The Commend System

Activision's Call of Duty Companion App

Timeframe: Fall 2020
Our Team: Christian Enriquez | Ralph Buan
My Role:
Researcher and Designer
Design Challenge
"Call of Duty is more fun with friends, how can the Call of Duty companion app create social features to keep players engaged with the game and each other?"
Challenge Statement
"How might we help this transition from rando to real-life friends? And how might we better inform players about the abilities and playing styles of others so that they can have a more rewarding experience?"
Prototype/Presentation
Through applying all of our research and insights, we developed the HiFi Concept Prototype in Figma located below
Link to Prototype

Timeframe
Activision Stake Holders
Mark Burmeister – Director

Drew Gallo – Senior UX Designer

Alex BenBassat – Senior UI Designer

Ida Hashemi – Project Manager

We got an opportunity to interview the Activision stakeholders to identify the problem, as well as address any concerns or limitations that we felt we might encounter. Although most of the questions would later come up through our research. We were lucky to always remain in contact with them through Slack if we needed assistance.
Product Review
COD Warzone and Companion App
I began playing Call of Duty as a new user. I enjoy playing first person shooters and have had certain experiences with them. But COD was a whole different style. I have never had just realism in a game before. They tried really hard to make sure they invested as much resources into realistic scenarios as possible. I saw why many people become fans of the genre. But my experience with coordinating with other teammates was very minimal being as how many people didn't use mics.

I did however find myself really lost with all the overwhelming content that was being presented to me all at once. There were so many areas that required exploration to truly understand what was the hierarchy of it all. Learning the jargon was also a challenge for me, being as how it uses real world terms to categorize areas.

The COD Companion App also followed suit towards this same aspect of putting a lot of information in front of you. It seemed really busy, and could be a little much for first time users. Something to note is that it gave out so much information, but didn't allow you to make a lot of inputs. It focused mainly on showing you things rather than you manipulating.
Secondary Research
We searched for articles related to tackling features such as increasing player engagements, as well as working as a team together. We found that a lot of people although competitive, care a lot more about the fun play experience, rather than winning, and finding a good team to play with was where it would need to start.

We kept asking ourselves during the process, "how can we get people to want to use the COD Companion app?" It was the million dollar question. "And what drove people to want to use one?"

We also found it exciting when we came across research showing how well people can adapt to a situation when they feel a sense of belonging. We also found it nice to know that people enjoy having titles and roles and create a sense of community through the games they play, and friends they make along the way.

In-depth Secondary Research link
Competitive Analysis
We looked at other competitors to try and get a good feel for what they had present in their apps. Trying to find out common traits that could be the ingredients for a good app cocktail. One of the common findings was that a lot of them had something to share when it came to their friends.

They all had a theme that went well throughout the whole app. Giving you the impression of always knowing where you were upon turning on your phone.

Information was sectioned in areas that made sense, allowing a user to know what tab to check under if looking for that specific area.

In-depth Competitive Analysis link

Heuristic Evaluation
Conducting a heuristic evaluation, we searched for reasons as to why not many people used the application, and even were not aware of it. Where were some patterns that pointed to not having much engagement, as well as it being catered specifically to hardcore 'A' type personalities that had a huge focus on increasing their stats. Making sure that every detail counts.

The application was also extremely busy, making it hard to find what it is you're looking for. I found myself getting lost countless due to there being numerous sections in the app that almost felt like an infinite void. Diving deeper and deeper until I have to click on the home screen just to re-center myself.
Heuristic Evaluation

Netography
The internet has a wealth of information, and due to our current circumstance it was the best option for us to gather intel on what people thought about Call of Duty and it's Companion App.

We were able to encounter a lot of information from forums, discussion boards, and gamer servers. Everything from how people enjoyed playing COD, to the bugs and functions they found useless. We saw a good opportunity to even ask a group of people about their playing experience. But that unfortunately did not bode well. There is a stigma in the world of gaming about players and their toxicity. So before I knew it, I was being verbally abused but players in the chat. After exiting that server, I decided to continue just looking from the outside of the window, in.

Netography
Domain Experts Interviews
1st Interview:
Geoff Moore | Brandon Cating
These were very straight forward experts in the field of gaming, Geoff and Brandon were able to give us their insights on what they felt were possible things that Activision wanted, as well as did not. It entailed everything from users also wanting new ways of obtaining skins to utilizing how popular e-sports are to our advantage. Users did not really want another companion, which is why they were able to provide us on a good direction to go to give a bit of excitement to change the mind of the players.

2nd Interview:
Oke Mueller
This man had a wealth of knowledge on everything dealing with Call of Duty. Prior to this challenge, Activision had many interviews and had acquired great insights from players all around the world. Oke helped us tunnel vision the direction that had a big need. Tackling this area further with the research obtained through Oke. We were able to strengthen our concept.
Target Audience Interviews
In order to get a better grasp on what we were dealing with, we had to talk to players personally and get their pain points on the subject matter. Through Emel, we obtained some very good insights that got me thinking as to why these functions are not that common in games. Whereas Sean pointed out something that was common in games, but for some reason still needed improvement.

We found that our interviewees had the best games when they had a good group to play with. In these situations the phrase came to mind, "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, but how you play the game".

We took some time to think about the different ways to solve these issues. And finally came to a great concept to pitch to the stakeholder of Activision.

Concept Development
We present the commend system. It utilizes dog tags to let other players know what roles they were really good at during the game.

It enables players to see each others attributes for better identification of roles during the game. It would better help coordinate people that have never met before in being able to know a bit about one another.

This function in the Companion app could also help with befriending "Rando's" which are are random player's that you encounter in the game when playing in squads.

This tagging system could also help with incentivizing good behavior due to people wanting to receive more dog tags, which would lead to good rewards for doing so.

Prototype
Presentation
We created a 3 minute video presentation to addressing the concerns our targets audiences currently have, as well as our concept on how this problem could be addressed.


Results
"I think it is a solid idea"
"Good way of giving the squad leader incentive to rate people in his squad"
"Rating system is interesting and could be applied in some way"
"It got me pretty excited. The commend system and dog tags. Combating toxicity and good behavior"

Activision ended up really liking our concept!

"How do actually leverage users people to rate the game"
We got some good feedback and through this, are able to move forward in attempting to find ways that can solve problems such as incentivization.
Reflections
We had to pivot from our original change statement which was:
"We want to change the way players engage with their friends in the companion app in order to facilitate cooperation and competition." The system that we were attempting to create was upgraded version of the old "Wager Matches" that Call of Duty once had. But due to legal issues, it was a function that would not be feasible. But we were excited to find our new current statement.

Moving forward we will be looking for good ways to try and incentivize players to want to rate each other. Currently there isn't a system in place to encourage this. We had also came across some restrictions mentioned from the Activision stakeholders.

These restrictions were such things as not being to reward players with skins, and weapon blueprints. I felt it was a bit of a bummer due to those specific things being the most common way to encourage players to participate. They countered it however by letting us know that we could use stickers, cards, and double XP as an incentive.

But we feel like there could be something more that could be gained from this. We will need to get back to looking further into our interview recordings as well as facilitating more interviews as well as user testing.
Appendix
A accumulation of assets we for our concept.


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