Enabling an internal user testing

2015 | Goodgame Studios

Goodgame Studios changed their organization into a studio structure. I was in charge of establishing a studio-wide prototyping & ideation unit to create new game ideas based on a rough product scope. The results of this three-month project were five new game ideas for pre-production and one product passed the internal green light for production.

Most of the results are highly confidential since they might become actual games one day. Therefore I can not show you many results or prototypes.

Goal

Generate new game ideas through a rapid prototyping process for the whole game studio.

Challenges

A 35 people team with different backgrounds and only a little experience in ideation and prototyping.

 

We had 2.5 months to present first playable game prototypes.

The studio was working on a new green light process at the same time to evaluate the potential of these ideas.

What I've achieved

This was the first time I was responsible for roughly 35 people in my life. We got a lot of freedom to try out things and fail fast and move on. Over the time some teams became stellar with rapid prototyping and ramping up very innovative concepts. Some developers even found a new passion in this early research phase.

  • I've successfully rolled out a rapid prototyping process for an entire studio

  • Within 2.5 months we've created about 30 working playable prototypes with 7 small teams

  • My team was the first group in companies history to pass the green light gate for developing a new game concept. I became product lead throughout the whole pre-production phase.

Creating an ideation unit for games

The process had four phases:

  • Set Up & Vision

  • Ideation / Refinement

  • Presentation + Public Evaluation

  • Internal Testing

Set up and Vision Definition

We created 7 teams with 5 members. To make sure that everybody was heading in the right direction, we created the following deliverables:

  1. Creative Briefing --> Direction

  2. Requirements --> Goals

  3. Ideation Sheet --> Structure

  4. Presentation Templates --> Consistent communication of results

  5. Ideation Library --> Inspirational Source
     

The creative briefing contained information regarding 'Genre' and it's 'Game Pattern Scope', 'Target audience', 'Genre Competitors Analysis', and 'Product Research Insights'.

The whole process was basically a looped spiral with a fixed time frame -two days for the initial idea followed by a presentation. Some teams started prototyping, while others established a strong narrative first. Most of the ideas were very open-minded and unique, which became especially evident in the second phase, after trimming out the "casual ideas".

Ideation and Refinement

Each team presented their progress - either an iteration of an older idea or a completely new one depending on the outcome of the last voting. We kept the product vision consistent because according to product research, the chosen proposed genre had a lot of potential on mobile. Another team of specialists voted on the ideas weekly, and in the event of . an idea refinement, the team responsible for editing received a refinement briefing with points to improve or underline.

The Results and How to Move On?

After about 2.5 months, we had roughly 30 game prototypes, resulting in five green-lighted for pre-production. During the whole process,  we spoke individually with folks to figure out what they liked and did not like, with the goal of keeping 10% of the team as a consistent innovation unit to solve game/UX issues or generate new ideas.

In the end, two products received production status and proceeded into "Tech Launch". Unfortunately, the production was later paused, due to complex internal company restructuring.

It was a fun project and we inspired a lot of people in the company to try new skills and speak more open-minded about ideas and feedback. Everyone also learned more about other departments within the company and ultimately better understood the complex dependencies of balancing, game design, technical requirements, and business perspective.

Guerilla Testing

To test a product in your company you might think about:

  • Distribution & update

  • Data collection & evaluation

  • The feedback loop to the team

  • Measurement and motivation

In order to provide a secure and controlled platform for play-testing of games in early development, we came up with two installations. The first was a stationary booth in a prominent public space within the company (e.g. cafeteria) as well as a mobile booth for flexible placement (e.g. conferences and events).

The booth smartphones were detachable and wire-secured, and the users were able to play through test scenarios and prototypes.Often, the UX researcher conducted live interviews with the users about new games or features.

Arcade Machine

It was a fun project and we inspired a lot of people in the company to try new skills and speak more open-minded about ideas and feedback. Everyone also learned more about other departments within the company and ultimately better understood the complex dependencies of balancing, game design, technical requirements, and business perspective.

Arcade Machine

Planning and building the fake arcade test hub

MobileMachine

It was a fun project and we inspired a lot of people in the company to try new skills and speak more open-minded about ideas and feedback. Everyone also learned more about other departments within the company and ultimately better understood the complex dependencies of balancing, game design, technical requirements, and business perspective.

The Internal Testing Competition

During Winter 2016, we started an internal high score competition for two of our pilot games and were rewarded with thousands of playing hours by employees. The first test-competition was a huge success and brought a lot of awareness towards the internal products and development.

© 2021 by MARCEL VOELZ | Product Design & Strategy