2010-01-25

Operation Survival - design guidelines

One of my goals for Operation Survival is to make the barriers to entry as low as possible. This means a couple of things:

  • The user shouldn't be required to install anything, the game should just run.
  • There should be no platform or operating system requirements. In an ideal world it'll run on any device including PCs, smart-phones, consoles, eBooks, TVs and microwave ovens.
  • There shouldn't be any user interface surprises. My grandma's poodle should be able to pick it up and play.
  • The setting and genre should be somewhat familiar from other fiction. Originality is great and all, but I don't want to require the player to learn the inner logic of a wholly unfamiliar universe. I'd much rather take the real world and twist that in subtle ways. I think the cliche alien UFO conspiracy theories offer plenty of fertile ground for that.
  • Sign up and payment options should be as transparent as possible. There should be an easy transition from interested visitors, just wanting to grasp what the game is all about to fully invested hardcore players spending their life in the game world.
  • The game should be fully localized, no need to communicate in broken school English.
  • There should be an easy and obvious way to get support and provide feedback at every point during the game.
  • It should be easy for players to bond and build communities. Every effort should be made to create a newbie friendly, non-hostile environment.
  • ... I have probably forgotten quite a few more.

With such an ambitious set of goals it is obviously impossible to fulfill them all equally well. There will always be trade-offs and compromises and lots of the issues are a matter of personal opinion to begin with. Nevertheless, I think it's a good idea to state some guiding principles when fleshing out the design further, so that's what I'm trying to do here.

Considering all of the above and the fact that the underlying game design is fundamentally multiplayer I believe a browser based solution is the only way to go. Browsers are ubiquitous, the back button and links the universal user interface primitives everyone on the planet understands by now. Browsers run everywhere. Everyone that uses one is already connected to the Internet and thus able to play multiplayer. Browsers shoulder the burden of guaranteeing security. Everything that runs in a browser window is assumed to be safe while downloads are seen with skepticism by even the most naive of users.

So a browser game it is.

I'll post my thoughts on the other points soon. In the meantime: What do you think about those axioms? Anything missing? How would you weight the priorities?