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Ergonomics & Game Design

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I work now on the process of Game Design, and the whole environment of game development studios. Does anyone knows academic people or game designers studying the effect of the work environment of game developers on the quality of games? I''ll be interested in sharing ideas with them... Yves from Calvingrad (Geneva)

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Sorry, I don''t know anyone like that, but while we''re on ergonomics, why doesn''t anyone make a keyboard with the keys lined up so that the ''W'' is directly about the ''S''? That would a lot more comfortable for deathmatching.

Oh, and if you want to see a good example of a game development environment, find a way to see the documentary on the Star Wars: Rogue Leader disc. Beer + arcade games + cool Star Wars merchandise = happy devs & good games.

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Right, there''s still a lot to do to improve devices that are usable and useful for gamers. This explains why academics have to carry on exploratory studies on how gamers are playing. What are their attitudes while playing? How they use output and input devices? When we''ll know more about those hidden behaviors, we''ll certainly be able to build adapted stuff...

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It''s my limited understanding that there are two major factors that effect game design...

Time and Money.


And as always there is never enough of either.

"Making it up! Why should I be making it up. Lifes bad enough as it is without wanting to invent more of it."

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Time and money affect the quality of games too. Now I only focus on the work environment, but it is true that major factors like these are crucial.

Alain Le Diberder - a french multimedia specialist who was in charge of Canal Plus Entertainment - once said that in the beginning games were driven by technology. Now it is driven by profit (which explain the problem of both time and money), but it might change in the near future. To him the quality of content will be the driving force of the market. It means that we will have to re-consider the way we create games, the kind of scenario we want to build, which cultural messages we want to convey...

And he goes further by saying that when games will become mature enough (with theoretical background, specialised critics for all gamers, better choice of games - more educational, historical games for example), then we''ll talk about "le 10ème Art". Which is the ultimate multimedia experience, just after movies, comics and TV. When fiction and interactivity will merge into one integrated concept (eventhough the clash is still huge), I''ll be happy to discover the landscape of "Lords of the Ring" with some 3D immersive glasses!!!

And imagine an Oscar-like ceremony dedicated to games... can''t wait!

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Guest Anonymous Poster
quote:
Original post by grassio4
And imagine an Oscar-like ceremony dedicated to games... can''t wait!



BAFTA is like an oscar-like ceremony dedicated to game. Both PC, Console and webgames participate in the different categories. Very cool and very glamorous.
[link]http://www.bafta.org/5_ie/5_INTRO.htm[/link]

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Instead of looking it up specifically linked to game design - why don''t you just look up how workplace comfort effects productivity?

It is really about time and money - a delicate balance of the two.

I''m not sure what you''re really asking, but it sounds like you want justification to get a boss to spend some 200$ on a nice chair or something

Well a chair that will let you sit for 10-14 hours daily, without giving you injuries over the course of 12-24 months, without distracting you with its comfort is all that''s needed.

Apply that logic to all other ''ergonomics'' in the office and you''ll find a decent answer.

Now if you meant the ''ergonomics'' of a game, as in its interface, that would be a much better question in this forum...

Zaptruder

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Zaptrudr,

I won''t try to justify the interest of studying the whole process of Game Design from an ergonomics perspective. Because it is definitely a matter of time and money, and this is already a good reason.

Anyway how workplace comfort effects productivity has already been studied for the last 50 years. And it is true that if your boss is ready to pay for an ergonomic chair, all benefits goes to you and the productivity. Applying this philosophy into the office is still not something CEOs are aware of. But things will probably change when executives will understand human factors as crucial for the health of the business.

An ergonomic approach (usability) of Game the User Interface was my first idea for the thesis. I wanted to apply ergonomic criteria to Game Interface, but it came to be much more difficult than it sounds. For you have to deal with the conflict between criteria for 2D environment (classic GUI), and the transfer via 3D-like UI. And it is a kind of paradox to speak about usability applied in games, because it is already meant to be a natural interface to navigate within the virtual environment. Still a lot has to be done in that particular area.

If you read in french, have a clic on "draft" in my homepage:
http://tecfa.unige.ch/~yves/

You''ll know more about this subject.

Anyway, exploratory studies on how game designers work are badly needed too... so, let''s work on it!

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If you''re interested in 3D UI''s in games, check out Black & White. That game has a great UI, and it''s 2d and 3d at the same time. It''s a hand (your hand) that hovers a few feet above the ground. As you move the mouse in two dimensions, the hand moves over the terrain in 3 dimensions, since it follows the ground up and down. It''s really intuitive.

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Grassio,

I''d suggest that your real study is the effect of ergonomics on the creative process, not simply on productivity.

Added comfort for an accountant working on a spreadsheet will make him or her feel more at ease, simply by sitting in a more comfortable chair and having an arm rest.

How does that translate over to artists, programmers and writers - a game development team? As a writer, I can tell you that I get my best work done while sitting in a twisted, but comfortable for me, position and hacking away on my laptop. When I''m sitting upright in a normal chair and working on the desktop, I''m continuously less pleased with my work.

I haven''t personally tested this yet, but I''ve questioned whether I could work better in a crowded club, sitting on a pillow with my back to a wall while working from the LT rather than at some ergonomically-designed desktop scenario. It''d be an interesting take.

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Grassio,

I''d suggest that your real study is the effect of ergonomics on the creative process, not simply on productivity.

Added comfort for an accountant working on a spreadsheet will make him or her feel more at ease, simply by sitting in a more comfortable chair and having an arm rest.

How does that translate over to artists, programmers and writers - a game development team? As a writer, I can tell you that I get my best work done while sitting in a twisted, but comfortable for me, position and hacking away on my laptop. When I''m sitting upright in a normal chair and working on the desktop, I''m continuously less pleased with my work.

I haven''t personally tested this yet, but I''ve questioned whether I could work better in a crowded club, sitting on a pillow with my back to a wall while working from the LT rather than at some ergonomically-designed desktop scenario. It''d be an interesting take.

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ErikTrickster, I found out that I work best while sitting in a not to crowded subway train with my laptop (too bad the grafic card is so crappy I can''t really do more than basic stuff before going back to a *real* computer.) I can''t tell you why though. Normally I don''t like having people around when I work.

But I guess that you''re right that ergonomics are partly subjective, although you need some standards, especially concerning lighting, if you want people to work for a longer period of time (and developing games definitely falls in that category).

I''m not sure whether the original poster meant during development or for the actual gamer. So: I know that I love to find out a game implements a good degree of customizability. Think of the way remappable keys weren''t standard a few years back and how it rapidly became something gamers expected from a game. Giving the player a way to customize his gaming experience
(keymapping, controls, colors of the HUD, ...) is probably a good way to ensure that things are ergonomical for everybody.

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quote:
Original post by OOProgrammer
If you''re interested in 3D UI''s in games, check out Black & White. That game has a great UI, and it''s 2d and 3d at the same time. It''s a hand (your hand) that hovers a few feet above the ground. As you move the mouse in two dimensions, the hand moves over the terrain in 3 dimensions, since it follows the ground up and down. It''s really intuitive.


OMG, you liked that interface? I hated it! Camera control was impossible, and the hand movements were never picked up properly. Perhaps if I''d got a spaceball or something it might have worked better, but it probably wouldn''t have supported it... Granted, it''s overall a good idea, and it suits the whole ''God'' thing, but it could have been implemented *so* much better...

Superpig
- saving pigs from untimely fates
- sleeps in a ham-mock at www.thebinaryrefinery.cjb.net

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ErikTrickster and Sammy70,

>But I guess that you''re right that ergonomics are partly >subjective, although you need some standards, especially >concerning lighting, if you want people to work for a longer >period of time

I firmly believe that ergonomics such as the environment (lighting, sitting position, quality of hardware...) influence the whole process of sotware creation. To work better, you need to feel good at work. And it depends on every individual. Some prefer to lay down in a garden to be inspired, to get ideas. Others who mainly work inside in an office might then prefer adapted devices around.
Other factors are crucial as well: the structure and organisation of the whole enterprise, to be considered as a system in itself. Then what matters is how the dataflow is managed. How can you be sure that the right information is conveyed to the right person? and how can you be sure to access to it without any problem? Which means that effective COMMUNICATION stands as the key factor in any system.


>I''m not sure whether the original poster meant during development >or for the actual gamer.

my thesis is focused on the ergonomics of game design process during development.


>Giving the player a way to customize his gaming experience
>(keymapping, controls, colors of the HUD, ...) is probably a good >way to ensure that things are ergonomical for everybody.

Sure... one aspect of future games is customization of the interface. It has to be integrated right into the philosophy that commands the specifications of the game design document. If you want to be sure that your game is meant to be played by all gamers, make a customized one. It is the game that has to adapt itself to the gamer, not the contrary!


>I''d suggest that your real study is the effect of ergonomics on >the creative process, not simply on productivity.

I didn''t mean that the effect of ergonomics simply lies on productivity. I''m not a shark! It has a global effect on the whole process, so on creativity too. As said before by one of you, creative people won''t automaticaly be inspired sitting in an ergonomic chair. I agree that the mystic of creation has to be intimate, wherever it happens, whenever too, in a techno-club at midnight or during a quite walk in the countryside at noon.


>Added comfort for an accountant working on a spreadsheet will >make him or her feel more at ease, simply by sitting in a more >comfortable chair and having an arm rest.
>How does that translate over to artists, programmers and writers >- a game development team?

I guess it concerns everyone who get up in the morning to go to work. Nobody can escape the reality of work environment, including game development studios. I would say that ergonomics is much more important for programmers, because they are the ones that spend far more time in front of their PCs. That implies comfort at work. Basicaly everyone who sits hours in front of their sreen are concerned by those researches.


Yves from Clavingrad

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Well, as far as OSHA regulations are concerned, the environment does need to be ergonomic to begin with. However, if your environment is too comfortable, you reproduce ION STORM during the days of John Romero's Daikatana. Another idea is Id's 1 hour deathmatch everyday. And general advice I can offer is to carefully weigh who works at the company. Somebody who doesn't work well with others and is just a drag on the whole process obviously belongs at one of Acclaim's Houses, rather than a startup paying the employees with the profits on the prior game. Then, once you have a group that has good team morale, keep it up by disversifying the work week a bit. Let wednesday be the serious coding/drawing/etc. day and then schedule an optional weekly meeting down at the local pub after work. Granted its not the best environment to get any work done, but it keeps the employees generally happy. I'm speaking on the level of a 10-20 employee dev.house, and on all startups with a small number of employees, its generaly a good idea to have a sort of family going, where everybody knows everybody and the work environment is pleasent. That way, everyone is motivated, and no one is a drag to the project.

-> Will Bubel
-> Machine wash cold, tumble dry.


[edited by - inmate2993 on April 10, 2002 4:58:10 PM]

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Grassio,

Keep in mind, through all of this, that I''m not disagreeing - just trying to better understand.

What I''m not clear on is why your focus is, apparently, primarily on software design - or specifically game design. There''s a hidden implication that ergonomics in an office affect game design differently from how they would affect production in a law firm, a newspaper, or some other business environment.

My suggestion was a way to better understand your research - the idea that ergonomics affect the creative process in a business environment more so, or differently, from how they affect the day-to-day operations of a business.

If I''m incorrect...please, clarify

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