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Of the various things that can go wrong when working on a complex project like the pre-production of a new game, a pitch or a live-game feature, one which consistently crops up is ownership. Both formally and informally, this proves to be a chronic issue and one which is often only apparent in retrospect, after things have gotten derailed. Ownership means taking complete and total responsibility for yourself and the success of you and your team and project. …


A team at work
A team at work

Across 3 games developers and publishers, I’ve been involved in multiple hiring processes. I’ve also worked in teams which have had to deal directly with both the boon of a great hire and the aftermath of a deficient one.

Graph showing the breakdown of the $150 billion games industry in 2019, per region.
Graph showing the breakdown of the $150 billion games industry in 2019, per region.
Global Games Market Report’s industry revenue in 2019 per region breakdown.

I think a common misconception among graduates and younger professionals is that the hiring process at a games company will be somewhat clinical, scrutinizing or scientific. Considering that this is a $150 billion industry as of 2019, one might imagine a candidate’s abilities and skills are meticulously measured, compared and contrasted with those of other candidates and then only the most promising and accomplished person will be selected, specifically suited for that role which is available. Something befitting of the hegemon of the entertainment industry, which is itself in the top 30 most profitable industries on Earth. …


Dominoes falling in a row
Dominoes falling in a row

Incentives matter: an adage which economists are deeply familiar with, but which those working in games design teams often seem not to understand. Changes in incentive can sway human behavior in foreseeable ways. A brief example of this is that, if a resource becomes scarce, less people will buy it, because its price will rise due to the high demand (and possibly the increased difficulty in sourcing the item).

Much like in my previous article on open communication, the consequences of an incentive structure can be difficult to foresee. We incentivise team members spending their day productively by having start of and end of day stand ups in which we must state in some detail what we plan to do and later what we ended up achieving that day. When a feature is being built on a live game, we often move the individual feature team members from their “usual spot” in the office to temporarily sit next to each other. …


A man speaks into a walkie-talkie
A man speaks into a walkie-talkie

In my career as a UI/UX designer in video games I’ve learned many valuable lessons which you can use as a UI/UX designer, a producer, an artist or anyone in games development who is interested in seeing their project succeed. Sometimes these lessons have to be internalised the hard way, through experience, but hopefully I can at least help you prepare for when certain problems inevitably afflict your team.

In this article I’m going to discuss the importance of clear and open communication with your team, using personal examples from my own experience. …


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Having purchased Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on the day of launch, Friday the 15th of November, I dove in with a particular interest in it’s UI. I’d seen a lot of game-play trailers, in which the UI is very minimalist.

The Gameplay HUD

In some of my previous posts I’ve noted that striving for a minimalist UI can actually be a hindrance (with players not being able to see key information easily). When walking, climbing or balancing, there is no onscreen UI other than the player’s health, in the lower left corner, which is very clean and simplistic, but clear. Health bar is a thin, round-cornered strip of a silvery green, in front of a charcoal round-cornered container. I find the colour a little too de-saturated for indicating life, which I think should be more vibrant, but it is not much of an issue. It turns red as it gets close to be being depleted, an important feature which is sometimes overlooked, such as in Days Gone, letting players know, in their periphery or as they scan the screen during hectic combat encounters, that they need to be careful and adjust their tactics accordingly. Interestingly, the small robot companion of Cal, which sits on his back, has a light strip on the back of it’s head. This colour corresponds to the player’s current health level. I first saw this in Dead Space, and I like that they didn’t rely on it solely, as I find it works better along with a UI indicator. …


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Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint has just recently launched and I’ve picked it up, as I had a great time with the previous installment, Wildlands. The game is an online tactical shooter, in an open world sandbox. Players take on the role of a special forces operative sent to a fictional island in the Pacific Ocean in order to confront a fellow operative gone rogue. Players can play cooperatively with friends or an AI controlled squad.

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Fig 1. An enemy patrol in the game world.

Having played around 11 hours or so, I feel I’m ready to give some thoughts on the UI/UX, particularly with regards to the introductory sections of the game. I felt there were several unusual choices, which detracted from the experience we had in Wildlands. Despite this though I’ve been enjoying the game overall and I’ll update this post in time, when I’ve spent more time with the game. …


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The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is an action role-playing game, created by Bethesda Game Studios, originally released all the way back in November of 2011. Players take on the role of a character in a fantasy country called Skyrim, in greater world called Nirn — reminiscent of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. Following a guided introductory sequence and character creation section, players are largely free to roam the world and can pursue a life of swash-buckling adventure, saving the world from dragons, leading or crushing a rebellion, becoming a master assassin or joining a college of wizardry. …


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Days Gone is an open-world action game, developed by Bend Studio. It takes roughly 30 hours or so to complete the main story-campaign, depending on the player’s preference for side-quests etc. Players take on the the role of a biker who survives in a post-apocalypse over run with zombies and marauders. Gameplay consists of melee and ranged combat, motorcycle driving and maintenance, gathering resources, equipment upgrades, skills unlocks, quest objectives, map navigation, clearing areas of the map of zombie infestation, bounty-hunting on behalf of local settlements and more.

Days Gone communicates a great wealth of complex information, navigational options and interactive features through the UI. After exploring God of War and Star Wars Battlefront 2's UI/UX, I’m now excited to explore the UI/UX of a game which has just launched a week ago (at time of writing). …


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Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a multiplayer sci-fi shooter, either 3rd or 1st person, depending on the player’s preference. It was released in November 2017, to more-or-less universal disappointment. I purchased the game at the time and played very little — however, in the intervening 16 months or so, the game has been radically updated and has garnered some new attention for adding the ‘prequel-era’ Star Wars maps and characters to the game. …


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God of War is an action role-playing game, which takes roughly 20–50 hours to complete, depending on the player’s preference for side-quests etc. Over the course of the game the player is taught a great many game mechanics and how they all interact with each other. There’s combat, issuing commands to Kratos’ (the protagonist) son Atreus, gathering resources, equipment upgrades, inventory management, quest objectives, map navigation and more.

The game’s UI needs to contain, communicate and teach this varied information in a way that is easy to comprehend and is user-intuitive. …

About

Cian McNabola

UI/UX Designer

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