Community Challenge – Explaining the Internet

I find it an interesting contradiction that the people who have the most access to computers these days are often those who understand them the least.

When I touched my first Apple ][e I was obsessed with how it worked. How does the code do what it does when it’s just line after line of green text on a black background? I painstakingly copied text out of magazines to make my very own version of Downhill Skier and whatever else I could get my hands on. I had cassette tapes (yes, you read that right, cassettes) filled with various games and programs and I knew how each and every one of them worked because I watched it form beneath my fingertips.

And then, wow, the internet‽ Where do I even begin‽ It was wonderful, when it was working. We left our 14.4 modems to churn overnight on game patches, waited patiently while everything saved to our tiny tiny hard drives. We played games that quite frankly looked like minecraft and they were amazing! Doom, Wolfenstein, Quake and so on. And then the MMO space opened up, and suddenly I was playing with people all over the world!  I was a part of a community with shared interests and turmoils.

So what happened between now and then? Why is there a complete lack of understanding of how computers and the internet work for those who grew up with them? Is it just so taken for granted that the desire to learn how and why is gone? Why do I daily have to explain to people that connecting to a game server isn’t like plugging in a cable between their computer and our servers. That seems to escape so many people, of all ages.

When did we start taking this all for granted? Where did we exchange the quest for knowledge for the quest to be first/famous/heard? How did we lose the wonder part of this wonderful world we live in?

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Stop obsessing over your competitors

I recently Tweeted the following:

Stop obsessing over your competitors. Make the best game you can, have fun doing it, and let THEM worry about you.

and I wanted to take a moment to reinforce that <140 character rant.

Why is everyone trying so hard to copy everyone else? We spend meetings pouring over how other websites display their information, setup their account structures, implement their systems and I have to say, just because that’s the way someone else is doing it, doesn’t make that the right way for you to do it.

Sure if you want to let the big companies spend bazillions of dollars on market research, focus groups, heat maps, design panels and all that, go ahead and let them throw their money away. Some of the best customer oriented interfaces come from unexpected places like little indie sites that simply cater to clean design.

Know your audience, really truly understand them by being IN that audience. You’re not going to learn anything from hiding backstage and throwing set pieces and actors out into the spotlight in the hopes that something magical happens. Your audience will be confused, frustrated and predictably disappointed. Be in that audience and look to the stage – what needs to happen up there for everyone in that audience to leave the show talking about how wonderful it was and that’s how it should be done. (or better yet, never leave the show – but that breaks the metaphor)

And guess what? What you do and what your competition does do not and should not match. I disagree with the idea that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. It just shows you’re not unique, you’re not paying attention to what makes you and your audience special, you’re simply echoing the actions of another, and we all know that an echo always pales in comparison to the original voice.

Be that original voice.

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Community Challenge – Inalienable Rights

So you put out a release, and in the release notes is something that is a bug fix. Something that was never supposed to work the way it did, but because it took so long to fix, it’s somehow ingrained in your game. It’s suddenly an inalienable right that players be allowed to continue to reap the benefits of what is essentially an exploit just because you didn’t rip it out fast enough. Now they’re used to it, they rely on it to some extent and no matter what your rationale, you’re wrong.

Well guess what, you’re stuck. The handful of players who looked at it from a non-selfish point of view, and said, “yeah yanno what, removing it makes sense” are drowned out by the “how dare you take away our unfair advantage”.  And so you have a choice. Go with the unpopular vote for the greater good, and tick off the vocal minority, or acquiesce so that you send the message that next time there’s something they don’t like, if they yell enough you’ll change it. Rock | Dev | HardPlace

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