Oct 4, 2018 IN UX
A game UX has to deliver excitement, engagement and fun!
TALKS WITH EXPERTS
Welcome to the new edition of Talks with experts. Today’s topic is User experience research, and we are going to discuss it with our UX research expert Jozko. As always, you can ask further questions and discuss this week’s topic in the Facebook group called Free to play game developers.
So tell us, why is it important to playtest the games?
In the UX research, we are looking at the players‘ game behavior, especially how they play the game and if they understand the mechanics. The first playtests acquired through the user research are actually the first playthrough by real players. And this is really important as it gives us a different perspective and more practical approach to the game itself. The game designers are sometimes unable to detect mistakes or gaps in their designs - so playtests help us to identify the problematic parts. It’s also important to acknowledge, that our target audience, players who should be playing the game or are actually playing the game, are often people with different demographics, background and different level of experience with games than our game designers. The results of playtests tell us if the game is well-understood and fun for the players.
Can you explain to us what’s the difference between User experience in games and User experience in a traditional way?
Traditional UX is a quite linear process mostly used in web design. You can experience it for example while browsing an e-shop or a website. On the other hand, a game UX has to be more engaging, it has to deliver excitement and fun. We need a player to experience a waste range of emotions and later on to work with them intentionally. We want to get a player hooked on the game, to get him engaged and to play as long as possible. That’s why we use different psychological theories in UX research, especially cognitive psychology, the theory of games, rewards, and so on.
How exactly do you test and gather the data?
There are different kinds of approaches and tests we do. One of the most common test, and usually the first thing we do after the game is prototyped or released, is a playtest. It is basically a test where we invite some players to our company and we look at how they play and interact with the game. Beforehand, we have to determine what will be the point of the test. If it is, for example, a tutorial, we are looking into onboarding, if players understand what’s happening in the game and the game mechanics. If we are not satisfied with the results of the test, we have to reproach the design of the tutorial and change it in a way so the players understand everything correctly. Usually, the easiest way to playtest is a guerrilla user testing - you just grab some colleagues, bring them to the lab, seat them in front of a computer and watch them play. But this test only works with new projects, where the players have no previous experience with the game. If we need to gather good quality data and feedback from actual players quickly, we use third-party solutions such as PlaytestCloud. Basically, you send them a built and they send you back videos of players playing the game and visualization of the gameplay as well. We also use Eye tracker, a very useful technology commonly used in UX testing that allows you to see where the player is actually looking while playing, and according to that, you can adjust your design decisions.
Can you give us a recent example of a UX case study?
For example, we are currently redesigning a tutorial of our game called Diggy’s Adventure. Together with game designers, we try to keep UX and user in mind. Once we identify the key issues and prepare the new design, we are going to retest it again through the playtest and through the questionnaires. And then we are going to re-approach this issues again.
Which departments across the company benefit from your findings?
We mostly work with our game designers, because we are working with their project and their design. We closely cooperate with community management, as sometimes we want to reassure our opinion and reach out to our players directly through questionnaires. We are also working very closely with game analytics because when we redesign a feature and put it in production, subsequently we need to look at the experiences of the players through the data. Playtests give us opinions of only a couple of players and at the end of the day, we have to look at how all our players are coping with the redesign and changes.
So how does it all look in a real life?
A month ago we were asked by producers of our game TrainStation to look into the mechanics of sending trains to high-level players. We prepared a questionnaire regarding the issue and sent it to our players through our social media department. Then, based on the gathered feedback, we identified the key problems and prepared new game mechanics, which is currently on production.
*And now it's your turn. Don't hesitate to ask further questions and discuss this week’s topic in the Facebook group called Free to play game developers. Please feel free to invite your fellow game developers as well :)