Comparing Game User Research Methodologies for the Improvement of Level Design in a 2-D Platformer

  • Marcello Andres Gómez Maureira
  • Dirk P. Janssen
  • Stefano Gualeni
  • Michelle Westerlaken
  • Licia Calvi
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8253)


In this paper we compare the effects of using three game user research methodologies to assist in shaping levels for a 2-D platformer game, and illustrate how the use of such methodologies can help level designers to make more informed decisions in an otherwise qualitative oriented design process. Game user interviews, game metrics and psychophysiology (biometrics) were combined in pairs to gauge usefulness in small-scale commercial game development scenarios such as the casual game industry. Based on the recommendations made by the methods, three sample levels of a Super Mario clone were improved and the opinions of a second sample of users indicated the success of these changes. We conclude that user interviews provide the clearest indications for improvement among the considered methodologies while metrics and biometrics add different types of information that cannot be obtained otherwise.


Games Games User Research Quality Assurance User Testing Level Design Platformer Game Industry Casual Games Combined Methodologies Biometrics Physiological Measures 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Ernkvist, M.: Down many times, but still playing the game: Creative destruction and industry crashes in the early video game industry 1971-1986. History of Insolvency and Bankruptcy, 161 (2008)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Wesley, D., Barczak, G.: Innovation and Marketing in the Video Game Industry: Avoiding the Performance Trap. Gower Publishing, Ltd. (2012)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Sheff, D.: Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children. Diane Publishing Company (1993)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Seif El-Nasr, M., Drachen, A., Canossa, A.: Introduction. In: Seif El-Nasr, M., Drachen, A., Canossa, A. (eds.) Game Analytics, pp. 3–13. Springer, London (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Gualeni, S., Janssen, D., Calvi, L.: How psychophysiology can aid the design process of casual games: A tale of stress, facial muscles, and paper beasts. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games, pp. 149–155. ACM (2012)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Mirza-Babaei, P., Nacke, L.E., Gregory, J., Collins, N., Fitzpatrick, G.: How does it play better? exploring user testing and biometric storyboards in games user research (2013)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Drachen, A., Canossa, A.: Analyzing user behavior via gameplay metrics. In: Proceedings of the 2009 Conference on Future Play on GDC Canada, pp. 19–20. ACM (2009)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Nacke, L.E.: An introduction to physiological player metrics for evaluating games. In: Seif El-Nasr, M., Drachen, A., Canossa, A. (eds.) Game Analytics, pp. 585–621. Springer, London (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Canossa, A.: Interview with nicholas francis and thomas hagen from unity technologies. In: Seif El-Nasr, M., Drachen, A., Canossa, A. (eds.) Game Analytics, pp. 137–143. Springer, London (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ambinder, M.: Valves approach to playtesting: The application of empiricism. In: Game Developer’s Conference (2009)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Zammitto, V., Seif El-Nasr, M.: User experience research for sports games. Presented at GDC Summit on Games User ResearchGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Seif El-Nasr, M., Desurvire, H., Nacke, L., Drachen, A., Calvi, L., Isbister, K., Bernhaupt, R.: Game user research. In: Proceedings of the 2012 ACM Annual Conference Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts, pp. 2679–2682. ACM (2012)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Mirza-Babaei, P., Long, S., Foley, E., McAllister, G.: Understanding the contribution of biometrics to games user research. In: Proc. DIGRA (2011)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Cacioppo, J.T., Tassinary, L.G., Berntson, G. (eds.): Handbook of Psychophysiology, 3rd edn. Cambridge University Press (2007)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Singleton, R.A., Straits, B.C.: Approaches to Social Research, vol. 4. Oxford University Press, New York (2005)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Mandryk, R.L., Atkins, M.S.: A fuzzy physiological approach for continuously modeling emotion during interaction with play technologies. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 65(4), 329–347 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Maureira, M.G.: Supertux a song of ice and metrics: Comparing metrics, biometrics and classic methodologies for improving level design. Master’s thesis, NHTV University of Applied Sciences, Breda, the Netherlands (February 2013)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    IJsselsteijn, W., de Kort, Y., Poels, K., Jurgelionis, A., Bellotti, F.: Characterising and measuring user experiences in digital games. In: International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology, vol. 2, p. 27 (2007)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Nacke, L.: Affective ludology: Scientific measurement of user experience in interactive entertainment (2009)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcello Andres Gómez Maureira
    • 1
  • Dirk P. Janssen
    • 1
  • Stefano Gualeni
    • 1
  • Michelle Westerlaken
    • 1
  • Licia Calvi
    • 1
  1. 1.NHTV University of Applied SciencesBredaThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations