A massive effort from start to finish.
After years of development on the whole world rendering engine VBS Blue, military planning and execution tool VBS Plan and terrain editing tool VBS Geo, April 2019 marked the start of unifying all these tools to form a brand new perfect military training product – VBS4.
VBS4 provides a comprehensive virtual desktop military training environment with whole-earth rendering for tactical training, experimentation, and mission rehearsal, and performs as a powerful simulation host. Using real-time Geo data, the new engine allows combat training anywhere on the planet, improving the whole experience over VBS3 with better graphics, and a more sophisticated user flow. You can reach the game’s website here, and see the trailer below.
Genre: Military Simulation / FPS / TPS
Engine: VBS4 Engine
Team Size: 9
Duration: March 2019 – December 2019
Roles and responsibilities:
Gameplay & Technical design:
Being a part of the VBS4 I/ITSEC 2019 release, I worked on the technical design and implementation of gameplay related features and performance optimizations using SQF and C++;
- Designing levels and missions to showcase features and performance (Loading times and FPS).
- Enabling and implementing VBS3 features to work with the new engine.
- Designed a performance reporting system to showcase performance improvements to senior stakeholders.
- Improvements on the VBS Editor and after action review for better usability in VBS4.
- Scripted gameplay events for the promotional video content.
UX design and UI implementation:
Being a part of the VBS4 I/ITSEC 2019 and 20.1 release, I worked on the UX design and UI development of the main menu, lead the UX design on the settings menu, and worked on the multiplayer user flow using Angular, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe XD and C++;
- Helped design the battlespace concept for the main menu, that allows level designers to edit terrains, choose mission locations, and plan out their mission within a single workflow. (Geo – Plan – Edit)
- UX design and the UI implementation of the globe navigation tools.
- UI Implementation of the main menu.
- Lead the full effort on the UX research and design, user testing, and the implementation of the settings menu.
- Design and implementation of the player flow to join battlespaces for multiplayer missions.
- Design and implementation of the level/mission designer flow to execute the designed missions, and to control the combat scenario for multiplayer missions.
The Design Post Mortem
Being a part of the AAA development pipeline has always been a dream. So spending about 10 months day and night and being a part of the first release of this massive project has been both consuming and teaching. Also, naturally, a proud achievement.
What’s my take on it? Well to start with, chaos is your enemy. However it’s unavoidable when so many teams and developers are involved in such a big effort. Especially when there is a strict deadline. The process of going into the project thinking “there is no way we can finish this” that slowly transitions to “we may just pull this off” can be enlightening. But It can also lead to a disappointing realization of “the development never finishes, not even after a release, unless you have unlimited funding and can set your own deadlines”. Talking to a senior game designer friend right after the release, I also realized that:
- The dreams you may or may not have about how your feature ideally should look and play rarely become the reality, since there is always so much to do and fix. Iteration is the key.
- There may never be enough time to perfectly polish a game, unless you want the company to go bankrupt not releasing anything. If you do have the time for a great polish however, use it wisely.
- You should take pride in what you achieved, not get stuck on what you couldn’t finish.
- As a game designer, you’re trying to reach and design for people from many different backgrounds that have different feelings and preferences, so designing for one person’s preferences can lead to a limited and inaccessible design. Learn how to filter the feedback and compromise, even with yourself sometimes. Jesse Schell calls this “the lens of accessibility”.
Ironically, my friend called these realizations “the natural transition of gaining experience in a large game development environment”.
Finally, as a part of the UX design process, I understood the importance of doing UX research and I can’t emphasize the value of this enough. Not just for inspiration, but going through other games, apps, desktop software or websites, I realized the importance of having a consistent user flow throughout the game, and how the visual design of the UI and the user journey can and should always serve each other.
A good UI is intuitive, but a great one doesn’t even give you a chance to think about what to do next. It all comes to you naturally. With great games that utilize great UI, you quite often find yourself not thinking about the interface at all. If the player/user is thinking “I guess I should do this next?” something probably went wrong somewhere.
VBS4 is available now, with a new release planned for 2021.
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