I’ve been playing quite a lot lately to a little Android game called Big Hunter. The premise is extremely simple (you have to hunt a mammoth just by throwing spears at it) and the execution is superb: minimalistic and stylish, you must rely on your skill only to drain the mammoth’s health bar before you run out of spears. The difficulty curve is steep enough to keep the game a constant challenge to your skill, but just enough.
So my heart sank when I looked into other people’s review of the game at the Play Store. There was a ridiculous number of peolpe asking for “upgradable spears“, “putting an armour to the mammoth so you have to break it before hurting the beast“, “other creatures to hunt, like sabretooths“, or “extra items that you could buy with coins in order to kill the mammoth faster“. I just couldn’t believe the amount of people that, without having understood a single thing about the game, felt empowered to suggest changes that would undoubtely break its essence, throw away the perfect challenge/difficulty balance of the game, and turn it into another bloated “pay us a stupid amount of money if you want to progress” app, as many mobile games have turned out to be recently. The people proposing these changes totally suck at design, and they don’t realize it.
But all of this got me thinking, and it’s not only players of mobile games who suffer from this. Through my years as an engineer I have seen too many developers sucking at desing. So-called designers that created horrific software Frankensteins* or hardware overkills just because they didn’t take the time to think about the requisites for their systems. They didn’t bother understanding the essence of their task, nor considering the best way of addressing the problem at hand.
Not everyone is a design mastermind. I’m not one, that’s for sure. But all of us can do the effort of thinking before starting, analyse the problem, its requisites and constraints, and plan the simplest, most efficient way of dealing with them. It does not guarantee the most elegant solution, but it gets us so much closer to it. And after years of practice, who knows, you may stop sucking at design. And you won’t even notice.
* Yes, yes, right, I know that Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster. Jeez.