The winning ways of ‘Warcraft’

The full article is available here, from Daniel Terdiman and CNET News.

What seperates this from previous articles and analysis is that this is information directly from Blizzard. It’s a summary of the keynote address of the Austin Games Conference, the keynote by Rob Pardo, Blizzard vice president of game design. Straight from the source.

Lots of people should be interested in reading the article and hearing what Rob has to say: all of us who are fans and MMOers (of WoW or otherwise), everyone who is competing with WoW (or trying to), and everyone watching the MMO phenomenon from the outside.

Note that the article begins with the point that Blizzard has been conspicuously absent at industry events lately (they haven’t needed to bother) – and that suddenly there’s New York Times stories and keynote addresses and articles like this. As I predicted the other day, this is part of what is sure to be a massive PR effort leading up to and following after next month’s release of the World of Warcraft expansion, The Burning Crusade.

Rob explains some gameplay and other features which have made WoW successful, and he also, importantly, talks a bit about how and why Blizzard organization of the team and of their end-to-end game-design-and-development process is better.

Note particularly the point that violence in the game is not an end in itself, it’s set in the context of a much larger and deeper and very interesting story and background. Large, deep and interesting story and background is still very much a rarity in games.

Also, note the importance of and emphasis on and variety in the game design process, including this statement:

designers consider questions like whether game play will be fun; whether there are solid mechanics; and how cool the art will be.

Software in general suffers from bad design, or lack of design, and has since people started making it 50 years ago. Proper design just hasn’t made it into the educational or industry processes and mindset yet – both are still much more focused on technology itself than they are on users, or user experience of the technology they’re buildiing. Ultimately, its the success of products that emphasize and demonstrate great user-centered design which will get the industry and academia to fix this problem. Google and iPod are a couple other good examples of how product can kick competitive ass by offering truly better user-centered design.

How to fix this issue across the industry is a big and difficult problem, of course, but it’ll be progress when more companies simply start thinking that user-centered design is important and valuable.

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