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How to Improve Video Game's User Experience?

Video games are products designed to provide entertainment. Their creation requires constant polishing of content. Sometimes even a complete rebuilding of each element is necessary in order to provide players with as much satisfaction as possible from a defeated boss, winning a race, or simply exploring prepared locations. For this purpose, designers very often use various hidden mechanisms and other tricks - to maximize the user experience.

Table of Contents:

  • What is User Experience?
  • Why are hidden mechanisms used in video games?
  • Hidden mechanics improving User Experience in video games
  • Other methods of improving User Experience in video games
  • User Experience and Game Design

What is User Experience?

User Experience (UX) is the whole experience of playing our game. No matter how good the concept seems to be on paper, whether a game is interesting and satisfactory can only be checked by actually playing it. For this purpose, numerous prototypes and testers are necessary, their responsibility being checking all the elements and listing the necessary changes, precisely in order to improve the user experience.

Why are hidden mechanics used in video games?

The goals may vary depending on the genre and objectives of the game. Most often, such mechanics serve to improve the overall user experience by:

  • Making the game as fair as possible to the player
  • Compensating for player's imperfect reaction time
  • Increase the difficulty level
  • Generating tension and the feeling of "Phew, that was close!"
  • Setting the pace of the game
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Hidden mechanics improving User Experience in video games

Coyote Time

The term Coyote Time came from the Road Runner cartoon, where characters who ran over the edge of a cliff fell only after a moment of being suspended in the air. In video games, the term means an additional fraction of a second to perform an action (e.g. to jump, to block opponent's strike), which allows for greater responsiveness of controls and compensates for the imperfect reaction time. This is a particularly popular procedure in platform games.

Higher value of the last health point

This solution is especially useful in games that focus on fast-paced action. Killing an enemy with the last health point gives the feeling of narrowly avoiding death, which translates into greater satisfaction in defeating the virtual opponent. The conclusion is obvious: if we slightly increase the actual value of the last percent of the health bar, the player will experience such "happy twists of fate" a little more often. A similar solution is sometimes used with the damage dealt by the last bullet in the magazine of the weapon the player holds.

Weakening off-camera enemies

Attacking from behind means that the player has no chance of defending himself. This is why in many games off-camera opponents deal less damage, are less accurate, or even do not attack at all - thus reducing the chance of a surprise death, which would seem to be unfair.

Warning shot

In the Bioshock games, each enemy's first shot always misses. This mechanic is designed to give the player a chance to react to an unexpected attack and quickly take action. Contrary to appearances, during the actual game it is hard to notice that such a procedure takes place at all!

Limiting enemies

This is a fairly common method of balancing crowd combat. Very often, despite many enemies on the screen, a maximum of two or three of them can attack at the same time. Not only does this make the game easier without spoiling the illusion of a significant threat, but also strengthens the feeling that the player is controlling a character that can easily beat an entire room filled with hostiles.

Other means of improving User Experience in video games

Coherent artistic vision

This is an extremely important aspect of game design. Although in smaller studios, it is the artists who take care of this aspect of production, the game designer’s idea suggests a general direction in which the production will go. That is why it is necessary to describe the game project as precisely as possible so that the elements of the presented world - sounds, music, surroundings, objects, characters - fit together as well as possible.

Simplicity and intuitiveness of the mechanics

Just like an uneven audiovisual setting, an unnecessary complex mechanics and their number may seem daunting. If there are too many of them, they can simply overwhelm the player. The mechanics should be transparent enough to be represented with a minimal amount of visual hints.

Clarity of the user interface

Clever design of the user interface is another important point. The less unnecessary interface your game has, the better - it is much easier then to immerse into the created world. In addition, the number of information about the game You are able to convey using colors, distinctive elements of the environment, level of design, or dialogues is one of the signs of a well-thought-out game design and proves the high quality of Your production.

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User Experience and Game Design

Game developers strive to constantly improve UX in every possible field. Even a slightest change affects the final reception of the game and the feelings accompanying the gameplay. It should be remembered that the basis of a good user experience is a solid game design - no tricks can replace it. Let's treat them just as a way to improve an already good product.

Next time You test Your game, think about increasing the dodge distance or the speed of switching weapons a little bit? Perhaps such a small change will significantly improve the dynamics of the game, and You will end up with a much better product!

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