Solo Concept Project - UX Research , UX Design
March 2023
Researching Quest Systems in Games...

Quests are an integral part of many different kinds of videogames. Displaying the information of how to solve these quests as part of the interface is important for a positive user experience.
For this project I
loosely took the Ubisoft Toronto Next: UX Design Challenge 2022 as my starting point and project brief. For this I am tasked to design the quest system for a new 3rd person Role Playing Game IP. 
Based on this I conducted research on users preferences regarding similar game types, empathised with their pain points and looked into solutions from similar games to create my own design ideas.

For my research I analysed two Game of the Year Award winners with similar sales numbers but two very different approaches to their quest design UX.
I wanted to design a system that might satisfy the needs of both games playerbases.

Game Quests are either too easy or too hard...

For my research I looked into the two Game of the Year Award winners, with a similar number in overall sales, Elden Ring (2022) and God of War (2018).

My research has shown that players don't prefer very simple gameplay, with overly complex menus. They also don't enjoy stereotyical quest types and being stuck in a puzzle or without any guidance. As a motivator for absolving quests it was stated that they mainly care for the world/story and the rewards.

Having a system that combines the best of both worlds...

Giving the players the best tools they actually need to experience their games story and solve a quest. Especially to reduce the error rate (being stuck) and drop off rates (stop playing). For this I focused on offering a simple and intuitive navigation, the option to change the difficulty per quest and tie in side-content more into the story.

"I'm glad this game doesn't have quest markers, I don't want to be lead by the nose to my destination... but I want better dialogue and clues and written notes also!"

I conducted secondary and primary research. For the secondary research I looked into the opinion and voices of online gaming communities and discussion boards. The opinions in these communities are torn, some people enjoy minimal guidance and some feel lost and would at least prefer a bit of a hint.
There have been ongoing discussions about the fact that modern games appear to be "too easy" , since they give the players immedate or unasked for solutions to problems. On the other hand, these games have a beautiful story experience, so these games want to be approachable by a variety of gamers and gaming abilities. 

For my primary research I asked gamers in online communities via Google Forms about their preferences in games ans questing. The results of this research can be seen in the following graphic.

Empathising with the players

After collecting information on players preferences for games and quests I created a persona as well as an empathy map to more clearly pin point frustrations they might have during gaming and navigating quest interfaces. Additionally I created an user journey, to figure out  solutions I could apply to my own designs.

What others did

I choose the games God of War and Elden Ring specifically to look at, because they are successfull and well-liked examples of the Action Roleplaying Genre and have two very different approaches to quests in their games.
Elden Ring is known for (and was criticized by many) for a confusing, convoluted and inaccessible Quest UX. While Elden Ring is a game known for a challenging gameplay which gives the player maximum freedom and minimal guidance, most of the core playerbase knew what quest concept they could expect, the overall idea translated not so well into an open world game, unlike in the previous titles of the developer.

Meanwhile a game like God of War is especially liked for its intense storytelling, highly polished gameplay and graphics and approachable nature to as many players as possible. However, some would say, that there is not much of a challenge in figuring out and solving a quest, since the game tells you exactly where to go and what to do.



With all research insight conducted, I started to create some first Wireframes for my own Quest Log Design. The following points I wanted to adress and solve with my UX designs:

1. Have a minimalistic and easy to understand menu

2. Show what most people in a quest care about: The Story and the Rewards
3. Opt-In to recieve guidance if needed within a quest
4. Let the players roughly know how long a quest will take and if they have reached /are close to the end

Other pain points, like stereotypical quest types or non-comprehensive gameplay are problems that stem from the Games Design itself and can't be solved by my UX. However, with my final design I tried to think of an alternative approach to different quest types and and alternative way in how to present them to the player.

3 Columns - Accordion Menu
The first Wireframe sticks with an traditional 3-Column approach. It was my main goal to not have the players push too many extra buttons to be able to open a different menu within the Quest Menu (for example, having the Side Quests in a different tab by pressing a controllers shoulder buttons).
For the sake of overview and order, different quest types can be opened/hidden via an accordion menu.

I decided against this direction
, because having to constantly open (and swap between) the different Accordion Menus, might slow down the navigation and doesn't feel intuitive after a while, especially if you want to check for different quests status often.


2 Columns - Horizontal Carousel

For this layout I choose 2 columns, to have everything more condensed and to be able to quickly glance over the specifics after picking a quest. 
The carousel navigation applies a secondary button input, which I wanted to reduce as much as possible, but is overall limited to just one additional input.

I feel that there might be too much information compressed on the right side, that is why I decided against this option.

2 Columns - Vertical Scrolling Only

This direction is an experimental one. I still used the 2 column approach but decided to have less information on one side and balance things out a bit more with the quest story included in the quest-selection portion.
Similar to a storybook the player can flip through. 

There is no additonal button input necessary, except for selecting the active quest and potentially opting in on quest guidance. 
I choose to combine all the quest types into one list. This can be potentially overwhelming, but it was my goal to have side quests, that might be unfavorable to some, feel more as a part of the main story and blend in better. 

LoFi Prototype

With the 3rd Wireframe as the base, I built a Low Fidelity Prototype to test out how the menu might feel and could be potentionally navigated through. I had a console controlls in mind, but PC navigation is equally easy.
Here are the pain-points I figured out and the solutions I applied within this prototype:

Pain Points

1. Complicated and cluttered menus and interfaces

2. Quest too easy or to hard to solve

3. Unpopular quest type, feels like a chore

My Solutions

1. Simple scrolling layout and navigation with no additional sub-menus.

2. The player has the option to opt-in to help for each quest individually, only when needed.

3.  Combine different quest types into one list and have them matter to the player with a story tie-in.


What I have learned and how I would continue

I have worked on games before and also have created visual user interfaces for games, without actually working on the UX. 
It was a great new experience solely thinking about the UX of a game and approach a game related task from a different perspective, which was overall more methodical and analytical and less of a visually focused one. Here are some of my learnings and my proposition in how I would continue working on this quest system:

1. Learnings

Working on the UX for a games interfaces is different from creating apps or websites, since a lot more design decisions from other departments potentially influence my own work much more.
For example research has shown, that players don't enjoy stereotypical tasks like common fetch-quests or escort missions. However, these are design decisions I can't always influence directly (as an UI/UX Designer), therefore I had to figure out ways in how to make the experiences as enjoyable as possible, with certain limitations.

Trying to reduce the amount of buttons and sub-menus in use is harder in games, because they sometimes rely on complex information that needs to be transported to the players. Since my research has shown, that players actually enjoy when the games are comprehensive and have much content to offer, it is a tricky task to figure out, how to efficently wrap complex information in a minimalistic package. The game I "created" for this task is simple enough to allow for a simple menu, but in the future I need to think about how I would solve these problems, if the games were much more complicated.
2. How to continue

My next steps would include a user-testing and feedback phase, since this project only includes the research and ideation portion. 
There I would be especially interested in how the users feel with the combination of the quest-types into one singular menu, how well they are able to navigate to one specific and complete an actual quest and how well the overall menu functions when there are several more quests the player has to choose from. Additionally, I am also interested further accessibility testings and explore the options how to potentially seperate different quest types again.

Thank You for your attention! Have any feedback or questions?
 I would love to hear from you, write me a mail at mamcamart[at]gmail[dot]com

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