Early UX Work for Indie Title | 2022

On the left side, overlapping the other content, is an anime style drawing of a dark skinned elf with long white hair, casting green rune-like magic from his hands. In the background is a screenshot from FigJam showing visualized data from survey results (ex. a purple circle with "65%+" inside, and "of participants mentioned COMBAT."
Time: 1-2 weeks, Nov 2022
Role: UX/UI Designer
Skills/Methods: Survey
Tools: FigJam, Google Forms


Perform user research to help with the early planning and development of the game.
  • Develop research questions
  • Write survey and disseminate it
  • Collect, review, and analyze results
  • Visually present results using FigJam


F.L.O. (or, Fantasy of the Last Originals) is a fantasy RPG fighting game in development by Plot Armor Studios.
Research Planning
Identifying the Problem Area
Sometimes, an idea in our heads can seem fully fleshed out until we begin to truly work on it.

Our Project Manager had been thinking about and working on early iterations of F.L.O. for awhile. He'd written a game design doc and shared it with the team. But during one of our team meetings, it quickly became clear that we needed to clarify the exact game mechanics.

We needed to figure out:
  • What would the "fun factor" be for this game?
  • And how could we determine it was the right idea?
A sketch showing what looks like a video meeting interface. The screen being shared shows items like "combat?" and "player motivation?", while a speech bubble from one of the meeting participants says "???"
My suggestion? Start with the players!
  • First, we needed to define who our target audience is.
  • Then, we could create survey questions to find out what this audience finds fun about games.
  • Finally, we'd use the survey data to develop player profiles to guide our decision-making.
A doodle. On the left, we see a simple representation of a large group of people, labeled "target audience." A looping arrow points from this to the next graphic: what looks like two cards with a depiction of a person and some mock text beneath them. The cards are labeled "person #1" and "persona #2." Beneath this graphic it says "Develop player profiles."
Choosing a UX Method
The type of information we wanted to find out was exploratory in nature, so I needed to use a qualitative research method. I decided to create a qualitative survey with open-ended questions.

In order to make my survey meaningful, I had to determine:
  • What information did we want to glean from players?
  • And how would we filter out participants?
Narrowing Down Participants
I performed an informal competitve analysis of F.L.O. with the help of the project manager & director.

We determined what kind of game F.L.O. would be, ideally, and which games would be considered direct competitors and inspiration.

We landed on three games:
First, an illustration from FLO with text: "What is FLO? Game Vision: A hack-and-slash, single player, adventure RPG in an original fantasy setting that combines deck-building with real-time combat."

Below this, we see images and titles for three games: Genshin Impact, Elden Ring, and Super Smash Bros Ultimate. Beneath each are notes about the games' characteristics, such as being an RPG or a fighting game, how difficult the game is, whether it has storytelling and character depth or not.
Now, I knew we could limit our survey participants to players who have enjoyed at least one of these games, up to all three.
Defining Research Objectives
We wanted to gather attitudinal information in three categories:
Three digital post it notes in FigJam, one yellow, one pink, one blue. The yellow note says: "General Attitude. What do you like most about this game? What do you like least?" The pink one says "Combat Experience. What is the best thing about this game's combat?" The blue one says "Story Experience. What is the best thing about this game's story? What is the worst?"
Player Survey
Writing the Survey
I lead the writing of the questions, with the project manager reviewing and requesting adjustments. I was mindful of avoiding conditioning the survey participants, i.e. asking leading questions.

For branding purposes, I customized the appearance of the survey and designed a banner image. Branding like this helps build trust and confidence with test participants.
A screenshot from the Google Forms survey, showing a custom designed banner image in the Plot Armor Team's green brand color and their logo.
For all 3 competitor games, we asked the same set of questions:
  • What are the top 3 reasons you enjoy playing [game]?
  • If not specified above, what are your top 3 favorite activities to do in [game], and why?
  • Is there anything you don't like about playing [game] (i.e. something that frustrates you)?
  • What do you like MOST about the combat in [game]?
  • What do you like LEAST about the combat in [game]?
  • If you could change anything about the combat in [game], what would you change?
  • What do you like MOST about the story in [game]?
  • What do you like LEAST about the story in [game]?
  • If you could change anything about the story in [game], what would you change?
Seeking Participants
To find participants, we announced the survey on Plot Armor Studios' social media channels and via Discord in relevant communities (such as Philly Game Mechanics.)

Resharing our Linkedin post to my profile proved effective in netting a larger audience.
Screenshot of a Linkedin post sharing the survey. We see a branded banner that states "Player Survey" and written content asking for participants.
We quickly hit 26 participants. I closed the survey out at that point, after confirming that we had several responses for each of the 3 competitor games.
Survey Results & Analysis
Making Sense of the Data
I combed through the data manually and created note cards in FigJam, organizing them by the game and question asked.

I reviewed the responses and color-coded the ones that had an emotional charge in yellow.
Screenshots from FigJam showing how Irene sorted note cards to make sense of survey responses. Certain responses are called out and magnified, such as "beat bosses for most direct sense of challenge and sense of accomplishment." A note on the side says "Finding Themes. Similar attitudes, emotions, and aspects of each game began to stand out."
Developing Player Personas
As I began synthesizing the survey results into intelligence, I simultaneously began to craft the player personas (aka user personas.)

I based the personas on two clear trends in the data that I saw, and referenced Bartle's Player Types as well as the BrainHex gamer typology study.
Screenshot from FigJam. A blue title card that says, "Player Personas." The text beneath it reads: "The survey results indicate that we have 2 main player types.  

Both profiles are equally important. We need to balance the desires of both player types to have a successful game. Remember: WE, the game devs, are NOT our target players. We will have opinions about the game too, but to be a commercial success, we must reflect back on our player profiles to make sure our game is aligned with what the PLAYERS want to buy and play."
Player Persona #1
FigJam screenshot. This shows the first player persona, called The Adventurer. This persona values story more than combat, likes some challenge but wants to keep it relaxing, and typically plays for just 1-2 hours at a time.
Player Persona #2
FigJam screenshot. This shows the first player persona, called The Warrior. This persona values high difficulty combat over the story. They delight in challenges, although they still want to see some lore and story in the game. They typically play 3-5 hours per day whenever their schedule allows for it.
Generating a UX Report
Finally, I completed a presentation in FigJam showing key UX insights. I visualized the data and findings whenever possible to keep it engaging and easy to browse for all team members.

It's quite a large report - but I'll share a closer look at the main sections below.

If you'd like to browse the report yourself, here's a copy!
A zoomed out screenshot of the full report in FigJam. A magnified section summarizes the key findings from the report. It says, "What does FLO need to make players happy?" The top findings involve deep, variable, and approachable combat; interesting characters, world-building and visuals, and solid UX/UI.
The first section shares ranked responses to the "What do you like/dislike about this game" question, along with suggestions.
A screenshot from the report. Here we see a ranked list of responses to "What are the top 3 reasons you enjoy this game?" We also see visualized data like a circle with 65%+ inside it, and alongside it "participants who mentioned combat."A magnified screenshot, showing a quote from a player. "I enjoy seeing new areas ... because it is quite stunning and immersive."This section is titled, "What do you find frustrating?" with another ranked list of responses. There are angry emojis at the top.This section shows recommendations and notes Irene added. A label for this screenshot says: "Whenever relevant, I made suggestions for how to address known pitfalls or opportunities."
I designed an Emotion Map diagram to show emotionally charged responses, sorting them by the intensity of the emotion.
Screenshot of the emotion map from the UX report. We see two large blocks, one filled with a light green to bright green gradient, the other with a light red to a bright red gradient. The left side (with the light colors) is labeled "Mild Emotion" while the right, brighter side is labeled "Strong Emotions." Inside these blocks are comments, arranged along the emotion map to correspond to whether the comment was positive (goes in the green section) or negative (goes in the red) and how strong the associated emotions were.Magnified snippets from the emotion map show examples of mild positive, strong positive, mild negative, and strong negative comments. The comment content is mainly about combat and story.
So, how was the report received? From the point of view of a UX Designer, pretty well! Just take it from this first response from the project manager in our Discord channel:
A screenshot from Discord. We see the project manager, Khenan, say: "Ayo Irene, this analysis is BOMB. This is gonna make me think quite a bit. With this I might have to change up our strategy, like a lot. Mostly in the form of priority adjustments."
As development on F.L.O. continues, this report and the player personas will provide an important heuristic to benchmark and steer the game's development.
IntroResearch PlanningSurveyResults AnalysisPlayer PersonasUX Report