Developing video games is a highly technical endeavor, often best accomplished by talented programmers and designers. They implement input buffers, build AI algorithms, setup finite state machines, import assets, set render targets and frame rates just to get a minimal game up and running. Building a polished and complete commercial game requires a lot more work, which includes creating compelling graphics, audio, levels, and story elements – but still – the hard work doesn’t end there!
An aspect of the game development process that’s often underappreciated or ignored by small indie teams and hobbyist developers is that of the User Experience (UX). Unfortunately, this lackadaisical attitude is to the detriment of their game project, as good UX design only enhances the usability and pleasure gamers would inevitably gain. But there’s many more reasons to care about an immersive UX, which we’ll cover in more detail in this article.
Large developers such as Blizzard Entertainment, Nintendo, and Square Enix have become famous all around the world for their immersive and polished games. All these companies have built a roster of successful game franchises that are bustling with character and creativity, but also exhibit a level of polish in their gameplay, presentation, and UX design that’s enviable.
So how do they manage to offer such a great user experience? Apart from having decades of experience in creating quality games, they also employ dedicated staff that works exclusively on the UX aspect of their products.
Hiring dedicated UX talent is probably beyond the scope of smaller developers, but there are many free tutorials and affordable courses online to help anyone grasp the basics. These won’t turn one into an accomplished UX designer overnight; they’ll at least help them ship more polished products than many of their peers.
Every developer is hungry for success and hopes that their upcoming game will become the next major hit. Producing a game with unique and well-implemented ideas, having great play mechanics, and a solid marketing strategy may eventually lead to strong sales. However, once gamers have spent several hours with the game, it will leave them either satisfied or unsatisfied, and much of that hangs with the UX design.
Users will play your game and keep returning to it as long as it’s entertaining and the user experience is hassle-free. They simply won’t put up with a game with poor usability, especially if they’re newcomers or casual gamers. Don’t shortchange your users by having them deal with a steep learning curve just so that they can play your game, but don’t bore them with conservative design choices either.
Offer gamers a fresh experience by designing a balanced and immersive UX. Start by knowing more about your players and examining player analytics data. Then, create a seamless experience, reuse design elements consistently, layer visual and audio cues effectively, and make your user interface (UI) user-friendly and applicable for the target platforms.
UX design isn’t a matter most game developers cared about during the formative years of the industry. It’s only gained more traction over the last few years as the industry has matured, while the meteoric rise of mobile gaming has made it important for developers to improve the user experience. But this is only the tip of the iceberg for UX design.
Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR), Internet of Things (IoT), and wearable technologies are pushing both computing and gaming in exciting new frontiers. Immersive technologies such as AR, VR & MR, in particular, are already changing how we look at the user experience. They also provide new challenges for UX designers who will have to take an even more people-centric approach than before.
You might not have considered the importance of immersive UX design before commencing work on your game. This is perfectly understandable, as UX design does seem like an esoteric discipline that is seldom part of the conversation among smaller developers. Fortunately, there are many good online resources, to gain an understanding of UX, and the many ways it can enhance your game.