This page describes a workshop I ran in the fall of 2017. The purpose of the workshop was first, to show how fans changed a character creation interface. The second objective was introducing, applying, and analyzing the scholarship of Victoria McCarthur. McCarthur believes in the combination of UX methods with video games. In order to test this, I compared to interfaces with a class of information architecture students.
I will compare the Character Creation Interface (CCI) of Skyrim with the fans’ unofficial alternative. Modifying, or “modding”, is fan made content that adds to or alters a video game. For the most part these ‘mods’ are accessible only on PCs. These specific mods alter the user experience of the game by adding and changing character creation options.
Project 3 – Workshop Details
The Avatar Affordances Framework (AAF) was created in 2015. It is a guideline for judging the UX of character creation pages. Two years later one of the creators argued for the use of UX methods in video games. Throughout this workshop I will test how mods affected the Skyrim CCI. The method I will use is a goal oriented talk-through with my classmates.
Skyrim is the fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series. It boasts one of the most dedicated fan communities in all of gaming. 6 years after the game was released the community is still active and thriving. This is mostly due to the practice called “Modding”. Modding consists of altering game mechanics, textures (visuals), or even quest lines (goals, objectives, narrative). All of which offer endless chances for alteration. Some of these mods add humorous elements, some offer fixes for bugs in the game, some are simply absurd. Many mods obscure the original aesthetics such that the game may become unrecognizable with a few clicks. This ability invites fans to create whatever they can imagine, so long as the game software can handle it.
One memorable mod is one that completely alters the Character Creation Interface. The original CCI is an unthrilling CCI with modest allowances (fine by 2011 standards). It has been upgraded by fans to a CCI with more choices than could ever be used. To show what I mean I now invite the class to begin the exercise listed below.
- Did every participant feel as though they could represent themselves in the game?
- Does this mean realistic or a fantasy version of themselves?
- Did the CCI hierarchy change between the two interfaces?
- Do CCIs with more affordances rely on previous game knowledge or experience?
- Did either feel inherently better to work with?
The main objective of this workshop is to explore the user experience of the CCI in a very popular RPG Video Game and the differences afforded by participatory alterations by the community. This is meant to serve as a real time application followed by a group discussion of McArthurs work to see if there are fruitful results as she suggested.
Outline of Workshop:
Designed for a maximum of 10 participants.
- My PC, Skyrim purchased through Steam
- Mods: “Enhanced Character Edit” by ECE Team and “Race Menu” by Expired
- XBOX with Skyrim Disc
- Carl from Pixar’s Up
- Ariel from The Little Mermaid
- Esmerelda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- Kuzko from The Emperor’s New Groove
- Shrek from Shrek
- Storm from X Men
- :00 Spend 5 minutes introducing Victoria McArthur, CCIs, and the AAF (with special focus on the functions). Link to presentation.
- :05 Break off into 2 groups of 3-4 and play with both ‘Vanilla’ Skyrim and Modded Skyrim.
- TAKE A PICTURE OF YOUR CREATION!
- :15 Switch groups – those who used Vanilla Skyrim switch to the modded version, and vise versa.
- TAKE A PICTURE AGAIN!
- :25 Introduce discussion questions which compare the two groups’ experiences (Google Doc).
- Was it easier moving from one to another? (Vanilla to modded for example?)
- How did you feel about your character in either?
Compare the two CCIs using the avatar affordances framework:
Function → “the purpose(s) for the interface widget (e.g., select hairstyle, etc.)” (McArthur et al, 233)
Behaviour → “attributes derivable from the widget (e.g., choose 1 of n options, etc.).” (233)
Structure → “a technical description of the interface widget (e.g., slider, button, etc.).” (233)
Identifier → “what text and/or icons are used to convey the widget’s purpose? (e.g., text: select a gender).” (233)
Hierarchy → “a numerical value indicating a widget’s position in relation to the customization section of a hierarchical interface. For example, a hierarchy value of “2” indicates that the widget is part of a sub-section, while a hierarchy value of “0” indicates that it exists outside the customization section.” (233)
Default → “indicates whether the widget consistently defaults to a particular selection, i.e., they always present a particular configuration upon starting to create a new avatar. Where possible, additional qualifiers are added to indicate what the default value is (e.g., skin colour: white).” (234)