Role:

Usability Lead

UI/UX Designer

Team:

USC Games Expo 21'

Sweeping the Ruins

Date:

May 2020 - May 2021

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Sweeping the Ruins

A 2-player 3D co-op action-adventure game where players explore dangerous ruins and use traps to wound and kill the menacing monster threatening their village.

Available on Windows | Full Controller Support | Supports Online Co-op

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RESEARCH & BRAINSTORMING

Personas & Target Audience

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Before building up our game personas, I did some research specifically on two-player co-operative and strategy games since collaboration and strategy are one of the key mechanics that are driving our game.

I have suggested that we could:
 

  1. Let players make choices together

  2. Force dependency or interdependency 

  3. Have player to share resources and goals

  4. Restrict player interaction

  5. Portray supportive behavior

With the results of my research, I had portrayed our game's target audience as someone who enjoys exploration, puzzle-solving, collaboration, and accomplishing difficult challenges. Our target audience should love multiplayer and puzzle/strategy games.

 

Potential Game Design Cues

For design cues, my team and I started by answering the questions below:

  1. How does a player know an object is interactable?

  2. How does a player know which environmental pieces are destructible/interactable?

  3. How does a player know if a trap is activated?

  4. How does a player know about the different status effects?

  5. How does a player know if the monster takes damage? (without implementing a monster health bar)

  6. How does a player get affected by low health?

Through ideation and competitive analysis, we gained many useful insight and have built up a good basis for our game project. We want to make sure that our game is able to communicate with our players easily and provide the best player experience to our players.

DESIGN & PROTOTYPING

Game flow, Wireframes & UI prototypes

 I first created a game flow together with our team's creative director and designers. We built a player stories board which is then very helpful during the tutorial implementation.

By listing and prioritizing our game's attributes and features, I also created the wireframes and our game mockups. I investigated different ways to implement the character icon together with the health bar, stamina bar, and inventory icon, as we were looking for an aesthetic and informative UI. Colors is one of the biggest concerns for our UI as we want people who struggle with colors will still be able to enjoy our game. 

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Low-fidelity Wireframe 

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High-fidelity Wireframe 

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Prototype Mockup

PLAYTESTING

In this project, I practiced the RITE Method for our usability testing. It is introduced by Professor Dennis Wixon in the class and we focus on Iterative, Testing, and Evaluation.

 

While keeping the idea of RITE in mind, I decided to conduct external playtests biweekly and have feedback result meetings with our designers and engineers. Designers will iterate the level based on the feedback, and the level is tested in the internal playtest and the following external playtest. The purpose of having playtest sessions biweekly is to let our team designers and engineers more time to implement and in the meantime, I would be able to send out playtest invitations, schedule playtest sessions, and prepare the post-game questionnaire.

Find a thing. That's nice. Find and fix it. Far better."

— Ramon Romero

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RITE Method

Methods we used, changes we made & challenges we met

Due to the pandemic COVID-19, one of the biggest challenges that we have is to conduct online playtesting. In order to accommodate this, we decided to adapt our game to work with not only PS4 and Xbox controllers but the keyboard controls as well. We decided to implement networked mode in the early stage and have changed from developing in Unity to Unreal Engine.

The current challenges we have right now are platform and external plugin issues, where our game supports Windows only and players are required to have Steam and Spacewar installed.

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I categorized the problems I found from playtesting into four types:

Error -  participant made an error but figured it out and was able to proceed

Failure - an error that prevented progress and was only able to proceed with help from User Experience

Missed - participant missed a cue or feature but continued

Complaint - participant complained about an element of the game but continued

 

Here are some examples of problems that we solved:

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Problem: Players tend to forget ballista and wrecking ball controls

Type: Error

Suggested solutions:

1. Implement control prompt on both ballista and wrecking ball

2. Implement an instruction UI in both ballista and wrecking ball modes

3. Prompt players to use ballista and wrecking ball more in the tutorial

Solution picked:  (2) Implement an instruction UI in both ballista and wrecking ball modes

Result:

Successful. Players can easily access ballista and wrecking ball.

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Problem:  Monster's unexpected behavior 

- Monster gets stuck

- Monster only stays on the ground floor

- Monster teleports randomly 

Type: Complaint, Failure

Suggested solutions:

1. Implement a new level layout to prevent the monster

from only staying on the ground floor and make sure that the objects' colliders work well

2. Implement monster teleport behavior

3. Re-implement monster movement

First Attempt

Solution picked:  (1) Implement a new level layout

Result:

Failed.  The monster still teleports randomly.

Second Attempt

Solution picked:  (2) Implement a new level layout

Result:

Successful. Teleport navigation added. Monster is smarter and enhanced player's experience.

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Problem: Players didn’t know their teammate health is low

Type: Complaint

Suggested solutions:

1. Implement audio cues

2. Implement notification message showing at the top

3. Implement teammate low health indicator and a notification box

Solution picked:  (3) Implement teammate low health indicator and a notification box

Result:

Successful. Players can easily track their low health teammate using the indicator which further encourages collaboration.

CONCLUSION

Throughout this project I have learned:


1. To create a solid persona profile
2. How important wireframes and game flow will affect your game

3. To conduct playtest and to gain useful insights from playtester feedback

4. UIs, Visual Cues, Colors, and Audio are key in providing good user experiences and communication with our players