Built for massive realistic military training, VBS Radio Pro enables radio and direct communication among players while training with VBS3 and VBS4.
The feature comes with an easy setup admin panel that allows the level designers using VBS products to create communication channels with specific frequencies, direct talk for players in close vicinity of each other, realistic degradation, voice cutoff for direct talk based on gameplay, and specific admin features for training officials to control the simulation through voice channels with easy access.
Announced in 2018, VBS Radio Pro went through several releases to reach to it’s latest form today. You can find the promotional page for the feature here.
Genre: Military Simulation / FPS / TPS
Engine: VBS3 / VBS4 Engine
Team Size: 8
Duration: February 2019 – September 2019 (I left the team in May 2019 to join the VBS4 team)
Roles and responsibilities:
Being a part of the VBS3 releases 18.3.4 and 19.1, I worked on the technical design and implementation of VBS Radio Pro’s gameplay related features using SQF and C++;
- Assigning the correct channels and frequencies to players, enemy units, spectators and combat vehicles.
- Voice degradation based on the distance between 2 players, and direct talk for players close to each other.
- Voice cutoff of the direct talk depending on if a player is inside or outside of a vehicle.
- Enabling admin controls for players assigned as level admins, so they can access all channels and use direct talk with all players to make announcements, and make real time changes on the channel permissions.
- Assigning the right channels and permissions for dead players who are re-spawned into combat, or spawned inside vehicles with specific communication channels.
UX design and UI implementation:
Being a part of the VBS3 releases 19.1 and 19.1.3, I worked on the UX design and UI development of the feature using Angular and C++;
- Reworked the admin flow that’s used during the mission/level setup, designing 2 separate flows for 2 different use cases with the rest of the team. (simple mode, advanced mode)
- The new styling of the UI panels that are used both during mission/level setup and in-game.
- Design of the new in-game admin flow for communication with the rest of the team. (Announcements, talk to trainee, re-assign channels, block/mute channels)
- Design of the player flow, the UI controls of the radio channels/frequency, push to talk and channel monitoring features with the rest of the team.
- Application of different voice degradation effects on specific channels or players using the in-game UI.
The Design Post Mortem
Much more complex than it looks, the internal team motto for VBS Radio for us was “Can you hear me? How about now? And now?“.
As a designer, it was my first time using a 3rd party plugin used inside the engine, and it allowed me to understand and work with external API calls. Using the Pitch Technologies plugin, as a part of technical design we had to understand the strengths and limitations of the module, and make the very best of the available technology.
When it comes to UX design, it allowed me to understand how complex flows can be simplified. Just like any other gameplay feature, a UI heavy feature relies on the show and teach – give a chance to try – let them master the loop approach to ease the players in. It can get challenging for the user to follow what’s happening, and especially for an admin trying to set up the voice communication for 200 players, it can get intimidating.
However, the approach of A/B testing, getting continuous feedback from people trying the feature, and re-iterating multiple times to get the best design possible always helped. During several play tests, we had a chance to observe how people reacted to the new UI, and how long it took them to setup a level with minimal help. In the end, getting to the final result of having a simplified workflow for fast results, and having an advanced workflow for heavy users helped us refine the UX design to it’s best state.
I’ve also realized that both as a gamer and as a designer, how we take a lot of the non-flashy features inside games for granted. Having played multiple online shooters for years, I had never stopped for a moment to think about the communication systems we used inside games, or how a very simple UI when designed well can improve the whole experience. We tend to focus on the graphics, sound, gameplay mechanics and/or story yet we never really think about what unifies the experience as a whole for the player.
So in the end, as challenging as it was, I can honestly say that VBS Radio opened my eyes to how much dedicated work actually goes into games, with a lot of features invisible to the naked eye that makes it all possible.
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