Studio head Mark Betteridge stresses the importance of public feedback

Public feedback has honed Natal games, says Rare

Longstanding UK outfit Rare is the latest studio to emphasise the importance of usability testing.

Studio head Mark Betteridge told Develop – in an interview published today – that usability tests can push a game’s score up by ten per cent, “if not more”.

And the Rare boss said that feedback from the public has allowed Natal to be more user-friendly.

“Working with Natal is very exciting but a lot of [problem-solving] has come through user-testing, as opposed to a team of artists, designers and programmers calling a meeting and scratching their heads,” Betteridge said.

Usability testing is the practice of placing target audiences in front of software – in a controlled environment – and seeking their feedback on the play experience itself.

Unlike bug-testing, it is ideally done by people with no expertise in game development, and certainly little interest in games.

Betteridge’s view on usability testing comes as the UK developer gets set to open its new Birmingham studio – a design and testing hub that will arm Rare with numerous contract workers and play testers.

Much of the usability testing at Rare Birmingham will be conducted to better tailor Natal games to Microsoft’s new target audiences.

“The industry is maturing in some areas, especially the core market, and we know those customers and how they react and what they’re looking for, but as the industry expands and we start to bring in new players, it is quite striking the different perception new customers have to the same content,” Betteridge added.

“It’s going to be very important to test games with the relevant target customers, and then use that data to balance a game for the right demographic."

Part one of Develop’s interview with Betteridge can be found here.

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