Designing the User Experience of Game Development Tools: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Designing the User Experience of Game Development Tools

1st Edition

By David Lightbown

A K Peters/CRC Press

188 pages | 105 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9781482240191
pub: 2015-02-24
Hardback: 9781138427631
pub: 2017-08-02
eBook (VitalSource) : 9780429174308
pub: 2015-02-24
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Most tools developers want to improve the user experience but are not given the time, lack the techniques, or don’t know where to begin.Designing the User Experience of Game Development Tools addresses these issues to empower tools developers to make positive steps toward improving the user experience of their tools.

The book explains how to improve the user experience of game development tools. The first part of the book details the logic behind why the user experience of game tools must be improved. The second part introduces the concept of user-centered design, a process that revolves around understanding people’s goals, watching them work, learning the context in which they work, and understanding how they think.

Ideal for anyone who makes, uses, or benefits from game development tools, the book presents complex concepts in a manner that is accessible to those new to user experience design. The book illustrates many proven concepts and techniques using before-and-after examples from tools development to supply you with the real-world understanding you need to become a better game developer. It also describes how to get buy-in from your team.

Although concepts have been simplified to make the information more easily accessible, the text includes resources in the footnotes if you want more details.

The book includes access to a companion website,, that contains the latest revisions for the book as well as contact information. You can also follow the official Twitter account @UXofGameTools to see the latest updates and articles related to the improvement of the user experience.


"What you are reading now is the result of David Lightbown’s first big mission on [a] very long quest. The rest is a co-op campaign and he has brought along these weapons to get us started."

—From the Foreword by Mike Acton, Engine Director, Insomniac Games

"[David’s] acclaimed lectures, now demonstrated and elaborated in this book, are brilliant and very appropriate to our industry."

—Jason Parks, Owner, Continuity AI (former Technical Artist for SCEA, THQ, and Volition)

"Lightbown tackles some complicated cognitive and scientific concepts, but does so in a completely conversational manner that is not only approachable, but fun and interesting to read."

—Jim Brown, Epic Games

"All developers owe it to their future selves to learn to apply the process presented in this book to their tools."

—Corey Johnson, Unity Technologies

"If you build games tools and are not familiar with user-centered design, then you should read this book."

—Tom Hoferek, Principal User Experience Designer, Autodesk

"David not only delivers the concepts and techniques that can be used to improve the user experience of game development tools, he also outlines … the return on investment for doing so. A must read."

—Liam Grieg, Senior UX Designer, Atlassian

"In this easy-to-read, comprehensive guide, David Lightbown applies classic principles of user-centered design to the tool-building process. … A must-read, even if you’re not in the games industry."

—AJ Kandy, Co-Founder/Director of Design, Peterson/Kandy

Table of Contents

The Big Green Button

My Story

Who Should Read this Book?

Companion Website and Twitter Account

Before we Begin

Welcome to Designing the User Experience of Game Development Tools

What Will We Learn in This Chapter?

What Is This Book About?

Defining User Experience

The Value of Improving the User Experience of Our Tools

Parallels Between User Experience and Game Design

How Do People Benefit From an Improved User Experience?

Finding the Right Balance

Wrapping Up

The User-Centered Design Process

What Will We Learn in This Chapter?

What Is the User-Centered Design Process?

The Phases of the User-Centered Design Process

The Power of Pre-Visualization

Getting to a Better User Experience Faster

Integrating the User-Centered Design Process into Agile

Who Has the Time to Do All of This?

Wrapping Up

What Does It Mean to Be User-Centered?

What Will We Learn in This Chapter?

Start With the Users

Focus on the Right Users

Features Versus Goals

Do One Thing Really Well

Choose the Right Features

Wrapping Up


What Will We Learn in This Chapter?

The Importance of Watching Users Work

Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction

Understanding the Mental Model

Interview Stakeholders

Perform Contextual Analyses

Create Task Flows

Discover the Users Mental Model

Establish Measurements

Advanced Techniques

Wrapping Up


What Will We Learn in This Chapter?

How the Brain and the Eyes Work Together

Visual Language

Interaction Patterns



Natural Mapping







Progressive Disclosure

Wrapping Up


What Will We Learn in This Chapter?

How Do We Evaluate the Design?

Choosing Between Code or Pre-Visualization

Pre-Visualize the Interface

Perform a Heuristic Evaluation

Do User Tests

Wrapping Up

Back to Analysis

Deja Vu

Comparing Measurements

Real-World User-Centered Design


The Process in Action

Calculating the Return on Investment



Closing word

Works Cited & Recommended Reading


About the Author

After spending most of his formative years in his parents’ basement trying to clone 8-bit console games on an Apple IIGS, David Lightbown got a job in the games industry. Since then, he has dedicated the majority of his career to working on content creation tools and pipelines.

In addition to contributing to a variety of games as a technical director, David has delivered presentations at the Game Developers Conference, Montreal International Game Summit, and SIGGRAPH, in various cities within Canada, the United States, and Europe.

He has also collaborated with Autodesk to create product reviews, training manuals, tutorial videos, and masterclasses. In 2010, he received the Autodesk Master Award for his contributions to the 3D community.

David currently holds the title of technical director at Ubisoft Montreal.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
COMPUTERS / Programming / Games