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Proteus | Ultra: Experimental Test Environment

Original Platform / Launch Date: PC / February 2021

Cubic Team Makeup: Lead Game Designer/ Customer Liaison (1), Junior Gameplay Designer (1) Blueprint Scripter (1), UX Design (2), UI Design (1), Production (2), & QA (2)

My Role: UX Designer

My Tools: Figma, Adobe Illustrator, Perforce & Unreal Engine 4 (UE4)

Tasks & Deliverables: User Story Development

Work Environment: 100% remote

Timeline: March 2020 - February 2021

DARPA article describing the software: Article Link

My Role

I joined Proteus during phase 3 of the project to replace another UX designer [Phase 3 for a DARPA product is a more hardening and refinement portion of the contract]. He onboarded me and remained a resource throughout the rest of the project. My primary purpose was to work with the “strike team” to finalize features and incorporate vetted feedback from playtests I observed remotely. I worked within the established UX patterns to expand the feature set. The UI designer and I collaborated to support visual consistency using, and augmenting, her extensive UI Kit.


Since this was an established product with well-defined personas, I focused on refining game features based on feedback from both off-site weekly playtests as well as my own player observations during internal play testing.

External playtests happened on a weekly, or bi-weekly basis with different groups of users in an external lab in a multi-user training simulation. I would observe these tests and note things that were called out as easy or frustrating by each team. 


I met with the Lead Gameplay Designer and the Proteus DARPA Project Manager to better understand customer feature requests. After that, we would hold internal kickoff meetings to establish feature goals, team needs, and a development roadmap. I worked iteratively with the UI Artist, Blueprint Scripter, and Lead Gameplay Designer to deliver consistent, technically sound features. 

Once the gameplay designer approved the initial wireframes, the feature moved to the UI Designer. I maintained visibility on the feature to ensure a consistent vision as it moved on to art and scripting. Furthermore, I provided clarity, answered questions, and sometimes made additional changes based on developer feedback or limitations. 


To clearly show how new features could be blended with existing content, I used desaturated screen shots. Showing new UX elements in full-color mode made it easier for the UI Artist and scripter to differentiate between existing content and new features. As a team, we came up with this solution to sped up our workflow and improve collaboration since this was a major pain point for all of us.


EXAMPLE: I started all features with an overview slide that described how to access this feature, intent, and unique callouts. I called out engineering "heads up" in blue to differentiate from UI and gameplay callouts. This was a developer request since he wanted to quickly focus on his potential tasks. In the end, this was liked by the entire team since it helped show some of the scripting uplift early which helped plan time and efforts.

PROTEUS_wireframe overview
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Key Takeaways

This was my first defense based product. It was also a challenging work environment since the project immediately shifted from 100% in-office to 100% remote. The rapid DARPA cadence with ever-changing goals, the technical vocabulary inherent to the military sphere, and the highly specialized user persona contributed to an overall difficult uplift.  Additionally, I inherited this project from a UX collogue and had to blend seamlessly into a new team with an established workflow.

The tumultuous transition nature was beneficial, since it helped our strike team be open to changes in communication methods and workflows since we were all in transition at a certain level.

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