Sometimes Less is More
Sometimes More is More...
I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.
And this affliction does not seem to be confined just to the written word. The Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films all run 3-4 hours (or 4+, if you're watching the superior Extended Editions), and fantasy video games like The Elder Scrolls are an 80+ hour commitment.
So when bringing content of this sort to a voice-only platform, developers are faced with a dilemma - do they abandon the hallmarks of the the genre and condense their storytelling, or do they swim against the current of VUX best practices and make the user sit through the verbal flood?
In the case of Six Swords, the answer is "neither"...
One giant beep for mankind...
And technically, this works. The problem, though, is that users absolutely loathe being overprompted. Spitting out nearly identical prompts after every request is one of the quickest ways to trigger a user to disengage from your application. On the Alexa side, this has been a major point of contention between many developers (including 3PO-Labs) and the certification team, as their guidelines actually require a level of prompting that our research has shown users cannot stand.
The mental leap that Six Swords makes is "what if we could optimize that prompt down to almost nothing?", and the way they do that is rather ingenious. Six Swords does a little bit of training up front to teach the users that the sound of a beep is an audio equivalent of the prompt for "there is more information available". Then, as the user is navigating the conversation, if they hear a beep appended to the end of the output, they know that they have the option to ask for more. If they do not hear a beep, then they have heard everything there is to hear.
The result is that almost instantly after hearing the most important information, the user can make the choice to drop into the multi-turn dialog and get more context, or they can send a command to take a different action (like moving to a new area, continuing combat, etc). They don't have to sit and wait for a repeated phrase that they are already familiar with, and therefore they are much less likely to abandon the interaction, and much more capable of progressing further in the game.
Taking things further
There's obviously a balancing act here, as users can only be expected to recognize so many distinct sounds and memorize their meanings, but it isn't a stretch to imagine a future where there's a sort of mimetic growth of this pattern. As users become more comfortable with voice assistants, the amount of training any individual skill would need to do for a given cue would decrease, so long as that sounds followed an established pattern of other applications that the majority of users are familiar with.
Also, as this is the first iteration of VUXcellence, we're looking for more candidates to spotlight going forward. If you have skills that you think are particularly clever or solve an interesting user experience problem in the voice space, please let us know (even if it's your own skill)!
And we're not married to the column name yet, so if you have better ideas than "VUXcellence", shoot us an email and get in while the gettin's good.