ITU Copenhagen UX & Prototyping Videogames

What happens when you clearly know what your player wants?


Let’s recap the past few weeks:

There’s Stine, the girl I have to make a game prototype for in my User Experience & Prototyping course. And she likes visiting complex, lush worlds full of mysteries to discover.

And if her previous statements playing the participatory design game and the map she drew for the cultural probe, I also have her replies to a small 7 day challenge that I prepared for her in which she had to reply every day to one interesting question with a picture and a footnote.

When asked about a place where she would like to live in she sent me the picture above: an autumnal picture, comfortable, beautiful, peaceful and pretty, as she described it.

But at the same time she told me that if she wasn’t looking for a place to relax, she would rather be somewhere else.


Stine herself described the picture this way:

A swamp full of creeps everywhere, small lamps, spirits. I wouldn’t want to live there, but I surely would want to go there to explore it. So to answer the question of what I’d do in there, then I’d probably be a traveler/ a messenger.

So I would say it’s quite clear. Stine likes exploration at its best. Not just wandering around, but being in mysterious areas where she doesn’t know what she will find.

So when I finally got to interview her (and recorded the entire conversation for a later transcription and analysis) I knew where I had to look for answers.

If she likes exploration, what is it about it that really makes her tick?

Obviously my interview with her wasn’t just about that. There were several topics I needed to tackle, but the most interesting one so far was the exploration element. As soon as I asked her why she liked it so much she almost went bonkers. And that’s an understatement when we’re talking about Stine: she talks fast, excited and almost yelling at the most intense moments of her explanation (of why she likes exploring, go figure…) But it’s fun nevertheless, listening to her wishes of being the first one ever to discover a new place nobody has seen before, of reaching easter eggs hidden in the gameworld and be able to tell everyone about it (but not how exactly to find it, she really respects the spoilers part of a mystery).

She will revisit areas again and again if she gets even the smallest hint that something might have changed since the last time she was there (something that apparently happens very often in one of her favorite games: World of Warcraft).

Taking that last statement in consideration I asked her what would do if she found a place where she knows there is a secret but cannot reach it for some reason. Her reply was that such knowledge is enough to warm her up and she will probably try for a long time to reach that secret, no matter what. What if she cannot make it? Then she will look for help online, but once again, a guide without spoilers, that only tells how to reach the area, not what lies hidden in it.

This reminded me a lot about the Zelda games, where many times the player has the access blocked to certain areas even though the game seems to be open-world. Would this limitation bring Stine down? Not a chance! I asked her about it and she gave me an example taken out from GTA III, where there was this metro station that was locked. Being in front of the door, knowing that it can be opened somehow but she wasn’t able to made her really curious to know what she would find in there, and she kept trying for a while. But once she figured out she couldn’t do it, she thought that maybe the area would open up later in the game. What did she do then? Well… she came back after every mission to see if it was open already!

On the other hand she really dislikes games that try to give the feeling of an open-world but in reality they are full of invisible walls. Her example this time was Guild Wars, where she says that it’s mostly a world full of corridors, like a forest that has trees functioning as a full wall to prevent the player from going out of the area intended. About this she says it is really frustrating, because you could really see the limits of this world, them being very tangible.

As she said it with her own worlds: “Don’t give me an open world map and then tell me that I can’t go there, it’s annoying!

So there you go, those are some of the insights that I got during Stine’s interview about why she likes exploration in games. Obviously there was a lot more we talked about, both about exploration and about other topics like her gaming habits (how often she plays games and when and where) and what kind of game characters she likes, or what the protagonist should be like.

More to come soon!

ITU Copenhagen UX & Prototyping Videogames

What’s this? A map? And who lives there? Does anybody know?


Isn’t this map amazing? This island… it’s so mesmerizing! Check out all the tiny little details in it! There’s a whirlpool, an ice volcano (yes, it’s ice, not lava) and look at that little light bulb at the top of the lighthouse!

Now, I wish I could say that I have drawn that, but sadly my skills are nowhere that good.

Instead this was a drawing by Stine, my muse for the User Experience & Prototyping course at the IT University of Copenhagen.

How did this get to happen? Well, after that little participatory design game I showed her where she came up with the idea of a desert island with a jungle in it, I decided it would be an interesting idea to see her try to draw her own map of an island and fill it up with anything that she found interesting. This was part of my cultural probe which I used to gain more insight into how Stine thinks, acts and what she likes.

When one week later she came to me with this map I was shocked. Definitely so much more than what I expected. It’s clear that she had a lot of fun drawing this!

And she didn’t just draw a bunch of random stuff. She gave a lot of thought to even the tiniest little detail, and she explained to me what this was all about.

The most interesting thing was that many of the things she didn’t really know why they were there. What are those things on the southwest island? Stones? Rocks? Monuments? She said she didn’t know, but she so badly wanted to be able to dive into her own world to see it with her own eyes and discover the mystery of the stones.

The same goes for the houses Northeast. They look like little hills where people live inside them. I asked Stine if those were hobbit holes, and she declined the idea. There could be hobbits inside, sure, but wasn’t it more exciting to go there and discover for yourself? Also they live near a swamp, and who knows what kind of creatures could live there…

What about the castle? Does anyone really live there anymore? Especially with that misty, creepy forest so close to it… Apparently those skeletons from the participatory design game are in that forest, so you might not want to wander for too long in there.

Want more? How about the little village next to the beach? It’s kinda small, but it seems protected from all dangers around thanks to the cliff.

Those are just some of the things that Stine told me about her map of the island. An island that she really wanted to visit, explore and get lost in it, learn its mysteries and who knows what she could find in it?

If this is not a very clear indicator of what Stine wants in a game, then I don’t know what is. As in the participatory design game the keyword here is exploration.

But don’t trust me for this. There’s still a lot of work ahead, and soon enough an interview will reveal more details about Stine’s obsession with exploring new worlds!

ITU Copenhagen UX & Prototyping Videogames

Let’s get ideas! What would Stine like?


Sometimes you just have no ideas at all when you want to make a game. At least not when you need to create a game for a very specific target audience. And, as mentioned in one of my previous posts, this audience is Stine.

Luckily there are a lot of tools that can help a designer come up with something interesting, and one of my favorites we have learned so far in my User Experience & Prototyping course at the IT University of Copenhagen is the Participatory Design Game, or PD for short.

The objective is very simple: in short it consists of creating a short and simple activity that will open up the creativity of your “muse” you’re creating the game for (Stine) and give you ideas of what she will like.

Martin Ørbæk and I created a card game designed specifically for that. Each card has a concept drawn in it, be it a game character, an environment or a weapon or item. These concepts can be combined together to make even more concepts. For example, you can combine a gun with a laser, and you get a “laser gun”, or put together space and an island, and you get a “space island”.

But it is not us who were supposed to combine those. It’s Stine who had to play the game, drawing cards one by one from a pile, all facing the table, and combine those concepts as she sees fit to her liking.

As such Stine showed me her taste and preferences when it comes to videogames. She quickly dismissed certain ideas like those of a monster or space (she doesn’t like space travelling or spaceships, but can live with a game that takes place in space), while preferring environments that would be interesting to explore.

I found it funny that she didn’t use the skeleton card as an enemy, but rather as a remain of a dead body in a desert island, which fueled her interest in discovering how that person died.

A few more cards drawn later, she told me the story of those skeletons: they became ghosts. But not just any type of ghosts, those were explosive ghosts (by making use of the bomb card).

It’s very easy to make a story with Stine around, she doesn’t simply combine ideas. Instead she creates a full world breathing with background stories and interesting characters (the protagonist is a small boy with a sword and a shield who can also conjure spells, but he doesn’t really know how to use them).

It’s a very interesting take on starting a new game as a designer. You’re no longer thinking about doing what you would like to do, but rather making the ideas that she likes into a fully realized game. And it is something that I intend to see through to the end for this course.

ITU Copenhagen UX & Prototyping

Designing a game for Ms. Stine


As part of the course User Experience & Prototyping at the IT University of Copenhagen, we have been required to create the prototype of a game. But not just any game. We have to make a game for a specific person.

Many game developers, more in fact than it should be, don’t really think about the end user when creating a videogame. That is exactly one of the things that we are trying to fix by taking this course.

Here’s the deal: by the end of the semester each of us in our class should have a working prototype of a game that is targeted for a specific person who is either +/- 15 years of difference with us or the opposite gender.

In my case I chose someone who, in order to protect her privacy, I will call simply Ms. Stine or Stine.

We were asked to maintain a blog where we post our comments, points of view and ideas on the topic, and in my case it seemed pointless to start another blog so I will just publish those here (separated under the category UX & Prototyping).

So there’s the main idea: during this semester I will be observing and learning about Stine in order to create a game idea that will work optimally for her. I already have my own previous ideas about her so that is one good starting point, but at the same time I’ve already learned a few things that will make me give some thoughts to some game concepts here and there in order to make those work best.

Again, I will keep on posting here about these investigations. Looking forward to this!