Game Analysis: HyperScape

Analysis of Onboarding and New Player Experience (2020)

The Task

I worked with this prompt:

The HyperScape team wants to examine player onboarding with a focus on how new players experience the game. They want an overview of the current experience, a summary of areas of improvement, and actionable recommendations for improving the player experience

Research & Discovery

To understand the game, pain points, and the player experience I conducted research and discovery in the following steps:

  1. Expert Review

    • Game Pillars​

    • Areas for Research

  2. Player Observation

    • Observation notes​

    • Issue categorization

  3. Identify Weaknesses & Pain Points

Step  1: Expert Review

To better understand  the game, I familiarized myself with it. I played through the tutorial and played a handful of matches of each of the game types, noting design pillars, game strengths and potential improvements/areas for further research. I went into this game purposefully knowing very little about it, having only watched the official game video on Ubisoft's website. 

Rough 'stream of consciousness' notes taken during my first experience, 

Game Pillars

‘Simplified’ Shooter

  • Hacks and Guns only

  • Minimalist use of colour

  • “fusing” only way to customize

  • Relatively even playing field

 

Mobility-Oriented Gameplay

  • Double jumping & auto-vaulting

  • Jump pads

  • Use of sectors rather than game circle to encourage non-linear movement

 

Creative Combat

  • Combining hacks

  • Hacks for engage/disengage

  • Higher time to kill

  • Disrupted sight lines

  • “Events”

  • Post-death gameplay gives strategic advantage

Areas for Research

These are prevalent issues I encountered and areas I suspected other players might struggle with. I kept these in mind during player observation and used the categories to help group any observed issues in step 2.

Key questions from my examination:

  • is tutorial enough?

  • are breakable objects clear?

  • is the Hub area efficient?

  • how frequently can players 'fuse?'

Step  2: Player Observation

For player research,  I watched two players streaming their first time playing Hyperscape. While mostly visual,  they did occasionally provide narration to their actions which supplemented my observation notes. I did both hand-written (for general notes or ideas) and typed notes (distinct observations with timestamp) into an excel document. 

 

I colour code my notes based on how severe I believe the observed issue to be.

Red: Issues that critically impacted or could critically impact gameplay.

In this case, red notes are issues related to core gameplay mechanics that can directly result in player defeat.

Orange: Issues that severely impacted or could severely impact gameplay

In this case, orange notes are issues related to mechanics that give players an advantage over others. 

Yellow: Issues that moderately impacted or could moderately impact gameplay

In this case, yellow notes are issues related to player efficiency that might be resolved as players become accustomed to the experience

White: Issues that slightly impacted or could slightly impact gameplay

In this case, white notes are issues that marginally impact player efficiency and will likely be resolved as players become accustomed to  the experience.

Screenshot of my Excel document with observation notes

Step  3: Identify Weaknesses & Pain Points

Based on my own experience and observed experiences, I identify the most prevalent areas for improvement.

Learnability & Help

  • Single-use tutorial area isn't enough for new players

    • Some core mechanics not emphasized in tutorial

      • i.e. revive, sector collapse, combat situations​

Agency & Control

  • Lack of instant melee button for controller

    • 2 actions required to melee:

      • long-press Y/Triangle  to swap to melee, then RT/R2 to swing.

  • Players need to unlearn common control schemes used in BR/FPS games

    • Can't interact with doors & chests, only break

      • When coupled with controller melee, it becomes more significant

    • Controller RS button as ‘ping’, not melee

Clarity & GUI

  • Fuseability of items unclear especially in fast-paced gameplay

  • Collapsing sectors unclear, must continually use map, obstructing player view​

  • Main menu as a physical space increases time to play​

Recommendations

Based on the identified areas of improvement, I next provide some recommendations. I like to sort these by Value x Effort, starting with "low hanging fruit" or High Value, Low Effort solutions. 

High Value, Low Effort

Change in-game “fuse” UI design to be more noticeable

This would allow players to loot more efficiently and fully take advantage of the fuse mechanic. This could be as simple as increased saturation or a change in the UI highlight colour, or more complicated such as added visual effects to the area around the fusable item.

Screenshot of current "Fuse" prompt (left) and recommended "Fuse" prompt (right)

Original image source: Dexterto.com. Screenshot of Ubisoft's HyperScape (2020) 

Allow tutorial instance to be replayed

Currently, players can only experiment with weapons and abilities while in a game. A repayable training ground instance might resolve a number of issues new players have with the game as they are given more time to experiment with various abilities and weapons. This might also prove useful in the future if more hacks and weapons are introduced, giving all players the chance to practice with them before entering a game.

Reconsider ping & melee controls on controllers for consistency with other FPS & BR games.

Melee attacking is important, in combat and out of combat to break doors & windows.

Consider having a specific button dedicated to melee for controllers to make this action easier.

  • Options:

    • Long press Y/Triangle to auto melee

    • Move ping to up on d-pad? RS to melee

This would require additional testing to ensure the control change does not significantly impact gameplay.

Reduce opacity or size of game map

This would prevent obstruction of the player view, as the map is one of the only ways to track what sectors have collapsed. Additional testing on what change, if any, works best would be required. 

Add a “play another game mode” option to defeat screen

This would help players get into games faster if they want to switch their game mode, as they currently have to reload the game hub, navigate to the play portal, then select a game mode if the want to switch

High Value, High Effort

Consider alternative options for presenting sector collapse

One option could be the implementation of a mini-map that presents information seen on the full map screen- though the extra information on the screen might be distracting for such fast-paced gameplay. 

Prioritize essential information and present it to new players.

Consider presenting this information automatically to new players, then storing it in an easily accessible help/tips screen. Essential information may include: sector collapse explanation & visual cues, restore mechanic, breakdown of possible events.

Consider implementing a “main menu” or options for quickly entering a game in the Hub

The use of a physical menu space is unique and interesting, however it increases the time it takes to enter a game.

Reconsider if physical space is essential. Is there a future purpose of physical menu area? (i.e. aesthetics for special events, purchasable aesthetic elements, etc.)

  • If not, test if players prefer a traditional menu screen, and if it decreases navigation time.

  • If physical space is essential, is there a way to maintain the aspect of physical space while implementing more user-friendly quick select options?

    • Button press to see a player avatar and game modes screen?

    • "Portals" tied to specific keys (keyboard) or d-pad/other buttons (controller)?

Sample Process: Fleshing out a Main Menu

Flows: steps to enter a game

To better understand the structure of the current menu, I sketched what I experienced, noting required actions, screens, and steps taken to begin a HyperScape game.

Very rough notes on hub navigation

My notes begin very rough, which I then translate into a flow chart so I can move elements around and determine if there are any simple fixes to improve navigation and backtracking. 

Current flow: Launch to game exit

Improved Current Flow

Improved flow: Minor changes (green)

Looking at all of the screens and actions included in the current "Hub" system, I draft a menu flow and screens. These utilize many elements that are already present in the Hub, and accounts for the Areas of Improvement mentioned in the previous section.

Theoretical menu flow: Launch to game exit

Menu screen drafts

I like to use wireframing to experiment with some design elements, however I limit my time on this process as additional research and feedback will ultimately change the design. 

Ultimately, a main menu simplifies the process of joining a game, but it must be considered if the physical menu space adds significant value that outweighs it's lack of efficiency. A physical menu is a unique feature that allows for creative 'themed' and aesthetics, so in a best-of-both-worlds scenario, the "play" screen pictured above might be implemented through a keybind- similarly to how the "social" button functions in the current Hub design. 

Final Thoughts

At this point in the process, feedback and additional research would be required to move forward with the proposed recommendations.  I believe the High Value, Low Effort recommendations should be prioritized for implementation, as they pose the least risk and have the highest potential to add value to new players. 

If given more time, I would conduct research with more participants as well as consult with design documentation and the design team to better understand the reasoning behind various game elements and mechanics. Thus, all provided recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt, as I examined this game blindly with no knowledge of the design intent- this was purely based off of what was experienced and observed during play.   

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© 2019 by Rachel Booth.