Game UX case study: Creating an understandable multilayer puzzle game

Odd Waters is a student game build with 5 others student at ENJMIN (French video game master’s degree): one producer, one programmer, one game designer, one 2d/3d artist, one composer and me, a UX designer/User Researcher.

Multiplying the controls

When you build a 20-minutes long game experience, you do not want players to lose their time in the options. Odd Waters is a game entirely playable with a mouse, and what we note in playtesting session is that depending on what type of game the playtesters played (FPS or Point and click), they wanted different control scheme. Our choice was to allow multiple natural controls. For example, to Zoom/Unzoom on the Panorama, on the tutorial, we taught to wheel the mouse, but the players could also double click, even if was never taught.

Object interface

Another example of multiplying the natural controls was this one:

You have a cross to close the object rotation overlay, but you can also click anywhere outside of the object to close it. Most players tested still use the cross, but in some cases, they did not think about it, and click outside of the object and the buttons, to close the overlay. The interaction seemed natural to them and did not create any sentiment of surprise. The system was correctly reacting to their action even if the action was never taught in the tutorial.

Building an interactive cursor

Cursors
Another type of sign — moving the boat

To explain the usage of each game mechanics we choose to add an interactive cursor. Each of theses cursor interaction was held with other signs and feedbacks on each mechanics. For accessibility purposes, we choose to not convey any pieces of information only with colours or shape.

One example of multiplication of signs is when the player moves the boat. The cursor first indicates to the player that he is in travel mode and it also indicates if he will land into an island (only if the island was previously discovered). The white ellipse also shows where the player can travel. The dotted line explains the trajectory the boat will take, but if the player tries to go in a place where he can’t go, the line stop at the end of the circle, indicating that the player won’t go further. And finally, a sound feedback corresponding to the movement of the boat, and the tracing of the line. The sound feedback is stopped when the player tries to go outside of the zone. These are 4 different signifiers for the same interaction and answering to the user, the same question “Can I go here with my boat?”.

Creating an interactive tutorial

Odd Waters is a puzzle game about discovery. The narrative is about the discovery. When you move you discover more of the sea and mostly the puzzles are about discovery. This made our choices about what the tutorial should teach very clear: the tutorial should learn to the players the controls and how to interact with the environment but not what informations you are supposed to learn from each interaction. We made a tutorial which taught you that you can open and move objects but not why you should open them.

Tutorial takeaways were intended to let the player understand that every action which will be taught during the tutorial would be useful at some point. The tutorial is a part of the puzzle gameplay and this is why we choose to put even before the tutorial starts a narrative sentence. We wanted to emerge the player from the start into the world of Odd Waters and not separate the tutorial and the rest of the game. The tutorial is part of the game, while still being a tutorial it is the first island and first level. The tutorial teaches the basic controls of the game without trying to presenting it as a part of the narrative corpus while still being in the narrative corpus.

If you want to try Odd Waters for yourself go to https://oddwaters.itch.io/game

If you want to read more of my work as a student game UX designer you can go to https://medium.com/@PaulEyheramouno

You can also visit my website: http://pauleyheramouno.com

Odd Waters was made with:

Game UX student — Looking for an internship — http://pauleyheramouno.com/

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