November Gathering: Interaction design and usability under the loupe

img_0982 11th of November was IGDA Finland’s Super-Tuesday! We arranged both IGDA Finland Presentations at White Hall and a pub night at Cuba club. This time IGDA Finland Presentations session was organized in association with Remedy Entertainment, Sigchi and Sulake.

The presentation session was biggest so far with over 130 participants, organized in White Hall at the center of Helsinki. The session focused on interaction design and game usability with an impressive line-up of speakers from Insomniac, Sulake, IronStarHelsinki and HeavyMetal Helsinki. Presenters covered areas from scrum & usability, tutorials in games, lessons learned, user studies and usability on mobile. Presentation session was finished with three quick presentations from researchers and usability experts looking for possibilities of collaboration with game developers.

The night was kick-started with Alan Wake trailer by Remedy Entertainment, followed by Inka Vikman’s (Sulake) presentation on scrum process and usability. Sulake has a lot of data about their users. Currently their Habbo service is in 32 countries. Their user base consists of 56% boys and 44% girls. 63% of their customers are 13-16 years old. When it comes to software development processes Sulake has utilized scrum successfully for several years already. Usability practices are not 100% in line with scrum but Sulake has been able to deal with the challenges and merge usability practices into the scrum process.

Mobile community MoiPal was up next. MoiPal is a mobile community with presence at Facebook and MoiPal is targeted to teen and tween girls. Joakim Achren, the CEO of Ironstar Helsinki – company behind MoiPal – said that the key challenges relate to mobile phone as a gaming device. Usability-wise it is not the most perfect device for game play with its small buttons, unstandardized UI and unstable GPRS. Their approach is to tie 2-in-1. In 2-in-1 model the users’ can practice MoiPal interaction on web. The UI on the web site will be the same as on mobile.

Ryan Schneider from Insomniac Games talked about Resistance 2’s usability testing process and lessons learned from creating and developing the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance franchises, most recently Resistance 2. In its previous titles leading to R2, Insomniac used focus testing (8-10 players experiencing large gameplay segments simultaneously while developers and publisher watch privately) to obtain player data. However, in Resistance 2 Insomniac chose to combine this approach along with adding usability testing. The dual testing formats enabled Insomniac to obtain broad, general feedback as well as detailed data on important topics such as aiming, audio design, player navigation and UI interface. Insomniac retained Ronin to manage the usability testing process. All in all, usability testing is still a relatively new process to Insomniac, though the studio plans to incorporate it more in future titles earlier during development. With R2 Insomniac started conducting usability tests late in production (post-Alpha).

The last presentation was given by Olli Sinermä who has worked both as a game designer and game reviewer. He wanted to focus on ways to teach a player to play a game; to understand game mechanics and controls. He was complaining that too often tutorials are hard to understand, too complex, boring or just useless. He showed some good and bad examples of tutorials, playable intros, electronic manual or learn-as-you-go alternatives. Lessons learned: keep it fun and a seamless part of the game experience.

At the end of the day Carolina Islas, Harri Lehmuskallio and Jari Takatalo gave short talks highlighting interesting interaction design issues. Carolina is looking for collaboration in the area of mobile augmented reality gaming. Harri Lehmuskallio from Idean presented their spinn-game prototype for iPhone and Jari Takatalo from the University of Helsinki is doing research on user experience in games.

The after party aka IGDA Gathering was held at Cuba cafe. Little over 100 developers made it through the rain to the colorful and warm atmosphere of Cuba. The talked dwelled around the presentations and especially Ryan, our guest from Insomniac, had a busy night chatting with talkative Finns. :) Cuba cafe closed its doors at midnights. After that the party continued at Erottaja, Rymy Eetu and Manala.

Thanks you all for the great night and see you at the IGDA little X-mas parties in December!