DuOS is a 2D puzzle platformer that takes place in a computer-esque world. It revolves around two robots, PLAT and MIA, as they navigate through a scrapyard, evade patrols, and escape the grips of destruction. Along their journey, they will encounter a number of interesting characters. However, are these characters friends or are they foes?
DuOS was developed in the Unity game engine and is targeted toward players who have prior experience with puzzle games.
It was Thomas Lu (Lead Designer & Engineer) and Greg Chen’s (Art Director) joint thesis project and was developed from fall 2016 through spring 2017. I volunteered as a puzzle designer and usability researcher during its development.
Designing Timed Puzzles
As a puzzle designer, me and the rest of the design team strived to create a sense of flow as the player progressed through the levels. Juggling two characters can be challenging for some, and therefore we had to make sure each timer was appropriately placed so that completing the puzzle was not deemed impossible.
During each meeting, the other designers and I would first draft the puzzles out on the white board. Once satisfied with the drafted design, one of us would volunteer to implement it into Unity. Implementation of puzzles was quick since we each had prior experience with the program and the necessary prefabs already defined in the project. After that we would test the puzzle ourselves and make adjustments accordingly.
Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation
As the usability researcher on the team, I lead a Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE) test to help improve the usability of the project. During this test, data was collected from a total of fourteen playtests over a period of five weeks.
For each playtest session, the notes collected would be categorized into four problem categories:
Errors: If the player does not perform the intended behavior.
Failures: When a player encounters a problem that they cannot get past without the tester intervening
Complaints: Any frustrations spoken out loud
Bugs: Any design problems that the player may encounter that can affect their gameplay experience.
Based on the results of the RITE study, the design team was able to iterate on the levels and create a better experience for the player.
The player was responsible for figuring out their own strategy for completing puzzles and we saw a number of different methods during the RITE study. For example, a number of players liked to record a character hitting the timers multiple times to make sure they were triggered during playback even if they ran out of time. These players eventually completed the levels, though this method resulted in a longer playtest time then originally intended.