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Why is Usability Crucial for a Good Gaming Experience?

Why is Usability Crucial for a Good Gaming Experience?

August 25, 2022
 by 
Rohan SinghRohan Singh
Rohan Singh

Introduction

Gaming is an activity enjoyed by both young and older people. According to Statista, in 2021, there were 3.24 billion gamers worldwide. People are playing games across different devices, such as consoles, mobile devices, and PCs. As gaming is getting very popular in the present world, game developers are testing their games to enhance the experience for users. Before the games are released in the market, developers test all functions of their games to identify bugs and errors, like invisible walls, missing textures, high loading times, sloppy net code, unbalanced weapons, map holes, deformed characters, and lethargic controls. Game app testing is very crucial in the game development process, as it ensures that users’ gaming experience is fun, seamless, and without unpleasant interruptions.

Graph representing the number of video gamers worldwide in 2021
Graph representing the number of video gamers worldwide in 2021

During the testing of a game, QA experts check and verify various aspects of the game. Usability plays an important role, as ease of use and optimal user experience are very critical for gamers. As per Accenture, more than half of gamers reported that they have also played cross-platform games. This makes the job of game testers even more challenging because now they have to ensure that the user experience is unique and consistent across all platforms and devices. Usability testing is one of the main testing processes used by QA experts in the gaming industry to benchmark the quality of user experience they provide and improve it. To design, run, and analyze usability testing of games, testers have to understand what usability means in the context of games. For this, game developers need to get all information related to user journeys, which is very different from user to user, as every user plays games differently. 

What is Usability in Gaming?

Usability is the metric used to measure how well a specific user in a particular context can use a product or design to achieve a defined goal effectively, efficiently, and satisfactorily. It is not a single, one-dimensional feature of a product or system. The usability of a product represents a combination of factors, including intuitive design, ease of learning, memorability, error frequency and severity, and subjective satisfaction. However, delivering the best user experience with fewer unnecessary interruptions and challenges is considered usability in the gaming industry.

Game developers perform usability testing to understand how easy their design is to use for a group of representative users. Generally, this type of testing involves observing users as they attempt to complete tasks, and it can be done for various kinds of designs. It is performed repeatedly, from early development until a product’s release.

Major Factors Leading to Poor Usability of Games

Gamers mostly prefer games that offer a lot of fun rather than errors and challenges due to bugs. Usability is crucial for gamers because it can support the gamers completing the task accurately, and they can play games in a pleasant mood rather than feeling stupid. From the game developers' point of view, usability is a vital factor in determining the success of their games. Poor usability can significantly reduce the popularity of a game. If users find the usability of the game to be low, they may consider not playing the game forever. Errors or complex challenges in user experience can make game users feel the quality of gaming experience is low. They may rate these kinds of poor experiences as annoying, as they are looking for fun. 

Some of the factors leading to the poor usability of games include:

1. Availability of Different Types of Games

In the gaming industry, various types of games are available, and the user journey of each game and player is very different. As every game is different from the other, errors and bugs related to usability for these games will also be different. For example, in games like Minecraft, as players have the freedom to explore the whole gaming space, errors associated with user journeys will be more; however, in the case of PUBG, where players verbally communicate with each other while playing the game, errors related to network issues are likely to be more. 

2. Compatibility and Performance of Various Gaming Devices

In terms of devices used by gamers, there are three types of devices in the market: high-end, mid-end, and low-end devices. As most gamers use low-end devices, gaming companies may face challenges in increasing the user experience of these devices. Battery drain and processing speeds are important factors that can affect the performance of gaming devices. Low-performing devices can also reduce the usability of the games. 

3. Less Engagement Time

User engagement is the main priority of game developers. However, if gamers don’t enjoy the usability of a game, they may switch to other games. Many gaming companies are struggling to increase their user engagement and session length. They need an effective testing solution to identify the reasons for less engagement.

4. Low Frame Rate Stability (FPS)

If a game’s FPS is low, it may affect its usability. Game developers have to test the FPS of their games to perfect the gaming experience. Gaming companies need a continuous testing solution to overcome this challenge.

How Does HeadSpin Help Game Developers Increase Usability?

HeadSpin offers a game testing platform that helps game developers enhance their games' usability by analyzing various KPIs, such as time-to-interaction, frame rate, app crashes, launch time, battery usage, audio and video MOS, and memory usage. With the HeadSpin gaming solution, game developers can measure and monitor network latency impacting gaming experiences and enhance the overall user experience to increase the usability of their games. 

Given are some of the features of the HeadSpin game testing platform that supports gaming companies to attain high usability for their games.

1. The Platform helps game testers measure gaming experiences across real user conditions, like real devices and consoles, carrier networks, locations, and localized contents. 

2. HeadSpin supports game developers in testing gaming experiences on multiple devices globally and maximizing the number of users without losing quality and performance.

3. With the HeadSpin Platform, testers can create, execute, and automate tests on real devices. Moreover, the Platform supports multiple frameworks used by game testers. 

4. HeadSpin's VMOS (Video Mean Opinion Score) experience ML model can support game developers in analyzing the video quality of their games. HeadSpin Video Quality MOS time series can help developers understand which metrics significantly impact their game's user experience.

5. KPI-based performance benchmarking and auto alert features of the HeadSpin Platform can enable gaming companies to enhance their user experience and gaming performance.

Usability Evaluation and Testing for Better Gaming Experience

Usability evaluation and testing is the method of studying users intentionally as they interact with the product. The usability evaluation focuses on understanding how users interact with the product and making updates based on the results of the testing. Game developers have to focus on offering games that are easy to navigate and complete tasks. If they face any difficulties in terms of user experience, they may choose to play games developed by the competitors. So, it is absolutely necessary for gaming companies to test the usability of their games to retain their users. The gaming companies with the best web design and development teams can even benefit from usability testing, as the tests will identify the trouble spots for users and the areas where they are getting stuck or confused. With this information, gaming companies can enhance user journeys and improve the engagement time of their users. 

With the gaming industry rapidly evolving, continuous usability evaluation has become a necessity. It is a very flexible method, and it can be performed at almost any point of game development. With this type of testing, gaming companies can offer a better user experience by identifying all possible challenges that a user would face while playing and fixing them before the game release. With the help of usability testing, gaming companies can analyze the user experience of their games on various devices, like low-end, mid-end, and high-end devices. As a lot of gaming companies depend on users using low-end devices, they need to ensure that these users are getting the best gaming experience through their devices. Even companies developing cross-platform games can perform usability evaluation and testing to enhance and standardize the user experience of their games on all platforms.

How Does HeadSpin Helps Gaming Companies Perform Usability Testing Effectively?

By enabling gaming companies to scale and meet demands, handle peak loads, and efficiently store, manage, and retrieve a massive volume of player information, statistics, and rankings, HeadSpin supports them in achieving better user experience and revenue maximization. 

Here are some examples of how HeadSpin helped global gaming companies achieve high usability and a better gaming experience.

Example 1

An American gaming company that offers consoles, games, and online services was trying to set up performance clusters to evaluate games and applications on their cloud platform. As the company lacked the capabilities of video QoE evaluation and faced the problem of QA teams being located in various parts of the world, it requested HeadSpin’s support on this project. HeadSpin deployed its Enterprise Cloud with 40 dedicated devices to set up the performance clusters for supporting the company. With the HeadSpin gaming solution, the company performed video QoE evaluation for its game streams using HS Video MOS, which allowed a device-independent analysis. 

Example 2

By providing end-to-end automation, HeadSpin helped a Japanese gaming company to reduce the time to market for its new features by 75%. With HeadSpin’s support, the company also increased its engineering velocity and ensured an exceptional end-user experience.

Example 3 

With global device infrastructure, HeadSpin helped a US-based social gaming company to improve the user experience for low-end devices, which was crucial for the company in the Asian market. With HeadSpin’s solutions, the company identified various factors for the battery drain and improved the overall playtime of users using low-end devices.

HeadSpin’s Role in Usability Testing of Games in 5G Network

To solve usability challenges faced by the gaming companies in the 5G era, HeadSpin is part of a project involving a network giant, an edge compute provider, and game developers. As part of this project, HeadSpin will enable game developers to test the user experience of their games in the 5G environment running through edge computing. Through the HeadSpin Platform, all three partners of this project can analyze real user experience metrics and get insights regarding the performance of their applications.

Conclusion

According to Statista, the global gaming market value is expected to grow strongly and reach USD 268.8 billion in 2025. With the development of the gaming industry, developers have realized that the focus on a player-centric development process and continuous evaluation and testing can create a better user experience and more robust user engagement. Continuous usability evaluation and testing will help game developers better understand gamers’ user journeys and enhance the features of their games to retain customers and offer a better digital experience.

Graph showing the global video game market value during 2020-2025
Graph showing the global video game market value during 2020-2025

With the game testing platform, HeadSpin enables game developers to test user experiences and ensure faster release cycles. For games ranging from social games to high-end device games, HeadSpin’s gaming solution is the perfect testing solution for measuring the usability of games across real user conditions.

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FAQs

1. Can you perform multi-player testing using the HeadSpin gaming solution?

Ans: Yes. The HeadSpin gaming solution enables multi-player testing. With the help of global device infrastructure, game developers can start a testing session with multiple players and record the session. 

2. What is combinatorial testing?

Ans: Combinatorial testing is a black-box test design technique used to test gaming applications. In combinatorial testing, test cases are created to execute all possible discrete combinations of each pair of input parameters.

3. Can you measure the performance of in-game advertising campaigns with the HeadSpin gaming solution?

Ans: Yes. With the HeadSpin Platform, game developers can create test sessions to analyze the performance of ads running in the games.

4. What is playtesting?

Ans: Playtesting is a QA process used at many points during game development. A group of users plays developmental versions of a game to identify flaws in gameplay, level design, and other fundamental elements and discover and resolve bugs and glitches. The process also involves clarifying the vague points, adding fun elements or reducing boredom, and balancing the victory situations.

Why is Usability Crucial for a Good Gaming Experience?

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