Because I’ve been invited to speak at Sweden Game Conference in October, I have also been trying to figure out a topic to talk about. I ended up taking on the topic of my work process. I’m hoping it will suit the audience at SGC, it being mostly students and small companies. The UX literacy of most games companies is in addition to that pretty bad, so maybe even the larger companies will get something out of it.

Add to that that I don’t have that much to show from the last seven or eight years I’ve worked in the industry, I figured that I would get a couple of things done at once. One, get a presentation ready for SGC and two get some stuff to put in my non-existent portfolio that isn’t from 2015 or further back.1

So, step 1: set up a presentation about UX workflow. What does it need to contain? I went with the following:

  1. Feature – I need something to start with.
  2. Requirements – even if there is a feature, there will always be additional requirements and this is an important step to get the stakeholders to open up.
  3. Sketches – because this is the first step towards a finished wireframe. This is also where I do the storyboards.
  4. Wireframes – the more detailed sketches of UIs and flows.
  5. Prototype – All those storyboards put into action.
  6. Testing – If things go the way I plan, I’mma test this on Twitter!
  7. Iterations – Whatever comes out of the testing, I implement fixes for.

I’m currently on step 1. What’s the feature? I took some help from Twitter to decide. I did this in order to create a somewhat realistic context and because it is easier to work within a framework I asked Twitter to help.

I chose the initial feature based on what UX is normally asked to cover – aspects of the game that are experience based and primarily UI. This, I think, is because we often get confused with UI designers. Which we are not, but still, contained features are good, which is why I chose the features I did.

The type of game is important, because like everything, the framework determines the experience. A role-playing game is different to a looter shooter and survival horror is different to action adventure.

Apparently I need to ask about platform as well. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to.

One aspect of games I don’t think a lot of people think about – or maybe you do? – is the platform the game is made for. Each platform, PlayStation, XBox, Switch, mobile or PC, have their own limitations and concerns. A game that is PC only does not look or behave the same way as a game that is console first.

One of the most common issues on console and PC games is that console has a much more severe restriction on how much you can do in each context.

A console controller has around 16 buttons to play with. For keyboard and mouse, or for that matter, for a touch pad, the restrictions are not quite as heavy.

A HUD on console – or actually lets call the context exploration mode in game – needs to use left and right stick for camera and movement. That’s two buttons darken, unless you count stick clicks which is difficult for some players to use because it puts pressure on fine motor skills in a context that is not always calm. Anyway. The buttons. Walk/ sprint and camera. In addition you probably want to be able to bring up a menu. That’s either the menu button or the options key.

Some of the time you want a menu and a map available to the player at any time. That’s another two buttons.

Let’s say you want to interact with something. That’s another. Dodge, jump… I can continue. My point is that buttons get occupied fast, so fast in fact that most of the time each context – in game combat, in game exploration, in game exploration in vehicle, in game combat in vehicle, in menu, in map etc, have their own inputs.

A cake with several colourful layers, from the top, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple.

Think of it as an input cake. Each layer has its own flavor, but it has to taste harmoniously or your cake won’t be very pleasant to eat.

In other words, console has one set of restrictions, PC has another, mobile yet another.

Add to that the certification requirements on the console platforms and you’re really restricted.

“Oh, put a cursor in there” you might say, to which I say “not on your life”. The only thing you do is trade one set of complications for another. Trust me.

Anyway, so I asked if I should ask for platform requirements and either Twitter hates me a lot or has a lot of faith in me.

For every answer, the context changes and so does the user experience. A player playing a fantasy game expects a different experience than a player playing a horror game.

A game for literate gamers is not the same as for those who are not game literate.

In addition to that, I also wanted, to some extent, show that designers are not free to do just their thing. We work together to create a game. It isn’t one individual’s idea that is or should be the controlling factor. We make games for people. For players. Those are the people we should care about.

Anyways, more later.

  1. Why no updated portfolio, you may ask? Because the work I did for Anthem was pretty much undone at the moment of release – understandable and I would have done the same. And because I can’t show anything from Dragon Age: Dreadwolf. I also doubt that any imprint made by me on that game remains at release.