Exploring user experience with video games
Researched and written by Aswin baskaran
30 October 2020
This research essay explores user experience and video games to evaluate the progress of user experience with video games. Exploring and defining the terms and principles of user experience, player experience, and user interface. Discussing the component of the user interface in video games and using these terms, principles, and components to evaluate the progress of user experience with the Doom video game series. The research method was structured using references from books, articles, and magazines. The analysis shows that user experience has evolved and changed as theDoom series expands and the conclusion is user experience will keep evolving as new technologies come into the video game market.
Keywords: user experience; player experience; user interface; Doom.
This research thesis analysis explores how user experience has improved with the game industry for years. This exploration will analyze the evolution of user experience with video games and using the Doom video games series to justify the improvement of user experience. The objective of using user experience is to explore players' propensity to interact with the game. For decades user experience staff have been helping the game development team to improve their process. User experience is an important task in developing any kind of product, ”UX is where the science of the player meets the art of game design” (Long, 2017). User experience is a key element in developing any product, for example, such as apps, websites, and video games. Moreover helping the designers and developers to get a deeper perspective of users and understand how players enjoy playing video games. User experience provides constant guidance, going back-forth between aiding the design and then testing it on the real players. As a whole, this process reduces risks such as games being difficult to understand or having to re-do work over and over if players don’t understand the game. User experience design is also related to the user interface and includes the creation of elements such as navigation, ergonomics, usability, and user path in a given interface (website, mobile app, video game, and even ticket vending machines). The user experience shapes every element that is all about creating products and features that are relevant, logical, and easy to use.
2. Origin of User experience
The origin of UX is traced far back from 4000 BC to the traditional philosophy of rule which translates in English as “wind and water” and it refers to the placement of objects about the flow of energy; the rule was all about arranging your surroundings within the most optimal user-friendly way. “It takes into consideration everything from materials, to colors, to layout” (Vieira, T. 2019). Moreover, UX design may be traced from ancient grace; Greek civilization designed their tools and workplaces supported ergonomic principles; ergonomics consider how humans interact with other elements of a system. Ergonomic principles help to style, Greek civilization advancements planned their instruments and work environments captivated with ergonomic standards (Zubreckyj, 2020). Optimize human wellbeing and improve system performance which is comparable to UX principles (Dzida, 1989).
In the early 1900s, Frederick Winslow Taylor wrote “The Principles of Scientific Management '' which helped the inefficiency of systematic management to improve which indicates Taylor’s focus on optimizing the relationship between humans and their tools is certainly reminiscent of some key UX principles.
During the 1940s, Toyota was in a quest to find workplace efficiency & developed their first human-centered production system; The Toyota Production System was focused on respect for people, and a great deal of attention was paid to creating an ideal working atmosphere, and human input was considered essential and actively encouraged (Fujimoto, 1999) and Toyota factory workers could interrupt assembly lines if they had input or ideas to improve the operation, much as UX designers do when testing usability. Designers and developers have been working with a screen-based user interface from the 1950s (Nielsen, 2017).
While UX was evolving, the first game was introduced by Physicist Higinbotham; the first video game was made in cathode ray tube;” The first version, used in the 1958 visitor’s day, had an oscilloscope with a tiny display, only five inches in diameter. The next year, Higinbotham improved it with a larger display screen. He also added another feature: the game could now simulate stronger or weaker gravity, so visitors could play tennis on the moon, Earth, or Jupiter”(Harbuzinski, 2020).
User experience was mostly towards computer-like devices but the user experience wasn’t prioritized rather it was a simple monochromatic interface. Early user experience designers weren't pushing the limit to generate user interfaces. And during the early 1960s, Disney was fascinated about making magical, interactive, near-perfect user interfaces, and a true piece of UX brilliance was the way he went about designing Disney World. Walt Disney's guiding principles for his team of engineers, as he called them were all about understanding your audience, wearing your guest's shoes, interacting with colors, form, shape, and texture which also provides a concussion where Walt Disney may be the first UX designer in the history on user experience (Vieira, 2019). And during the technology era where Xerox, Apple, and the pc came into the market, during this period psychologists and engineers worked together to focus on the user experience. During the release of Apple's original macintosh which featured a graphical user interface, built-in screen, and mouse (Vieira, 2019).
During the 1990s, The user experience was widespread, but an official mark was lacking, Therefore Donald Norman, a cognitive scientist joined the Apple team and wanted a concept that would cover everything that UX is. “I invented the term he origin of UX may be traced far back during 4000 BC to the traditional philosophy of principle which translates in English as “wind and water” and it refers to the placement of objects about the flow of energy; the principle was all about arranging your surrounding within the most optimal user-friendly way. “It takes into consideration everything from materials, to colors, to layout” (Vieira, T. 2019). Moreover, UX design is traced from ancient grace; Greek civilization designed their tools and workplaces supported ergonomic principles; ergonomics consider how humans interact with other elements of a system. Ergonomic principles help to style, Greek civilization advancements planned their instruments and work environments obsessed with ergonomic standards (Zubreckyj, 2020). Optimize human wellbeing and improve system performance which is analogous to UX principles (Dzida, 1989).
In the early 1900s, Frederick Winslow Taylor wrote “The Principles of Scientific Management '' which helped the inefficiency of systematic management to enhance which indicates Taylor’s specialize in optimizing the connection between humans and their tools are certainly paying homage to some key UX principles.
During the 1940s, Toyota was in an exceeding quest to search out workplace efficiency & developed their first human-centered production system; The Toyota Production System was focused on respect for people, and a good deal of attention was paid to making a perfect working atmosphere, and human input was considered essential and actively encouraged (Fujimoto, 1999) and Toyota factory workers could interrupt assembly lines if that they had input or ideas to enhance the operation, very much like UX designers do when testing usability. Designers and developers have been working with a screen-based interface since the 1950s (Nielsen, 2017).
While UX was evolving, the primary game was introduced by Physicist Higinbotham; the primary game was made in an electron beam tube;” the primary version, employed in the 1958 visitor’s day, had an oscilloscope with a little display, only five inches in diameter. The following year, Higinbotham improved it with a bigger computer screen. He also added another feature: the sport could now simulate stronger or weaker gravity, so visitors could play tennis on the moon, Earth, or Jupiter”(Harbuzinski, 2020).
User experience was mostly towards computer-like devices but the user experience wasn’t prioritized rather it had been an easy monochromatic interface. Early user experience designers weren't pushing the limit to get user interfaces. And through the first 1960s, Disney was fascinated about making magical, interactive, near-perfect user interfaces, and a real piece of UX brilliance was the way he went about designing Disney World. Walt Disney's guiding principles for his team of engineers, as he called them were all about understanding your audience, wearing your guest's shoes, interacting with colors, form, shape, and texture which also provides a concussion where Disney is also the primary UX designer within the history on user experience (Vieira, 2019). and through the technology era where Xerox, Apple, and also the pc came into the market, during this era psychologists and engineers worked together to target the user experience. During the discharge of Apple's original macintosh which featured a graphical computer program, built-in screen, and mouse (Vieira, 2019).
During the 1990s, The user experience was widespread, but a politician's mark was lacking, Therefore Donald Norman, a man of science, joined the Apple team and wanted an idea that will cover everything that UX is. “I invented the term because I thought human interface and usability were too narrow. I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual”(Vieira, 2019). Nowadays, every industry features a user experience team and this can be a rapidly growing field and is predicted to stay growing such a lot by 2050 that it'll dwarf anything we’ve seen to this point.
3. Defining user experience
User experience still lacks definition, but as far today, user experience is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function. “ The term user experience can be seen as an umbrella term used to stimulate research in HCI to focus on aspects which are beyond usability and its task-oriented instrumental values” (Hassenzahl 2003).
User experience in-game can be evaluated by different approaches including involvement, engagement, immersion, fun, presence, flow, play, and playability. The classic user experience approach is solving users’ needs. But considering user experience for video games should approach to introduce challenges to keep the users motivated throughout the gameplay ( Karuturi, 2019). During the early stages of game development, game support controllers played a major part in playing video games; early consoles like the Atari 2600 and NES used controllers. Several attempts were made by the game developers to make controllers that were aimed towards a particular game or a genre.
4. User interface and the evolution of video games
Video games have been refined by graphical enhancements but during the early 1980s and 1990s it wasn’t much focused but as the complexity of video games increased user interface became a key element to increase the productivity of the video games (Poh, 2020).
The user interface helps the players to interact with the game and get feedback from the interaction. The first type of video game the gaming industry had was tennis for two which was released in early 1958. This was manipulating the angle of the ball coming towards the player and using a control knob to adjust and hit the ball; there was not much user interaction given to the players those days.
In 1972, Ping-pong was introduced and the game developers had an idea to add a player score system which would stimulate the players to become competitive during the gameplay (Poh, 2020); when the opponent fails to hit the ball, the other players gain a point.
The scoring system was further popularised with classics which were coming out during the late 1970s, one of the blockbuster games such as space invaders had the high score system where players can see others score (Poh, 2020).
In the early 1980s, games like Pac-man changed the game industry by bringing in other features such as puzzle-solving skills and reflex-based games. Elements like power-ups, scores, and avoiding enemies were introduced in the game (Poh, 2020). Which required a lot of user interfaces such as a high score system and power-ups. After this era, the video game industry was focused on storyline and interactivity games.
Colossal cave adventure and donkey-kong were story-rich content and interaction involved games. Donkey-kong was the one to graphically interpret a storyline. This was the early stage of the game to have storylines. The storyline of donkey-kong was about rescuing the lady from donkey-kong.
In the 1980s, Computer technology started to evolve and the introduction of side-scroller games was introduced in the industry. During this period Super Mario Bros, one of the prominent games to introduce a menu system, manuals to guide the players, in-game tutorial, time UI, text to indicate which level the player is, and coins collected (Poh, 2020).
Final fantasy was the first role-playing game that introduced in-game character experience. In 1987, Many storyline-based games were released and the final fantasy was the one to popularise this genre in the gaming market. This game had a user interface that made players easy to communicate with. Information such as HP, enemies, and other menus helped to make the gaming experience more refined.
After technological advancements, 3d games came into the market. Major 3d titles such as Virtua Fighter, Super Mario 64, Doom (1993), Wolfeinsitin (1992), and quake (1996). These video games revolutionized the video game industry by creating a more interactable user interface.
5. Evaluating user experience with games.
Evaluations of user experience in games and more generally in interactive entertainment systems were carried out early in game development. During the early stages of game design, programmers of the early computing system managed to develop the first version of digital games, and user experience was already established in a very simple form. The simple form of user experience helped the programmers to evaluate why the game wasn’t fun at the end (Novak 2008).
The introduction of video games like Tetris showed that small changes in gameplay or story heavily influence the overall user experience of the game. The current game industry has different types of approaches to maximize gaming experience but HCL started using the user experience term prominently. On the other hand, human-computer interaction and game research started to learn from each other. Since then user experience evaluation methods from HCL have been used for game development to improve the gaming experience (Federoff, 2002). HCL user experience evaluation methods consist of elements required to get user attention such as fun, immersion, logic, and motivation.
6. What is the player experience
In the game industry, The concept of user experience focuses on improving the standard of interaction between video games and users. This process takes the player's emotion and attitude under consideration. and this process can expand upon to hide elements that will impact the experience of the players. For this idea, there's a term called “Player experience”; Player experience requires a sufficient approach of differentiating each element like a challenge, tension, immersion, emotions, and competence (Wiemeyer, Nacke, Moser, & Mueller, 2016).
Player experience may be a concept focused more on entertainment instead of productivity (Eng, 2019). Player experience is what the player goes through once they play the sport. The player experience is often as simple as simulation-based games, learning games, or serious games. Player experience has six major principles, which include, motivation, meaningful choices, balance, usability, aesthetics, and fun (Eng, 2019).
Player experience is all about engaging the players during the gameplay. Therefore the key element is to keep the players motivated during the gameplay. The element that almost all relates mostly to entertainment games is curiosity. That's because the player wants to be a part of the experience and is involved in the game. there's a distinct demonstration of competence. they're inspired to play and are best when players show their competence. But to hold on playing and to enhance. For players to return, improve, and continue playing the game, this fundamental incentive is very important. Demonstration of skill allows the player the agency after the primary play, second play, and following plays to still progress (Eng, 2019).
Many games use the five senses which are sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell to depend on experience. Digital gamers should also ensure connectivity with features like haptics, which offer the player within the gaming world tactile input. During this area, top games have yet to advance; but through both style and theme, they convey plenty. The game's style and theme promote and convey something about the player experience gazing at box art. Much may be gained by simply reviewing the technical selection from the fund. But more are often gained when aesthetics also inform player choice and magnificence, and this can be evident in board games like photosynthesis where shadows cast by trees prevent other trees from growing. This is often the look and selection of favor the tallest actual logging represents; Theme; And mechanics (Carrigy, Katsiaryna, Paterson, & Haahr, 2010).
Player motivation comes with meaningful choices that demonstrate their competence through what they favor to do. Those choices are dampened into three different and distinct areas: agency, strategy, and tactics. Agency is the ability of a player to create a choice. If the players don't have that ability, then they can not make a call and a situation or simulation unfolds without the player's participation. That's not good for compromise. Therefore, the supply and skill of the players to form decisions are important. The impact of these decisions affects both the player's strategy and tactics. The strategy represents the general impact of the player's choices throughout the sport and other opponents (Wiemeyer, Nacke, Moser, & Mueller, 2016). The strategy represents the culmination of a series of choices that affect the state of the sport. Tactics, on the opposite hand, represent a way smaller effect. Tactics are the results of choices that affect the state of the sport or other players for a limited duration.
Balancing a computer game is vital to the success of that product, Real balance is incredibly difficult and comparatively unimportant if your goal is to maximize the player experience. Although balance is vital in maintaining player interaction with the sport through the engagement curve, the engagement curve balances out periods of high player intensity and interaction with lower engagement areas. Having a player who is continually participating may be stressful. Though, not letting them participate the least bit would be boring. This suggests designers must carefully balance the 2 so players can get perfectly involved within the flow situation. The flow state is that the period when the player attempts to challenge at the peak of his abilities (Robinson, 2016). they're qualified within the activity but still facing the challenge. consider running your favorite console game like Super Mario Bros. you recognize a way to play the sport. you recognize what to expect from the sport. But you must continue to target all the moves you create to play the sport as fast as possible.
Usability deals with the core mechanics of the game. These core mechanics focus on what happens in the game. Are points scored to win? Is it a race to the finish? Should players focus on their success, stop others, or a combination of both? What happens to other players also affects the core mechanics of the game. Roll and write games are accessible due to their large number of players. There are often no limits that would prevent an unlimited number of players from playing. But there is no interaction between players in this style of play (Isbister & Schaffer, 2008). None of your actions will affect my actions and vice versa. However, there are other games like Risk, Warhammer 40,000, and Cosmic Encounter where player interaction is crucial. In these games, everything players can and will do is based on what other players are doing. Lastly, the actions that players take affect the usability of the game. If I can only take actions that will stop others, then this game is highly conflicted. When I can take action to help me and stop others, I have more choices. If I can take action to help me, and only the players on my left and right, my actions will be even better informed. I have to think about what I can do to win.
7. User interface variants in video games
Many video games had different types of user interface designs in the early 2010s, such as Diegetic, Meta, Spatial, and Non-diegetic user interface designs (Stonehouse, 2014).
Diegetic UI components exist inside the game world (fiction and geometry) so the player and symbol can connect with them through visual, perceptible, or haptic methods. Professional diegetic user interface components elevate the story experience for the player example in figure 1.0 which shows the UI of Horizon zero dawn, giving a more vivid and coordinated insight (Stonehouse, 2014).
Meta user interface components are the one that doesn’t exist with the game rather a two-dimensional heads-up display plane which still can maintain the video game’s narrative. A typical example of a Meta user interface component is blood splatters on the screen as a type of wellbeing bar, as in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Stonehouse, 2014).
Spatial user interface components are utilized when there's a need to break the story to give more information to the player than the character should know about. They sit inside the geometry of the game's current circumstance to help inundate the player and keep them from breaking the experience by bouncing to menu screens (figure 1.2). The closer these keep the principles of the game's fiction the more they can help inundate the player (Stonehouse, 2014).
Non-diegetic user interface components, these components have the opportunity to be eliminated from the game's fiction and geometry and can receive their visual pattern, however regularly impacted by the game's art direction. These components are best utilized when the diegetic, meta, and spatial structures give limitations that break the seamlessness, consistency, or legibility of the user interface component. The universe of Warcraft utilizes a generally Non-diegetic user interface, one special case being the Spatial player names. It permits the user to alter it, ideally guaranteeing a familiar experience.
8. Exploring Doom’s user experience
Nowadays, many studios have UX/UI designers for creating interactive interfaces for video games. Video games like Doom have expanded its video series for decades. Keeping Doom as an example to prove how the user interface and player experience has improved to make player interaction more flexible and engaging. There is flow in every video game; “flow is a mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity” (Fyxorian, 2020). The Doom series pushed the experience of “flow” more than anything else, Immersing players was the key to the game’s success. Several principles were used in The Doom series to promote the user experience and keep the player in flow, The principles are Audio cues, destructible demons, glory kills, user interface, respawning, extra lives, accessibility, player control, and freedom (Bernhaupt, 2015). This section will compare and contrast The Doom series with these principles to determine the improvement of user experience with the video game industry. Also using HCL’s user experience elements which are fun, immersion, logic, and motivation (Federoff, 2002).
Doom was developed in late 1992 and has been evolving for decades. This game has been released on many different platforms. The first Doom video game wasn’t truly a three-dimension video game rather it was two-dimensional images combined together. The user experience was complicated but developers added basic information like ammo, health, armor, and items picked. This game tends to cover all the principles of HCL user experience principles which include fun, immersion, logic, and motivation (Federoff, 2002), but considering these principles are outdated compared to the games which are released nowadays. The interesting part of the heads-up display interface added to this game was the face providing information about the character’s emotions in-game (figure 2.1) which increases the connection between the user and the in-game avatar in doom (Chao, 2001). Doom I & II didn’t have much difference in user interface But considering the principles like audio cues and player respawn was a unique experience to the player during late 1992. Extra lives gave another chance for the players to start playing from the spawn point the player has crossed. Players usually respawned from the start of the game if they die is some level but consider Doom II players were respawned at the start of the level rather than the start of the game, which means Doom II had the option to save the game and a waypoint option which made the game more immersive and entertaining for players. (Quasar, 2018). The usage of Meta user interface components helps the game maintain its narrative. Doom II had a similar interface and similar user experience because Doom II was created one year after Doom I. There was no UI advancement and principles of user experience involved in Doom II.
Doom 3 revolutionized the Doom series by introducing the three-dimension video game experience, where developers were able to achieve an immersive experience for players. Considering the principles from user experience and player experience, this game had it all in it. The elements of player experience like motivation, meaningful choices, balance, usability, and aesthetics were lacking in the previous Doom series (Eng, 2019). Audio cues helped the player to understand the situation in each level and indicated the monster’s location with sound effects. The user interface was simplified and more accessible to the players (Fyxorian, 2020). The in-game UI system was also introduced in Doom 3. But the issue with the user interface of Doom 3 was clustered and more information was provided to the players which made several players frustrated and quit the game. Therefore players didn’t get the fullest experience of this video game. This problem was solved in Doom 2016.
Doom 2016 user interface was minimalist therefore users felt it was more accessible than previous versions. These Meta user interface components made the mechanics more accessible like showing keybindings and designed to make it easy to control a few vital parameters during fast-paced fights. Many users tend to like the user interface of Doom 2016 than Doom Eternal which was released in early 2020 (Migdał, 2020). The reason behind this was the minimalist heads up display and ease of access to the menu system. Many users felt doom eternal had an arcade-style user interface and the doom 2016 was a combination of minimal style and arcade (Migdał, 2020). Comparing the information provided in the monster encyclopedia, doom eternal provided too much information which takes time to read for the users but compared with doom 2016 (Migdał, 2020). Doom 2016 had easter eggs that motivate the player to experience nostalgic moments. And the player can discover activity figures of Doom characters.
Many players felt the user interface of Doom eternal was complicated but the overall player experience was covered in the video game. Audio cues helped the player to distinguish between different activities like destroying enemy weak points, health pickups, and armor pickups from flame belch. Glory kills are one of the major motivations for the players, the reason behind this is because the players enjoy the terror on the faces of the demons when they are about to be killed. Balancing the game between respawning and extra lives; this reduces the player’s frustration by not making the player repeat the whole level (Fyxorian, 2020). In doom, 2016 players should respawn from the last checkpoint after death but consider doom eternal player is given extra lives and respawned where the player dies. This will keep the player engaged at all times. Addition of multiplayer mode which motivates the player to coordinate with other players to kill demons in the video game (Fyxorian, 2020). Animations serve as important micro-interactions, giving a sense of smoothness to the proceedings. And considering the game’s overall game loop satisfies the players more than expected.
User experience design has been improved with video games and will be improving in the future with the addition of virtual reality and augmented reality games. Many challenges are there for providing an immersion gaming experience for players. Video game user interface also makes a tremendous impact on the video game; the user interface provides a solid connection between the player and in-game avatar. Technology provides an opportunity for deeper levels of interaction with the addition of audio and haptic elements. Comparing Doom 1992 to Doom Eternals provides deeper principles of user experience use and handling in video games from past to present.
Doom 1992, was less talk, more action-based video game and as the technology improved, the addition of audio, animations, heads-up display interfaces, and player experience principles were fixable to use and improve the experience in video games. As the video game industry improves, the experience of players with video games will be more interactive and immersive.
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