BFBC2 Persona Visualizer

Background · Technology · How it works
Discussion and future prospects · Links · Those responsible

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Background

The BFBC2 Persona Visualizer is a prototypical tool for displaying the tendency towards certain play styles of people playing the video game Battlefield: Bad Company 2. This is achieved by collecting statistics such as scores, pins, or kills.

The prototype was developed by students attending the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. All of them were studying the master program Applied Cognition and Media Science and took part in a research project at the professional group Interactive Systems dealing with player personas as well as game metrics.

Over the course of the project, it was decided to investigate how those entities relate to each other by setting up an online questionnaire for gamers. This questionnaire assessed behaviour and preferences in the first person shooter Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (BFBC2), which is a multiplayer focused war simulation. BFBC2 was chosen because it belongs to a genre that has not gotten a lot of attention in this field of research and also provides rich data.

Participants were asked to state their nicknames used in the game and whether they play on a personal computer, an Xbox 360, or a Playstation 3. With this information, it was possible to collect BFBC2 statistics of the participants and statistically analyze their correlation to the achiever and socializer dimensions of the questionnaire. Those dimensions represent different play styles, or personas, and are based on psychologist Nick Yee‘s research regarding massively multiplayer online role-playing games. A detailed report about this first part of the project can be found here.

During the second part another goal was established: Providing BFBC2 players with the possibility to take a graphical look at their statistics and therefore, how they themselves match the achiever and socializer persona. This again resulted in the development of the BFBC2 Persona Visualizer which is described in the following.


Technology

Because of the amount of data, and the fact that two different aspects of the statistics (correlation with the personas and value) had to be visualized, a three dimensional representation was chosen. While searching for a way to put this into practice, the game development tool Unity quickly came to mind, since it provides a comfortable 3d engine and is related to the research field. Furthermore, applications created with Unity can be executed in any web browser, making the BFBC2 Persona Visualizer highly accessible.

Behaviour scripts for the prototype were written in the programming language C#. Data collection was realized via the application programming interface of the Battlefield Bad Company 2 Stats website. In order to process the JavaScript Object Notation format in which the data is provided, the LitJSON library was used. Autodesk 3ds Max and Adobe Photoshop were chosen to create models and textures.


How it works

For the application to run, the Unity Web Player (available for Windows and Mac OS X) needs to be installed. If it is not, the user will be asked to do so. As soon as the BFBC2 Persona Visualizer is loaded, he can select the gaming platform and enter his nickname in the upper left region of the graphical user interface. After the Get Data button is pressed, a query with this information is sent to the application programming interface of the Battlefield Bad Company 2 Stats website. Given that the nickname was found, the data visualization takes place.

In the 3d environment, two bullseye like circles are placed. Both circles are labeled with a flag saying either Achiever or Socializer and stand for one of the two personas. For every statistic a cylinder on each circle is created. The height of the cylinder stands for the value of the statistic, while its position represents the correlation to the persona, ranging from -1 to 1, where 1 is located in the exact middle of the circle and -1 at the edge. To avoid exceedingly high cylinders, each value is scaled by a certain factor. These factors were calculated using the statistics of the current top five pc players listed on the Battlefield Bad Company 2 Stats website.

The user is able to either focus the camera on one or both of the circles by pressing the buttons located in the upper right of the graphical user interface. He also can move freely in the 3d environment, using controls resembling those of a first person shooter. The WASD keys move the camera into a certain direction and moving the mouse while holding the right mouse button rotates it. Placing the cursor over a cylinder makes a text appear that includes the name and the value of the corresponding statistic.


Discussion and future prospects

The developed prototype adequately visualizes statistics for the video game Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and their correlation to the achiever and socializer personas. It is easily used, so a gamer can take a quick look at how he leans towards the personas. Nevertheless, some improvements could be made.

For one the BFBC2 Persona Visualizer did not undergo intense bug testing. Thus, it is not improbable that unexpected problems can occur during the use of the application. Another thing is that the overall tendency towards a persona is not explicitly stated. Besides that, the chosen method to scale the values might not be ideal, since the values of the statistics along different players vary a lot. People that just started playing for example might see no differences in the height of their cylinders. A solution for this might be to additionally consider the playtime. Lastly, there is yet no option to show the description of every cylinder at once. This makes it difficult to quickly find a certain statistic.

A quite intriguing idea that came up during the project was to generate terrain for a multiplayer map, using the height and position of the cylinders. Each persona could be made into a base for the competing teams. Of course, the BFBC2 Persona Visualizer could also be expanded for the use with other first person shooters, or even games of different genres. But in order to do so, the psychological framework would have to fit, and similar ways of data collection would have to be provided.

Links

Personae at War (Report)
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Battlefield Bad Company 2 Stats
Unity Game Development Tool
LitJSON Library
Nick Yee
University of Duisburg-Essen

Interactive Systems professional group

Those responsible

Project supervisors:
Jörg Niesenhaus, M.Sc.
Matthias Klauser, M.Sc.
Data visualization team:
Ramsi Heni, B.Sc.
Sebastian Kirch, B.Sc.
Robin Meyer, B.Sc.
Patrick Rönsberg, B.Sc.
Statistical analysis team:
Janine Halsig, B.Sc.
Dominik Hein, B.Sc.
Marina Jakubowski, B.Sc.

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