Understanding the Success of Fortnite: A UX & Psychology Perspective

Fortnite is one of the most successful video games in history, and this success fascinates and confuses many people who have made efforts to account for how a game could have become such a phenomenon so quickly. As the former Director of User Experience (UX) at Epic Games, where I worked on Fortnite from 2013 to late 2017, I would like to share the different steps that were taken by the Fortnite team to build what would later become the phenomenon we now know, through the lens of UX. My background in psychology, my occupation as a UX strategist, and my personal work on the game likely bias my perspective since we are all susceptible to unconscious biases. However, this analysis, unlike those that have been proposed thus far, is a firsthand account that was presented in several Game Developers Conference (GDC) talks that I gave before Fortnite was released, and in my book The Gamer’s Brain: How Neuroscience and UX Can Impact Video Game Design (2017). 

The Fortnite team had a precise vision and collaborated very closely with the UX team to deliver a game that would be true to this vision and that would appeal to many different types of players. My contention is that the success of Fortnite is linked to their efforts in adopting a UX mindset. My goal here is to explain how to develop such a game UX mindset and build a UX strategy to help game developers around the world find success more quickly with the games they are crafting. This is especially crucial for independent developers who have fewer resources yet still compete with the thousands of games released every year. 

I will detail here the three most important steps to develop a game UX mindset, which were taken during the development of Fortnite:

  • Understanding the player’s brain
  • Following a game UX framework (guidelines to usability and engage-ability)
  • Applying the scientific method & establishing a UX pipeline
Simplified diagram showing how the brain learns
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Upcoming Game UX & Cognitive Psychology Masterclasses

What lessons from fun and engaging video games such as Fortnite can be applied to craft great user experience for any product? This in-depth masterclass proposes to explore the ingredients and science behind the development of successful games, and offers takeaways applicable to game development as well as the development of any product, service, or system.

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The Gamer’s Brain, part 3: The UX of Engagement and Immersion (or Retention) – GDC17 talk

This is the last part of my GDC trilogy about the gamer’s brain (how cool is that!). A warm thanks to all of you who liked my previous talks, gave me constructive feedback, and supported me! 🙂

This post is a transcript of my talk with the slides. You can find transcripts of the first two parts of my Gamer’s Brain talks here and here. If you’re interested, you can also check my book. Thank you!

 

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The Gamer’s Brain, Part 2: UX of Onboarding and Player Engagement (GDC16)

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These are the slides from my GDC 2016 presentation. This session is meant as a follow-up to my GDC 2015 talk about How Neuroscience and UX Can Impact Design (hence, “part 2”). Since it seemed to generate interest, I wanted to do a deeper dive on one of the critical aspects of a game’s user experience: the UX of onboarding and player engagement. You can watch the video of this presentation here.

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How We Introduced UX to Epic Games’ Production Pipeline (GDC16)

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These are the slides from the my GDC 2016 presentation with Heather Chandler, Senior Producer on Fortnite (Epic Games). Therefore, this presentation is about both UX’ (Celia) and Prod’s (Heather) perspectives. You can watch the video of this presentation here. Also, if you’re interested in UX, go check our Game UX Summit happening on May 12th 2016 (we have an amazing lineup! :)).

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Cognitive Psychology Applied to User Experience in Video Games

This article was originally published by Springer in February 2016 as part of the Encyclopedia of Computer Graphics and Games. Article reproduced here with their authorisation. 

 

Definition

The user experience (UX) entails a person’s perceptions and interactions with a product or software (such as a video game) and the satisfaction and emotions elicited via this interaction. UX overall refers to an over-arching discipline focused on evaluation and improvement of users’ experience of a given product or software in development.

Cognitive psychology is a discipline dedicated to understanding the human mind via mental processes such as problem solving, language, perception, attention, and memory.

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5 Misconceptions about UX (User Experience) in Video Games

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Illustration by Laura Teeples

UX Invaders: We Come In Peace!

User Experience (UX) is becoming very trendy albeit fairly new in the video game industry, so there are still a lot of misconceptions regarding what it is (and what it’s not). I will try to tackle these misconceptions and convince you – if need be – that UX is indeed your friend.

To explain it in a nutshell, UX explores how it is like for the target audience (the players) to experience your game (and everything beyond, such as downloading the game, consulting forums, etc.). It uses neuroscience and psychology knowledge and applies game user research methodologies (e.g. playtests and analytics) to make sure that the game has good usability and is immersive (although I prefer to refer to it as gameflow).

When thinking about my experience advocating for UX (or neuroscience) in a game development team, there are 5 main misconceptions about UX I very frequently need to address:

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Developing UX Practices at Epic Games

 

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GDC Europe 2014 / MIGS 2014 talk

I’m sharing here my slides from my GDC Europe 2014 presentation, which I also gave at MIGS 2014 (How we are using UX Practices on Fortnite). Since I didn’t find any good slide sharing plugin (speaking of bad UX…) I just added all the slides in jpeg and put my speaker notes below.  😉

The content of this presentation is a mix of academic theories, Ubisoft Design Academy training about usability, and my own experience interacting with game teams. The following is certainly not set in stone – it’s a constant work in progress – and I’d be very interested to get your feedback.

 

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