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The Unmaking

Amazon Game Studios | 2014

Overview

The Unmaking is an action game where you defend a castle from an onslaught of enemies.  With touch-based controls you command various mounted weapons, dragging your finger to aim your shots out from the castle wall. The game utilizes Amazon’s AppStream service to render PC quality graphics in the cloud and stream to a tablet.

Platform   Kindle Fire

Tools   Unity, NGUI

Skills   UX Design, UI Design, Integration, Prototyping


My Role

My primary responsibilities where around the game’s UX design, control design, User Research planning, and UI integration. I also did early UI design and collaborated with game designers on defining goals, adjusting mechanics and feedback.

 

Challenges

  • Cloud rendered gameplay created limitation on controls and gameplay feedback. The technology performs best when camera remains fixed. Additionally, the control input is done locally and sent to the server so control feedback (like projected UI about where a shot might land) proved difficult.
  • Balancing gameplay pace with a players ability to use/learn the controls competently.
  • An aggressive schedule didn’t allow for very much iteration or bake time.

 

In-game UX Flow

In-Game UX Flow

Feedback Sequence Diagram

Feedback Sequence Diagram - Used for guiding the engineering around level transitions and tools

HUD, Controls, and User Research

Defined core controls and tweaked parameters to optimize accuracy and speed. Collaborated with User Researchers to develop a testing plan that would validate or invalidate our control choices. For a long time in development we had multiple controls schemes (mostly because it’s what some people had grown accustomed to) but I moved us towards a single scheme that performed better in user research.

When I joined the project it had already been underway and had a variety of interactions (aiming & firing, weapon switching, ammo type switching, and spell casting) that a player needed to manage in the heat of battle. I worked with designers to simplify those interactions to aiming & firing, holding down to charge a shot (which alleviated the need for weapon/ammo switching) and spell casting. This also allowed for a simplified HUD and more control space which I expanded to allow for better aiming accuracy and fewer misfires.

Initial HUD design

The HUD and controls when I joined the project

Final HUD design

The shipped version of the HUD


Future versions

After the release of the 1.0 product, Game Designer, Brett Johnson, and I were tasked with developing a design, plan, and schedule for the next release. Our primary goals revolved around increasing PENS (Player Experience of Need Satisfaction) scores, specifically autonomy and competence, while reusing and extending as much of the current assets as possible. Additionally, repetition was often one of our weakest points in usability studies. One of the strengths of the product was the quality of both the characters and environment but the restrictions of both the streaming tech and current design limited the view of the battlefield to one angle.

Our plan emphasized a simple and flexible mission system to both move you around the battefield and experience new gameplay dynamics. We drafted a straight-forward narrative arc to tie missions together and introduced missions where you play as an archer to simplify the FTUE (First Time User Experience) as well as increase relatedness.

Below is a gallery of mission mockups