Anna Ostberg

User Experience Researcher

Minecraft Game Controls
A comparative study exploring new force controls for Minecraft and how their performance measures up to the baseline controls.
A new interaction model for Minecraft game controls was being worked on, and I was asked to provide feedback on the interaction and eventually to collaborate on running a usability study. The goal was to evaluate a new form of game controls using force sensing on a smartphone touchscreen to improve the gameplay of Minecraft. After a series of iterative improvements based on my usability evaluations of the interactions, an extensive study was performed.
In order to compare the new force controls to the existing controls, several aspects of gameplay were compared including movement, building, mining, and combat. We built obstacle courses in Minecraft to evaluate about a dozen of the most common tasks in Minecraft. Participants were timed in each task and error counts were taken for some of the tasks that had clear error states. Participant comments and ratings were also collected during the tasks and at the end of the study to summarize overall experience. Since Minecraft is a popular game among children and teens, we made sure to recruit some younger participants for this study, and adjusted our interviews and questions accordingly.
The results of the study showed that the new force controls provided some experiential improvements and were helpful on some specific tasks, but did not make a general difference for the more quantitative measures like time, task completion, and errors. One improvement with force controls was that the force gestures meant that fewer on-screen buttons were needed. In the crowded real-estate of a smartphone display, this meant less clutter and a better view of the game itself. The results of the study were shared internally with engineers and also presented externally to Mojang (the creators of Minecraft).
A screen capture of one of the Minecraft obstacle courses used in the study. This task required players to maneuver the mountain as quickly as they could.
This shows some of the questions that participants responded to after each task.
A screen capture of another obstacle course which required players to place blocks on the gray squares, practicing precision block placement.