GDC16 Day 4: Demos & Player Motivations

Crowded early morning inside GDC Expo.

It’s official. All demos are booked for the week. Anyone not on the list is subjected to the standby line. I was lucky enough to score a 5:30pm demo for Bullet Train at the NVIDIA booth early this morning. When I walked by the line late in the evening, I found out that a lady had been waiting for at least an hour for her turn in the line.

Raymond (@yuhuaxie), one of our developers, took his luck to play games at the “no reservations accepted” Oculus store-like booth 30 minutes before the expo opened and still had to wait for almost an hour before he left the line for other session talks. Is it worth the hype? The wait? The fact that you’re crouching and screaming at something no one else can see?

Apparently so! One common sentiment I heard from others who finished playing the demo was that the experience was so amazing that they didn’t care about the friction to enjoy the 10–15 min in virtual reality! For Bullet Train, there had been several repeat visitors to play the fast-paced shooting game again and again!

Today, I had my chance to demo London Heist on the PS VR and Bullet Train on the Oculus Rift. Both are fast-paced shooting games. The head mount gear (HMD) for the PS VR is much more forgiving for those who wear glasses. The HMD wears similarly to a bike helmet, but with no straps to mess with. To adjust, you simply slide the viewer forward and back separate from the mounting. It’s much lighter compared to the other HMDs and breathes better. Here’s another game play of the demo I went through.

London Heist has simple interactions for a shooting game. The game first eases you in as you ride as a passenger with your buddy on the streets of London. You can sit there and get a chance to orient yourself with you new surroundings. Instead of practicing how to grab guns, I gulped down a 7up instead 😡

Finally, a car chase ensues and there are bullets flying at you. The controls were simple. Pull the trigger to grab the gun. Once done, the gun is attached to you the entirety of the game. Just keep pulling the trigger to shoot for the rest of the game. When you run out of bullets, just grab the magazine right next to you with your free hand to reload! Easy peasy!

Bullet Train controls have a slightly higher learning curve but experience is fulfilling. In the game you can transport by creating portal toward the destination you want to teleport to, grab multiple guns to shoot, slow-mo the game (discover-ability) and grab the bullets flying toward you in the air to throw them back at enemies.

There are so many things you should do that you forget how to do them all. I personally stumbled near the end trying to grab bullets in the air and throw it that I forgot how to grab new guns! After the short demo, I felt myself begin to sweat. A change in mental model is needed since typical shooter games allows you to press short cut keys to perform those actions. In VR, you DO those actions. Luckily, it does not detract from the immersion at all. It was fun and I heard that a few attendees came back to the replay the demo with improved execution.

The change in mental model was mentioned in day 2 of the user research round table. We focused on mental models for game control patterns. All control schemes are inherently non-intuitive. The game industry has been lucky that developers used the same control patterns for first person shooters aka the Halo Scheme.

When we look at game schemas for other game genres, it’s a bit of a mess. This may be the same for VR since it is based on the game’s mechanics. Generally, players prefer gaze based direction. This means that the direction you are looking in is the direction you expect to turn toward in the game.

Typically when you want to turn directions in real life, you turn your torso. This preference toward gaze based direction is a part of the Counter Strike Effect. Those who are used to first person shooter games are too used to looking to turn vs. rotating your torso to turn.

It’s definitely a new mental modal to learn. We have to remember what technologies and experiences the users are coming from and what platform and core experiences you are developing for then make judgement calls on that.

Look at these players actually turning! It was easy and turning was quick! Worked up a bit of a sweat here too.

The above is why the on-boarding experience for games are so important. Tutorials are necessary to ensure that players understand the core game mechanics. Players tend to overestimate themselves and skip tutorials when given the option to do so.

Rather than giving them the option to skip, the installed game should know whether it is your first time playing. First timers go through the tutorial. Everyone else who’s reinstalled the game on another device does not have to go through the tutorial again, but can still have the option to do so.

Space out tutorials evenly or else they’ll have information overload. Leave room for discover-ability. If they can discover a mechanic within 10 minutes of playing after going through core tutorial then it leads to bigger user satisfaction. Induce information seeking behavior and bring up the tutorial when they need it. Avoid front loading the player.

More on Motivation

To understand the psychology behind gamer’s motivations more. Quantic Foundry looked at 2000 data points, we find that there are 12 unique motivations that fall into 6 themes:

  • Action (Boom!) — destruction and excitement.
  • Social (Let’s play together) — competition and community.
  • Mastery (Let me think) — challenge and strategy.
  • Achievement (I want more…) — completion and power.
  • Immersion (Once upon a time) — fantasy, meaning to be another character or in another place, and story, to be caught up in a plot.
  • Creativity (What if?) — design and discovery.

At a high level, there are 3 motivational clusters.

  • Action — Social
  • Mastery — Achievement
  • Immersion — Creativity

Discovery is a bridge between Mastery — Achievement as well as Immersion — Creativity. Design is a bridge between Action — Social. These results were consistent for all geographic region.

Not surprisingly, these game motivations mapped to personality traits. In psychological personality theory, there are the Big 5 personality traits.

When we drill down from the Big 5 to examine each trait, we find that it changes with context. For example, extraversion is typically associated with persons who are social and energetic. Examining extraversion in context of game motivations, we find that it is associated with persons who are social, cheerful, thrill-seeking and assertive and therefore likely to be motivated by games that fall into the Action — Social.

Conscientiousness is associated with the Mastery — Achievement. Openness is associated with Immersion — Creativity. Game motivations align with personality traits. Games are an identity management tool and so people play games that align with their personality traits.

There are some gender differences. Females are motivated by Fantasy, Design and Completion while males are motivated by Destruction, Competition and Fantasy. However, that difference is strongly dwarfed by age differences. Rather than designing for men and women, we should think about how games should be designed for different age groups.

The Action — Social cluster is the most age volatile group. As players grow older, Competition and Excitement drops. For females, story also drops. For males, Challenge also drops.

Imagine a game that changes it’s game mechanics with you as you grow? Imagine if we could drive the health and wellness of our teams by employing the proper motivational UX strategy that is intrinsic to them. That would be pretty cool!

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