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      Download the Game Design and Indie Game Marketing Freebook   07/19/17

      GameDev.net and CRC Press have teamed up to bring a free ebook of content curated from top titles published by CRC Press. The freebook, Practices of Game Design & Indie Game Marketing, includes chapters from The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, and An Architectural Approach to Level Design. The GameDev.net FreeBook is relevant to game designers, developers, and those interested in learning more about the challenges in game development. We know game development can be a tough discipline and business, so we picked several chapters from CRC Press titles that we thought would be of interest to you, the GameDev.net audience, in your journey to design, develop, and market your next game. The free ebook is available through CRC Press by clicking here. The Curated Books The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, Second Edition, by Jesse Schell Presents 100+ sets of questions, or different lenses, for viewing a game’s design, encompassing diverse fields such as psychology, architecture, music, film, software engineering, theme park design, mathematics, anthropology, and more. Written by one of the world's top game designers, this book describes the deepest and most fundamental principles of game design, demonstrating how tactics used in board, card, and athletic games also work in video games. It provides practical instruction on creating world-class games that will be played again and again. View it here. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing, by Joel Dreskin Marketing is an essential but too frequently overlooked or minimized component of the release plan for indie games. A Practical Guide to Indie Game Marketing provides you with the tools needed to build visibility and sell your indie games. With special focus on those developers with small budgets and limited staff and resources, this book is packed with tangible recommendations and techniques that you can put to use immediately. As a seasoned professional of the indie game arena, author Joel Dreskin gives you insight into practical, real-world experiences of marketing numerous successful games and also provides stories of the failures. View it here. An Architectural Approach to Level Design This is one of the first books to integrate architectural and spatial design theory with the field of level design. The book presents architectural techniques and theories for level designers to use in their own work. It connects architecture and level design in different ways that address the practical elements of how designers construct space and the experiential elements of how and why humans interact with this space. Throughout the text, readers learn skills for spatial layout, evoking emotion through gamespaces, and creating better levels through architectural theory. View it here. Learn more and download the ebook by clicking here. Did you know? GameDev.net and CRC Press also recently teamed up to bring GDNet+ Members up to a 20% discount on all CRC Press books. Learn more about this and other benefits here.

Marko Nemberg

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  1. With the emergence of tablet computers, smartphones and gaming devices, more and more children use modern technology from a very early age. You can almost say that children get sucked into the technological world straight from the cradle itself, creating new challenges for both their parents and developers worldwide. It is also known that children have a strong influence on their parents and today they are starting to recognize their role as consumers earlier than ever before! But what does this mean for us? The need to user test our apps, websites and games has never been bigger! This however brings along a problem. As UX designers we have tons of experience under our belt. We have done usability tests with teens and adults, but young children have often been neglected as a general user group. What's even more concerning: some of us are not so sure about the methods themselves. So how can we do it correctly? Here are six tips on how to get user testing right, the first time! #1 Find a Relaxed Environment A typical lab setting is often too intimidating for children unless you have a very child-friendly office. If you have a traditional testing lab then you need to make your office as relaxed as possible, but the best place would still be the child's natural environment. At our office we have multiple walls which can be drawn on with special markers and it's not surprising that they are a real hit with children and adults alike. We also reward the children for their efforts. So far the reaction from both the children and their parents have been nothing but positive. Make sure the environment is as comfortable as possible for both yourself and the child. If the child feels slightly nervous or anxious then the quality of your test results will likely suffer. #2 Give Them a Tour When you invite children and their parents to your lab or office then do give them a grand tour of the surroundings. Letting children see the environment and goof around will help to build trust in both you and your company. The worst thing you can do is start the testing session the very moment they set their foot in your office. This applies to regular testing sessions as well. #3 Make Sure You Have Child-Friendly Lab Equipment Normal sized devices can be difficult to work with for children who have small hands and a slightly smaller range of motion. If you are testing websites then make sure you have the equipment best suited for the task. For example a smaller mouse could make the experience much more pleasant than using a regular sized mouse. The table and chair must also be adjustable to smaller sizes. #4 Take the Time Children need the extra time to learn about the environment they are in. This means that the length of the sessions will likely be longer, while the actual tests take less time than usual. This is due to the short attention span of children. Keep this in mind and the end results will be that much better. Try to connect with the child before handing him or her tasks. Some children can be more closed-off than others and require more time to fully open up and feel free in the new environment. It is also advisable to do the testing sessions in pairs of two. #5 Talk With the Parents First It is adamant that the parents understand their role. Very young children will likely want their mother or father to accompany them in the sessions. If this is the case, allow the parents to stay in the room, but ensure that they are fully aware that they should not help the child complete the tasks required. You also need to make sure that you understand the legal aspects of perfoming these tests. Even small things such as touching a child's arm can backfire. If you do need a more hands-on approach then always ask permission from the parents first. #6 Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues Children can often tell you more with non-verbal cues and verbal, so pay close attention to their body language and reactions. They might sometimes be too shy or feel the need to give out answers the moderator wants to hear - the so-called "school teacher effect". Ensure them that they are not in a classroom and that there are no right and wrong answers here. Conclusion Usability tests with children can be very fun and leave both parties feeling energized. Remember the tips talked about here, combine them with traditional testing methods and you are bound to get good results fast! PS: If you find this post helpful then it would mean the world to us if you would share it with others as well! :) IMAGE CREDITS First image: http://bit.ly/11h0mzA Second image: http://bit.ly/1b3fmXj Third image: http://bit.ly/11XA0Zk
  2. A couple of weeks ago we held a massive game usability testing session at the Gamefounders game accelerator, the first of its kind in Europe. In this article I will share with you our experience from the testing sessions. We didn't expect to have so many test subjects and moderating the tests was a real challenge as you can see in the picture below. The testing day consisted of two groups of twenty-five youngsters, average age about fifteen. What surprised us the most was their good verbal command of the English language (because they were Estonian and the tests were carried out in Estonia) and also their eagerness to let loose and just wreck the games completely. What we did notice however was a general lack of knowledge in how to moderate the testing sessions. One may think it doesn't matter how you ask the questions, but it does matter a great deal. Even the same question will bring you different answers, depending on how and when you presented them. Without stalling too much, here are the most frequent testing errors and how to avoid them Too much guidance When you are moderating a testing session, try to talk about the game or app as little as possible. It is perfectly fine to be mute and not give the player any background information about the game at all. Let them figure it out by themselves. Players need to understand the mechanics of the game from the moment of installation to the very first moment of playing it. If they don't, then you have some work to do. Assuming too much Don't assume the player always understands your in-game menu. Before testing the game itself, try to get the test subjects to speak about the menus and items in the game. Do the players understand what each setting and button does? How do they think they can interact with the items in the game or even options in the menu? During the sessions I witnessed teams skipping past the start screen, which is a bad move. You might have usability errors in the system and not even know it. Do check if the options also include easy mode and differed handicapped modes for players with disabilities. The options might change the colour scheme for players with colour blindness, enable closed captions for players who can`t hear and change the game pace for players with cognitive or mobility problems. Testing with just one demographic If you are making casual games which should appeal to several different age and gender groups then you should test the games with all of them. With learning games aimed at small children you might want to test the game with their parents who actually buy the games. If they can't understand the concept then chances are they won't buy the game. Talking too much Don't distract the players with too many questions and take them away from the game world. Instead, ask them to play the game and verbalise their experience. Ask them what they are feeling at the moment and try to make the questions as open-ended as possible. Is something frustrating them? Is something triggering a strong emotional response? The less you interrupt the player, the better. Try to limit the number of moderators to one per player. The player tends to get confused if suddenly somebody else starts asking the questions. Try to observe the body language - are they relaxed or tense, does their body react to certain actions in the game. When do they have that special glare in their eyes etc. Not recording the sessions Taking notes during the test sessions is a good thing, but do also record the actual tests. For games I suggest using a combination of a screen recorder (there`s a nifty app for iOS apps out which also records the face of the player with the inside camera) and a video camera aimed at the face of the test subject. Couple this setup with a skin response sensor and you will have a great way of validating your test results. Extra tip Use skin response sensors and eye tracking tools if possible. The sensor, which works like a lie detector, will show you what the player is feeling by measuring strong emotional responses. If you are testing video games for Xbox or PS then there is also a sensor available, which is built into the game controller itself, giving you a nice non-intrusive way to test your game. Should you need the maximum results then you can also use an eye tracking device for in-depth data. Conclusion That`s it for now. I hope you got some good input on how to organize your own testing sessions and remember to always test your game even while you're still in development mode. The sooner you get the real customer input, the higher the overall success rate will be!