Before designing out the new game client launcher, I knew it would be necessary to learn more about Final Fantasy XIV players and how they interacted with the game. I also wanted to take in insight from the player base in suggestions of possible improvements to help aid in the new redesign.
A Current look into the Client
Game Client formatted for Windows OS, Playstation, and Steam
(switchable to the client on the right via settings)
Game Client formatted for Mac OS, Linux OS
(game clients prior design for Windows OS)
Through my research, I found there were two different versions of the game client that would be dependent on the operating system the players would use. The tab links shown above all redirect to the main website. Most of the clients remained static and does not offer much functionality. The only features that had interactions appear were the settings page, server status, and the news slider dots.
The design felt dated for many in the space. A friends list and chat messaging system should be standard in most game clients, which is an area they are lacking as of currently. In terms of the design, I wanted to stick to the ethos of the design. Clearly, the client needs much more functionality to keep player engagement moving forward. A game client should be a companion tool for players.
Taken from my notes during the interviews, the site contained a vast amount of information. Though not difficult to navigate through, many, including myself, had found a small learning curve to finding information through the site. The whole redirection felt like a cop out that showcased their news and updates having it funnel to their site because it would be easier on their end to update the site versus the client. To address this, my thought hovered around the content needing to be more digestible in bite size pieces and easy scannability.
Current issues with the client
- Tab links redirect to main website
- One-time password does not serve much purpose today as it use to (discovered through interviews)
- Minimal updates to design from previous years (found through veteran players during interview process)
- Lack main standard features other game clients have
I made a feature comparison of the survey of the top popular game clients, including Final Fantasy XIV client, to view how other clients differ. Most of these game clients had similar navigation bar set ups. They all brought differences in layouts and features that provided me insight into how I might approach organizing and designing a more useful game client for Final Fantasy XIV.
Through my research, I identified the top popular game launchers within the gaming industry. The direct competitors were only focus handling a single game. While the indirect competitor client focused on executing several games from the launcher. Exploring each of the launchers, it helped me understand what features would be integral for the redesign moving forward.
Insights & Opportunities
I concluded that both types of client contain similar options of navigational features for managing information: updated info or featured news, friends list, library, shop or marketplace, settings configuration, and account tab that led to the website. League of Legends design showcased many great navigational features that assisted their players in keeping track of rank and updates for the season. Blizzard's battle.net store built a simple store easy to scan through. They made purchasing in-game items such as mounts and managing subscription effortless. This would be worth taking noting of.
The other indirect launchers focused on hosting a marketplace where the games that are purchased would be added to the library and launched from the client. Navigation tabs of other clients contained their own section of information. Also, they provided small tool features such as searchability and filtering that goes a long way to finding something specific. My thoughts forward hovered around bringing design conventions from both aspects of the client styles to creating a more cohesive launcher. Ideally, this would make the launcher and navigation more approachable.
Final Fantasy XIV had three expansions prior with a new expansion, Endwalker, set to arrive this November. With each expansion, there were patch releases that followed. Trial accounts had limited access up to the second expansion. Up to the second expansion, players were able to experience a vast amount of content and story. Outside of the storyline, there are many other things that players can partake in: raids, challenges, gatherings, communities, music clubs, etc… In a way, Final Fantasy emulated a virtual second-life feel. I browsed through the store and found costume outfits, mounts, home decor, character change potion, story skips, and many more items that could be purchased. Fashion in the world is found to play a big part in the games ecosystem.
I created an account to understand what the world looked like and who were the players were occupying the space. During my journey of gameplay, I understood what questions to ask to move forward with the interviews. I had worked on this project concurrently while playing the game.
In-game, I joined a free company which was a guild or club. I had put out a request to my free company and approached random players in the world to ask who would be open to having me interview to better understand who the players were.Interview Questions
My interview participants on average ranged from 20-30. Interviews were conducted either through Discord or in-game chat. A series of questions were asked to figure out what the demographic of players were, the economy of the game, experience in the MMO and other game genres, thoughts on gameplay, and environment. In the end, I casually asked the participants to speak more freely on issues, thoughts, and improvements by asking more open-ended questions.
- Virtual fashion is important to the player base, players enjoy accessorizing their in-game character
- Spending money on costumes, mounts, level skips, and more additionals is common in-game
- Optional items are purchased through the webstore, webstore is bland looking in design
- Subscriptions management is confusing for first time users
- Subscriptions management is managed off site, it is known as a mogstation
- Unclear icon choices for server status in game client
- Tab section redirection to main site
- Main site contains a ton of content
Suggestions from participants
- Integrated quick shop in client would improve the experience
- Efficiency for checkout
- Plus if subscriptions could be managed
- A new layout
- Tools and small features (search, favorites, etc) need to be applied
- Friends list and status
- Add job class info section would help new users
Upon observation, I looked at the research from a macro-level approach. Below addressed what participants value for change in the game client from a broad perspective.
Layout and the presentation of the right content for the client would improve its usability. This would help bring more engagement for the client.
A vast amount of interviewers had suggested an in-client item shop. This would improve the efficiency of purchasing items.
Friend lists, job sections, and subscription management were new features that were suggested. News, patch notes, and more should be built out further.
Based on my research, I created two personas that were reflective of the current player base in Final Fantasy XIV.