Play-Create-Share on PlayStation 3

2008 – 2010, 2012 for Sony & United Front Games

I joined United Front's Kart team in 2008 as a Programmer and the studio's sole User Researcher. In this hybrid role, I worked on two games: ModNation Racers and LittleBigPlanet Karting. I implemented features in C++ on constrained hardware, and worked closely with the UX designers to look across the game for usability issues in both gameplay and UX.

ModNation Racers

ModNation Racers was a user-generated-content kart racer set in a vinyl-inspired universe for the PlayStation3. Players could customize their characters and karts, build their own tracks, and share and rate these with the ModNation community. This was similar to the play-create-share pattern established with Sony's LittleBigPlanet franchise.

In my roles as Programmer and User Researcher, I:

  • Implemented the Create and Share UI features for customizing karts and characters, and the Browse and Share flow for user-generated creations.
  • Worked closely with Sony's Games User Research group in Europe (SCEE) to design studies and drive forward our user testing practices.
  • Collaborated with our designers to run on-site studies and iterate on the out-of-box experience and UX architecture. Studies ranged from simple collaborative card-sorting exercises for the Create tools, to interviews and playtests for out-of-box.

MNR

LittleBigPlanet Karting

The goals of Little Big Planet Karting were to make a game that would be a fitting addition to the LittleBigPlanet universe, extensively expand the capabilities of the in-game editor, and improve on the karting experience originally created for ModNation Racers.

As a programmer, I worked with the Engine team on our 3D editor (Create) features. I worked on editor and customization interfaces, brushes and terrain scrubbing, and Gadgets (items that allowed players to create their own game logic and triggerable events).

I created a data-driven system that allowed artists/designers to have greater control over UI content and behaviour, which exponentially reduced iteration time (from ~5 minutes down to ~15 seconds per artist iteration).

Additionally, I partnered with Sony Games User Researchers to determine user testing needs and processes for the game.

LBPK

Developing our Games User Research Practices

Working on these titles developed my technical muscle as well as my design practice, and I am grateful to my team for supporting me in both roles. We learned a lot as a team about what worked well for UR, and after ModNation, the studio subsequently invested more heavily in Games User Research on its open-world title, Sleeping Dogs, where I established the studio's user research lab.