Sam Lawrence just published a great post on what productivity software can learn from game design.
It’s a theme that both Gordon and I blogged about in our previous jobs. A big reason why we set out to form our own company was that we wanted to work somewhere that took fun seriously.
There’s a lot we can learn from game design, from the back-end infrastructure to the user interface to the training materials. Here’s an excerpt of my old post on what World of Warcraft can teach us about enterprise software.
…Certainly, we might learn things about scalability, redundancy and failover. Some MMORPGs have millions of active users. At any one time, thousands of players from around the world may be connected to a single instance. If the service is unavailable or performing slowly, customers (many of whom pay subscription fees) get angry. Makers of MMORPGs have a strong incentive to get the engineering right. They risk losing their audience to other games if they don’t.
We can also learn a lot about accommodating all kinds of users, from experienced veterans to those playing for the first time. Reaching the higher levels of some of these games represents a massive investment of time. The games have to be rich and powerful enough to keep advanced users satisfied, while not overwhelming new users with complexity. They do this by providing:
- Clear, informative and visually appealing interfaces
- Good feedback regarding the actions the user takes
- Introducing features and situations slowly, so that users can “learn as they go”
- Incorporating tutorials and user manuals into the game itself, so that people can begin playing right away
MMORPGs also provide the best examples of collaboration technologies in the market today. These games encourage players to complete objectives together, whether it’s assaulting a beachhead in a WWII simulation or questing for dwarven artifacts in a fantasy realm. Some examples include:
- Using presence technologies so that players know when their friends are online
- Incorporating communications technologies like voice chat, instant messaging, and email into the game world
- Facilitating the creation of ad hoc groups to complete specific tasks
- Allowing for standing groups like guilds or clans
- Implementing auctions and bulletin boards so that users can trade game items and information with each other
- Encouraging mentoring between advanced users and less experienced players
So there are a lot of things about the way we play that can help us with the way we work.
Thirty years of game design have led to the development of effective ways to play together online. But despite 30 years of business software development, we haven’t made much progress in figuring out how to work effectively online. Maybe we should get out and play a bit more?