User experience can expand from a number of different products: websites, apps, software and even full video games. In this post, I want to take a deeper look into the processes that go into user design regarding video games and how it collaborates with game design and user interface design. Using the example of League of Legends, an extremely popular Esports MOBA game, the difference between these three roles can be clearly defined:
Here you can see an example of League’s patch notes, which release extremely often in an attempt to balance the game (although some may argue it never works.) There are over 140 different playable characters in League of Legends alone, and each character has a standard average of about 4 skills (some have more). Each of these skills have their own coded data about what they do (damage, healing, etc.) and the exact numerical specifics of how much they do. These numbers constantly change, and in rare cases entire characters are reworked. Changing even a single digit of a certain champion could completely imbalance the character and make them useless or overpowered. These numbers are calculated by the game design team- who work to set and define the functions that occur in the game to make it playable.
In this image, you can see what looks like a character, what is called the tower, and the “:minions” that appear on the map in waves. Each side (blue and red team) has their own set of towers that defend against the enemy. When you enter the zone near the tower without your own wave of minions, the tower is programmed to attack you, the player. This becomes clear when a warning noise plays in the game, and the red projectile shoots from the tower towards your character, and your character takes damage (which also sets off another sound effect). This single instance is one of the many interaction experiences that are created during UX design, which usually involves the use of sound, visuals, and effects to guide the player through the game. The average League player, when they hear the tower warning noise, instantly recognizes that they have walked too close to the tower zone and will usually back out.
Finally, here’s a quick look at the basic UI of League (it’s a lot). MOBA games tend to be a lot more complex and difficult for the average person to get used to, but League of Legends follows a lot of MOBA UI standards, so at the very least the average MOBA player would recognize most of the existing League UI if they came from a similar game. There’s a minimap of the game’s full map on the bottom right, there are health and mana bars in the middle along with skills and the assigned keys, currency, etc. UI design focuses on the interface visuals and making sure all the important information a player would need to play the game successfully is available on the screen without feeling too cluttered or overwhelming.
UI design is just a single piece of the visuals required for proper UX design. Because MOBA games are fundamentally complex in design and gameplay, UX design works to create the common instances recognizable to the average player. When you take damage, you should know without having to look at your health bar based off sound and screen effects. When your teammate dies, you should be able to know that without having to glance at your teammates icons or pressing tab. If certain towers in the game are destroyed, you should know without having to squint at your minimap. Game design might make the game functional, but UX design makes the game playable. And when UX design in video games is done well, you can cross the difficult bridge of functional to enjoyable. Your player might need to work hard to improve their mechanical skill in these intense Esport video games, but they shouldn’t need to work hard to just play and enjoy the game.
Harbuzinski, A. (2021, March 2). Introduction to UX in game design. Medium. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://uxdesign.cc/ux-and-video-game-design-5d8bcc50be67
Mun. (2022, March 26). Is UX design a separate practice from Game Design? Medium. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://blog.prototypr.io/is-ux-design-a-separate-practice-from-game-design-97ae1a03e61c
Wheeler, A. (2020, September 3). UX design in the Games Industry. Medium. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://medium.com/riot-games-ux-design/ux-design-in-the-games-industry-50b0572631c3