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Sunday, April 18, 2010

I didn't get it...

My time working on APB (updated website, check it out) is coming to an end as it gets ready for release.

One of the things that I take away is the power of understanding the user experience (sometimes called UX). The main man, Stanley, sits a few seats away and is an advocate of the whole idea, sending around links and so on. UX is where the player's experience of the game is explored.

What didn't they get? What confused them? What did they find exciting?

This feedback can be gathered in a variety of forms that falls into 3 main categories.
  • Letting people play the game and then asking afterwards, via discussion and perhaps a questionnaire.
  • Live conversation, where players talk through their experience as they play - great, but slightly unnatural.
  • High tech solutions that record where the player's eyes are on the screen along side their actions and link this to the gameplay.
As you probably know many film distributors use something similar to the first category when they are releasing a film. This usually takes the form of 'did you enjoy the film?' and 'would you recommend it'. In short, it is more about the marketing of the film than the artistic qualities.

As film makers however we don't apply this same rigour. But we could. It could help us make our film better and ensure that the cool ideas and nuanced emotions we want the audience to take away are really being picked up.

If we do show our film - it is usually in an unfocused manner. 'Did you like it?' Instead, we could really apply a more targeted approach. We could ask people about what parts they didn't get. Phrasing is the most important element to get right. No audience member should 'like' it when the hero dies. But did they find it 'moving'?

Beyond that - why not even use the second category - stopping and starting the film to dip in and out of audience views.

And remember, all this could apply to scriptwriters too.

Why do we think that just sending someone a script and waiting for feedback is enough. Read it with them. Ask them questions. Or have sample audience members at a script read through and use them constructively.

As a bonus, here is my favourite interview about APB. Well worth a watch. It is conducted by HipHopGamer and is culture-clash-tastic. However, both HHG and APB's Exec Producer Joshua have a kind of side-culture of gaming that ensures they have common ground.

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