The founders of AMPD have been architecting high-performance computing infrastructure for nearly two decades. AMPD initially focused on solutions for banks, governments, and academia and subsequently on building out technology infrastructure for animation and visual effects studios.
AMPD is now aggressively expanding its focus to include the low-latency requirements of multiplayer video games, including latency-sensitive eSports, and the intense computation requirements of digital media production and distribution, where massive amounts of high-performance computing resources are required for the development, rendering and distribution of products. These requirements are also starting to become central to many mainstream businesses as they transition into the era of big data visualization, manipulation, and analysis.
AMPD working with SKonec
Entertainment and Greenstone Business Service Ltd to bring the VR Battle Arena: Mortal Blitz game to North America.
Our team (VRGenesis) worked with AMPD, SKonec Entertainment (Korea), and Greenstone Business Services Ltd, to develop this turnkey solution to optimize the process for operators to set up eSports events for the game VR Battle Arena: Mortal Blitz, and the flexibility and portability for VR Arcades. Our goal was to significantly improve the efficiency for operators of Battle Arena, and potentially allow operators of more VR games to explore future opportunities in eSports.
Graphic Design, User Experience & User Interface Designer
I was working with another designer on the team. We designed
a software interface and hand it over to our developer to develop it.
Setting up the play area and installing the game on all the computers take days. Current Setup & Installation guides are only PDF documents written in Korean. They are also unclear, skips steps and not updated.
The problems associated with setting up and installing a high-end VR Arcade game experience are not insignificant and may take hours or even days of configuration and troubleshooting. AMPD was looking to Team VRGenesis to come up with a range of solutions to help with this problem and make the setup as painless and rapid as possible. We have been fortunate enough to be able to use ‘Mortal Blitz: Battle Arena,’ a high-end VR multiplayer battle game from leading South Korean VR developer, SKonec Entertainment for our initial exploration.
The key question was ‘How can we make the installation of a high-end VR multiplayer battle game as efficient as possible?’ We felt that the answer might lie in a combination of physical setup and digital environment components.
Multiplayer VR eSports is not yet very prevalent in North America, but as a company, AMPD is keen to foster the development and promotion of VR eSports because fast-paced, twitchy multiplayer games of all kinds will require the type of infrastructure that AMPD provides to run successfully. This is the case when considering location-based VR experiences, and even more so when considering how these types of games may be serviced over the Internet to home users.
Goals & Objectives
● To achieve a noticeable measurable with a more efficient setup.
● Diagnose the current set up procedure and provide possible solutions.
● Develop a digital deliverable that provides easy set-up instructions for the operator to install the equipment needed.
● How can we optimize the setup process of Battle Arena: Mortal Blitz for VR arcades as efficient as possible?
● To measure the time that is required for the initial setup for the operators due to the lack of access to a truss that is used in VR setups.
● Create a working software with features that we designed within 3 months
● Design a software that is user friendly for anyone even if they don’t know anything about computer installations.
● A certain amount of technical issues cannot be tackled by either the guide or our attempts so that seeking helps from SKonec remotely was the only solution.
How can we optimize the setup process of Battle Arena: Mortal Blitz for VR arcades in order to make it as efficient as possible?
Research & Early Insights
While this first phase of development that is being conducted with us focused more on the deployment of the game within a physical space such as a VR Arcade and is likely to remain based on local workstations, the work we are doing here helps the goals of AMPD by removing hurdles that complex and time-consuming setup represents for VR Arcade businesses.
So in the initial phase, what AMPD wanted to do was prove that the installation, setup and management of the VR Arcade environment could be made at least twice as easy and efficient.
In the next phases of this project, we will explore additional ways to make the process even simpler, including the virtualization and possibly offsite hosting of the computing power required to run the software.
Overall, we are expected to help drive forward the thinking around the practicalities of the implementation and turnkey management of a VR eSports environment.
Who will use this software?
Mainly arcade operators who have some knowledge of hardware and software. They will not have a lot of people to help set up.
When using personas for product design, as opposed to marketing, I find it best to create two primary personas. Because this is a B2B product, I decided to create two personas who the product was tailored to. it would also satisfy most of the requirements of our clients.
The first persona is someone who has knowledge and experience of hardware and software setup. The second persona is someone who has less knowledge of setting up VR games.
Here are some images of our brainstorm process.
There are two major parts to our solution. It is an Integration software which intuitively optimizes:
For this phrase, we are focusing on the hardware setup. SKonec has given us a PDF of the physical setup guide in Korean.
First, we have to translate the guide to English. We used google translate and a native Korean friend to help us.
After the translation, we decided to record a time-lapse video of our first setup and record all the problems we encounter.
Everyone on our team has the knowledge of setting up computers, but none of us have set up a multiplayer VR game with 4 HTC Vives before,
so this is also a challenge for our team. We are very lucky that CDM was able to give us the Hangar space we needed to set up the
20x20ft play area for our project. All the equipment was provided by AMPD and CDM. The only thing we couldn’t get
ahold of was the Truss, but we decided to go with what materials and equipment we have to test.
Part 2 Software Installation/Validation/Operation
This part is broken into two sections: Hardware Optimization and Software Optimization
a. Hardware Optimization
We started with the Korean setup PDF guide that SKonec have sent us. We looked into different types of installation guides from digital (eg. printer installers) to physical guide (eg. IKEA product building guides).
Our setup guide was inspired by IKEA’s installation instruction books. We compared the difference between the Korean VR Setup guide and IKEA’s guide. The major difference is that the Korean VR Setup instructions use images to explain instead of diagrams. I decided that we can implement 2D diagrams in our new installation guide.
The New Guide: ● In English (Originally in Korean)
● Systematic Procedure with detailed and clean Illustrations
● Create overviews for each section so the operators can look at the setup before going into each detailed part.
● Highlighting on steps that need attention
● Solutions to possible issues
● Added missing steps from the original guide provided from SKonec
b. Software Optimization
Our software solution - Deployment + Management Suite
Software User Flow 1. Hardware Connection: First our software needs to show the operator how to connect all the hardware and set up the space needed for the game. This shows the step by step installation guide.
2. Testing Hardware (Diagnostics): This needs to pair the player computers with the server computer. The diagnostics show if the hardware is connected and running.
3. Game Setup: This is when the operator installs the game and manage the games
4. Client Setup: This is where the configurations and analytics go.
Features ● Installation & Troubleshooting Setup Guides
● Remote Deployment & Operation
● Real-Time System Monitoring & Diagnostics
● Game Management & File Optimization
● Web ready for different devices
Wireframe & Prototypes
User Interface Design
For the application user flow, we want to make sure they can navigate around easily. We separate the whole procedure into 3 main sections: Installation guide, diagnostics, and game management. There are other elements such as icons on the right to indicate if the computers are connected or not.
First, we decided where the main tabs should go, on the left or top. Other elements are placed according to the main tabs. Here are all the elements:
Main Tabs: the core steps include Installation Guide, diagnostics, and game management.
Installation Guide: The whole guide of setting up the hardware, play area, and the game. This goes into the Installation Guide tab.
Diagnostics: This gives the details of all the client computers and HTC Vives that are connected. This is in the diagnostics page.
Game Installation: Install the game easily and manage the game from the server computer with simple button clicks.
Full-screen Views: this is when users click to see all the screens
With the two wireframes created (shown above). We asked a few users to click through and gave some feedback.
● They like the menu on the left more.
● The icons indicating each computer are good.
● Suggestion of hover over the computer icons to give a small update of that computer
● Cyan over the other colours
● Black background is not a good idea for the installation guide. Prefers white/lighter one
● The installation guide diagram helps
On Top of the prototype testing, we also have playtesting for the physical setup. Our Client was happy to bring their partners and clients to come test out our setup.
Final Interface Design
After creating wireframes and flowcharts, I went into creating the mockups.
With interactive product design, I prefer not to treat the visual design stage as the end of the design process.
This is because interaction, device, animation, and physical context also plays an important part in the finishing
of the final product design.
I conducted a user test with the mockups. The test consists of tasks that the user has to click through. After the tests, they are asked to rate the tasks' difficulty level, a few questions asking for their thoughts and suggestions. Here are some of the major suggestions:
● Most testers prefer the menu on the left more.
● Icons indicating each computer are good.
● Suggestions for hover over the computer icons to give a small update of that computer
● Cyan over the other colours
● A dark background is not a good idea for the installation guide. Prefers white/lighter one
● The installation guide diagram helps with the understanding of the installation process.
After the user test with the digital mockup, we rewarded them with a few rounds of playing the VR game at our physical setup. AMPD was happy to bring their partners and clients to come test out our setup. We also got some in-game feedback from the playtests. We provided this list of suggestions to SKonec for their game development.
Unexpected Challenges & Limitations
Due to the current public health crisis ● No comprehensive User Test can be done
Our alternative to User Testing ● Give testers our installation handbook in digital
● Ask them to verbally talk about setting it up
● Ask questions to test their understanding
Our goal for this project was to create an application that can reduce setup time and help manage the game on all the computers. The main limitation we had was that we can’t test the full physical setup because we didn’t have the truss that is required. This also affects the wiring of the setup. Therefore, the truss installation guide was not changed from the original Korean guide other than translating it from Korean to English. We try to use our experience we gained from setting up the other parts to further refine the guide on that section.
Time is the key, a reduction of time cost means lower labour cost
● Reduced setup time from 6 hours to approximately 2 hours
We also accomplished the stretch goal of developing a functional game deployment & management software within the given time frame.
We had the opportunity to meet people from the ESports and Game industry. To have the chance to showcase this project was a great experience. Our Client was also very happy with our progress and brought in their potential clients to test our setup. Receiving good feedback and seeing how this project is a good step to open the VR experience in arcades in North America is a huge gain to our knowledge and experience.
This was a great experience working with AMPD, SKonec
Entertainment, and Greenstone Business Services. I am proud of my team for making this project such a success!