A Fresh Start - This title represents a significant departure from much of our existing tech and designs. As such, it required a bit of a back to basics approach, starting from scratch in a lot of areas, as well as diverging from some of our common solutions based on the client's wishes. This allowed me to implement some preproduction processes that had been heretofore lacking, as well as take some more time for prototyping different possible paths. What follows is a more-or-less chronological account of the process of developing this title.
A number of other similar titles were considered as comps. One that stood out as being particularly relevant to us, in addition to being well liked by our client, was Dice Hunter. For this one, I made a detailed breakdown of the systems, gameplay, and interactions and compiled that breakdown into a report for the team. This allowed us to draw a handful of conclusions about the type of experience we wanted to create and what would be important to creating that.
Some of our conclusions:
The client had an overarching brand goal in mind, so the target audience needed to largely match a certain demographic that was in line with that goal. However, we also needed to make sure that we included a variety of demographics to ensure a healthy game ecosystem and monetization base.
I worked up four proto-personas to define and give a face to this potential audience. I did not have access to thorough data that had been researched for this purpose, so I had to pull from a number of sources to put these together. The client did have some available data, though it was not particularly targeted towards our uses. I also gathered freely available demographic information from sources such as Quantic Foundry, and built some motivation profiles as well.
Some process takeaways:
My final major preproduction task was the creation of a UX framework. This framework defines some of the high level goals in terms of what experience we are trying to provide, as well as some basic strategies to acheive this. It also serves to socialize certain UX principles to the team, allowing me to emphasize which ones will be particularly relevant to us. Finally, it allows me to tie together ideas from the previous two steps and set them forward more concretely.
Some of the topics covered in the framework:
This client is particularly visually oriented, so a lot of the design work happened via the prototyping process. While I usually prefer to have system design specs already fleshed out before embarking on prototyping, this method of working did afford the team to opportunity to really dig into different design ideas. Each system was iterated upon many times before moving to a full spec. I do interactible prototypes in Axure to be played in browser, or on device.
See sample prototype here
After getting buyoff from the entire team, as well as the client, I then create a full UX spec. This includes complete wireframes, interactions instructions, and system states. The prototyping and wireframing process is where I feel most at home, and where I can really get into a flow state and create lots of output.
Once the specs are complete, they are handed off for visual design and implementation. Of course, that doesn't mean my job is done. I continue to support the implementation team, reviewing their work in progress as well as at official milestones and continue to give feedback the whole time to make sure the UX goals that were intended in the design have been met. Because of my multi-disciplinary background, I am even able to step in and do mockups, create assets, implement UI in engine, or even do coding myself if it becomes necessary. In some ways this is the most challenging, yet most rewarding stage of development. Once systems are in place, builds can be put in front of users, and that feedback can be used to inform further iterations.