MTuner
By Victor Stepanov

Note: The names of the studios were replaced by their approximate size:

  • Small ~10 people
  • Medium ~100-300 people
  • Large 300+ people

People that attended:

  • UX/tool designers - about 5% of the total
  • Tools Programmers - about 90% of the total
  • Tools User Researcher
  • Producer
  • Manager
  • Tech Art
  • Designer
  • System Designer

Design Guidelines

  • Need to make things look consistent
  • Large size studio’s experience
    • Use C# / WPF - which makes it easy to control the look
    • Have simple guidelines
      • Use standard layouts
      • So-called “Accents” guidelines that inform about info messages, warning messages, error messages
      • “Visual kicking” to attract attention (user gets hints)
        • Moving / shaking
    • Guidelines are used in
      • The World Editor with 20 panel
      • The frontend tool for the pipeline (something like a task launcher)
    • Developers are free to work inside the guidelines
    • Takes time to teach the team (last 5 years)
      • Need to build a consistent vocabulary
      • Use it in reviews
      • Everyone understands what you mean
    • For design mockups - take a screenshot of Editor and fit the new feature into the current look and feel
  • Medium size studio’s experience
    • Really important to start with the guidelines in place before doing anything
      • If you don’t have them - make them
    • A good idea to start with a bird’s eye view of most of the tools in your pipeline
      • Get a good understanding
        • Of the context a tool is used in
        • Uses cases
        • Scope
      • Make a list of things that work for the user
        • Make guidelines off of this list
        • Build new tools off of the ideas in the list
  • Enforce the design guidelines
    • With code review / UI reviews
    • Team meetings for discussing the feature
    • Make sure new tools follow the guidelines
  • If you have a lot of legacy tools with a different look and feel
    • You need someone responsible for the UX ( a full-time position will get you better results )
      • To enforce the change in the old tools
      • Make sure the new tools conform to the guidelines
  • Color-blind guidelines
    • 3 studios have this
    • A special color scheme
    • Need to always keep in mind when designing

Scripting of tools

  • 4-5 studios have the ability to do scripting in tools
  • Great to have a supported path that the users can take and get support with their scripts
  • Medium size studio’s experience
    • Use C#/WPF
      • Roslyn Scripting API
      • A lot of power is given to the users
        • In reality most of the users aren’t technical and don’t use the full capabilities - they don’t break things
    • Gives the ability to quickly implement feature request
      • Showing the user what values to tweak in the script to get different results
    • Most of the scripts edit data and don’t open new panels or windows
  • Large size “X” studio’s experience
    • Use C#/WPF
      • Have issues with too many right-click commands being available
      • Technical Directors usually create the scripts
  • Large size “Y” studio’s experience
    • Use C#/WPF
      • Make the scripting more attractable by using high-level components to make it easier to do scripting

Customizable hotkeys

  • 4 studios have full customization support
  • Medium size studio’s experience
    • Had issues with users not knowing that such a customization system exists
    • Showing how useful this customization can be you can get users to evangelize the system
    • Current customization - favorites system
      • Locked down
      • Any UI element can be added to favorites
      • There is a favorites panel for browsing
      • Good documentation
        • Newcomers are pleased to find
      • Users can get ideas from other users setups
  • Hotkey issue - “what if I’m at someone else’s machine”
    • Not that often
    • Users optimize for their own workflow
    • If you are continuously working at someone’s desk
      • Keep the keyboard layout of Network drive
      • Switch to defaults

Tagging

  • Some studios still do tagging or bulk tagging by hand
  • Some people are experimenting using AI for tagging
    • Works best when there is a predefined set of tags that can be applied
  • Large studio’s experience
    • Have a nightly script that uses a queue of files and a list of tags for tagging
    • Another script for moving files into the correct locations from a special folder and adding metadata to the files
    • A predefined set of tags are created and approved by management
    • For easier searching and visualization the tagging results are added into OpenText
    • Shotgun is used for tag management

Standalone vs Integrated tools

Premise: there is a tool in Unity and some content creators want the same tool in Maya

  • This is mostly a technical problem
  • Need to research to find out is it worth it to add a tool to a DCC
    • How much time will it take and save
    • For how many users
  • Create a launcher from all DCCs
    • Use an abstraction layer

Outsource tools

  • Large size studio’s experience
    • If you have the capability leverage Open Source
      • Might run into legal hurdles (that can be overcome)
        • Got legal approval process down to 1 week
      • If you don’t have the workforce to build your own
        • You need all the help you can get
    • Inconsistent look and feel can be improved by using the Shotgun API
  • Appoint a passionate and responsible person to maintain a consistent look and feel
  • Issues to look out for
    • Inconsistent look and feel
    • Legal hurdles for using Open Source

UX/UI refactoring or revamping tools

  • Good starting point - watch Luz Quinonero - Tools Tutorial Day: UX Microtalks, Part 2
  • Medium size studio’s experience
    • Change or remove things bit by bit
    • For major revamps of tools create a beta users group
      • Iron out all the issues in the tool with the beta users group
      • When these users are ramped up this means that you are mostly safe to roll out the changes onto the main user base
      • The beta users in time will be the people who will start to promote the new version of the tool to the other users
  • How to remove features that are not being used
    • Log and get telemetry for the tool
      • If you see that a feature is not being used it might be one of two things:
        • The users don’t know that the feature exists
        • The feature is truly not needed

How to advocate hiring a UX specialist

  • UX researcher can actually go to all the users
    • Programmer can’t do that
      • Programmers have deadlines and other things to do
    • The UX researcher has a process for working with users and can evaluate feedback
  • Watch Robin-Yann Storm GDC talk - “Level Design Workshop: Improving Tool Design Through Editor Triage”
  • Programmer will need to learn new skill sets to communicate and design tools
    • Some programmers don’t really want to invest in these skills
  • Having a full-time UX expert for tools is working out well for studios
  • Need a dedicated person to talk to users and create prototypes and mockups of UIs and tools
  • If there isn’t a person that is responsible for UX full time - issues will fall through the cracks
  • If you can’t afford a special UX Tool Designer

What to use for mockups


How to get people interested in the work that the tools team is doing

  • Show with a concrete example how the tool is useful to the users
  • Use Slack as a feedback channel
    • Make sure to check the channel
    • Post updates to tools there
  • Send out emails about bug fixes and progress on features
  • Do demos and live streams of new features