Develop Conference: Game interfaces need to meet player expectations, says Jagex

Developers should strive for consistency in UX design

Developers should aim to make user experience in their games as consistent as it can be, says Jagex’ player experience manager James Sweatman.

In his session on user experience and interfaces at the Develop Conference, Sweatman said that developers need to take a holistic approach to the whole game when considering user experience.

“What UX does is help bridge the gap between those who create content and those who engage with that content,” Sweatman said.

He guided the audience through instances that have helped him and his team on RuneScape make a better experience for players.

One key example Sweatman gave was about a quest that Jagex had intended for players to spend just two hours on. To their disappointment, it was taking players at least twice as long to complete, and poor instruction was because of this.

Sitting down to rethink the design, he said the team broke the UI into three tiers: primary, information that was absolutely essential to display so that players could comfortably complete the tasks; secondary, additional information about the tasks and the factors around it; and tertiary, which was information or elements that were simply filler.

Once they’d made changes to the interface, Sweatman said: “That consistency and information delivery meant that player were able to complete the task in the two hours we’d originally planned.”

Sweatman explained that players can only retain between three to five pieces of information from a user interface, and that developers should keep this in mind when designing their interfaces.

Sticking with consistency, Sweatman advised developers to meet player expectations with their user interface. Which is to say that common practices have evolved for interfaces across platforms and genres, and audience are familiar with them. If an interface or genres suggests to a player that they can drag-and-drop an item onto a character, then their natural expectation will be that such a thing is possible.

All of the factors Sweatman and his team have learnt about UX have now been feed into a new interface for RuneScape 3, which is due to launch later this year.

“All the information that players need is there in an accessible way, focused all the in one interface,” he said.

Summarising his talk, Sweatman gave the audience five core takeaways for UX design: focus on people, understand the underlying problems, consistency is king, recognition over recall and meet expectations.

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