We have a set of five core values by which we hold ourselves accountable to for every project we undertake. Our core values equip the studio and our clients with a common language to promote an ongoing, sophisticated understanding about the quality that we seek to deliver in a final product. Our core values guide every idea we propose and every decision we make together on a project.
An experience is engaging when players find the experience meaningful and content is presented as an interesting problem, even if it’s mastered.
Engagement is a big broad word, and is often used as a slightly more impressive word for “fun.” When Filament talks about engagement, we’re speaking about igniting an intrinsic interest in the player- getting a player to commit to the goals and rewards of a game in such a way that they see those goals as things they want to be doing. This means leveraging the whole toolbag of engagement strategies- identity, feedback amplification, empowerment, and production polish.
If players feel like they are capable, challenged, and rewarded for participating in the problem space we’ve created, we’ll have succeeded in making something engaging. If players feel like they’re playing simply because they have to, we’ll have failed.
An experience is efficacious when players master concepts that are relevant to the real world. When we design experiences that seek to improve knowledge, behavior change and/or mindset shifts, we only consider a learning game to be successful if the player’s learning is transferable to the real world.
"We only consider a learning game to be successful if the player's learning is transferable to the real world."
- Jennifer Javornik, Vice President of Sales
Transfer is a really interesting challenge in learning game development, and one that is simultaneously unique to the field but has implications in game design reaching back into commercial games.
When you are making a learning game, you are creating an insular world with very specific rules and reactions, all catered to highlighting a specific learning objective. In a critical sense, you are creating a “gilded cage” where players learn, in the most rich and supported way possible, how to demonstrate new knowledge. But all of that scaffolding and support we’ve built can actually further isolate that player/learner from insights on how that information is applicable in real-world settings. Quite the pickle!
If we bridge that gap from play experience back to application in settings where it matters, we call that “transfer.” Facilitating transfer involves a whole host of strategies, but we’ll discuss two here: reflection and re-application.
Reflection activities in a game ask players to not only apply their knowledge, but then engage in a gameplay mechanic that asks them to explain why. In the most basic sense this can be an in-game character or construct that says “what did you do?” or “why did you do it?”, but in more robust reflection strategies you build more play-based mechanics that accomplish the same thing. A commercial game example would be the astounding data charts created in Civilization that show your actions over time in a larger scale, that give you the ability to connect your actions to a broader strategy, exposing weaknesses or unexpected strengths. In Filament’s games we’ve sometimes added mechanics that encourage the player to actively interpret that data and provide some analysis. This is still engaging because the player is still acting on the decisions they’ve made, and it builds a model to encourage strategic, transferable thinking.
Re-Application activities are actions in a game where players take a skill they’ve learned and apply it in a new way- essentially creating an internal transfer mechanic. Taking skills and content you’ve mastered and applying it in a new way is the essence of transfer. Having the player internally recognize that this information is portable and effective in new settings is essential, making the information more transferable in the future outside the game as well. A great way to do this is to make players create predictions in new environments about what will happen in a set-up environment (picture a pinball layout or some other puzzle). Previously they worked inside the rules that govern that space, and now they must approach the same space but apply the rules to understand outcomes that they can’t control.
An experience is usable when players in the target audience can pick up the game and play with no manual intervention and minimal explicit tutorial.
Throughout the design process, our User Experience (UX) Designers work closely with our Game Designers to rapidly iterate upon and test information design and interaction models. The team incorporates user feedback into comprehensive wireframes and style mockups.
During the early phases of production, the team builds a selection of key assets for implementation into the game engine. Interacting with “live” art assets as early as possible allows our artists to identify any blind spots in the visual design while our technical art team tests and solidifies the art pipeline. As production progresses, veteran staff from every discipline regularly review builds to ensure that the game meets our rigorous quality standards.
We recognize the importance of staying in tune with prevailing stylistic trends. To appeal to users familiar with these conventions, we build upon established, platform-consistent interaction metaphors. Highly responsive interactions and generously animated gameplay elements are hallmarks of exceptional user experiences, and we pay special attention to these areas.
An experience is beautiful when it has a unique, relevant, and internally consistent style that complements the creative vision.
Our visual design process is structured around crafting playful, engaging user experiences that augment the product’s subject matter. This focus is reflected in the makeup and dynamic of our visual design teams. Our in-house Game Artists explore visual styles via extensive research, mood boards, concept art, and animatics. We test our visual design assumptions early and often. We pride ourselves on our ability to create both one-of-a-kind aesthetic experiences as well as our ability to bring existing illustrated IP to life.
An experience is polished when it functions as designed. We’re proud to have an internal Quality Assurance team that is exclusively focused on testing so that our games achieve a high level of polish. Filament Games includes Quality Assurance at all stages of development, with QA staff present at production meetings from the very onset until the conclusion and post mortem of the project.