The principal of Behavioristics, Inc.,Heather Desurvire, has worked in the usability field for more than 15 years. She has conducted usability services as a full-time employee for AT&T Bell Laboratories, Bell Communications Research and NYNEX Science and Technology. In 1993, she launched her own usability consulting company, Behavioristics, Inc., which continues to thrive and enjoy the respect of many high profile companies.
usability, user experience, game usability, player experience
Desurvire’s achievements in the game industry began in the CD-ROM days, when she worked with a game publisher in New York in the 90s on several adventure, platform, racing and sports games. For Worlds Inc., she worked on a Sims-type game. She has learned which aspects of games hinder play, and suggested redesigns of game elements so the majority of players can fully enjoy and continue playing them.
Recently she completed several games, including:
- Tak1 and the Power of Juju; Tak 2, Staff of Dreams; Tak 3, the Big Juju Challenge (Avalanche Software, THQ Publishers)
- Full Spectrum Warrior, a strategy game that delivers the realism and immersion of a FPS; developed by Pandemic studios, released by THQ
- Star Wars Galaxies, Empire At War, Battlefront II (PSP and Xbox, PS2; LucasArts)
- Lord of the Rings, Battle for Middle Earth (Electronic Arts)
- Girlfriends for Disney Interactive
- Dawn of War (RTS; Relic Studios, THQ Publishers)
Usability Evaluations and User Experience Evaluations
Desurvire has utilized many proven methodologies with her user-centered design work. These include such usability evaluations as usability testing, heuristic evaluation, user profile analysis, task analysis, competitive analysis, needs analysis, contextual inquiry, ethnographic studies, focus groups, and standards testing.
Her work spans a multitude of products. For games: PC computer games, PS2, Xbox, Xbox 360, GameCube, Game Boy Advanced, Nintendo DS, and the PSP. She has contributed to the following user interfaces: Graphical User Interfaces such as Microsoft Windows-based products, and Apple Macintosh products; websites for E-commerce, informational, entertainment, and website application; telephone-based interfaces, financial systems, ATMs, digital image printers, voice recognition systems, (Motorola, NYNEX Corporation, Bellcore, AT&T Bell Labs and Nortel Networks) and user documentation.
Her usability work on the software/Internet product for Cybermedia, Inc. resulted in the company receiving a design award for Best User Interface from PC Magazine. Desurvire was responsible for the successful usability of the music player developed by CMGI, which included a blending of video, Instant Messaging, radio and chat. Her usability work has impacted AOL’s successful release 5 and 6 of the You’ve Got Pictures feature. She has also led research for Palm Computing to analyze future feature set needs that will be compelling for targeted customers. She also assisted the designers at Launch.com to reconfigure a troublesome and infrequently used Rating Widget into a successful, highly used feature, which ultimately led to higher frequency of use of the site. Her usability work has impacted the burgeoning area of Web TV, where she has assisted Intertainer.tv, a Paramount and Universal subsidiary, in uncovering barriers to their customers’ use of this new technology. Her work significantly improved the use and usability of Disney’s new game for youth aged 6-10. It is a new type of interactive game that will set the tone for future game designs put out by Disney. THQ and Avalanche Software (also produced by Nickelodeon) benefited from the play testing by adding a new level for a tutorial, disguised as game play so novices could also enjoy the game. Many other areas of the game were also modified based on the play testing, which resulted in a much wider audience for game play. Some of the improvements included adding more clarity of goals, more interaction with the game’s characters, which was perceived as the most fun, and paced assistance disguised as a game character, among other improvements. Her work in Full Spectrum Warrior resulted in a greater number of players having access to this new style of game by modifying the tutorial, HUD and many on-screen elements. The empirical results pointed to increasing the players’ tendency toward long and enduring play by increasing their capacity to learn strategy at a specific pace.
Player Experience Workshops For Game Designers and Producers
Desurvire pioneered research on alternative methodologies for evaluating the usability of user interfaces. A summary of her research is published in “Usability Inspection Methods” (John Wiley and Sons, edited by J. Nielsen and R. Mack). She co-chaired a workshop with Jakob Nielsen, and her research has appeared in professional journals, including the ACM Special Interest Group and the Computer Human Interaction (SIGCHI) Bulletin. She has presented her work at numerous professional conferences and has been invited to chair several paper sessions.Game Research
Her current research involves video game playability. Since usability goals for productivity software differ from those of games (ease of use, speed, etc., versus games where challenge and difficulty may be part of the fun), she has been involved with several colleagues in the industry, including Microsoft’s GameStudio lab, in evolving the methodology specific to playability and usability for video games. Desurvire presented her research on developing new playability methods for games at the prestigious CHI (Computer Human Interaction) Conference in Austria, Vienna in 2004.Education
Desurvire’s credentials include a B.A. in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley (1983), an M.A. in psychology and a B.S. in computer science from New York University (1988).
Desurvire’s consulting practice provides her clients with the ability to master usability challenges to create an exceptional customer experience. She accomplishes this by utilizing the latest proven usability and customer experience methods and techniques in a cutting-edge, cost-effective manner. The results of her work immediately enlighten teams and impact designs for increased usability, and, in the case of games, increased playability — thus increasing revenue for her clients.