USC engineers recently announced
a new video game user interface tool that captures and analyzes a player's experiences to automatically detect weakness and flaws, and was first tested on a 'serious game'.
Engineers add that the tool may soon gauge player emotional involvement as well. The tool is based on a method created by Tim Marsh, a post-doctoral researcher at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering's Integrated Media Systems Center, and analyzes "immersidata", a term used to refer to the machine-readable record of commands sent to the computer by keyboards, joysticks and other controls, collected in parallel with a videotape recording of the player at the game session.
Marsh and Shahabi used for their tests a "serious" (i.e., teaching) game designed to instruct students in human anatomy and physiology. The study analyzed sessions by 16 undergraduate students, with sessions of 13 of them intensively studies. Though the group tested the technique on a serious game, "the techniques are for use testing all game genres, entertainment and non-entertainment," Marsh said.
The system already works extremely effectively to find problems in the areas it is set to look for, Marsh reports. Improvements are already in the works to add functionality to find and identify other potential problem areas -- to recognize repetition patters by players, and to replace and/or supplement the video capture with a replay of the game from the player's point of view, for example.
Marsh will present his tool and method at a conference presentation entitled "Continuous and Unobtrusive Capture of User-Player Behavior and Experience to Assess and Inform Game Design and Development", to be given at the Fun 'n Games 2006 Conference in England on June 26, 2006.