IGT wanted to stand out from competition by exploring AR/VR environments and offering players unique gaming experience. With over $300M yearly R&D budget, the business strives to appeal towards millennial market, as primarily older generation based target audience is shrinking.
Retaining old players and attracting new ones by providing innovative ways to play.
Experienced players are bored of unchanging game mechanics. Meanwhile, new generation of players find web based gaming content unappealing.
POC for AR driven portal that can be ported to VR environment. Business buy-in was not achieved after experiment completion due to poor UX as a result of technical limits.
Project plan and responsibilities overview
Consisted of: one product manager/UX designer, a product designer and a full-stack developer.
Product management and UX design.
LEAN UX/Agile Prototype Development: a two week experimental sprint.
3 days - discovery and ideation, 2 days - visual design, 4 days - prototype development, 1 day - validation and evaluation.
We've started by researching the existing market to find out current state of competition as well as possible technology. After several user interviews with existing users (experienced and new to gaming) we outlined key human problems: 1. Experienced players are bored of unchanging game mechanics. 2. New generation of players find web based gaming content unappealing.
We knew that experimental medium is going to be mixed reality solution, as users, especially millennial generation finds VR a hype inducing keyword.
One of the biggest technical challenges was figuring out how existing IGT content and games would translate into the new medium. First into LEAP, and then into Virtual Reality if POC is successful.
To outline user needs we decided to reuse existing user personas and tailor POC scenarios around it, as for initial phase gaming portal should contain same functionality and enable users to perform same tasks. However, using different input (LEAP Motion).
Out of hundreds of ideas, together with subject matter experts and stakeholders we prioritised and narrowed down those that could be achieved in limited amount of time (within one sprint).
Prioritisation workshop helped us to scope minimal effective set of features. These included ideas that would in the end provide with high impact and value on both business and customer.
To shorten the learning curve for our archetypical user we decided to narrow gestures down to four basics:
The latter proved to be one of major headaches, since we had to figure a few behavioural parameters to come with it. In particular, what should be the visual feedback on hold, movement and 'click' detection? In the end, we chose to experiment with a pattern familiar to the VR and gaming world - a loading circle, that would count as a ‘click’ once it’s filled up:
Based on these principles we converted the initial interactive wireframe set to a high fidelity demo. This was enough to perform peer reviews and internal testing sessions, trying to get high-level feedback from product stakeholders.
The interface was inspired not only by LEAP/VR guidelines, but also simplicity that can be ported to virtual reality environments. The interactive hotspots, smaller non-interactive data bits and the feedback that the user receives with every movement makes it versatile enough to fit those mediums.
As the functionality was limited in these early-stage wireframes, the team's visual designer produced a graphical representation that would fit IGT’s visual identity, as well as provide enough depth for a 3D space.
Once the prototypes have been successfully validated with SMEs and stakeholders, the designs were taken to POC front-end development. The developers hacked existing LEAP APIs in order to produce high performance demonstrator.
We performed several user testing sessions, where we tested usability, interaction patterns and the overall look and feel of the POC. Users were introduced to the product briefly, but we didn’t explain how they could interact with it. They were free to learn and explore.
1st part of user feedback can be summed up in following points:
Users were able to interact with the interface with minimal learning curve.
UI patterns were easy to understand and their behaviour was captured quickly once the dynamic pointer was presented on top of interactive hotspots.
Users perceived design as "playful", "slick" and "modern".
Because of technical difficulties and the delay in essential feedback the users got eventually frustrated (see video demo).
Even if crafted ideally from UI and motion graphic standpoint had less than a second delay, which added a feeling of constant disruptions to the motion capturing sensor.
LEAP sensor captured multiple fingers moving and would mistake which finger is the primary one. This resulted in mixed behaviour on the screen.
All users were confused about the safe range of interaction with a portal: getting too close or too far from the screen would cause them to lose connection.
Portal adaptation into a VR enabled digital product proved to be much more complicated than expected. Adapting a brand new input type, which tends to confuse people at first, was one of the key elements in making this proof of concept just a little bit short of reaching the required business goals.
We understood that, having no control over hardware and some of its core APIs, we couldn’t improve the portal further. The buy-in from business to proceed with this case and develop it further into a full VR experience was out of the picture.
With minimal budget spending our team ended up learning a lot. UX specialists familiarised themselves with new heuristics and interaction patterns without haptic or tactile feedback, meanwhile developers had to explore the intricacies of LEAP motion detection. On top of that we all had to speculate on how the experience would be built and perceived by the end user once ported into virtual reality.
What is clear that simply porting existing portals to new mediums is not sufficient. The AR/VR portal would need to be built in Unity and or other VR specific frameworks.