GDC16 Day 3: Another Day of Fun & Data!

Early morning view of the GDC16 Expo Hall.

The Expo opened today and will be open until the end of Friday! There was a lot to see and do! I managed to explore 1/3 of the space. Walking in, we have the GDC Store to the left and the main floor below the stairs. Upon entering the main floor, Unity was smack dab in the center. It had an impressive set up, but not as impressive as the Oculus area nor Clash of Kings.

Built to look like a store :O

Clash of Kings. The biggest booth of all booths. They brought the game to real life with hired actors!

There were a lot of demos you could play, with many different type of controllers. Everyone was definitely drinking the VR Kool-Aid. Because of the popularity of some of the sessions, reservations for a play session are strongly encouraged. Most, if not all of the sessions ,were already booked for the whole day by noon. I managed to reserve the PS VR play session for tomorrow afternoon by scanning a QR code to their scheduling app!

The main floor was broken up into pavilions with games by their respective counties. It was interesting to overhear others call their friends to sync up and saying “I’m in Korea.” Haha.

I spent the rest of the time walking around the floor and observing others play.

I did get a chance to get in line for an arcade ride! My line buddy and I decided to get chased by a T-Rex! We started flying in the air as a Pterodactyl. The gleeful flight didn’t last long. The T-Rex was hungry and apparently really wanted us for dinner. It definitely felt like we were running quickly, trying to get away.

Another simulation others tried that we didn’t was a lala land roller coaster. In this demo, players can actually see their hand on screen.

Sessions & Highlights

Playstation VR. Sony discusses development concepts, design innovations and what PS VR is and is not. I personally liked the direction they are going for collaboration.

  • Design with 2 screens in mind. For console VR, you may be making 2 games in 1. One in VR and one on TV. You should consider doing this to avoid having one headset per player and to allow for multiplayer cooperation. Finding an art direction for both is hard. Keep it simple for good performance.
  • Make VR a fun and social experience. In a cooperative environment, you get 2 separate viewpoints of the same environment (mirroring mode) or 2 totally different screen views (separate mode). This means that innovation between competitive and Co-op mode is possible.

The AppsLab team and I have considered this possibility of a VR screen and TV screen experience as well. It’s great that this idea is validated by one of the biggest console makers.

A year of user engagement data. A year’s worth of game industry data, patterns and trends was the theme of all the sessions I attended today.

  • There are 185 million gamers in the US. Half are women.
    • 72 million are console gamers. Of those console owners the average age is ~30 years old.
    • There are 154 million mobile gamers. This is thanks to the rise of free-2-play games. Mobile accessibility has added diversity to the market and brought a new group of players. Revenues grew because of broad expansion. The average age for the mobile group is ~39.4 years old.
    • There are 61 million PC gamers thanks to the rise of Steam. These gamers tend to be younger at an average age of ~29.5yrs.
  • There are different motivations as to why people play games. There are two group of players: Core vs. casual players. Universally, the primary reason casual players play games is when they are waiting to pass time and as a relaxing activity.
  • There is great diversity within the mobile market. There is an obvious gender split between what females and males play casually. Females tend to like matching puzzle (Candy Crush), simulation and casino games while males tend to like competitive games like sport, shooter and combat city builder games.
  • When we look internationally, players in Japan have less desire to compete when playing games. Success of games based on cooperative games.
  • Most homes have a game console. In 2015, 51% of homes owned at least 2 game consoles. At the start of 2016, there was an increase of 40% in sales for current 8th generation game consoles (PS4, Xbox One, etc minus the Wii).
  • Just concentrating on mobile gamers, 71% play games on both their smart phone and tablet, 10% play only on their tablet.
  • Top factors leading to churn are lack of interest, failure to meet expectation and too much friction.
  • Aside from Netflix and maybe Youtube, Twitch gobbles up more prime time viewers, almost 700K concurrent views as of March 2016. Its viewership is increasing despite competition with the launch of YouTube Gaming.

Day 1 — User research round table. This was my first round table during GDC, and it’s nice to be among those within the same profession. We covered user research for VR, preventing bias and testing on kids! Experts provided their failures on these topics and offers suggestions.

  • Testing for Virtual Reality.
    • Provide players with enough time warming up in the new environment before asking them to perform tasks. Use the initial immersive exposure for to calibrate them.
    • Be ready to pull them out at any indication of nausea.
    • Use questionnaires to screen out individuals who easily get motion sickness.
    • It’s important to remember that people experience sickness for different reasons. It’s hard to eliminate all the variables. Some people can have vertigo or claustrophobia that’s not necessarily the fault of the VR demo. There is a bias toward that in media. People think they are going to be sick so they feel sick.
    • Do not ask people if they feel sick before the experience else you are biasing them to be sick.
    • Individuals are only more likely to feel sick if your game experience does not match their expectations. Some people feel sick no matter what.
    • One researcher tested 700–800 people in VR. Only 2 persons said that they felt sick. 7–8 said they felt uncomfortable.
    • An important questions to ask is “At what point do they feel sick?” If you get frequent reports at that point vs. Generalized reports, then you can do something to make the game better.
  • Bias.
    • Avoid bragging language. Keep questions neutral.
    • Separate yourself from the product.
    • Remember participants think that you are an authority. Offload instructions to the survey, rather than relay the instructions yourself. It’s going to bias the feedback.
    • Standardize the experiment. Give the same spiel.
    • The order of question is important.
    • Any single geographic region is going to introduce bias. Only screen out regions if you think culture is going to be an issue.
  • Testing with kids.
    • It’s better to test with 2 kids in a room. With kids, they are not good at verbalizing what they know and do not know. Having 2 kids allows you to see them verbalize their thoughts to each other as they ask questions and help each other through the game.
    • When testing a group of kids at once, assign the kids their station and accessories. Allowing them to pick will end up in a fight over who gets the pink controller.
    • Younger kids aren’t granular so allow for 2 clear options on surveys. A thumbs up and thumbs down works.
    • Limit kids to one sugary drink or you’ll regret it.

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