Archive for game design

keep it deep

Chu said that Blizzard distinguishes between complexity and depth. It wants players to enjoy games, like World of Warcraft in its 10th year, for decades. It enables that through depth, but not complexity.

Complexity is about all the different things you need to understand before you can make decisions in the game. Depth gives you a wide range of options to take once you understand the game.


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shiny thing are wet


“The evidence that people are drawn to shiny things is all around us: from the pages of lifestyle magazines to the page stock of lifestyle magazines. One logical explanation for this cultural affection is that we’ve come to associate gloss with wealth and luxury.”

“… that our preference for glossy might be deep-rooted and very human,” says Patrick. “It is humbling to acknowledge that despite our sophistication and progress as a species, we are still drawn to things that serve our innate needs–in this case, the need for water.”

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do we need to care about technology any more?

“Talk about experiences, not features. Technology is there to enable an experience, and as long as it doesn’t get in the way, most consumers would rather not worry about it.”

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simple ideas

“Simple ideas are easier to understand. Ideas that are easier to understand are repeated. Ideas that are repeated change the world. “

Simon Sinek

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cooperation is our species’ signature adaptation

“Cooperation is our species’ signature adaptation”

Headline quote from a Fast Company article inspired by Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson’s book The Social Conquest of Earth.

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design language : tea party

A more approachable, social and less intense version of a guild.

“I don’t think it’s as much that you invent the next ‘what’s after guilds?’, but I think it’s more how do you take something like guilds and make that something that isn’t called guilds, that’s more like a tea party that your mom can get into.”

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evolving gamers assumptions and expectations

One of the unexpected consequences of social gaming has been a softening of the gamer’s expectations of tutorials, structure and rewards.

“Part of the opportunity for all of us over the next five years is how do we package those up in a way that can fit in this form factor [Pincus points to smartphone] of a very small screen, small attention span, and someone who’s not going to read instructions, not going to do tutorials, and it’s got to have a very, very light, soft on-ramp but have a lot of depth of where that experience can go. I think the opportunity is to continue to innovate – it’s a new kind of innovation.”

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buying satisfaction

Peter Drucker wrote;

“The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it sells him. One reason for this is, of course, that nobody pays for a ‘product.’ What is paid for is satisfaction.”

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gaming is a psychological experience

Think about the fantasy that a game is fulfilling for the play, this establishes a baseline set of expectations. Then think about the ways that the game delivers, manages or challenges a player’s psychological reaction to the game’s experience.

Q: What’ something you’ve learned about game development that has remained true over the years?

Sid Meier: Gaming is a psychological experience. I base my games on things like railroads, pirates, and history, and I try to make the games I design true and real. The more historical, the more realistic, and the more factual, the better. During the early days of my career, I hadn’t taken into account what was in the player’s head. By acknowledging that simple concept-that gameplay is a psychological experience-it can make your games better.

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externalized through an avatar?

Aligning a player’s gaming journey of success and how this is represented to a social audience – an important consideration for western design applicable to emerging markets.


Broadly speaking, the Chinese middle classes believe that with the right competitive tools, they will find an opportunity to transform their lives, in contrast to a blue-collar laborer, who sees his social and economic status as more or less fixed. It’s the difference between basic needs of survival and physical safety and a need to satisfy social status requirements. The middle class engages with society to get recognition for financial success. It’s important to note, though, that this is not about arrival, it’s about being on the right journey…

“A brand’s success is rooted in an appreciation of people’s fundamental motivations—and in China this means that a premium-priced product must be a tool for social advancement.


Acceptance. Young college graduates are unproven, in search of acceptance. They need acknowledgment of their potential, not admiration for their achievement.

Recognition. Once strivers are in mid-career, they must be recognized for both their past achievements and their capacity for further advancement.

Admiration and iconization. Toward the top of the hierarchy, the laoban, or boss, requires unanimous respect and deference.

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design language: ultimatum game


The Ultimatum Game: 2 players – 1 proposes a split or deal, if the 2nd player accepts it then the deal goes through, if the 2nd refuses the deal is off and both parties gain nothing.

“The Ultimatum Game has been pointed to as a way of showing that humans are economically irrational. Why do people reject an offer of 25% of the total pot? If the pot is $100 then they are choosing between getting $25 or nothing at all. So why do they choose nothing at all?

The answer seems to be that people generally find offers below 30% to be insulting. It’s insulting that the other person should suggest such a derisory sum, even when it’s free money. So they prefer to have nothing and punish the other person’s greed. And remember the other person is losing $75 in this case whereas I’m only losing $25.”

“"Cutting off the nose to spite the face" is an expression used to describe a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a problem: "Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face" is a warning against acting out of pique, or against pursuing revenge in a way that would damage oneself more than the object of one’s anger.

In isolation this mechanic is of limited play value. If there is an opportunity to build up a picture of a player’s personality, then the Ultimatum Game could be more interesting. E.g. in games of ongoing negotiation and diplomacy.

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design language: press your luck

A simple escalating risk and reward mechanic designed to draw you in, challenge you to know when to stop or lose all in a final ‘step too far’.

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design language: appointment mechanic


A game feature, carefully designed to bring the player back to the game on a regular or agreed cadence over and over.

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adopting TV’s characteristics

“Where TV and video games diverge dramatically is in the way they work as a medium. TV has three core features – it’s scheduled, it’s broadcast and it’s passive. Video games do none of these things.”

Appointment mechanics bring an element of schedule to social games, which in turn creates greater engagement. This parallel’s some of the benefits of TV’s more rigid schedule. DVR’s and on demand delivery start to erode TV’s fixed schedule, and perhaps reduce the benefits of simultaneous revelation and social opportunities.

“In much the same way, we can tweet about TV and everyone else who is watching the same thing at the same time can GET INVOLVED IN THE CONVERSATION. This is social proof, and social proof on a grand scale. This, again, is behavioral economics.”

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how is that useful to the player?

“Usefulness is best achieved by thinking about everything as user experience. If you start with “useful” as a first principle, then you automatically place customer need and experience first. And you’re less inclined to get lost in your own jargon, product-development silos, or legacy.Usefulness is best achieved by thinking about everything as user experience. If you start with “useful” as a first principle, then you automatically place customer need and experience first. And you’re less inclined to get lost in your own jargon, product-development silos, or legacy.

“Being useful doesn’t always mean asking the focus group. It’s fair to say that customers don’t always know what they want. Customers now play an increasingly equal, participatory, and critical role in brand and business. But co-creation should not be accepted as a default solution to every challenge. Even when consumers do know what they want, empowering them to create it might not result in the most impressive solution. Observing consumers is usually a more effective way of discovering unmet or poorly met needs, and can reveal hacked solutions that suggest real opportunities of how to be useful in the world.”

Be careful to avoid the ‘faster horse’ answer.

Think how you can be useful in areas that are not necessarily in your core but still drive customers to your business.

  • Look for ways that customers are navigating around obstacles and build a business out of that.
  • Consider how you can connect your customers directly to one another. And have them create mutual value.

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i have an idea…

“We’re looking for people who can say, ‘I have a product idea, I can think through a need, I can think through a customer base, build something, ship it, and then iterate based on how it’s being used.’”

  • A product idea
  • An understanding of the need it fills
  • Targeted for a customer
  • Ability to build it
  • Leadership to deliver
  • Perspective to know when to stop, and finish it
  • Collect and understand feedback
  • Iterate and respond that feedback
  • Learn

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iterating things that you feel

Designing for Facebook, Cox said, gets at “the science of things you can’t reason about, that you just feel.” He added: “That’s why, when we’re trying to accomplish something that’s pretty new, it’s important to be iterating in that [design] mindset.”

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enough semblance of truth

“The English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once wrote that if authors could infuse their stories with enough "semblance of truth," readers would suspend their disbelief of the clearly fabricated tale.”

and advice on using suspension of disbelief in convincing others in business and life;

“In order to inspire others and convince them to suspend their disbelief, you must celebrate, through language, the idea above yourself. Treat the idea as if it were a character you were embodying on the stage. Compelling others is "a function of your capacity to imagine and to subsume one’s own ego in favor of whatever character or idea it is that you’re trying to portray," says Wright. "The idea becomes larger and more powerful than you and there is then hopefully some type of levitation that happens and the story touches people."

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a generous 15 minutes to grab the player?

"In the old days, again, we were talking about the golden hour – you had to catch the player in the golden hour to get them to love it enough and tell their friends and whatever. These days it’s more like the golden 15 seconds," he commented. "You can actually watch the little waterfall graph of the longer the bar goes for loading, the more people you lose forever for first time players.”

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understand, don’t ask

Understand and empathize with consumers of your product to stimulate innovation.

“Internalizing the values of your users makes innovation easier, but getting there is hard …the goal is not to ask them what we should design, but to gain insight, absorb it, and translate it into a language our clients understand. Without that insight, any attempt at innovation is no better than a wild guess.”

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