46 Comments
Edited by angus_lafroy

Microsoft is stealing from Kickstarter!

Seriously, though, I am encouraged that this is a growing trend in game development. It sounds like they have a really good process for working through smoothing out early game design.

Posted by Hassun

Keep it comin'.

Posted by BoneChompski

I prefer a game that is based on the unique vision of a creative personality or team. Focus grouping, getting feedback from the "common man" results in average and pedestrian experiences.

Take a risk on making something great or awful rather than focus grouping to produce something that is almost guaranteed to be average.

Online
Posted by Spoonman671

I prefer a game that is based on the unique vision of a creative personality or team. Focus grouping, getting feedback from the "common man" results in average and pedestrian experiences.

Take a risk on making something great or awful rather than focus grouping to produce something that is almost guaranteed to be average.

That's cute.

Edited by asantosbr

Stuff like "Micro Transactions"

Posted by BoneChompski
Online
Posted by Grissefar

I prefer a game that is based on the unique vision of a creative personality or team. Focus grouping, getting feedback from the "common man" results in average and pedestrian experiences.

Take a risk on making something great or awful rather than focus grouping to produce something that is almost guaranteed to be average.

This is true. Whenever let your design on a creative project, such as a video game, be dictated by your presumptions about what your target demographic wants, you are very likely to end up with a bland product that satisfies no one and only serves to entertain a large group of people on a superficial level.

Posted by KentonClay

I prefer a game that is based on the unique vision of a creative personality or team. Focus grouping, getting feedback from the "common man" results in average and pedestrian experiences.

Take a risk on making something great or awful rather than focus grouping to produce something that is almost guaranteed to be average.

A lot of the greatest works of art ever made were specifically crafted for the benefit of someone OTHER than the artist, whether that be some wealthy patron or the common people. There's a difference between asking what people want and taking that into consideration, and mindlessly going down a checklist of traits that "popular" games have and completely focus-testing something into oblivion.

Posted by SpaceButler

This was a really interesting interview. Great work!

Edited by AMyggen

@spoonman671: I kinda agree with him, to a degree at least. Focus testing can be the death of creativity, and often is. It has become a bigger and bigger problem in big studio films, because the studio don't want to offend anyone so they make something that has been focus tested to death to not really excite anyone either. In every form of entertainment you need creative types that give people something they didn't think they needed/wanted in order to move the medium forward.

What "everyone" can agree that they like is rarely very good.

That said, consumer feedback can also be a good thing, especially on mechanics etc. Everything with moderation, as always, and not let it dictate the direction of the game.

Interesting conversation btw, Patrick.

Edited by blacklab

I prefer a game that is based on the unique vision of a creative personality or team. Focus grouping, getting feedback from the "common man" results in average and pedestrian experiences.

Take a risk on making something great or awful rather than focus grouping to produce something that is almost guaranteed to be average.

THIS GAME WAS BASED ON A MULTICULTURAL TEAM OF MIXED FAITHS AND GENDER ROLES AND SOME LIKE CATS AND SOME LIKE DOGS AND STUFF

Posted by Wilshere

Thanks focus groups!

Posted by eloj

I don't know about the rest of you, I just want a fucking FASTER HORSE.

Posted by OneFreeman

@bonechompski said:

I prefer a game that is based on the unique vision of a creative personality or team. Focus grouping, getting feedback from the "common man" results in average and pedestrian experiences.

Take a risk on making something great or awful rather than focus grouping to produce something that is almost guaranteed to be average.

That's cute.

The man makes a very good point. Don't be so dismissive.

Edited by Vuud

Imagine a space marine shooting monsters in the face - forever.

That's a video game. Make that. Ya turkeys!

Edited by KentonClay

@wilshere said:

Thanks focus groups!

It's easy to go "I am very smart guy so I like the more complexer one" but did the more elaborate level layouts of the System Shock games actually provide a significant advantage, or did they mostly just waste time and annoy the player?

Posted by flippyandnod

Please get a dynamic range compressor. I've been listening 120 seconds and I've had to adjust the volume 4 times. I think the intro music was mixed too low too, that's part of the problem.

Edited by iodizedjoe

I was expecting Monday Mornin' Dark Souls II Chat II.

The disappoint.

Posted by Fitzgerald

The success of Dark Souls flies in the face of everything she says and the purpose of her entire job. Don't insult the intelligence of your users.

Posted by RobertOrri

Too bad Microsoft couldn't do the same when designing the Xbox One.

Posted by csl316

Interesting discussion. But now when I think of user research, I think of Tim Schafer in the Double Fine documentary. He pulled up the Psychonauts marketing research and it said to take out everything that made it unique. Ah well.

Posted by MrKlorox

Please get a dynamic range compressor. I've been listening 120 seconds and I've had to adjust the volume 4 times. I think the intro music was mixed too low too, that's part of the problem.

Absolutely. No matter which hard-middle-ware they choose to spend their budget on, it just doesn't get the job done alone. I've tried to recommend it a few times, and I'll continue to do so: PLEASE, Giant Bomb/CBSi, try Omnia9 audio engineer Leif Claesson's inexpensive yet powerful stereo AGC, 4-7 band DRC, and limiter, Breakaway Live.

I've been using his compressors since Winamp was the shit (OctiMax & Volume Logic) and continue to do so with his kernal level sound processing (Breakaway Audio Enhancer). With the current state of streaming games, I'm frankly amazed the 'client-side' version, BAE, isn't on Steam's software store right alongside DisplayFusion as a top seller; or at all, for that matter.

Even if Giant Bomb doesn't pick up Breakaway, at least give the trial version of BAE a try on your non-Win8 PC. Most efficient use of $30 I've ever spent compared to the hours I've clocked using the program. The built in normalizer in Realtek/Nvidia chips (labelled Loudness Equalization) just doesn't cut it.

Posted by TDot

Super interesting side of game development. Definitely not glamorous but completely necessary in modern game design.

Edited by kmg90

I really want to listen to the interview but with how Microsoft has approached the new gen of gaming so far, I can only predict that the majority of the answers from the Microsoft employee are half-truths and PR marketing at best.

The (almost implemented) Online DRM and Microtransactions in full priced games speaks louder to what Microsoft is doing when it comes to developing and designing games than some PR-ladened "user research group"....

Posted by Jedted

@kentonclay said:

@wilshere said:

Thanks focus groups!

It's easy to go "I am very smart guy so I like the more complexer one" but did the more elaborate level layouts of the System Shock games actually provide a significant advantage, or did they mostly just waste time and annoy the player?

One thing that always annoyed me about ME2 was there's no map at all outside of hub areas. Like in Bioware's quest to over-simplify the game somebody said gamers don't like to read maps.

Posted by dr_mantas

Success is unpredictable unless you get down to such mundane and boring uniformity that every game you make is the same.

Make something bold and interesting, but don't put all your eggs in one basket. That seems like the way.

Edited by randombattle

@wilshere said:

Thanks focus groups!

It's easy to go "I am very smart guy so I like the more complexer one" but did the more elaborate level layouts of the System Shock games actually provide a significant advantage, or did they mostly just waste time and annoy the player?

How about this then

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYowhad_1mw

to

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tERz8e3rxU4

Thanks focus groups!

Posted by BisonHero

Man, this comments section is way more surly than I expected it to be.

Edited by randombattle

Man, this comments section is way more surly than I expected it to be.

Well no offence to Deborah Hendersen I'm sure she's good at her job but I have never ever played or seen a game that has been improved by focus testing. Especially given Microsoft's stance on this lately every game has been the absolute safest and most boring bet ever from them I have hard time believing that they are doing all of this to make good games.

Posted by Grissefar

It's also about really making sure they really have the experience they are supposed to have, while going from point A to point B.

hmm

Edited by Lights

I never know what I really want, people tend not to.

I would rather someone gave me something they wanted to make rather than ask me what I wanted them to make. Otherwise I could ruin a game that would be perfect for someone else.

All games made in the context of an expected audience but everything to do with focus groups sits badly with me.

Posted by TreuloseTomate

@kentonclay:

@wilshere said:

Thanks focus groups!

It's easy to go "I am very smart guy so I like the more complexer one" but did the more elaborate level layouts of the System Shock games actually provide a significant advantage, or did they mostly just waste time and annoy the player?

They made them a different genre.

Posted by Matt_F606

Thanks for the interview Patrick. I can understand the need for these teams. It's incredibly useful to have just a fresh pair of eyes look over something you've been engrossed in for an extended amount of time. The best developers will use the data to their advantage rather than take offence and the players just didn't "get" them.

Of course there will always will be room, especially with small dev teams, for games that don't go through this process.

Posted by GalacticPunt

If you want to go down a great rabbit hole about what focus testing can and can't accomplish during a game's development, Gamasutra hosted a detailed postmortem on the Uncharted for Vita.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/181082/postmortem_sony_bend_studios_.php

Particularly interesting and sad was how they had to rewrite and re-record so much of the female lead's dialogue. When Chase was as equally sarcastic and snarky as the males in the game, focus testers hated her. She had to have her character softened so that players (both male and female) would stop labeling her as "whiny" and a "bitch." Society really sucks sometimes.

Edited by NumberThree

Well no offence to Deborah Hendersen I'm sure she's good at her job but I have never ever played or seen a game that has been improved by focus testing. Especially given Microsoft's stance on this lately every game has been the absolute safest and most boring bet ever from them I have hard time believing that they are doing all of this to make good games.

I very much doubt you know every game that's used focus testing as part of its design process and what effect that may have had on the game.

Posted by Bezieh

I like listening to this lady.

Posted by BisonHero

@galacticpunt said:

If you want to go down a great rabbit hole about what focus testing can and can't accomplish during a game's development, Gamasutra hosted a detailed postmortem on the Uncharted for Vita.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/181082/postmortem_sony_bend_studios_.php

Particularly interesting and sad was how they had to rewrite and re-record so much of the female lead's dialogue. When Chase was as equally sarcastic and snarky as the males in the game, focus testers hated her. She had to have her character softened so that players (both male and female) would stop labeling her as "whiny" and a "bitch." Society really sucks sometimes.

Man, I suspect that is what happened to Kerrigan in Starcraft 2. She just has so much less swagger and cockiness in Starcraft 2 compared to how much of an awesome bitch she was in Brood War.

I mean, Heart of the Swarm is somewhat of a different thing since she's not in control and is kinda the scrappy underdog, but in Wings of Liberty she really should've been fairly comparable to her Brood War character.

Posted by nilcalion

@fitzgerald: Dark Souls' UI is absolutely terrible and it could have used some help from people like Deborah. The world is not only black and white, player feedback and focus groups are not completely useless and they aren't necessarily useful either. Competent developers and executives can use these assets to make their product not only better but more successful.

Posted by RobertOrri

If you want to go down a great rabbit hole about what focus testing can and can't accomplish during a game's development, Gamasutra hosted a detailed postmortem on the Uncharted for Vita.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/181082/postmortem_sony_bend_studios_.php

Particularly interesting and sad was how they had to rewrite and re-record so much of the female lead's dialogue. When Chase was as equally sarcastic and snarky as the males in the game, focus testers hated her. She had to have her character softened so that players (both male and female) would stop labeling her as "whiny" and a "bitch." Society really sucks sometimes.

Did focus testers also ask for the game to be entirely touch-based in the menus? I wonder.

Posted by Gortag

As a games user researcher myself (so, yes, I am biased, but no I don't work at Microsoft), I am not surprised at the rage towards focus groups in the comments here. However, the meat and potatoes of a games user researchers job actually tends to be based on playtesting and behavioural observation (as both Patrick and Deborah mention in the interview). So, it is not about giving feedback to developers based on just what players "say they want" but rather based on what they actually do in the game.

As mentioned in the interview, user researchers also work with metrics, biometrics, interviews, and other scientific methods alongside playtesting to help produce a game that best fits the designers intent. For example if you have played any Valve game since at least Half Life 2 then you have played a game that has been run through games user research processes, as talked about (in part) by their experimental psychologist Mike Ambinder at the recent Steam Dev Day (you can watch a video of the talk on here if you are interested).

It also isn't just the big devs who are using games user research methods, rather many small companies or indies also tend to conduct playtesting, at least informally. As Deborah mentions, the key is that the job of a games user researcher, or anyone doing playtesting, is to get data to help the game developer make the game that they want to make, whether that be a simple constant runner for iOS, a brutally difficult rogue-like-like-like-like, or a big budget AAA FPS aimed at the mass market.