Archive for February, 2008

cheap useability testing

“If an expert pauses while testing a new program, that’s where a beginner will fail.”

Norman Brenner

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is it a game?

A game needs;

  • Conflict
  • Clear outcomes (conditions)
  • Understandable rules
  • Allow play between constraints (of the rules)

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does high price ensure high quality experience?

Research suggests that a bias towards higher priced goods may have something to do with the way that the brain links price with pleasure, and leads people to make assumptions about quality. NYT.

Professor Rangel, Caltech, said that there were reasons to suspect that price tag bias occurs in many contexts. Given the human love affair with high priced luxury goods, and their association with status and power, it’s possible that we’ve come to experience a cerebral shiver of delight in response to things that promise cachet.

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build on other people’s simple ideas

1. The best ideas are usually easy to understand and easy to explain to others. Ideas that are not easy to understand are unlikely to get anyone’s attention
2. Build on or borrow ideas from other people
3. Keep all your great ideas – write them down and save them in one place

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design language: peak-end rule


Peak-end rule; defined by wikipedia

“According to the peak-end rule, we judge our past experiences almost entirely on how they were at their peak (pleasant or unpleasant) and how they ended. Virtually all other information appears to be discarded, including net pleasantness or unpleasantness and how long the experience lasted.”

“…this fact of perception seems to be already in the bones of the most well-regarded artists. For example, I once heard a jazz pianist tell a group of students how to craft a solo improvisation. The cheat-sheet? Build to a strong middle, and make a solid ending…the audience won’t remember anything else. I’ve also seen many orchestral conductors add an especially dramatic flourish to their final cut-off, leading the crowd to go wild, regardless of what came before.”

Don’t spread the experiences too thin, and make sure that you end with a bang… with feel good reward, spectacle or flattery.

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take overlooked ideas

Advice on product selection and prototyping;

“I like to find;
(a) simple solutions
(b) to overlooked problems
(c) that actually need to be solved, and
(d) deliver them as informally as possible,
(e) starting with a very crude version 1, then
(f) iterating rapidly.”

Paul Graham

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constant winning

“He also praised Facebook and MySpace games such as Zombie that let people play whether or not their friends are online at the same time as them. However, “I have more value in the game if I invite my friends,” he concluded. Puzzle Quest is another recent game that Early loved, because, “Each one of these minigames is a win for me. In fact, each time you match three is a win. There’s that feeling of constantly winning, winning, winning in that gamespace.”

Chris Early, general manager of Microsoft’s casual-games program

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design language : goldilocks rule


The Goldilocks Rule. Don’t give people too little or too much.

Give them just the right amount for what you want them to achieve or experience.

Rule of Four. Don’t expect the audience to keep in mind more than four groups on a slide. Car license plates and telephone numbers are as long as they are because of how much information we can easily store in our short-term memories: on average about four groups.
Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer Rule. What’s different stands out, be it a red nose, a large graphic, or words in bold.

Powerpoint for Martians?

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a game; where you go for rewarding experiences


A game is something which player’s take part in to get something out of. They are looking for experiences which in some way are rewarding for them. A place you go for rewarding experiences. They are social objects; either online in real time through chat and VO, or offline after and between game sessions.

“The Third Place” is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace.”

“The future of brands is interaction, not commodity. It’s not something you buy, but something you participate in. i.e. a brand is not a thing, but a place.”

“Consumer benefit” – products need to make people be more powerful

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definition of cynicism

“Cynicism is knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing” -  Oscar Wilde

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism, by those who have not got it.” - George Bernard Shaw

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scratch your own itch or not?

Mass market success requires excellence in casual and hardcore areas. How can one development team generate the passion and in depth knowledge to succeed in both?

Conduct user research throughout development.  What do people react to, and build on those.  Foster creativity in places where player is most likely to react to it.  There was a time where devs were representative – if devs loved it, customers will too.  But now audience is bigger and that isn’t true, requires cooperation between dev + production + sales + marketing.

Hardcore vs Mass market.  Three concentric circles: mass market > casual gamers > hardcore gamers in the middle.  It is important to reach that hardcore gamer, but it is not enough.  All three audiences combined are what make the true mega successes.  Plan to drive that awareness and “desire to buy”.  Vote with their dollars and their time and there are a lot of other options.
on Robin Kaminsky, VP of Publishing, Activision at DICE 08

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observe the parts, perceive the whole

“As part of normal life, everyone learns to assume certain things (or so one assumes) — that the world doesn’t disappear when you’re not looking, for example, that the house across the street has furniture and interior walls. As infants, we’re unable to commit that act of faith. If we can’t see it, hear it, smell it, taste it or touch it, it isn’t there! The game “Peek-A-Boo” plays on this idea. Gradually, we learn that even though the sight of mommy comes and goes, mommy remains. This phenomenon of observing the parts and perceiving the whole has a name. It’s called closure.”

Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics

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quality just takes time

“If you buy the notion that quality takes time, then it won’t come as any surprise to you that there is an inverse relationship between quality and quantity. The higher the quality, the lower the quantity (for the same expenditure of time and money).”

Tom DeMarco, Slack.

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let down by dreaming of the prize?

Projects need goals.
Goals help focus teams.
Goals are linked to desirable outcomes, or prizes
To achieve a goal, there needs to be next steps or actions.
And action takes you closer to the goal.
The duality of goals, is that it is easy to slip in to thinking about the prize and not the next action required.
It takes great focus to stay on the next action and not to drift off thinking about the prize.
Celebrating before the end zone is reached, spending the money before the success is real.
Dreaming of success is powerful, forgetting to take the next action is fatal.

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a statement, a judgment or a question?

“An estimated forty percent of all questions are really statements in disguise, another forty percent are judgments in disguise. Only a small percentage of ‘inquiries’ are questions.”

William Isaacs founder of the Dialogue Project MIT, clipped from Egonomics by David Marcum and Steven Smith.

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design language : session to session

More useful than ‘hour to hour’, as it encourages you to think about progression between gaming sessions regardless of the length of play session.

‘Moment to moment, or more commonly ‘minute to minute’ helps when thinking about immediate action, and doesn’t give thought to progression.

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rpg design principles

  • Stafford Principle:  maintain a sense of wonder
  • Perrin Principle:  be consistent
  • Petersen Principle:  make it fun. Be high energy!
  • Staats Principle:  reward the players as well as the characters
  • Sandy’s Axiom:  involve at least three senses in every scene

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making mutual understanding

“The most successful managers, I believe, are those who will see their fundamental work not as making decisions, but as making mutual understanding”

The Art of the Long View, Peter Schwartz

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can Starbucks help game design?


Create and Strictly Follow an “Aroma First” Rule

“I believe we overlooked the cause and the affect of flavor lock in our stores. We achieved fresh roasted bagged coffee, but at what cost? The loss of aroma — perhaps the most powerful non-verbal signal we had in our stores; the loss of our people scooping fresh coffee from the bins and grinding it fresh in front of the customer, and once again stripping the store of tradition and our heritage?” – Howard Schultz email

Since coffee is Starbucks core, and scent is the strongest cue for our senses – make aroma the highest priority. (Yes, even more important than perceived increased sales). Maintain Howard’s original desire to preserve aroma and implement an “Aroma First” rule. It’s simple, for every decision; ask, “Is this going to negatively affect aroma in any way?” If the answer is “yes” do not do it…

What are the ‘Aroma First’ rules for game design?

‘Always Allow Progress’ – from the moment that player starts they are on a journey; developing skills, being challenged, being rewarded, anticipating rewards or challenges and be reminded of their progress along their journey.

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