UX Consulting for Games

2016 | Goodgame Studios
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When I joined Goodgame Studios in 2014, the company's growth was based on one very successful game "Goodgame: Empire". The game has been released in 37 countries, 26 languages, and is played by over 50 million people (and it payed the salaries for more than 1300 employees).

 

While one studio unit was maintaining this game, several other teams were working on smaller live games or developing new products. Not every unit had UX designers, so I met several team on a regular base or for a specific problem to discuss solutions.

Goal

Create awareness for UX design integrity. Support products with a company wide UX consulting.

 

Improve overall UX and educate product owners, development leads for better involvement.

Challenges

Different studios have different workflows

 

Products differ a lot (technology, team size, experience, design integration)

What I've achieved
  • UX in games can be more complicated than in productivity software due to it's creative spectrum.
     

  • Sometimes UX is part of the core game design and has to achieve a certain mood. This does not necessarily mean that it should be the most effective experience.
     

  • I successfully established a very healthy relationship between game design and product management as UX design consultant. Feedback was always taken seriously and with curiosity. Insights were celebrated and user centered design became a strong pillar in some studios!

Game: A Little Lost

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Free-to-play online match 3 puzzler

I supported the team as a UX consultant which involved:

  • Creative Problem solving (raised by QA or playtest)

  • Quality assurance of game design proposals

  • Interaction design support and prototyping

  • Design approvals (Game & Visual)

  • Improving core-loop issues

  • Usability consultant

Match 3 to Match Millions

The "Puzzler Studio" - one of my neighboring teams, asked me to help out their design team on a regular base to improve the game development of their latest title "A Little Lost". The game was a typical match 3 puzzler with some unique mechanics, including collecting pet characters to clear challenges on the playfield.

We agreed on an "exchange program" to support knowledge sharing and overall product improvements. During my meetings with the team and individuals, we discussed and proposed solutions about game design related and UI related topics. According to playtests and lab feedback, players did not understand the new feature that allowed the player to call an additional character on the game board to help solve challenges.

 

After a couple of iterative improvements, we tackled a lot of satellite topics including:

  • Improving the character feature introduction

  • Player on-boarding

  • Later introduction of the new feature to avoid confusion and noise

  • Improved interaction design

  • Improved visual and feedback design

  • Simplifying some mechanics around usage of the character

App Mocks

The on-boarding experience is the most critical element in a F2P game. So we had a lot of testing and prototyping to get it right.

Ap Mocks

Visual feedback and animations were a bigger project to tune. Animations are fulfilling a lot of critical jobs in games.

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The UX of rewarding screens and player motivation is a constant juggle between economy balancing for in-game items as well as being rewarding enough to give players a good "feeling.

Game: Shadow Kings

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Free-to-play online multiplayer RPG

My main tasks were:

  • Improving UX for existing and new features
     

  • Integrating UX into the game development pipeline
     

  • Optimizing the design pipeline and toolset for UX
     

  • Improving and aligning the quality of design deliverables

Maintenance of a Live Product

Shadow Kings was the first game I worked on at  Goodgame Studios. I contributed to the project by creating new features, fleshing out wireframes and prepare deliverables for the visual artists.

 

During this time I learned how challenging it can be  to integrate UX nicely with game design and visual art. UX design fits exactly in the overlapping part of both disciplines - but demands more, especially in a waterfall environment. The workflows were heavily dependent on the exact feature team and its development cycle. This was where I first cultivated my holistic approach of UX design.

shadowKings

Game Impressions

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The whole interface was constantly evolving and changing due to new features and UX testing.

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Even the art style and the color scheme were tested and evaluated by UX, Art Design and Marketing to find a good middle ground.

Conclusion

Over the course of three years I have consulted four studios and worked on 6 projects as an external consultant. Some studios had weekly meetings while others needed critical UX support for 1-2 weeks to solve some roadblocks. It was an amazing time and I learned a lot about different production cycles and design approaches. These meetings were also a strategical tool to advocate for more UX design in the studios.