User Research: Lessons from Borderlands
A few years ago, Gearbox Software started a user research department called "Truth" while developing Borderlands. The team started with 2 people, no budget and a stack of flyers. By treating our testers as part of a community, this program has gone from a few testers in a list to a database of thousands in a short time. Truth was vital to the success of Borderlands, and saw over 600 people participating in170 sessions in the last year of development. Stephanie Puri (Truth Team Manager and User Researcher) and Matthew Armstrong (creator, designer, and director of Borderlands) share concrete examples from the development of Borderlands that demonstrate how anyone with a need for information and some creative thinking can get the feedback they need with the resources they have.
Matthew Armstrong is a Director and Lead Designer at Gearbox Software. He began his career in the industry doing multi-player level and game design. Matthew joined Gearbox in 1999 and has become a senior designer at the company. In addition to direction, Matthew developed the concept for Borderlands, was lead designer and personally designed and implemented every gun in the game. Matthew was a design lead on Halo: Combat Evolved on PC, design lead on Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, and Director and Lead Designer on Borderlands for Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC.
Hi! I manage the user research department at Gearbox Software. I've been in the video game industry for almost 5 years and have worked on Borderlands, Aliens and Brothers in Arms. I started in QA, but my fascination for how people play games got me interested in user research.
Our department works closely with the development teams across all our projects to ensure that they get the usability and focus testing they need.