Welcome to another edition of Meet the Team! This time we interview Miguel, our Senior UX Designer for Travian: Legends!

Hola Miguel! First off, give us a little bio of yourself: where are you from and how long have you been working for Travian Games?

So, as you said, I am Miguel Angel (double name indeed) and I am from Barcelona.

I left Spain 8 years ago and moved to England. After 6 years I came to Germany, stayed for one year in Hamburg and moved to Munich to join Travian Games just 6 months ago.

During the last 15 years, I fulfilled a large variety of roles, such as Game Designer, 2D Artist and Lead, UI Artist/Designer and UX Designer. I have also produced and developed two projects on my own. Here at Travian Games, I am a Senior UX Designer working on Travian: Legends.

For the readers who aren’t so familiar with what UX designers do, can you briefly explain the role?

Sure. In order to understand the UX role, I think they need to have an overview of the User Interface (UI) process.

In order to successfully design UI, we need three professionals coming from three specific fields: UI Design, UI Art and UX Design.

  • UI Designers are primarily concerned with how the product is laid out: where are the buttons placed, what is their size, their behavior, flow between screens, etc.
  • UI Artists are primarily concerned with crafting beautiful assets: keep the art style consistent, deliver assets to the developers, help them to implement the UI, etc. 
  • UX designers are primarily concerned with how the product feels: design the UX architecture, identify user cases and find UX solutions for them, UX research, UX review, etc…

At Travian Games, as in many other companies, the UI Designer and the UX Designer are roles played by the same person. That’s me. 🙂

What kind of projects have you worked on in the past and how do they compare to Travian: Legends?

Hard to compare, to be honest. I have developed different kinds of games for kids, family games, casual games, arcade/violent games, for different kinds of platforms: consoles and handheld devices. After 15 years this is the first time I develop games for browsers. Nothing that I did before is comparable to Travian: Legends, to be honest.

Something to highlight though: This is the first time I work on a project where there is a loyal and hardcore community of players who give us direct feedback about their experience playing Travian: Legends. This is so exciting! I love this part. It makes me feel being part of something bigger. Something alive.

What design challenges does a project like Travian propose? What makes it an interesting project for you?

As in any other project I worked before, I always try to reduce and simplify the UI and interaction patterns as much as I can – keeping the UI accessible not only for experienced users but also easy to interact with and easy to understand for new users. However, Travian: Legends has a lot of depth and achieving this is harder than ever.

Travian: Legends is the most complex game I have worked on so far. This is challenging and exciting. This is the main reason why I joined Travian Games: I was looking for a true challenge. Challenges encourage me to become a better professional. I don’t like easy things. I am not the kind of person who stays in his comfort zone for a long time. I think Travian: Legends offers me that challenge. That’s why I am here. 🙂

We’ve seen some examples of the upcoming combat simulator design overhaul, and are all very excited to start using it. What was your process for redesigning that feature? How did you approach it? What was the most challenging aspect to design?

Many iterations are always needed before we get the final version. UX/UI is like the scientific method: you need to test continuously to be sure things work fine and repeat over and over again. Unfortunately, sometimes, as a developer, you can lose focus and waste a lot of time. This is why planning is so important. Part of the planning is setting up the pillars of your feature. We had three main objectives:

  • We wanted a “click and go” UI to avoid cumbersome interactions
  • We wanted to make it consistent with any other area in the game where we were showing troops
  • We wanted to make this feature a powerful one, so new features had to be implemented without affecting its simplicity

The most challenging aspect was the lack of space for showing so much information and how to distribute the information consistently. This is not the most challenging feature I have worked on indeed. The one I am doing now is by far more complex. But I can’t tell you just yet. 🙂

You can probably spot design improvements everywhere you look in the game. What part of Travian: Legends are you eager to redesign next and sink your teeth into?

Hmm… not sure how much I can say without including spoilers. 😉

The interface is built up like a building: you need a good foundation. This is what we call UX Architecture. This includes many aspects of the User Experience like User Flow, Player’s Progression, Visual Language, etc.

An important part of that UX Architecture is the Main Screen (sometimes called Landing Screen too). The Main Screen is the screen where the game starts and where the game finishes. We call this the Core Loop. In Travian, the Main Screen would be the “Land / Village View” including all the panels/buttons from these views.

We are working on how to improve this screen without having much impact on our core users, but making it more accessible and easy to understand for new users. We might need to include new features to increase the feeling of progression. That’s all I can say so far. Still early steps.

I’ve heard you’re an avid gamer. What are your top 3 all time favorite games?

Hard question mate. Too many excellent games out there and too many years playing.

One of the games for which I feel extremely impressed is, without a doubt, the new “The Legend of Zelda – Breath of the Wild”. Last time I felt as impressed was when I bought my Voodoo 3dfx graphics card and ran “Unreal”. I was shocked. The music, the textures, the lighting, the gameplay… I felt the same with this “Zelda” title, or even more. This is one of the best games ever. Technically impressive, artistically amazing, and cleverly designed. A friend of mine, who is a developer, said this game should be taught at university. I agree. How to make a masterpiece?

I used to play a lot of graphic adventures, such as Lucas Arts’ adventures. My favorite was “The Day of the Tentacle”. A classic. Another one I loved was “The Longest Journey”. I remember finishing it, standing up in front of my computer and clapping my hands. I was touched.

Another one… Let me think. Something more competitive. I am a “Mario Kart” player. I loooooooove racing arcade games and “Mario Kart” holds the crown. I like winning and, most of the times, I win. This is one of the reasons why I like it. 😉

Lastly, zombie apocalypse starts now. What’s your weapon within arm’s reach?

Hmm… a car is actually within my arm’s reach, right? I would love to recreate “Carmageddon”. xD

Thank you for reading this edition of Meet the Team. We hope you enjoyed meeting Miguel! If you have any questions for him, leave us a comment below. Tune in next month when we interview one of our awesome Quality Assurance Testers working on Travian: Legends.