USING IN-GAME DATA TO KEEP PLAYERS PLAYING
Star Wars Battlefront 2 is a multiplayer first-person shooter game set in the Star Wars universe. The game is supported with post launch downloadable content and in-game events to keep players playing often referred to as live service content.
Coming from a sports content background I was really interested in figuring out a concept that could support live service game content with an experience that utilized the in-game telemetry - what players were doing and how they were doing it. This was a conceptual project that I tasked myself with.
CREATE AN INFINITE GAME
A few months before developing this idea I read Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James Carse. The thesis of the book is that there are two types of games in every interaction we have - with a person or a consumer. The first is a finite game - played for the sole purpose of winning. The second is an infinite game - played simply to keep the game going.
How could I design an experience that would keep players playing even if they weren’t in-game? I started to define criteria for an infinite game for Battlefront 2.
- Continuous play
- Content begets content
- Create and own conversation
- Keep the game going
START WITH THE PLAYERS
In preparation for this project, I partnered with our UX Researcher Krista Parham to understand why players come to our website. We looked at two types of players - new to franchise and returning Battlefront players. We learned that players wanted content to help them in-game.
New players want to understand gameplay.
- What are the modes?
- How can I play my way?
- How can I play successfully?
- What choices can I make to impact my gameplay?
- How can I connect through story?
Returning Battlefront Players wanted to know how the game was being played.
- How are others playing the game?
- How are heroes being used in-game?
- What are winning strategies?
- Who are the most popular heroes?
THE EXPERIENCE CYCLE
One of my favorite frameworks to use when thinking about consumer journeys is the Experience Cycle by Hugh Dubberly and Shelley Evenson. I like this framework because it focuses designers on the different parts of the consumer journey, the action the designer must incite, and the emotion or outcome the experience should result in.
The other part of this that resonates with me is that the framework challenges you to think of an experience as a system. Not a one-off exchange. Experiences can be systems with inputs and outputs that grow over time. This framework is great for thinking about how to keep players in a live service from awareness and engagement to advocacy and sharing.
WORKING WITHIN CONSTRAINTS
Studio partners at DICE challenged me to think of ways to support live service that wasn’t dependent on a lot of assets. In grad school at the School of Visual Arts, I took a Data Visualization class taught by Steve Duenes. Steve and his graphics team is known for their visualization and multimedia work at the New York Times. I knew I could tell interesting and interactive stories with data.I started to do research and found a perfect example of how Star Wars could be visualized. I used this as a way to convince my partners of the viability of this idea.
My core strategy was to utilize telemetry and other data points for content creation. I wanted to turn data into narrative - delivering ways to learn about the game, improve play, and connect players with each other.
SPORTS, THE ORIGINAL MULTIPLAYER
I have a background in building experiences and content for sports - real and fantasy. As I started to think about the stories I wanted to tell, I thought of the experience through this lens. Data from sports is full of interesting narratives from macro to micro. You can tell stories about an entire team’s performance or drill into a specific player, defense, or offense. This seemed like the right lens to inspire multiplayer stories for Battlefront 2.
TELLING STORIES WITH DATA
The next step for this project was determining what data points to use. I needed to develop a language around the data and to make sure it connected with the game. I worked with my editorial strategist, Jennings Hanna to parse elements and themes from the Star Wars universe and the multiplayer genre.
Gameplay info on Heroes (Luke or Han Solo) and Villains (Vadar or Darth Maul) and how they are used in game becomes just as important as Kill/Death Ratio and most popular maps and modes.
In my first few months at EA, I discovered the perfect framework to show what players needed to enjoy playing game. Maslow's Hierarchy of Game Design outlined themes that would help orient a player’s experience as they progressed throughout the game.
Although this framework focused on game design I thought I could use this to outline the type of information players would need from game data. These included:
- What are my stats?
- How am I doing in the game?
- Who are my favorite characters to play with and my performance with them?
- How do I compare to the community and to my friends?
- What tips can help me improve my gameplay?
The briefs that I provide to designers and product managers include design principles. The design principles are criteria that can inform every touchpoint of the experience - from visual design to content creation. The design principles must connect with findings from user research. For this project I defined the principles as the following:
SKETCHING TO GET IDEAS FLOWING
I love talking and sketching. I have a massive whiteboard in my office. Even in non-brainstorm conversations I’m likely to sketch out the things I discuss with my team. You never know what will ignite an idea.
My initial sketches were high level concepts of an experience that could meet the needs of new and returning players in a live service game. I challenged myself with figuring out how to:
- Put player behavior at the center of our content
- Prioritize storytelling over features
- Let conversation and gameplay fuel our content
Each of these sketches focused on using inputs and outputs from the game and giving players information that could incite play and extend the game experience.
Although this was a conceptual project, a lot of this work has influenced other content platform projects and editorial throughout EA. This was an opportunity to extend the organization’s thinking about what stories we could tell from in-game data. Since this project, my team has created editorial that uses heat maps, in-game player-created content, and telemetry data.View More Projects