Remedy partnered with Player Research for larger-scale sessions and our fresh take on Control’s player experience.
Elise Torfs, Remedy’s User Research Specialist, explains, “We were really eager to test out some of the features and designs the team felt made the game unique, but could potentially cause the most issues for players. For example, the navigation system and the lack of hand-holding was continually of interest to the team”.
It had been a challenge for Remedy to tell Control’s complex story in its unusual and changeable environment. The deliberately disorientating corridors left some players needing explicit guidance to get them back on the right path, which served to highlight the exact moments where Remedy could choose to design in-game interventions.
In the playtest lab, researchers observed 12 players at once playing through the game build from a soundproofed room in Player Research’s Montreal studio.
Elise explains, “In the large-lab playtests I was really able to notice some navigational issues that would later on be fixed, observing players backtrack in places that didn’t justify it, and adding my observational notes to the playtesters’ own feedback.”
“The studies really quickly identified that some objectives were worded in a way that made them too obscure, and players struggled to understand how to proceed,” Elise explains.
“We ended up removing some obstacles that made it hard to progress, and re-worked the language for some specific objectives”
Remedy’s Thomas Puha explained in press interviews that, “players were initially supposed to navigate through the Bureau only by reading the in-world signs. Once we did the playtests, it was pretty obvious the players were not finding their way, and getting too frustrated, so we finally decided to add a map. Ultimately that was the right call”.
Players would need to revisit areas of The Oldest House several times during their Control playthrough, backtracking with upgraded keycards to allow access into new areas. To help players wayfind and remember rooms, the level’s stark open areas were often deliberately designed with sightlines to see both open routes and locked doors.
The specific hues would have been impossible for colourblind players to distinguish
The original design used a single light above the door, changing from red to green when it was unlocked, but the specific hues would have been impossible for colourblind players to distinguish between them. The potential wasted time for those players would have been huge.
The shipped title changed the indicator design, altering from one light to a pair of lights, glowing in yellow and red, and displayed a padlock symbol under the corresponding light. A small change with a huge impact on Control’s colourblind players’ ability to play as intended.
There are those that worry about involving players in development processes, and the ‘watering-down’ of a title’s uniqueness, but it’s clear that getting Control in front of playtesters significantly changed the game for the better.
For Remedy, it was a natural step to embed playtesting into such a risky game, and align with their studio goals of “creating longer lasting games, and pursuing strong business ownership” of their creations.