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Fun Meters for Games Nicole Lazzaro, President XEODesign ® Larry Mellon, System Architect Emergent Game Technologies AGC Oct 28, 2005 Measure Fun Pulled Pork Sandwiches: Yum! (But Why?) Structured observations of the people - Smiling? Savoring? - Structured questionnaires ?

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Fun meters for games l.jpg

Fun Meters for Games

Nicole Lazzaro, President


Larry Mellon, System Architect

Emergent Game Technologies

AGC Oct 28, 2005

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Pulled Pork Sandwiches: Yum! (But Why?)

Structured observations of the people

- Smiling? Savoring?

- Structured questionnaires


Insertion of probes into the sandwich

- Temperature? Sauce balance?

- Sandwich mods?

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Fun meter requirements

  • Multiple data sources

  • Repeatable & validity

  • Game & player variance

What could you use it for?

  • Pre-ship evaluation

  • Early evaluation of game play

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Larry Mellon

Nicole Lazzaro

  • CTO: Emergent Game Technologies

  • 20+ years of tools and engines for distributed systems & supercomputers

  • Jade, EA, DARPA, …

  • Parallel simulation & virtual worlds

  • Automated testing & metrics in games

  • Recent Play: Go

  • President and Founder XEODesign

  • 15 years of design and research player experiences

  • Sony, EA, LeapFrog, Sega, Ubisoft, PlayFirst

  • Cognitive Psychology Stanford

  • Recent Play: Tombstone Hold ‘em

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Next-gen: I get the graphics, but where’s the game?



Visual effects


game play

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Blocking IssueIn next-gen games, how much innovation will be fundable?

Cost & Risk


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Next Gen Games

  • Increased Complexity

  • Increased Complexity of Analysis

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Next Gen Games

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  • Mobile

    Off-Computer Play

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Next-gen gambling: roll dem bones!



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Blocking IssueBig games are hard to change at the last minute!




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2. Fun Meters Today

  • We can measure aspects that contribute to fun today

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Probes showed us how players interacted with each other: socialization more important to players than dancing

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The house categories mini-game just wasn’t rewarding enough to players: a game “dead spot”


House Categories (Beta Test)

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Fun Meter

  • "Where is the fun in that?" – Bruce Shelly

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Knowing in Time

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4 Flavors of Fun

The 4 Keys “The Ride”

Easy Fun:

Filling Attention

Hard Fun:

Challenge & Mastery

Altered States:

Change Internal Sensations

The People Factor:

Social Mechanism

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4 Flavors of Fun

The 4 Keys “The Ride”

Easy Fun:

Filling Attention

Surprise & Curiosity

Hard Fun:

Challenge & Mastery

Frustration & Fiero

Altered States:

Change Internal Sensations

Excite & Relax

The People Factor:

Social Mechanism

Shadenfreude & Naches

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Hard Fun - Fiero

  • Personal Triumph Over Adversity

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My Fun Meter Read Out

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Some Players

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Other Players

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LeapFrog’s FLY Pentop

Player Prototypes

and Field Studies

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Fun Meter

  • "Pace is everything.  User attention is the game." – Mark Terrano

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3. Fun Meter Challenge

More than 20 aspects to measure fun

Larry & Nicole have a bet

  • Left and Right sides compete

  • Winner gets a duck!

  • List posted w/slides

    260 ideas/hour = 4.3/min (21.5 / 5 mins)

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What to Measure

  • Pace

  • Exploits

  • Rewards

  • Power Ups

  • Score Jumps

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Fun Meter Challenge

Take Away

  • Lots of Aspects Effect Fun

  • Each Needs a Meter

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4. Sources of Data

  • Every Meter Needs a Data Source

  • Data Relates to the Question

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Section 4.

Data extraction is always tricky…


(asking players)


(observing players)

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Fun Meters

  • “Are people around the company  (e.g. non-testers) playing?” – Steve Meretzky

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Gathering Opinions


Focus Group


Beta/QA Testing

Lots of noise

Cheap to implement

Requires player to interpret events

Indirect Measures

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Indirect Measures

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Indirect Measures

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Many People Playing Game

Bugs and Exploits

Easy to Set Up

Forgive Artifacts

Fill in What’s Missing

Rapid Iteration


Professional TestersBug Focus vs. Fun

Player Filters Data

Not Target Market

Seen Earlier Versions

Group Think

Beta/QA Testing

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The Vocal Minority

  • Type of play they expect?



Love It!

Hate It!

  • On Line Surveys

  • Post Play Surveys

  • Beta/QA Testing

  • Forums/Chat

  • Focus Groups

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Generating Ideas


Ø Behavior

Group Think

Opinion Leader


Post Play

Watch not Play

Focus Group

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Meta Critic

  • Automated

  • Opinions of Play


  • Reviews “Weighted”

  • Comes too Late

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How Many Play w/Their Partner?


Ø Behavior


Question Bias

Online Surveys

Daedalus Project, Nick Yee

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Nifty Charts

Measure Existing Ideas with Accuracy


Low Cost per Respondent


Self Select

Ø Behavior


Mostly Quantitative

Find What Ask For

Bias in Questions

On Line Surveys

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Fun Meter

  • “We didn't have the techniques then that you are creating now to measure where the person was, and instead looked at progress vs. time or survey results after playing to try to determine where the person was at.” – Jeff Pobst

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Data Probes

Behavior Based Data

Requires Expert Interpreter

Tell us things that the user can’t tell us.

Direct Measures

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Observe Player

  • XEOAnalysis

  • Usability

    • Un-fun

  • Player Experiences

  • Emotions & Drivers

    • 4 Flavors of Fun

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SWG Fun Btn

Usability: Remove Un-Fun (51UI)

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Frustration w/o Fiero

  • [Fiero flowchart w/hard and easy fun]

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Behavior Data

Directly Observe Player, Game, Context

What and Why

Explore New Ideas

Less Up-Front Bias

Paper or Electronic


More Effort to Collect Data and Analyze



Trained Observer

Observe Player Experience

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Context - Last Call Poker

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Observe Players Early

Paper Fun Meters

  • New Roles for NPCs

  • Wire Frame UIs

  • Paper Prototype

  • Play Test the Fun

  • Automate Data Collection w/ Consumables or Tokens

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Fun Meter

  • “There's a core rule, a way to interact, and then tuning, an adjustment to see if it is ‘gripping and attractive’ or is it a ‘drag on the experience’?” - Hal Barwood

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Tuning imbalances can throw your entire economy out of kilter (killing fun), but remember to triangulate!

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More tuning imbalances: visitor bonus did not provide enough incentive to attract other players to your home, lowering in-game social connections

Economy: Detailed View

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Play styles vary wildly across player types: hardcore players will go to great lengths for a minor cash advantage

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Looking at what people spend their in-game money on gives you clues into what entertains them


4 of top 5: windows??

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Player & game actions

Minute 1

open door

cook food

Minute 2

fire breaks out

Rate of





Name of sound

Correlated data is much more valuable than single-source data





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Measurement techniques:probes embedded in the game

  • Strengths

    • Concrete, accurate metrics

    • Easy, fast, automated

  • Limits

    • Does not directly measure fun at all, only things that indirectly impact fun

    • Limited insight into player motivations

  • Best uses

    • Hot spot / dead spot analysis, tuning feedback

    • Understanding the true actions of your players

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Future Fun Meters

New Data Sources

  • Biometrics

  • Eye Tracking

  • GSR

  • Facial Tracking

  • FMRI

Vittorio Gallese, 2004

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Knowing When

  • Player Testing & Reviews

  • Data Probes

  • Observation and Prototyping Play

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We need more than better visuals in next-gen games

  • Visual impact eventually tapers off

  • And who can afford it?

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Breakout games – games that establish a new genre – have innovative gameplay

  • Populous

  • Pac Man

  • Doom

  • The Sims

  • Habitat

  • Grand Theft Auto

  • Katamari Damacy


What new types of gameplay will open up new genres in next-gen?

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Play test

Cost / Risk



game play

Measured innovation, early in the design cycle, is a way to break out of the box




Pac man


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Fun meters of the future: unite!

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