SUIKODEN II & UX


Kevin Yi


Suikoden II is the best Role-Playing Game to have ever graced the planet, but sadly, too little people know of this fact. While many of you might have encountered the Final Fantasy series or the Dragon Quest games, you’ve probably never even heard of Konami’s brilliant entry to the genre. My purpose today is not to convince you to play the game but to learn a few things from it that could be helpful in growing as a UXer.

It’s about Quantity & Quality.

I have always been told to seek out quality over quantity. This way of thinking permeates a lot of my personal decision-making and for a long time has been my go-to advice for clients and friends alike. Suikoden II challenges this paradigm by providing not just five or six characters but centers a major portion of the game around recruiting 108 playable-ish characters. These characters are also not throwaway designs, but each individual has an enthralling story that adds to the further enjoyment of the game.

UXers are often reductionists, looking for ways to simplify to improve functionality and speed of recognition. We often equate the idea of less is more as the best method of action. This might hold true for certain aspects of experience design, but UXers that work with content might want to embrace this idea that more is more if that more is of a certain caliber of quality.

Suikoden II also sets itself apart as being one of the few Sony Playstation RPG games that used 2D Character Sprites and not 3D Polygonal Graphics. At first, even for me, this seemed like an eyesore and I questioned the decision to go this route. After further research, I found that the creators of the game had decided to prioritize storytelling and atmosphere over the use of emerging 3D graphics at the time. In hindsight, the dated visuals of the game give it an ageless appeal and have allowed it to grow old with dignity.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality seems to be the only thing that our UX world is talking about lately, but I would suggest taking a page from Suikoden II’s book and re-prioritizing our efforts. Emerging technology platforms and devices are cool, but our job is to advocate for users and work on the products, interfaces, and services that they are using right now. Rather than always trying to build something new and challenge the status quo, why not refine something that we know works while focusing on aspects that elicit positive emotional responses? Build something that they will love, not something that will boost your UX ego.

Games should be fun. Experiences should be…

In an interview with Yoshitaka Murayama, one of the creators of Suikoden II, Murayama was asked to give his opinion about mobile games.

“This is difficult to answer, because there are a wide range of mobile games available,
but since they’re games,I’d like to see them get more and more fun.”

I found this answer to be incredibly intriguing. In UX, we often have to align user needs against business goals and create solutions that are a compromise of both. This is a reality that we all face, and I’m sure Murayama faced similar constraints when helping to create Suikoden II, but his main focus was still on creating an end product that is fun.

In the past, I was interviewing with a Startup and was asked how I would prioritize Users, Developers, and Business Goals if put in a constrained situation. I got nervous and ended up putting Developers first and Users second, this is the biggest UX mistake and one of the biggest interviewing mistakes that I have ever made in my life. Although I had a reasoning for my decision that was specific to that startup’s case, it was still the wrong answer even though it was a reasonable answer.

Developers are humans too and often don’t get enough respect from Visual Designers, but UXers must ultimately side with the Users. Whether you’re a greenhorn or a jaded veteran, our focus should always be on creating experiences that provide value to the User.

Storyteller & Audiences must work together…

In the same interview, Murayama is asked to give an ending remark and shares an incredible insight for creators. Now I would like to preface this by noting that the game has several different endings that are predicated by decisions that the player makes and by the recruitment of certain characters. The endings, however, are often left in a very open-ended manner and do not provide definitive or concrete closes.

“I believe that a story comes to life only when taken as a joint collaboration between storyteller and audience.
While many things may be open to interpretation, there is no wrong in how each and every one of you fans may interpret and imagine a story. I hope you will each embrace the truth that you reach for yourselves.”

This is a reminder for all of us UXers that the process of creating incredible experiences are a joint collaboration. We can attempt to design and engineer outcomes, but in the end, it is up to the user to embrace what we put in front of them. I’m sure that I am not the only that looks back at 2016 and says to himself, “Oh yeah, I could have done more research and talked to more actual users.”

Great UX comes from a deep thorough understanding of the user and the journey in context. If what you’re building is based on assumptions or stereotyped user personas, 2017 might be the year that you take a more collaborative approach. Talk to your users, talk to your stakeholders, share, and disseminate information as it becomes available to you. Help inform yourself by informing others and working in harmony.

Yoshitaka Murayama Interview with Suikoden Revival Movement (2016)

Yoshitaka Murayama Interview with Suikoden Revival Moment (2014)




Suikoden II & UX


Kevin Yi


Suikoden II is the best Role-Playing Game to have ever graced the planet, but sadly, too little people know of this fact. While many of you might have encountered the Final Fantasy series or the Dragon Quest games, you’ve probably never even heard of Konami’s brilliant entry to the genre. My purpose today is not to convince you to play the game but to learn a few things from it that could be helpful in growing as a UXer.

It’s about Quantity & Quality.

I have always been told to seek out quality over quantity. This way of thinking permeates a lot of my personal decision-making and for a long time has been my go-to advice for clients and friends alike. Suikoden II challenges this paradigm by providing not just five or six characters but centers a major portion of the game around recruiting 108 playable-ish characters. These characters are also not throwaway designs, but each individual has an enthralling story that adds to the further enjoyment of the game.

UXers are often reductionists, looking for ways to simplify to improve functionality and speed of recognition. We often equate the idea of less is more as the best method of action. This might hold true for certain aspects of experience design, but UXers that work with content might want to embrace this idea that more is more if that more is of a certain caliber of quality.

Suikoden II also sets itself apart as being one of the few Sony Playstation RPG games that used 2D Character Sprites and not 3D Polygonal Graphics. At first, even for me, this seemed like an eyesore and I questioned the decision to go this route. After further research, I found that the creators of the game had decided to prioritize storytelling and atmosphere over the use of emerging 3D graphics at the time. In hindsight, the dated visuals of the game give it an ageless appeal and have allowed it to grow old with dignity.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality seems to be the only thing that our UX world is talking about lately, but I would suggest taking a page from Suikoden II’s book and re-prioritizing our efforts. Emerging technology platforms and devices are cool, but our job is to advocate for users and work on the products, interfaces, and services that they are using right now. Rather than always trying to build something new and challenge the status quo, why not refine something that we know works while focusing on aspects that elicit positive emotional responses? Build something that they will love, not something that will boost your UX ego.

Games should be fun. Experiences should be…

In an interview with Yoshitaka Murayama, one of the creators of Suikoden II, Murayama was asked to give his opinion about mobile games.

“This is difficult to answer, because there are a wide range of mobile games available,
but since they’re games,I’d like to see them get more and more fun.”

I found this answer to be incredibly intriguing. In UX, we often have to align user needs against business goals and create solutions that are a compromise of both. This is a reality that we all face, and I’m sure Murayama faced similar constraints when helping to create Suikoden II, but his main focus was still on creating an end product that is fun.

In the past, I was interviewing with a Startup and was asked how I would prioritize Users, Developers, and Business Goals if put in a constrained situation. I got nervous and ended up putting Developers first and Users second, this is the biggest UX mistake and one of the biggest interviewing mistakes that I have ever made in my life. Although I had a reasoning for my decision that was specific to that startup’s case, it was still the wrong answer even though it was a reasonable answer.

Developers are humans too and often don’t get enough respect from Visual Designers, but UXers must ultimately side with the Users. Whether you’re a greenhorn or a jaded veteran, our focus should always be on creating experiences that provide value to the User.

Storyteller & Audiences must work together…

In the same interview, Murayama is asked to give an ending remark and shares an incredible insight for creators. Now I would like to preface this by noting that the game has several different endings that are predicated by decisions that the player makes and by the recruitment of certain characters. The endings, however, are often left in a very open-ended manner and do not provide definitive or concrete closes.

“I believe that a story comes to life only when taken as a joint collaboration between storyteller and audience.
While many things may be open to interpretation, there is no wrong in how each and every one of you fans may interpret and imagine a story. I hope you will each embrace the truth that you reach for yourselves.”

This is a reminder for all of us UXers that the process of creating incredible experiences are a joint collaboration. We can attempt to design and engineer outcomes, but in the end, it is up to the user to embrace what we put in front of them. I’m sure that I am not the only that looks back at 2016 and says to himself, “Oh yeah, I could have done more research and talked to more actual users.”

Great UX comes from a deep thorough understanding of the user and the journey in context. If what you’re building is based on assumptions or stereotyped user personas, 2017 might be the year that you take a more collaborative approach. Talk to your users, talk to your stakeholders, share, and disseminate information as it becomes available to you. Help inform yourself by informing others and working in harmony.

Yoshitaka Murayama Interview with Suikoden Revival Movement (2016)

Yoshitaka Murayama Interview with Suikoden Revival Moment (2014)



P.S.


You should probably play Suikoden II.




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