Set up and organization of focus group.
In dept analysis and documentation of research data.
Identified key areas to improve the video game experience.
How the levels of video game experience directly correlates to user ability and performance in task completion.
What can be done to enhance the player overall experience?
The methodology we used to conduct this research, were natural observations on participants playing the Gemworld video game prototype, followed by interviews.
This study took place on the 3rd of April within the CIT campus. Our participants consisted of six media communications students, four males and two females.
Each of the participants were given the chance to play the game for about 10 minutes and completed the tasks given to them within the game.
They were then interviewed about their experience playing the game. In terms of the participants background when it came to playing video games…4 participants played video game often to regularly whilst the other 2 played video games rarely.
Participant 1 was a female student who had very little experience playing video games as stated her only real experience with gaming were that of 2d mobile games. In terms of task completion, she was able to get to the 2nd island, activate the teleporter and collected 134/600 gems.
Participant 2 was a female student with regular gaming experience stating that she used to play games every weekend and owned an X-Box 360, however has not been playing that regularly in the last few years. In terms of task completion, she almost reached the third island, activated the teleporter and collected 110/600 gems.
Participant 3 was a male student with regular video game experience stating that he plays video games every weekend and owns an X-Box One and a Gaming PC. In terms of task completion, he completed all of the tasks accept for unlocking the secret door at the end due to his gems total which was 176/600, 300 to unlock the door.
Participant 4 was a male student with regular video game experience stating that he plays everyday and owns both a Gaming PC and Playstation 4. Participant 4 was the only participant in the study to complete all tasks within the game and collected a total of 346 gems.
Participant 5 was a male student with very little video game experience stating that he would only briefly play them every 3 months or so, he also stated that he doesn’t own any gaming console or platform. In terms of tasks Participant 5 collected 75/600 gems, activated the teleporter and reached the second island.
Participant 6 was a male student with regular gaming experience however has not played regularly at all in the last year or so and stated that he sold his Playstaion 4 and used to play PC games regularly as a child. In terms of task completion participant 6 very nearly reached the third island completing everything up to that point collecting a total of 209 gems.
Interpretation: System strengths and weaknesses
From the observations and the interviews its clear that there are various strengths and indeed weaknesses in the Gemworld video game that manifest themselves as patterns across all participants. But there are also some minor anomalies.
One core strength that Gemworld had was indeed its aesthetic presentation and atmosphere. All participants praised this aspect of the game with all, if not some saying it was the most interesting element of the game. Words like “Surreal” and “Whimsical” were used by participants to describe the atmosphere. Participant 4 compared the atmosphere and feel of the game to the popular video game series Zelda. From that it can be said the atmosphere created a sense of intrigue and wonder within the player to explore more of the world, hence why all of the participants had fun playing the game in the end.
Among the participants that regularly play video games much praise was given to mechanics of the game and the satisfaction from controlling the character in terms of running, jumping and navigating through the landscape.
All the participants had a solid understanding of the tasks they had to complete and how to complete them regardless of experience level, beside participant 5. From that most of them understood what the overall objective of game was and the more they played the game this was further reinforced.
Amongst all the participants however, all of them said they had fun playing game and enjoyed the experience. Furthermore participant 3 said he would play it if it was available on the marketplace. Participant 4 thoroughly enjoyed the game to completion and gave his thoughts on recommendations to include in the game to improve upon the experience e.g. a double jump mechanic and an enemy aspect.
One core weakness among all the participants was that of the platforming section between the second and third islands within the game. All the participants stated the complex unpredictability and speed of the platforms the reasons being for this difficulty. Out of the 6 participants only 2 made it to the third island, whom were also the most experienced gamers in the study.
The maze section was a common difficulty amongst the lesser experienced gamers participants 1, 2 and 5 had quite a lot of difficulty navigating through the maze. With participant 5 stating at times felt frustrating and confusing to navigate, also at the end of the maze participants 1 and 5 had trouble with the elevator platform. A lot of this difficulty could indeed be down to experience of the players but also the dim lighting and seamless design of the maze.Also, among the lesser experienced players, the controls of the character in terms of its mobility was a common difficulty. A good example of this was when participant 1 and 5 were trying to access the elevator platform at the end of the maze which was indeed in a confined space. What they did was to constantly attempt to time their jump on the platform, when all they had to do was just walk on to the platform.
Through our research it is obvious that there are many flaws (both minor and major) in the game such as the lack of a tutorial for the controls, and mechanics e.g. Run button and Pushing mechanics, however these issues don’t necessarily effect the progress of the game or the level of player satisfaction, and can still be enjoyed without them. From our findings the 3 most important improvement that should be made to the game includes:
Key areas to improve
Multiple Respawn Points
The biggest issue of the game was by far its lack of respawn points, particularly on the platforming section found on the way to the third Island. A total of 34 Player death recorded on this section of the game. Each time the player died they were taken back to the first island which is the beginning section of the game, Because of this the player can waste around 15 – 25 second each time just to get back to where there they failed and have another attempt. The only positive to the current respawn system is that the game saves the players progress, e.g. the tasks you have already completed and the gems you’ve collected will not be reset
At 35:42 Participant 3 can be heard saying, “It’s like Cuphead all over again”, referring to the video game “Cuphead”, which is notorious for its difficulty and trial and error gameplay. Participant 4 also made a similar comment comparing it to “Dark Souls”, stating “the fact it response you back at the very beginning, it felt like a bit of a Dark Souls-ee kind of thing,”
The solution to this would be to include multiple spawn point within the game, so that if the player falls off the world, they will be set to a location nearer to where they fell, rather than the beginning of the game e.g. if the player misses a jump during the platforming challenge section they will be reset to the bridge right before it takes place.
Decrease the level of difficulty of the platform challenge
The difficultly of the platforming challenge, seemed to be too hard of a challenge for 5 of the 6 users who managed to make it that far in the game. It proved to be a difficult challenge for even the users who had regular experience with gaming (Participant 3, 4 and 6). The difficulty is evident as there was a total amount of time of around 18 minutes spent trying to beat this section alone. Only 2 users were able to beat it (Participant 3 and 4) thus making it an abnormality.
It is clear that the difficulty of the gem-platforming challenge needs to be decreased; this can be done by simply decreasing the speed of the gem-platforms and increasing the size of each individual platform to make the users jumping more accurate and precise.
For the gem-platforms themselves, participants used words like “Unpredictable” “Unexpected” and “Felt Cheated” to describe them, to fix this issue the platforms should provide the player with more clearer feedback on when they are about to move e.g. a shaking motion, this decrease the amount of players taking leaps of faith.
Participant 3 and 4 suggested that its difficulty may be partially related to aspect outside of their gaming skills such as the motion blur and sub-par frame rate as the game was running on a laptop. A way the frame rate could be improved is to include customizable graphic setting, so users could adjust element like the resolution of the game, the quality of shadows, the amount of foliage and background clutter. This would allow user to lower their setting so the game could function better on lower-end PCs.
Need a bigger emphasis on the importance of collecting gems
None of the participants had the required amount of gems before attempting the platform challenge which is in one of the last sections of the game. Even if they completed the platform challenge they would have been greeted by a locked door stating that they have not collected enough gems to continue, meaning they would have to go back, collect a total of 300 gem, and then do the platforming challenge again. As this was the most difficult part of the game for the majority of participants, this would have a negative impact on their satisfaction.
This could be due to the participants not knowing the purpose of the gems until they are required at the end of the game.
At 1:24:19 Participant 6 can be noted saying “The gems, as well, I felt that there was some sort of significance based off of them, but I wasn’t sure what it was, I guess there was 600 of them to collect, but what happens then, there was no, like, reward”. This along with all the participants relatively low gem count (see “4” in Finding/Coding Section), it is evident that there is not enough emphasis on exploration and gem collecting.
A solution to this would be to create another non-player character (NPC) that prompts the user to collect as many gems as possible and what they are used for, this should increase the overall amount of collect gems in the game