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GAMES UX

A UX Analysis of Real Estate Royale, Yakuza 0’s Game Within A Game

The first of a two part series exploring UX approach, issues, and recommendations

Maria Meireles
Oct 8, 2020 · 12 min read

efore I get started, I want to explain the structure and goals of this piece. I’ve divided the content into the following five sections:

  1. What is Yakuza 0?
    A brief overview of the game itself.
  2. Play conditions
    My gameplay setup.
  3. Explanation of Real Estate Royale
    A brief overview of the game mode I’m focusing on in this piece.
  4. What would I change, and how?
    Pointing out problems is inexpensive (and not terribly fun). So, in this section, I also propose some solution ideas of my own.
  5. Final thoughts
    Key takeaways from the analysis.

What is Yakuza 0?

Yakuza 0 (2015) is an action-adventure game developed and published by Sega. It’s the sixth game from the Yakuza series, and the player follows the story of two characters, Kiryu and Majima.

The game is set in an open world environment where it is possible to battle enemies on the street, play mini-games, speak with people, etc... Interaction with the world triggers side-quests and gives bonuses to the player (money and health being one of the perks).

It’s possible to customize/upgrade the two playable characters via purchasing abilities from a skill tree. The money can be earned in different ways: progress on the main story, battle enemies on the street, side-quests, mini-games, and others.

The easiest and quickest way to earn a lot of money is to play business games. Each playable character has a different business:

  • Kiryu invests in real estate on Real Estate Royale.
  • Majima runs a cabaret club on Cabaret Club Czar.

Interaction with the world, especially the completion of side-quests, gives them an advantage in their business: you can get people to work with you or get new business opportunities.

The two-part analysis of Yakuza 0 will be divided between the two different businesses.

  • Part 1: Real Estate Royale.
  • Part 2: Cabaret Club Czar.

Play conditions

To begin my analysis, I think it’s important to understand my context. I played the game five years after launch, sitting in a comfortable armchair in front of my 37" TV.

I have some advice before playing the game: have fun and explore the environment. Don’t worry if you spend too much time exploring. You have a lot on the side to do and play. I would advise the same to anyone that hadn’t played the game yet.

Real Estate Royale

Real Estate Royale is the business game you can play with Kiryu.

It’s a small game inside Yakuza 0 that takes some time to beat. The premise of the business is simple: Kiryu wants to take back properties from the Five Billionaires that rule the real estate of five city areas.

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Image 1: A small explanation inside the game.

To do so, you need to purchase, invest, and manage properties to increase your share of the area. This will get the attention of each billionaire: as your share improves, you get to fight them on a mini-game and then on a final battle to decide who will rule that area.

If you complete the business game, you get an extra fighting style… and lots of money to improve your skills.

Purchase

You need to go around the city to see if any business has a “look” tip for purchasing it. Some areas have cheaper investments than others, but the cost is approximately the same per area.

Another way to get properties is by talking and become friends with some employees and owners of properties. This sometimes requires playing side-quests and mini-games to improve friendship.

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Image 2: Purchase of No-Panties BBQ property from the Pleasure King Area.

Invest

If you purchase a property, it goes to your agency folder of that area. Inside the agency, you can select Advisors to invest in the properties; they will increase property rank, therefore upping your profit and share of the area.

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Image 3: Masochistic Man investing in Pachinko BIG STAR. That can be done inside the Gambling King Area on the Management menu.

Manage

Also, inside the agency, you can manage the area folders:

  • Select managers to improve the payout of each area and help you fight (money battles!) the five billionaires.
  • Select security to decrease the battles and the five billionaires troubles (real battles!).

They are responsible for the collection of money from time to time and for helping you fight the five billionaires’ advances on the ground — the managers with money, the securities by force.

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Image 4: Nugget is our on duty-manager and Koshimizu our on duty-security. That can be done inside the Gambling King Area on the Management menu.
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Image 5: Trouble raised by the Five Billionaires. On the left: battle with the help of security; on the right, money battle with the help of managers.

What would I change, and how?

1 — Add Influence indicator label

Inside an employee card, the influence rating should be more explicit about how it works. The economic influence (managers) and safety influence (Security) have five numbers (green rectangle, image 6). They represent the influence of each day of work on a row.

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Image 6: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.

Why should it change?

  • If the player wants to run the business along with the main story (not to do it straight away), they can forget the meaning of the numbers. The design forces players to look for explanation and memorization.

What would I do?
Add a label to indicate the meaning of the numbers.

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Image 7: Redesign of the Real Estate Royale Management’s area menu- label on influence.

Why this suggestion?

  • Call attention to the need of rotating employees.
  • Creates more interaction with the management menu.
  • Does not force memorization.

2 — Improve rating representation consistency

The types of rating that already exist within the agency menu include:

  • Arrows (on different angles) to the economy (green rectangle, image 8).
  • Letters (from D to S) to stores and safety (blue rectangle, image 8).
  • Numbers to employee’s influence (manager and security)(yellow rectangle, image 9).
  • Stars to top info on employees (financial savvy to the managers, problem-solving to the Security, ability rank to the advisor)(red rectangle, images 8 and 9).
  • Symbols to advisor’s support ability (rose rectangle, image 8).
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Image 8: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.
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Image 9: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.

Why should it change?

  • The symbols of visual ratings are hard to read and understand. Players need to learn and memorize them. They do not exist in the real world, like the other visual rating representation. They create confusion. Mostly if the game is not played straight away — avoid learning new elements, and memorization is good.
  • The letters (from D to S) exist to represent store rating and area safety creates an idea of the relationship between them because the other ratings with the same visual representation have the same mechanic for the same type of elements.

What would I do?

  • Keep the arrows on the economy. They indicate the monetary impact: profits can be much more, more, same, less, or much less than the profit forecast.
  • Keep the letter (from D to S) for the rating of stores.
  • Keep the stars on top info of employees.
  • Change the symbols (on advisors) to numbers like on managers and security’s influence. This change implies the change suggested in point 1.
  • Change the letters of safety to arrows like on the economy rating. What the security rating is representing is also a quantity — attacks and trouble on the area + this rating are directly influenced by the security influence, just like the economic influence directly impacts the economy rating.
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Image 10: Redesign of the Real Estate Royale Management’s area advisors with changes labels on safety and support ability.

3 — Compare employees

Inside the management menu of each real estate area, it should be possible to compare managers and security.

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Image 11: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.

Why should it change?

  • Each employee has 3 areas to compare (green rectangle, image 11). It forces the memorization of the rating of each topic to make a valid comparison.
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Image 12: GIF of the gameplay of Yakuza 0.

What would I do?
When the manager or security is clicked, it should open a window to compare employees and cast one on duty. Also, compare the influence of the selection on the economy or security by showing the rating with the current employee and the selected one.

Follow the same logic as the Cast on Duty section on Cabaret Club Czar, which I will cover in another article.

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Image 13: Redesign of the Real Estate Royale Management’s area menu, with Cast on Duty button to open the comparison pop up.
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Image 14: Redesign of the Real Estate Royale Management’s area menu — Cast on Duty pop up that allows comparison between employees.

Why this suggestion?

  • Boosts and facilitates the management of employees.
  • Does not force memorization.

4 — Show more info about employees on the agency menu

Show the 3 topics about employees (manager and security) on the agency menu (green rectangle, image 15).

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Image 15: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.

Why should it change?

  • To see the info, the player needs to click to start a collection or go inside an area management menu.
  • It would be easier to see if the area needs management before Start Collection.

What would I do?
Add a summary of the employees on their area information cards.

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Image 16: Redesign of the Agency menu with a summary of employees’ info.
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Image 17: Redesign of the Agency menu with a summary of employees’ info — detail.

Why this suggestion?

  • Accelerate the start collection process.
  • It can directly compare the agency menu the employees on duty in different areas, following the logic of the rotativity of employees.

5 — Improve visualization of S rated stores

Inside the management menu, the stores have a rating from D to S. Rating S is the top rating, and you can’t invest anymore. But on the store card, the rating progress bar is shown empty, like it was possible to fill (images 18, 19, 20).

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Image 18: Gif of Yakuza 0 gameplay.
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Image 19: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.
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Image 20: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.

Why should it change?

  • It misleads: looks like it is possible to invest, but it isn’t.
  • If you click on an S rating, it pops up a new card that says it is not possible to invest and forces the player to click again to close the card.

What would I do?
The store rating progress bar full and gold + indication on top of the store photo that “max invested” with gold background. No pop up appears if clicked: info already on screen.

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Image 21: Redesign of the Real Estate Royale Management’s area stores with S rating.
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Image 22: Redesign of the Real Estate Royale Management’s area stores with S rating — detail.

Why this suggestion?

  • Rating progress bar full = investment done. The player already knows this and works as positive reinforcement.
  • Easier to read which stores can have more investment or not.
  • Indication on top of the photo exists when the player already invested in a store after a payout collection “invested” (green rectangle, image 23) — only changes the color to gold and the copy but is already something known to the player has indication it can’t be invested.
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Image 23: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.
  • The player does not need to click to confirm.

6 — Indication of purchased stores on the area management map

Indicate the stores already purchased inside the map (green rectangle, image 24).

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Image 24: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.

Why should it change?

  • The players need to shuffle through the stores to see all locations.

What would I do?
Change the color of the purchased stores on the map to the color of the current rating of the store. Keep the currently selected store card pin.

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Image 25: Redesign of the Real Estate Royale Management’s area stores with info of purchased stores on the map.
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Image 26: Redesign of the Real Estate Royale Management’s area stores with info of purchased stores on the map — detail.

Why this suggestion?

  • Just by opening the area management menu, the player can see the stores owned+rating = read the impact of the current progress on the current share.

7 — Mini Map business agency marker

Investment and management are made inside a property, the Sugita Building. That property is represented with the color blue (green circle, images 27 and 28), which indicates story locations, hideout, and the business. Does not makes a visual distinction from the 3 types.

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Image 27: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.
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Image 28: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.

Why should it change?

  • Business is a unique game with no direct implication on the story; why aggregate?
  • The player may want to play on different days, not the business game at once. Requires the memorization of a small place on a map or name to look for it.

What would I do?
Place an icon on the Sugita Building that symbolizes the business’ purpose.

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Image 29: Redesign of the minimap.
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Image 30: Redesign of the minimap — detail.

Why this suggestion?

  • Follows the idea from the “person” icon that indicates someone that can help you progress on your fighting style.
  • The icon can change for another color if the character needs to go there (payout collection, battles, etc…).
  • Remembers the player that the place exists if it appears on the minimap, encourages play.

8 — Indication of purchased properties on the business section inside the pause menu

Indicate the properties already purchased inside the map, just like suggested on point 6, to keep consistency between maps.
This map is available inside the business section on the pause menu. If the player selects the business section, it’s possible to see a map with a summary of the real estate business (green rectangle, image 31).

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Image 31: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.

Why should it change?

  • To keep consistency with change on point 6.

What would I do?
Indicate the properties already purchased.

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Image 32: Redesign of the Business section inside the Pause menu with info of the purchased stores on the map.

Why this suggestion?

  • To be easy for the player to understand what areas can have a business to purchase — incentives exploration.

9 — Business map inside the world map

If the player opens the minimap, there is no indication about the business (green rectangle, image 33).

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Image 33: Screenshot of Yakuza 0.

Why should it change?

  • The business game has a considerable portion of its mechanics related to the map. But to understand what to do next, you need to open the business map (on the pause menu or agency menu), memorize information, and compare the information on the map.
  • This process of comparison demands a total of 5 clicks and a movement.
  • Forces too much on info memorization.
  • Forces search — some people I talked to used internet guides and didn’t bother to find the exact location of properties to purchase.

What would I do?
When the player opens the minimap, it has a button to overlap with the business map info. Areas cards, a summary of business state, a card with stores from selected area card + indication of purchased stores. Same as the pause menu and management menu.

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Image 34: Redesign of the Map with the business button available.
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Image 35: Redesign of the Map after clicking on the Business button.

Why this suggestion?

  • Only 2 clicks
  • Does not force memorization
  • Incentives search on areas
  • Incentives advancement on the business game by having the button always present inside the world map
  • The player can see the business map according to the current location of the playable characters.

Final thoughts

This game has the most fantastic exploration I have seen. It feels like you live in the city. Sometimes, I would even forget about the main story. I was having fun singing on karaoke, dancing, and talking to people.

Mini-games are addictive, side quests beyond funny, and the main quest is full of tension and awesome battles. The businesses gather the addictive quality of the mini-games, the funny side of the side quest, and the challenging battles of the main quests.

Most UX/UI suggestions I made are just small improvements. Overall I loved this business game. I enjoyed growing a real estate empire…never thought I would say this sentence in my lifetime. It was that entertaining!

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Image 36: Gif of Yakuza 0 gameplay.

Coming up next…

Look out for the next article coming soon, a UX analysis of Cabaret Club Czar, Majima’s business inside Yakuza 0.

SUPERJUMP

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