Stellaris Dev Diary #154 - UX Design in Stellaris

Hello all, this is Hildor Anduv, the UX Designer on Stellaris. I’ve been with the team since December, and have really enjoyed working on such a great game. With my first Dev Diary I’m going to be sharing how I have been approaching UX Design on Stellaris.

Disclaimer: We're not quite ready to announce our plans just yet (we're saving that for the big stage, PDXCon), so this is going to be more process oriented without delving into specifics about any new feature. If that's not your thing, you can safely give it a miss, but if you're interested in the nuts and bolts of how games are designed and made, let us lift the curtain a bit.

Whiteboarding: The UX Corner
Whiteboards are a great place for getting your ideas out quickly. When whiteboarding I try to get team members from multiple disciplines and rough out ideas, together. It’s a great way to discover gameplay and player needs, as well as find any potential development pitfalls early on.

We wanted to create a permanent space for this, and thus the UX Corner was born. Here we come together and iterate on ideas in real-time as a group. Having the permanent space has helped facilitate conversion and increased cross-discipline communication within the team,.


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Wireframing & Prototyping.
From the whiteboard sketches, I then move onto creating more detailed wireframes, the skeletal mockup of a UI design. Keeping your wireframes simple lets you iterate quickly, but more importantly allows you to nail down what content should be displayed, and how best to lay it out visually for the player.

I typically try to nail down one key screen, and from there I build out a User flow of the entire experience.

When Designing the Archeology UI for Ancient Relics, I had some key pillars I wanted to nail.

  • The stories are linked, and I can revisit past chapters for context. (Also experience the great artwork again!)
  • When I come back here, I have a sense of the progress my scientist has made.
  • The challenge of the site feels ‘game-y’.

Once I nailed an overall layout for the Archaeology UI, I then broke it out into a User Flow to capture the full breadth of a player’s journey while excavating a site.


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With the User flow complete I then link it up and create an interactive Prototype. The prototype allows team members to experience what we are trying to create before we set out to develop it. It’s a great low cost way to identify issues in the flow, and fix them here before investing in development.


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After we agree on the UX design, we then get to finally create it in game. As you can see below, the design mostly held through to release. The text window was increased to accommodate larger story text, and ‘difficulty’ was changed to ‘breakthrough chance’ to help better understand the ‘die roll mechanic’.


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User Testing
So, even though the design has now gone through many gates, we must test our designs with players and iterate based on player feedback. Luckily Paradox has a great User Research department, and so we were able to run playtests and get vital feedback which we could respond to before launch.

----------

Well, I hope this was an informative window into how UX Design is done here on Stellaris.

Also, I read the forums and look out for your feedback as well. You all have been very helpful, so thank you for that!
 
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Olterin

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There's definitely some weird time-travel stuff going on here... Who unleashed the Worm?!? :p

Thank you for the insight :)

Edit: And might I add, it's a bit ... disappointing? Saddening? Scary? To see that there's almost nothing (new) to talk about until PDXcon. Surely there'd be a story or two worth telling about past pitfalls of design? About how the efforts in the War On Lag are going?
 

Jamor

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Sorry folks, posting error meant the first one got binned. I assure you this is the correct DD in the only canon, official timeline.
 

Pale Blue

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No, why the blurred whiteboard? Is there such important info on it that you couldn't tease us? It would have been such a great opportunity to hint some of the new/reworked UI or features!
 

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No, why the blurred whiteboard? Is there such important info on it that you couldn't tease us? It would have been such a great opportunity to hint some of the new/reworked UI or features!

... On further inspection of the blurred UX whiteboard picture, I suspect the right column reads "Diplomacy", and the bottom row of blurred images relates to planet districts in some way. The image clearly states something about weeks 37-38, which, assuming it relates to this year, would be these two weeks. So clearly, some super sikrit stuff going on here :p
 

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No, why the blurred whiteboard? Is there such important info on it that you couldn't tease us? It would have been such a great opportunity to hint some of the new/reworked UI or features!

Stand by for a big announcement at PDXCon next month. Until then we will have to remain mysterious.
 

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There's definitely some weird time-travel stuff going on here... Who unleashed the Worm?!? :p

Thank you for the insight :)

Edit: And might I add, it's a bit ... disappointing? Saddening? Scary? To see that there's almost nothing (new) to talk about until PDXcon. Surely there'd be a story or two worth telling about past pitfalls of design? About how the efforts in the War On Lag are going?

Yes seeing scrapped tries would be cool. Something that you guys thought would work, but at some time in development showed to be flawed.

Also since you aren't that long working on stellaris, how do you think about the UI previously done? What would you change if given the chance?

Also most importantly can we get an UI background color that changes depending on empire color? I don't want the green anymore and I don't want to rely on mods for different colors.
 

Balamut2227

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Thanx for insight! :)

One little question: does the team pay any attention to interface solutions that some mods offer? Tiny outliner for instance?
 

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I mean ok........

After being told that these were being moved to every two weeks I was hoping for more than a general 101 guide on... whiteboards and group meetings???
 

omfgBlondie

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Will it be live streamed on Twitch @ParadoxInteractive and will it be watchable afterwards in case one missed it?

We'll reveal specifics about our streaming plans closer to the event, as they're still being finalized, but I can reveal that we'll be doing more streaming than we've ever done at a PDXCON.
 

#Error.Name

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I mean ok........

After being told that these were being moved to every two weeks I was hoping for more than a general 101 guide on... whiteboards and group meetings???

I could imagine that they hold some things back right before the convention. So they have more information / stuff etc. for the pdxcon itself. :)

EDIT: Why do I get disagrees for this? The developers already confirmed this.
 
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