the game will advise the player giving him the best club for the situation. Before each shot, the game proposes to the player if he/she wants to change the clubs. If yes, the player will have a new menu to select the club : Wind speed The player has a look at the wind speed at every time and has to take it into account for each shot. It will be trickier in Putter mode with the new rules and so this creates a new challenge for the player. Driver Mode VS Putter mode In putter mode, the player has a grid for an overview of the topography of the land. Here, instead of choosing the power of your shoot, the player is gonna choose the area of his/her shoot. Inspired by the alphabet letter board (the image below), periodically, the game will highlight some part of the grid, and the player will have to choose to select it or not. Big areas at first, and a line, and a square, the player can select one square at the end. After several selections, the game will give the position of the shoot by the average of your position. Special shot When the special bar is full, the player has the ability to use the special shot. To use it, a new option is available in the Effect menus. So, the player can choose to use it or not at each shot. The Run Auto-run / Dash After each shot, you have to run to your ball the quickest as possible. Normally, the player has to hold B to run, but here we can add an auto-run. Using a big chunk of your stamina bar, you can dash by clicking one time on the button. The player has to be careful with his/her stamina. He/she has to manage it to optimize the run. Directions You can move the character on the land to get some collectibles or tackle your enemies in multiplayer mode. You can separate the land into different corridors where the player can switch between them during the auto run. Alternatively, the game proposes to switch right or left. Collectibles : gold coins (to fill the special shot bar) and heart (to give stamina) Judge Mike Perrotto said, “I really like the idea of using an Alphabet Board and having it auto select areas that the player can accept or not to get more specific in creating their putt. I also really like the concept of corridors or “lanes” while running to help control movement and interaction with other players.” Amaury Français added his judging commentary, “I really like the focus on the game feel and the willingness to replicate that game feel, even though you speak about the two game modes but don’t really talk about them much later on (and especially what one-button designs would fit better one mode or the other). I do enjoy that a lot of the decisions are already taken for the player, like the club, general direction, etc. It seems like you forgot about the Range Finder, which seems to be an important component of the gameplay. I would have liked to see what ideas you would have found about how to manage that with only one button, but you covered the rest, which is more than fine. The Alphabet Putter mode square design is very clever. If the AI proposes the most sensible options to the players, then they shouldn’t spend too much time on this trying to find out the best option. Proposing a choice too deep could lead to a lot of time wasted for the player, but with a few tweaks, this idea can be very useful for selecting a zone. Overall, a lot of great ideas, even if some could have been detailed a bit more like the movement (when does the player hit the button exactly, etc.), and I really appreciate the intention of getting the game’s feel before trying to replicate it with only one button. Great job!” If these entries inspired you to think about accessible design in new ways, we’d love to have you participate in our future one-button design challenges. We’ll be announcing our next one-button design challenge, on Friday, August 6th. We’d love to have your participation and the participation of your friends. Join our community at https://www.facebook.com/groups/ThePlayabilityInitiative to participate.