Data Analysis for Game Development

Example Figure Description

Below is an example of good descriptive text that accompanies a figure done as part of game data analysis. It is not perfect, but it is pretty good. Notice how:

  1. The figure has a number;
  2. the figure has descriptive caption; and
  3. the figure is referred to by number in an opening sentence

Then, notice how the accompanying text description proceeds through phases in the proper order:

  1. The axes are described;
  2. the data points / trendlines / clusters are pointed out and described; and, lastly
  3. the messages provided.

The figure itself is pretty good - labeled axes, including units, clearly differentiated data points, and annotations (labels with arrows and clusters of points indicated). There could be some improvement tweaks - the axes fonts are a little small and some color choices are light.

[ZPNC12] T. Zimmermann, B. Phillips, N. Nagappan, and C. Harrison. "Data-Driven Games User Research", In Proceedings of the ACM CHI Workshop on Game User Research (CHI-GUR), May 2012, Austin, TX, USA. Online:

[Halo 3]
Figure 1 - Player Progression Chart of Halo 3.

Figure 1 shows a visualization called the player progression chart for a sample of roughly 18,000 players. The X axis shows the average number of days it took the players to get the achievement. Achievements on the left were earned faster than achievements to the right. The Y axis is the percentage of players getting the achievement. Achievements located near the top are earned more frequently than achievements near the bottom. Each dot represents a distinct achievement available in Halo 3, across the entire game. It shows achievements for completing single player missions, completing challenges such as finding skulls, for accomplishments in multiplayer, and everything else.

The graph shows four distinct clusters, which mostly correspond to the various types of achievements available in the game. The blue highlight indicates those achievements attained by playing through the campaign. The red highlight shows those achievements for collecting skulls in the campaign. The purple area shows achievements for playing through the campaign meta-game, where players can turn on campaign scoring and skulls to try to get high scores when completing missions. The yellow area shows achievements earned playing downloadable content.

We have also marked the game completion achievement on the graph. We can see that about 73% of the players got this achievement (game completion rate), and it took, on average, 26 days to get - that is the number of days from when they first started playing to the day they got this achievement. We can compute similar data and visualizations for most Xbox games. This allows us to compare the experience across games and correlate this information with other data sources, for example Metacritic ratings. In previous work we found that games with higher ratings are more likely to be completed.

Send all questions to Mark Claypool (claypool at