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We're about to embark on a small Casino-type Flash game and I've been assigned the task of "UX Lead"... Our company is just beginning to integrate and define the concept of UX. Our projects are now starting with a "UX lead" to be the 'user advocate' at project meetings.

I've read A Project Guide to UX and read an abundance of UX articles online, but they are all targeted toward websites and desktop software.

Are there any good resources, or does any just have any quick advice on how to approach UX for a game?

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6 Answers 6

From a strictly usability perspective (a subset of all that’s UX), here’re some lessons and advice I’ve gathered:

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A UX position in the games industry is extremely rare.

Some studios have started thinking about UX in terms of UI design, and some have started thinking about it in terms of user research.

The latter is where you can make the biggest difference, getting a decent research and test plan in place.

So before any design or development starts, conduct ethnographic studies, which is a fancy term for observing in the natural environment. Find out who your target audience is and how/where they game.. then go and watch them. You'll learn not only about how gambling games are played, but also a great deal about the people who play them and how they fit into their lives.

That will give you the base knowledge needed to be a 'user advocate in meetings'. It is also useful to write them up into some very brief personas of the types of players you are designing for, and stick them up on the wall somewhere as a permanent reminder to everyone. If you can record sessions and circulate, again that's really valuable.

Then, as the project progresses, test early and often.

Testing in games is generally done towards the end, and is split between bug testing and really rudimentary play testing - hiring any old person who happens to be available, getting them to play a game with no particular goal in mind, and then give them a questionnaire afterwards.

Instead, take it up a notch towards where it is in other industries. First, start with a clear goal for a particular test, the narrow a focus it has the more useful results you'll get. Next, if you've done the research as above you'll know exactly who your target audience groups are, so you can recruit the specifically (market research companies are a fantastic resource, but don't use them for research, instead pay them to do your recruitment for you) and then don't give them questionnaires, instead, simply watch them play. Prompt them for more information on what is going through their head by all means, but base that on watching their facial expressions and in-game actions.

There's a fantastic list of UX in gaming articles here, although you may need to be a member of the games user research group on linked in to be able to access it:

http://www.linkedin.com/groupItem?view=&gid=1873014&type=member&item=5807441571922079744&qid=4449f079-b71f-4ec8-bf8f-a66ef9a98cb0&trk=groups_items_see_more-0-b-ttl

Here's an example of one of the articles from the list: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/SebLong/20131115/204909/User_Research_for_Indie_Games_Playtesting_on_Morphopolis.php

Something else that is a subset of UX and is also rare in the games industry, is thinking about accessibility. The negative and positive implications of accessibility for disabled gamers are both greater than web, especially in a sector as cut-throat as online gambling - it is still possible for your game can be the only game of that type accessible to a certain audience, in which case you stand to gain some hugely loyal advocates (with the blind audience in particular).

More information on accessibility in games is available here, even if the company has a resistance to thinking about people with disabilites (they sometimes do, through pure misconception and lack of awareness of business cases) it's still worth taking a look through anyway, as so much of it is just good general game design that benefits all players, the 'basic' level guidelines especially:

http://www.gameaccessibilityguidelines.com

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Casino Interfaces
I'm not in the casino industry anymore, so I'd like to share a few tips. Enjoy.

Casino games are a unique subset of the game industry. The audience for these games may be older. They want graphics that look and behave like classic games.

The interface must easily allow for purchasing credits
Since casino gaming are constantly monetized, you may want to have a pop-up that encourages you to choose between ($1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, or other).

Stick with 2D
The interface should have dimension and depth, but nothing beyond 2D has proven successful. If we're talking class II gaming, 3D has yet to prove it's self. My company had 2 years of waisted development on 3D, and realistic graphics (with nothing to show for it). It confuses the game play and the development expenses skyrocket.

Old School Nostalgia
In updating older games, my company had to be careful not to lose the old-school look of the games (which looked like crap), but the gambling audience is nostalgic about it. I looked to iPhone, Nintendo wii, and Lucky Charms cereal for inspiration.

Things that worked
• 2D Graphics '2D styles prove to work well with extended game play'
• Lower Thirds 'place the GUI along the bottom of screen for easy flow'
• Invest design time in the Progressives 'Numbers turning over sustains excitement'

Things that didn't work
• 3D and realistic graphics 'It takes them out of the zone...it's hard to explain'
• HUD style display 'have to have all controls accessible, lower thirds or side'
• Web Style Layouts 'don't even go there'

Consider
Usability sketches would save time. Show the game (slots, win line, poker, blackjack, 21, keno etc) and how it fits with the interface. You'll probably need to plan a login, game selection menu, and pop-up for credits.

There's usually not a budget for a UX designer, Commercial Artist, and Sound Engineer, but that's the talent you'll need just for the design. The coding, that's a nightmare if you're working with poor architecture. Get the features and requirements upfront and try not to reinvent the wheel in this industry.

Good luck.

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Use game mechanics and behavioral effects to motivate your users. Mental Notes and Art of Game Design mentioned above are a good starting point.

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Try for a book on it ?

returns having found the books...

I bought these two when I wanted some background on this ( not necessarily the best - but the best I could see in the store):

Game Development Essentials: Game Interface Design

http://www.amazon.com/Game-Development-Essentials-Interface-Design/dp/1418016209/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b

Not a vast amount of content, and it is as the title says, about the interface - but loads of game screen grabs which are useful for graphics inspiration and as a reference source for 'existing standards' (aka how things have been done before).

Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design

http://www.amazon.com/Andrew-Rollings-Ernest-Adams-Design/dp/1592730019/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1280915385&sr=1-1

A 'covers all the bases' book which covers the User Experience issues of making 'a good game, with a good story' rather than just details of screen layouts and icons.

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This book has been brought up many times on this site:

http://artofgamedesign.com/

Megasweet.

Games are unique from a UX perspective because you have (almost) limitless control over the context you create for the game-player. You have their undivided attention. They want to be lost in your world.

Contrast that with ho-hum ;) UX the rest of us practice. Our users want to accomplish a goal or complete a task and there's often less we can do to affect the surrounding environment and context in which our apps live.

For instance, in games you create obstacles that players must overcome. In app design, those obstalces exist for realsies—and there's no difficulty setting that can be tweaked.

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And games are unusual in that people will voluntarily play them for hours at a time. –  PhillipW Aug 3 '10 at 20:58

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