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MMO designers need to focus more on the 'why', not the 'what'
MMO designers need to focus more on the 'why', not the 'what'
August 15, 2012 | By Mike Rose

August 15, 2012 | By Mike Rose
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More: Console/PC, Social/Online, Design, GDC Europe



MMO designers need to stop focusing so much on what players want to do in online games, and instead hone in on why these players choose to put so many hours into the MMOs they play.

Funcom Montreal creative director Craig Morrison referred to author Simon Sinek's "golden circle" theory (shown below) as part of his GDC Europe talk today, noting that the "how" (the systems provided to the players) and the "what" (what the player wants to do) all boils down to exactly "why" these players are making those decisions in the first play.

"Everytime a player logs in, they need a 'why'," noted Morrison. "What we really need to be thinking about is the why - it's the bit that we don't really consider enough. Players need a reason to be playing it. What is motivating them?"

MMO designers need to stop focusing so much on what players want to do in online games, and instead hone in on why these players choose to put so many hours into the MMOs they play, says Funcom Montreal creative director Craig Morrison, who has worked on Age of Conan and The Secret World.

The key issue with this angle in MMOs is that, while the range of different types of players is narrower in more focused games such as Call of Duty, there is a wide range of player types in MMOs, and therefore 'whys' -- from those players who choose to boot your game up every day to progress through the game and level up, to those who are playing to be part of a community.

"No one is your perfect player in the MMO space," he added, meaning that you need to provide a huge number of diverse gameplay elements to satisfy as many players as possible.

A lot of games go wrong trying to focus on the one type of player that is in the majority, he suggested -- "but for that person to enjoy it, they need to be part of the ecosystem that involves all the types of players."

He showed Simon Sinek's "golden circle," which in his interpretation suggests that without understanding the "why" that lies at the core of a player's motivation, it's impossible to understand what players actually want.

Golden-Circle_Simon-Sinek.png

Morrison also cited Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs as an example of what MMO designers should be looking to cover with these whys. In particular, the "belonging" segment was done really well in early MMOs because "you needed a network of people to achieve anything," he said.

However, many MMOs now attempt to focus more on the "self-esteem" section, losing a fair portion of the belonging in the process. "Unless you expose the players to the community and encourage community interactions, there's not that much difference between your game and a single player game," Morrison noted.

Gamasutra is in Cologne, Germany this week covering GDC Europe. For more GDC Europe coverage, visit our official event page. (UBM TechWeb is parent to both Gamasutra and GDC events.)


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