Blending UR in the Design Cycle to Maximize Impact

Most user researchers are striving to have impact on the games they work on.
However, we often encounter situations in which we see little impact on the study we lead, even when our stakeholders agree on the issues identified. In most cases, it is due to the fact that we get involved when the content is “ready” to be tested, A.K.A when most of the work is done, and when changes are the most costly. You often hear “test early, test often”, but most of us still experience difficulty to move away from a model in which we mostly intervene when production is significantly underway.

But what if we were the one to paint ourselves in a corner, with most of our tools & methods geared toward evaluating a polished experience? What if our tendency to act as the evaluator and as a “grading” mechanism inherently put distance between the ones we are trying to help and ourselves? We even sometimes observe effect of “UR burnout”, where teams or designers temporarily lock us out of the design process to preserve their creative freedom, even though they value our services & expect us to provide feedback later down the road.

This creates a negative loop where our expertise is not optimally used and our resources pooled where we have the least impact i.e, the end of the design & production cycle.

Our experience on R6 shows that by focusing on blending in the iteration process more closely, by offering flexibility and striving to a great understanding of the design, we are able to mitigate those issues & achieve a great deal of proximity with the design at every steps – which ends up making our more “classic studies” that much more effective.
From intermediary prototype play sessions where we, as researchers, define the test objectives based on the need of the design team, to being two third of the balancing team for post-launch reworks, we positioned ourselves outside of the traditional “User test – wait a bit – user test again” structure. In a lot of instances, we were able to leverage our GUR Skills well outside of the traditional scope of user test.

This has given us insight on how we can better leverage the UR skillset through the full design process, rather than pooling our resources on the completed design. I believe this to be the key to achieving greater impact as a discipline through owning as much as possible of the feedback loop, rather than the “ready to help when you are ready” mentality. But, more than anything, this talk aims to discuss the evolution on the way we envision Research, and the necessary mindset shift required to achieve greater impact.

  • Category: Talk
Julien Huguenin

Julien started working as a researcher at Ubisoft in 2011, after studying game design in France. There, he assumed a variety of positions, from Research moderator to Team lead. In 2017, he moved to Ubisoft Montréal to be the User Research Project Manager on Rainbow 6: Siege. He likes complicated games, being smug about French food, and standing still 2 minutes and a half – just to get that one-tap, nice & clean headshot from 30 meters away.