# Design # Methodology

UX Critique: StreetPass Mii Plaza

As a lifelong gamer, but a responsible adult that is conscious of her meager contributions to real life, I make an effort not to spend too much of my free time at home playing games on consoles

I’m at a point in my life in which the majority of video games I play to completion are on my Nintendo 3DS. As a lifelong gamer, but a responsible adult that is conscious of her meager contributions to real life, I make an effort not to spend too much of my free time at home playing games on consoles. When I’m not working, I should be doing Responsible Adult Things, like washing dishes or folding clothes; or getting better at things that matter to me, like illustrating, or coding. See, I’m mature!

But, I consider my commute to and from work to be my real leisure time. While surrounded by strangers on a moving vehicle, confined to a corner with limited personal space for an hour, I pretty much have nothing better to do that I can feel guilty about not doing.

Since I use my 3DS on the go in a busy city, I particularly love what I think is one of it’s most delightful features– StreetPass.


What’s StreetPass?

If you venture out into the world with your 3DS on, or on and closed shut (in sleep mode) you can automatically exchange game data with other players nearby who have their 3DS on or in sleep mode.

And by game data I mean fun stuff. You can opt to exchange information for particular games, like sending power-ups to aid strangers in their Pokemon battles, sending monsters for them to fight in Bravely Default, or visiting their uniquely decorated houses in Animal Crossing. Most often you’ll be receiving data for StreetPass Mii Plaza– a central hub that accumulates the people you’ve tagged on StreetPass to use as players for minigames.

If I walk by another 3DS gamer, a green light blinks on both of our devices as their Mii avatar enters my Mii Plaza, and mine theirs.

Interacting with strangers without any of the anxiety!

I genuinely get a thrill of excitement when I spot someone else on the bus playing their 3DS, or when I notice the green light illuminated as I reach into my purse. But almost instantly afterward, a sense of tedious obligation-induced dread washes over me. Much like that feeling I get when I need to do Responsible Adult Things, like washing dishes or folding clothes– let’s just get it over with.

It wasn’t always like this. Within the last six years since the 3DS was released, the flow of StreetPass Mii Plaza has basically remained the same, but the older I got the more aggravating the process became for me.

What’s my problem?

Sweet Brown still does the best job at summing up the little inconveniences of life.

Why does it bug me? I’m impatient. The faster the processes of my daily life get, the thinner my patience becomes for everything else that could be done faster and just as effectively. I realize this is a flaw. I just don’t like sitting through redundancies when processes could easily be made more efficient with just a few tweaks. I like that I can check my builders’ progress, gather my loot, and train my troops in Clash of Clans in 15 seconds. The silence reduction setting on Overcast, a podcast app that I use, brings me such joy. And I think StreetPass Mii Plaza is overdue for a few small, but meaningful UX changes that can make it feel as enjoyable to play now as it was the first time I opened it up.

The StreetPass Gate

The mini game aspect of StreetPass Mii Plaza starts with the StreetPass Gate. This is where you check in on how many users you’ve tagged and accumulated over the length of time since you last opened the app and cleared your queue– with a max of 10 users before your Gate becomes full.

If you have 9 people you’ve passed by, here’s what you have to sit through:

  • acknowledge how many users you’ve passed by
  • acknowledge your Streetpass count total and how it has grown with these new visitors
  • acknowledge your visitor by reading their nickname, the region that they’re from, their cutesy (or usually odd) greeting
  • read your own custom greeting, which you’re already aware of. Y’know, because you chose it.
  • acknowledge the last game your visitor has been playing

Repeat x 9

You can skip greetings if you specify in your Plaza Settings. But a more efficient alternative could be:

The Alternative

  • Show my visitors in a grid. Let me see more of their info if I choose to do so.
  • Let me skim through all of the data with the d-pad, control stick, or stylus– or let me skip it all.

The Mini Games

Other than the uniquely amusing act of passively interacting in real life with other 3DS players to collect their silly nicknames and avatars, the main value in tagging people is to use them toward mini games.

Mii Plaza comes with 2 free games. (I won’t get into the 4 other paid games because I haven’t bought them. But apparently they’re much better– you can read about them in detail in this thorough article which explains StreetPass way better than I did!)

You can still play them on your own if you don’t do a lot of StreetPassing — when your 3DS is in sleep mode, the system works as a pedometer to count your steps, from which you earn Play Coins that you can use toward those games. (Fun fact: you may come across someone shaking their closed 3DS, which may seem strange– it could be that they’re trying to accumulate Play Coins by cheating the pedometer.)

When you do have 1–10 tags that you let in to your Plaza (clearing your queue), you need to play with your visitors by using them in the mini games before checking your gate again, or you’ll never be able to reap their rewards.

This is why I’d love to be able to get into the Plaza just to clear my queue, and have a certain amount of flexibility to defer the mini games for a later time. I’m sure this decision was made because there are certain limitations with the software, or more likely, a strategic choice so gamers still have a nagging need to open the software and are less likely to forget about it. But consider how long the process feels when you’re at a convention, mashing buttons and rushing through the games just to attempt to keep up with the amount of tags you don’t want missed.

The Alternative

  • In a perfect world, let me batch up to 50 tags and use them in the mini games all at once.

Puzzle Swap

In Puzzle Swap, you collect puzzle pieces to create full panels featuring Nintendo games and characters, which turn into fun little animations when they’re completed. You can collect pieces on your own with your pedometer-accumulated Play Coins, or by leveraging your StreetPass tags. Each tag allows you to choose a new puzzle piece from the person you tagged.

Puzzle Swap scratches a certain collector’s itch, and it’s satisfying seeing all of the pieces come together. But why does the game need my input to acknowledge that, out of 10 people I’ve passed, 9 of them don’t have any new pieces for me? The only information I care about in this flow is what pieces I can choose to receive from them. Not the ones I can’t.

Another irksome experience is, for instance, when I’ve passed by 10 people who do have new pieces for me. Let’s say I have 30 puzzle panels– 15 are totally complete, and I’m missing a few each for the rest. The first visitor has several pieces I can choose from several panels, and the default puzzle that’s in view contains one I don’t yet have. That’s convenient. But for the next 9 pieces, I can only scroll forward and back, one by one, searching for the panel with pieces that are relevant to my interests. This process is unnecessarily time consuming.

The Alternative

  • Allow me to hide completed puzzles. Or auto-scroll me to the closest incomplete puzzle every time a new visitor has a puzzle piece for me.
  • Let me navigate to the puzzle I want to choose a piece from with a thumbnail grid, navigable from the touch screen.
  • Show me the visitors that didn’t have new pieces at the very end, as a list, on one screen.

Find Mii II

Find Mii II is a strategic mini game which involves your StreetPass visitors battling enemies in an incredibly arduous turn-based process. (There’s an original Find Mii but it’s kind of pointless once you unlock Find Mii II). You defeat monsters based on their weaknesses and progress through increasingly difficult rooms, all to attain cute hats for your Mii avatar. But as much as I love these hilarious little hats, the flow of the game makes me so impatient (to the point of childlike antsy-ness) that I’ve mostly stopped playing it.

There are a few flows to this game that I no longer have any tolerance to withstand:

Venturing Forth

Two things to consider against the Find Mii enemies: Your players’ (or heroes’) levels can range from levels 1–7; least to most powerful, respectively. The more often you StreetPass tag a person, the higher their level will be in Find Mii. Their special abilities are determined from their chosen outfit colour.

There are 3 ways to get heroes in order to play the game:

  • current StreetPass tags
  • Hiring Wandering Heroes– randomly generated, low-level computer characters that you spend Play Coins to hire
  • Hiring Old Allies– previous tags you’ve already used in the game. They cost more Play Coins to hire than Wandering Heroes, but you have the advantage of choosing specific colours or higher levels.

The game knows you need players to play the game (with a max of 10 per game). But on the initial select screen, Venture Forth is the first option. If you’ve completed a game cycle with your current StreetPass tags, or if you’ve come to play the game with just your Play Coins and haven’t yet hired Heroes or Old Allies, this is what appears:

Why did I need to sit through this? Why at that point is Venture Forth even an option?

The Alternative:

  • Force me to order fighters before we venture off by hiding the Venture Forth option.

Gameplay

Your heroes face off against enemies one at a time. They have one opportunity to attack with their sword or with magic, and then they leave the game (or, “Return Home”). The amount of damage depends on your heroes levels, and certain enemies are weak or immune to certain types of magic. You can also order potions with various effects by spending Play Coins (e.g. upping your levels, calling back heroes that have already attacked, dispelling environmental effects). The most useful aspect to the game is the ability to team up with like-coloured heroes. For instance, a Red hero can team up with like-coloured Orange and Yellow heroes for an increase to their attack power– but after the turn, both heroes leave the game. Most useful is when you team up two heroes wearing the same colour, as they increase their attack power and get a bonus attack.

The order of your heroes depends on the order that you’ve tagged them on StreetPass or hired them, and some strategy hangs on this. It’s useful to have a purple guy first so he can poison the enemies early on, and the poison can do damage for a longer amount of time throughout rounds. And it’s unfortunate when the next room you enter is pitch black, and you need a hero wearing white to light up the room in order for your heroes to fight– but they’re the 10th hero in line, forcing the 9 heroes before them to return home, unable to act.

But here’s my pet peeve. Your current hero by default teams up first with whoever follows them closest in line, whether they’re wearing similar, or the same colours. But remember, pairs of same coloured outfits do the most damage. So in this example lineup:

I’d choose Team Up, and decide to return that new teammate to the back of the line. First with purple, purple again, then light blue, until I team up with another blue. Why do I have to go through all of that 3 times in order to make the most optimal team?

Another pet peeve as I try to rush through the game is that you only see the entire lineup, with everyone’s colours visible, once before you face off against your first set of enemies.

Often in my impatience I’ll forget who’s next in line and how many heroes I have left to fight. So not knowing my green guy’s last in line, I’ll use his magic (which boosts the next hero’s strength), to no effect, which is a waste of a turn. Entirely my fault, but still irksome!

The Alternative:

  • Allow me to pair up same colours as a priority before similar colours, as they’re more effective.
  • Show me my roster on the bottom screen.
  • A nice way to address an accessibility concern for colourblind players would be to reveal the colour of the hero on tap

Hiring Old Allies

This shows up every time I choose this option:

I wonder how many times I’ve dismissed this dialogue box over the years.

And that information is persistent on the top screen once I continue along with the process of hiring said allies– so really, I don’t need to be informed every time.

I have hundreds of Miis I’ve tagged on StreetPass, but usually there are a select few I want to take the time to hire, and usually when I know which enemy I’ve left last. Either I’m hiring based on level, or colour, for specific rooms or to face specific enemies. So if I’m about to face an enemy who’s weak against blue magic (water) I’d preferably hire 2 high levelled blue heroes so they can team up and wipe it out in one turn.

With the current filtering system though, there’s no easy or quick way for me to check both at the same time. First I can filter based on level (with 8 options to scroll through) then I can filter based on colour (with 13 options to scroll through). So I can show all blue Allies, which reveals I have a whole lot of blue Allies to scroll through to find the highest levels. Then I’ll filter by level 7, only to find out that I have no blue allies at level 7.

Making a series of selections which reveal no results leaves me on a pointless empty screen, meaning I have to manually choose to filter again just to show any options at all. What? So I have to repeat the whole process until I find maybe one Ally at level 5 and two level 4 allies to choose from. None of this makes use of the touch screen, which could make the scrolling and choosing that much faster, and that less cumbersome.

The Alternative:

Filters + touch screen = yes please.
  • Change up the ‘Hire Old Allies’ flow so it’s not a 3 step process, and put the filter on the bottom touch screen so it’s that much quicker to get the heroes you need.

Hiring Wandering Heroes

If I’ve tagged one person but just want to clear my queue, I’ll play the mini games with that one person. In order to maximize my efforts with Find Mii, I’ll do the whole Hiring Old Allies thing for 3 more heroes to use, but need to hire Wandering Heroes to fill out the other 6 spots, hoping I’ll get some matching coloured pairs.

Not complaining about the adorable little dog dance

This means I have to answer “Yes, I would like to use 2 Play Coins to hire a Wandering Hero, because, y’know, that’s why I’m here”, watch the randomly generated hero do a dance, and read what level it happens to be.

Rinse and repeat 6 times. I honestly don’t understand why this has to take so long.

Update: Just found out there’s a way now, with the latest update, to add the max amount of wandering heroes with one tap. But the options are only to hire the max amount of heroes, or one. If you want more than one, but not the max, you’re reverting to the above process.

The Alternative

I seriously love these dogs!
  • Allow me to input the number of wandering heroes I want to hire.

I’m not a game designer

But working as a web designer has caused me to be constantly aware of how to think about making user experiences a little bit better.

And don’t get me wrong– I love what Nintendo’s doing with StreetPass as a whole, particularly with the functionality within games. It’s an entirely unique, fun surprise whenever you open your 3DS.

I also just found out (after most of this was written– which is what I deserve for endlessly delaying update notifications) with the most recent StreetPass update, that they’ve allowed users to make edits to their profile to skip certain redundant pieces of dialogue, which is very much welcomed. But it’s not free, which is unfortunate.

Sorry to crush your dreams, enthusiastic bunny. I’m cheap.

Admittedly as a fangirl I’m often prone to overlooking the niggling detrimental details in favour of the overall consistently brilliantly designed Nintendo experience. But these festering feelings of annoyance just go to show that no matter how delightful the experience is meant to be, there are details that just shouldn’t be overlooked.

Anyhow, I’m sure a StreetPass Mii Plaza overhaul is on the horizon, on the heels of the recent Miiverse rework. Hopefully once some of these issues are addressed, I’ll spend less time being disgruntled, and more time guiltily avoiding those pesky Responsible Adult Things.