Improving playability and usability for a 3D game
Garage Games, creators of the game Marble, was preparing to launch a multi-player online version of the popular 3D game. The team wanted to discover if there were any barriers to game play. The goal was to gain immediate user adoption and build on the already strong satisfaction with the game (a default game on Macs for many years).
The development team needed quick feedback from users. While the game was easy to use, it was adding many new features and functions. The product owner was adding an ecommerce store for players to buy stuff, forums to increase social interaction and the most dramatic enhancement: multi-player interaction.
Experience Dynamics conducted play testing (usability testing for games). We simulated multi-player interactions, to provide realism to players. This was critical due to the collaborative nature of multi-player games: sensing another player’s presence or actions is essential.
In the usability play testing we discovered design problems interrupting game play. Users were waiting for Hosts to initiate a game; the invite was not obvious. More explicit social transitions need to be made available such as a poke or nudge button. Teleporting between levels was not intuitive. Clearer transitions and state changes were clearly needed.
Experience Dynamics recruited gamers between the ages of 15 and 49 with game play ranging between 3 hrs weekly at the lowest and 91 hrs weekly at the highest! Users were given realistic tasks and observed playing the game in our usability lab. Their screens, facial expressions and keyboard behaviors were recorded for analysis later.
The findings from the play testing revealed key aspects of improvement for players as well as for the product owner. Quick insights on how to better position business drivers such as the store and forum were surfaced. Experience Dynamics provided design recommendations just in time for a smooth UX “all clear” launch. This included how to do better cross selling with the navigation, to better encouraged impulse buying, for example. Developers loved observing users first hand and learning about what features they liked and disliked. Having actual gamers test driving the application provided instant credibility and faster design fixes, than informal or down the hallway user testing used previously to develop the game.