Voxelized is a block-building game currently in Early Access as an alpha version. Unlike Grimoire Manastorm, which I reviewed a few weeks back, Voxelized is a very, very rough alpha. According to the game's Steam page, the dev added the game to Early Access because he wants "to involve the community in the very early stages of the game."

Very early stages indeed. The page states that the game is "fully playable," which I might debate. Currently all you can do is walk, jump, destroy blocks, and build blocks. Regardless, I'm not here to talk about the quality of a game, I'm here to discuss usability. Here's what I think Voxelized does well, and where it can improve.


Voxelized Follows Convention

First loading into a game, I didn't have to pull up any figures with the control scheme. The movement is tried-and-true WASD for direction and Space for jump. Left click picks up a block, and right click sets a block back down. Simple. Like Minecraft and Block N Load, Voxelized also highlights the blocks that can be manipulated when the cursor moves, making it easy to tell where blocks can and cannot be placed.

Following movement convention eases players into the game by reintroducing controls which with they're familiar. Using familiar concepts reduces cognitive load imposed on a player's working memory, allowing them to focus more of their attention on learning and playing the game.


...But Is Inconsistent

After learning the basics, I found little to do in the alpha build besides relocate blocks. I was surprised by this, not only because I expected there would be more in a "fully playable" game, but because I expected there to be some kind of combat-element. 

Why? Because the Voxelized Configuration screen -- the player's first exposure to the game -- lists 'Fire1,' 'Fire2,' and 'Fire3' as controls.

Voxelized Configuration: Input

Of course, I learned that the 'Fire' inputs do not relate to combat at all. Fire1 allows a player to delete a block, Fire2 to build it, and Fire3 is currently not functional.


  • Keep naming clear and consistent with the game's Pause Screen by re-labeling Fire2 to "Build." 
  • Consider relabeling Fire1 to something other than 'Delete.' I may be wrong, but I expect that M1 will eventually add a block to the player's inventory, not delete it from the game.
  • Make sure that all of the currently mapped keys are on the Configuration. The Map 'M' is bound in-game, but not listed on either the Pause Screen as one of the controls or in the Configuration.


I reviewed this game not because it was on trial, but because it's so cheap in alpha and my crappy computer can't handle the open beta of Heroes of the Storm. Since the game is essentially in its infancy, I may review the game again and discuss its progress. 

Final comments for the dev:
  • I noticed a range of numbers (0-25) on the left side of the screen in-game. They're not distracting for more than a second after noticing them, but I'm still confused why they're there. Does it have something to do with saves? With location? It requires some explanation and possibly relocation.
  • The Pause Screen displays a slider for a 'yes' and 'no' question. A toggle would be better if the skill is binary -- either you can climb or you can't -- or the options ought to be re-labeled with less binary terminology.
  • Try and get someone to proofread your community updates before posting -- there are a number of grammatical errors on the page.

Ultra Street Fighter IV, released on PC August, 2014, is a solid fighting game. The most recent addition to the Street Fighter series, which premiered in 1987, USF IV benefits from a legacy of fine-tuned fighting mechanics. That said, USF IV's main usability issue on PC is inconsistency in its navigation scheme.

As with any game, navigation is key. Navigation requires six necessary actions:

  1. Select and go forward (Confirm)
  2. Clear selection and go back (Return/Back)
  3. Scroll up
  4. Scroll down
  5. Scroll left
  6. Scroll right

USF IV's navigational issues can be attributed to two things: multipurpose keybindings and overbound actions. I looked at 10 different game screens to see how the game's navigation worked.


Multipurpose Keybindings

In this game, no one keybinding can be guaranteed to work on every page that action is allowed. Experimentation revealed that there are four different ways to Confirm in USF IV: Enter, Q, O, and R. Not one of these keys can be reliably used in the game to Confirm a selection.

Green = used; Yellow = different action; White = unused; Grey = not usable

What I found interesting is that Enter is used inconsistently as an all-encompassing "see more" button, like (A) in Nintendo (it's my go-to example because I grew up playing Pokemon & Golden Sun). Enter allows players to see more by selecting an option, zooming into document, or expanding details about a certain player.

  • Keep it simple. Set Enter as the default button for "seeing more"/confirming. This reduces the number of buttons players need to care about.
  • Further simplify by only choosing one secondary Confirm key (either Q or O, not both).

Overbound Actions

In my experience, most games assign 1-2 keybindings to a specific action. The PC version of USF IV assigns:

  1. Four to select and go forward (Enter, Q, O, R)
  2. Five to go back (Esc, W, P, ;, \)
  3. Four to scroll up (Up arrow, Insert, F, X+Up arrow)
  4. Four to scroll down (Down arrow, Page Up, V, X+Down arrow)
  5. Five to scroll left (Left arrow, B, Page Up, Page Down, Insert)
  6. Four to scroll right (Right arrow, C, R, Page Down)
In total, there are 22 different keybindings to accomplish six actions, with Insert, Page Up, Page Down, and R programmed to accomplish different navigational tasks depending on the screen.

  • Consistently bind keys to similar actions and names. Why does Page Up scroll down? Why does Page Down scroll right?
  • Make navigation easier by assigning 1-2 key bindings to each action.

For a series which started with six buttons in 1987, I'm somewhat amazed that 22 buttons are mapped for navigation alone on the PC. I'm curious to know how the controls vary across-platforms -- considering that the XBox 360 controller only has 15 buttons, I'd bet my hat that console-versions use fewer buttons to navigate. (At some point I'll get around to testing games on consoles -- for now I'll continue using my dinky $500 laptop.)

In summary, Ultra Street Fighter IV's keybindings can be streamlined and simplified by:

  1. Keeping button use consistent: If "Enter" can be used to confirm/see more on one page, it ought to be usable on any page where that action is possible.
  2. Limiting keys-per-action: I don't want four ways to scroll up -- I want one or two that will work reliably.
It's a bit unfortunate that I spent most of the USF IV trial time writing notes on page-specific keybindings rather than, well, actually playing the game. But it was a fun little puzzle.

Block N Load is Minecraft meets Team Fortress 2, a building-based, wacky and fun game.

 I wish I had more time to play around with this game -- I had a busy weekend and so only got a few hours with it before the trial ran out. Thus this blog post will be much shorter than my previous entry.

Usability-wise, this game makes a good first impression. Initial registration is blazingly fast, and the home screen UI is clearly presented and straightforward.

Block N Load's main usability issue is not presenting the player with all of the knowledge they need before starting their first game.


Traps...? What Traps?

First, the practice map foregoes trap/tool training. While the practice map clearly teaches environment (lava = bad) and movement (here's how to crawl), it doesn't go beyond basics. Traps, I discovered during game one, are widely used and greatly helpful.

The widespread use of traps surprised me -- if trap placement is as integral to gameplay as building, why wasn't I made aware of the tools? Retrospectively, I had access to traps/tools and the knowledge to place them, but wasn't aware that I should take note of all the items in my toolbar. Eager to start playing the game, I dutifully followed instructions and rushed through the practice map, not spending time to experiment.

As such, I felt somewhat lost when playing an actual round. I had no idea what traps had been placed, let alone how to avoid them. In a way, it felt like bringing a knife to a gun fight -- woefully under-prepared, I was steamrolled.

...I would if I could, but I can't so I won't.

Second, I couldn't take advantage of one of Block N Load's useful features: selecting a respawn point. I left and right clicked on the mini-map, experimented with the camera buttons on the left, and started pressing buttons at random. I think respawn selection is a great feature, and I would have loved to use it had I known how.

Though the prior two points arose from lack of knowledge/awareness, one other element in Block N Load annoyed me: the practice map teaches the game's basics by bludgeoning the player with tutorial tips.  Instead of showing a tip when a player first enters a region or encounters an obstacle, the practice map flashes the tip whenever a player enters a tutorial region.

Tooltip Bonanza
Once, when stuck at an obstacle, I heard the tooltip sound more than ten times in one minute.


  • Tweak the practice map such that players are taught the importance -- or at least existence -- of traps. 
  • At least when the player first dies that round, put the instructions for choosing a respawn point near the minimap. 
  • Measure the amount of time new players spend on each obstacle in the practice map and average the result. Players who spend more than the average time in that area are shown the tooltip again as a gentle reminder.

Overall, Block N Load is easy to play with an intuitive interface. I wish I had more time to dig in and analyze the usability before the trial ran out, but such is life. If you like Minecraft or Team Fortress 2, I recommend trying out Block N Load.