Day 20 brings more UX Design talk! This time the subject being Starbase, and told by one of the UX designers.

User Experience design (or UX design) is an interesting facet of game design, which has fairly recently been split off as its own thing. Essentially the focus is on the player and their experience. So, for example, Starbase has tons of different kinds of designers. Some focus on building ships, some focus on the economy, some focus on planets and, you know, space, just to name a few things that need to be designed.

UX Design in the production phase of a game often means getting involved when a feature is almost done. As a UX designer, my job is to focus on questions such as “How will the player see and understand this?” and “What is their thought process in this situation?” and essentially help ensure the end experience is as intended. While this is at the back of the mind of all designers, this is my main focus. Designers know the system they’re designing like the back of their hand and it is impossible to “forget” all of that knowledge and try to see what a player experiences the first time they encounter the system. My background in UX Design and Human Computer Interaction give me the tools and mental models to assess player experiences (whether first time experience or a returning player’s experience) better. Though even I can’t do it well enough to forgo user testing altogether.

For example, I’m currently working on creating tutorials for the various designers within Starbase.

Most players have encountered the Spaceship Designer. It is very powerful and allows players to design very different kinds of ships. Because of this it is also a bit intimidating for a player seeing it for the first time. Especially if they’ve never used any sort of 3D software, such as Blender or CAD, before.

While I have been somewhat involved in the design of the UI of Spaceship Designer when it was first conceived, I have no idea how spaceships actually work. I still haven’t designed a functional ship, but I have watched a bunch of tutorials and tried out the various tools as well as built the beginnings of a frame a few times. I have also asked a bunch of questions from my coworkers who know more about the designer as well as ships in general. From this I’ve gotten tons of ideas of what could be done in order to make the first time user experience of the designer less intimidating.

However, as we also have tons of players who have not only used the designer but pushed its limits, it would’ve been a wasted opportunity not to ask them what they thought. Which is exactly what I did! In October we sent out a survey to players asking for feedback on the designers in the game, ideas on how to improve them, and ideas on how to make it easier to learn to use them.

Some interesting facts I’ve found out from the 156 players who responded include, but are not limited to:

  • Players have either experimented with both Spaceship Designer and Lot Designer or only with the Spaceship Designer. This makes sense, as the former can be found on the starting station, while the latter cannot.
  • If you get into Spaceship Designer, you really get into it: 46% of respondents have spent over 100 hours in Spaceship Designer! (This is a great time to note that our sample is very biased. The game is still in alpha, so we mostly have very keen players. And only some of those answered the survey where we explicitly said we want feedback on the designers, so many who don’t have much to say, did not answer the survey.)
  • This is contrasted by the amount of time people have spent in Lot Designer: a vast majority has spent less than 10 hours there. This is likely due to the fact there’s been much less to do there.

It was also encouraging to note how many issues were already known to us and most improvement ideas for Lot Designer specifically have already been implemented. There was a lot more ideas for Spaceship Designer, but many of the ones voiced most often were also already on our radar, even if we’re still thinking about whether we can actually implement some more tech heavy ideas.

The answers have really helped in giving me a direction or few to pursue. While I do not have anything to share about the tutorials just yet, I can say the plan definitely is to keep the community included in the creation of the tutorials. So expect to hear more about this in early 2021!