I have had to do a lot of UI design for my job over the past two years. I work with a great team, so good ideas in this area are never in short supply. I find myself working with another capable team for Mind Hunters, and now I have to take what I have learned and apply it to building the client UI. Today I’ll discuss how I approached this, then next week I will share an example.
So how do I approach designing the UI for the game? I start by asking: What are the Goals of the UI? i.e. What does it need to accomplish? The first, most obvious answer is that the UI should provide the best user experience it possibly can. The controls and actions should be easy to understand and intuitive. That is a great response, and I need to hold myself to a high standard, but it doesn’t really tell me much about how to design the UI, does it? Having reached this end, it occurs to me that I need to transform the original question into something more specific: What user behavior do I want to encourage?
Now there is a question! Its great because it has a two really easy answers that help frame the “good user experience” I want to create. So what user behaviors do I want to encourage? Playing games and making purchases.
Encouraging players to play the actual game should be a no brainer, but translating that to UI may not be so obvious. Simple things such as making it easy to find and play specific opponents or controls to get into a game as quickly as possible after logging in can go a long way toward holding a player’s attention. Want to minimize downtime between between game? This can be done, partially, through UI by reducing the number of clicks it takes a player to get into another game. Just had a great battle with a specific player? Want to do it again? A rematch button sure would come in handy. This is why the UI is so important to the actual game. The game simply can’t stand alone; players need a way to interact with the space in between the game, and that space can get pretty hard to navigate if you aren’t careful.
Making purchases is another behavior that needs to be encourages at every opportunity, like it or not. Whether you are developing games independently or for the establishment, without revenue your game won’t last very long in the real world. Games cost time and money to maintain and expand, to market and reach people; its just the reality of the industry.
Now that I have moralized enticing users to spend their cash on games I can focus on how that effects the UI.
So just like optimizing the UI to get players into games, you can do the same with presenting opportunities for purchasing your products. Make paths to your store prominent in places that the user will be going anyway. When he builds a deck, make a point of telling him how he can complete his collection by going to the store. Give him a way to get there around every corner. Don’t interfere with things that are of equal or greater importance, like gameplay for example, but it should be abundantly clear to the user how to find and interact with what you are selling.
Getting them to the store is only half the work. The actual products, in our case the booster packs of cards, will have to be laid out in a way that presents the product information clearly and concisely. The user must never be confused about what he is getting. The actions available to him have to be equally clear. How does he purchase booster packs as opposed to in game currency or individual cards? If you sell more then a few products, how does the user find what he wants? Of those products, which ones are more important for the business? There is a fine line to walk when designing this type of UI because if you present too much information, or too little, the player won’t get what he wants and your game won’t get the business it needs.
Man, these posts get so long sometimes. I wonder if I am fooling anyone into thinking I know what I am talking about. Truth is: I am not sure, but I follow where my mind leads me. I’ll make plenty of mistakes along the way. The goal is to figure enough stuff out along the way that it all works out in the end. So know your goals! Think about what you want your UI to accomplish and what your players need to be doing to make your game a success. And while you are at it, take some time to think about what success means to you!