Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tee Em Eye

Too Much Information

It's a constant battle communicating with online players. There's information they need, information they want, information they don't know they need, and information they think they don't want. Simple!

Most Virtual Worlds are complicated. The more things there are to do, the more features you offer, the more places there are for players to get tripped up. No matter how simple you make each thing, a whole lot of things results in a complex system.

Most people want to figure things out for themselves. If they need help, they'll ask for it when they need it. This has a few repercussions:
  • Features that players can't figure out for themselves are inherently problematic. It's tempting to only release simplistic features.
  • People need the right help at the right time. They're not paying attention before they try to play. They've forgotten after they've given up. That's a narrow window.
  • Engineers, designers, and programmers like to suggest demos, tutorials, and FAQs (oh, they love those FAQs). While not terrible solutions, they aren't particularly effective, either.
What a player sees when he or she skims an FAQ

For complex features, you need the thing to either ramp up complexity gradually, have a robust help system, give live tours/demos, or accept that not everyone's going to be interested enough to survive the learning curve. Is it worth it?

Yes. In fact, hell yes!

Once a player has mastered any sort of learning curve, they are more than just casually engaged. They become special. They become elite. Time is an investment, and when that investment pays off to a player, everybody wins. That's a big deal, and worth working for.


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