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Category: UX Design

Form follows function or aesthetics?

Game design takes concepts from broader design also. One of the most important books, “The Design of Everyday Things” (Don Norman), set the base for UX design today.

One concept is that form follows function. When you, as a designer, must decide which form something in your game should have, it’s better to think about its function first. Many games adopt things like this. You can see that a power-up that makes things explode is a bomb, while a water engine in the last Zelda game looks like a hydrant.

But is it always the case? Every game has aesthetics that combine with the fantasy it offers and the motivations it gives to the Players. It’s clear that the casual Player of Candy Crush Saga is looking for immediacy, but the Player of a From Software game may be looking for something more complicated to use, in the name of the “beauty” of it.

Form follows function but it is always guided by the aesthetics!

Internal and external storytelling

Everything tells us a story. Human beings have natural connections that make them very sensitive to narratives.

We create internal ones and receive external ones. The internal ones are personal to each one and depend on a whole series of factors. External ones arrive massively in recent times.

When I was 12 and in my little room playing with my Game Gear, the only external narrative was “orders from above”.

speaking of which, do you remember this game?

Today, when I’m relaxed playing on my smartphone, I’m constantly being stimulated by other narratives. Notifications, messages, calls.

As you can imagine, this impacts the storytelling of the gameplay experience I receive.

Some of my favorite games take 10 seconds to start. They show me the main screen and, while I check the things to do, a series of messages and offers appear. I have to close windows to continue with what I want to do.

In some cases, there is interesting news, no doubt. But everything contributes to creating narratives. It’s not the same as placing a pop-up in front of me or seeing a bird fluttering over the city I’m building and deciding to capture it to discover that it contains a message…

Especially if, at the same time, my wife is reminding me that I have to buy bread and I get an important email from a client.

External narratives are getting complicated and that makes my job more interesting.

Flowcharts and UX flows

The difference between a flowchart and a UX flow is that the first is drawn from the point of view of the game, while the second is from the point of view of the players.

After writing a brief for a new mechanic or feature, specifying everything in a flowchart helps resolve edge cases. Useful before going on to detail the configurations necessary to unlock the programmers.

After designing UI wireframes, a UX flow helps to find missing pieces. Very useful for going on to detail the graphic assets needed to unlock the artists.

If we don’t have time and we need to be quick, the flowchart is the least essential of the two.

Gran Turismo Café

Saturday I got a PS5. I am so happy you cannot imagine. I was chasing the opportunity since a whole lot and I found mine. It came with Granturismo 7, Horizon Forbidden West, Elden Ring (which scares me because I am very bad at those games) and a second gamepad.

I wasn’t playing Granturismo since its second edition, so that I lost its tracks. Seeing it in its 25th anniversary makes me proud. I was there when the first edition launched. I was there struggling a lot with patents and so on.

With the power and the controllers of PS5 now I can feel way more the cars. The simulation improved a lot. The game converted to a service. You race and complete challenges to earn credits. You use those credits to purchase cars and parts. If you are not patient, you can also purchase extra credits. The game is a service, every day there are novelties. It has a lot of functionalities, mechanics, features and game modes so that a Player may feel lost.

Menu Books and Compass

Using the italian café metaphor, a character named Luca will guide the Players with his menu books. A set of missions designed to drive the Players.

A yellow compass guides the Players to the game mode and section they have to go in order to complete the challenge.

  • The compass is on the map and on the top bar.
  • The top bar completes the information with a sentence

The Player gets content/story on challenge completion

and with a roulette ticket (gacha) which permit to get credits, cars and car parts

Roulette ticket have stars and an expiration date, so that the Players cannot store them and get the last things after some month (thing that happens in a lot of free to play games). They have to invest them.

I am reading a lot of complaints regarding the missions given by Luca at Gran Turismo Café. Sometimes it forces you to purchase upgrades for a car that is not interesting. Still, I notice than the next challenge is always related with the previous ones. The game is thoughtfully designed.

I believe that when the Players have the opportunity to spend real money to skip time and satisfy their impatience, they can be led to believe that everything is designed to grab their money. You should grind a lot in order to get the best cars. Best cars are worth millions of credits and from a single race you get 2-5k. You have to play a lot to be able of purchasing them. The missions that require you to spend those credits that you are saving in order to progress can be a pain in the arse.

Still I am loving this game and this system is a very neat references for games with a lot of mechanics. Now I want to buy a G29 wheel and test the real drive!