A brief UX lesson by Celia Hodent, a GDC masterclass teacher

How can game developers better design the experience around their players? This Frequently Asked Question is one that Celia Hodent understands particularly strongly given her expertise in the area of ​​user experience design (aka UX).

In December of this year, Hodent will teach a one-day masterclass course on player psychology and UX principles. I wanted to tell her the taste of her class in advance, so I asked her for a simple Q & A that would be useful in her daily game development life.

For your benefit, here’s a conversation between Hodent and a fictional game developer trying to solve a particular game challenge based on player feedback.

Hey Celia, I’m a game designer who wants to understand more about UX and player psychology. We are working on an online multiplayer RPG with many moving parts. The new A / B testing process is solid, but I’m looking for a way to bring player psychology into the process.

What is the first step in your work when doing this kind of test? How can I ensure that I get useful data?

Collecting data is a great start! But the data is not information. Telemetry data is great for understanding what’s happening in a game, but the reason isn’t easy. Suppose many players are found dead in a particular telemetry event (a particular AI enemy, a particular weapon in PvP, or a particular location). It’s good to know that, but it doesn’t help much.

To make a decision, you need to understand why. Is it because the player doesn’t understand what is killing them? Or is it because a particular weapon is overwhelmed? Or is it because of usability issues and the player is unaware that they are being damaged? Creating shots in the dark based on intestinal sensations is not an efficient process for solving problems that affect the player’s experience. To gain meaningful insights from telemetry data and make the right decisions faster, you need to start by making hypotheses very early in the development process.

When considering UX and cognitive science, the general hypothesis is “if the player doesn’t understand how” [feature] If all goes well, they will not feel the ability to play the game and will therefore cancel. “(Not feeling the ability to play strongly hinders engagement).

If you did a playtest of observing and asking the player before the beta, you may have discovered a UX issue early on. This will help you predict the exact telemetry hooks you need to launch the game and make wise decisions. faster.

In summary, the first step is very early on what the player needs to understand in the game to get the game going, feel competent, and master (among many others). Think in stages. So that you can find it much faster and fix it when something goes wrong. This idea (the essence of UX) is useful when you enter the beta stage.

You cannot “introduce player psychology into the process”. The process is to consider human factors at every step.

Thank you !! The next question is: The game seems to be easier, but we’ve solved a number of issues that aren’t always fun, and we’ve received feedback from players over time. I think we may have over-corrected in our process by sanding the edges of some encounters.

What steps in your job helped you understand if the player’s frustration is a good frustration or if the developer is trying to get rid of the frustration?

That’s a great question. Fine-tuning the difficulty curve is important to provide a good UX. It is one of the key components of the game flow and one of the three pillars of engagement (along with motivation and emotion).

The game should not be too easy or too difficult. The problem is that different players have different levels of expertise and require different levels of challenge. Also, some games (such as Souls games) are specifically sought after for their high level of challenge, while others can be evaluated when it’s colder. Therefore, many factors are involved.

Generally speaking, if the game is too easy, players may get bored and stop playing. If it’s too difficult, they may get furious-stop. This is one of the things you can tweak only after the game is in beta and thousands of players have played it, thanks to telemetry data and player feedback.

Both are important to investigate, as there can be a large gap between what the player says and what they do. However, if research says the game is too easy, telemetry data shows that the player is stirring. It may indicate that you need to raise the level of challenge in the game.

If these sound like asking Hodent if you get the chance, get your own answers and sign up for her GDC masterclass before the seats fill up.

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