Weekly Update: User Experience and Developer Inspiration

Yikes, running a bit late on the update this week.

User Experience

This week I finally finished up the back-end work I was doing and started taking a proper look at the front end and user experience. I’ve been having the classic ‘blank page’ problem with the front end. There seems like so much to think about before you can start that you just never start. I’ve been trying to use various mockup tools to create some outlines of how the work flow will look, but I was finding it too difficult to do at my desk on the computer. Even with great tools like Balsamiq Mockups, looking at only one page at a time made it really difficult to visualise.

So I went old school, printed out 10 pages with a web browser picture on them and went downstairs to the dining room table with a pencil and a rubber.

Old School UX design

Old School UX design

So now I have 10 pages with the basic work flow laid out, something to work from when I’m coding up the html templates and a good visual image of how the application works.

I can see why tools like Balsamiq are good for collaboration with a distributed team, but for the first conceptual stages the tools you need are a big table, pencil, paper and an eraser.

Developer Inspiration

The reason I set up Code Amplifier in the first place is that I’m convinced that the games industry can make better games with better tools. I firmly believe that tools are by far the most important part of a game team. With shonky tools it doesn’t matter how cool your shader tech is, or that your AI can realistically out-flank a player over deformable geometry. Without good tools, your designers and artists are going to spend all their time updating xml files and waiting for the game assets to rebuild; or sitting around waiting because someone broke the build with a 2048×2048 texture; or entering localisation data into an Excel spreadsheet four times because you can’t merge a binary spreadsheet. They won’t have time to iterate their design and show off your cool flanking behaviour or tweak that camera fly-through so the awesome water shader gets seen up-close. And they’ll be miserable because they have to work late to get that localisation data in before the milestone tomorrow.

At Code Amplifier I want to get rid of (some of) those problems. So it was great to see Alex Evans ( no relation ) emphasizing a very similar point in his talk at BAFTA.

http://www.bafta.org/access-all-areas/videos/media-molecule,1383,BA.html

When you are working alone it’s easy to yo-yo between extreme confidence — “I’m going to sell thousands of licenses, it’s all going to be great” — and extreme pessimism — “Game developers don’t want tools made by someone else, and they’ll all have written their own, I’m doomed”. This video gave me a little boost into the confidence side. Someone else who thinks that tools are as important as I do.

There is hope yet.

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