Wednesday, September 22, 2021

The Business: Yes, Normies Are The Majority of Players, So Deal With It

Josh Stryfe Hayes premiered this video on YouTube within the last half-hour, as of this post.

TLDR: Everything I've said about Normies and their approach to gaming as entertainment? Independently confirmed and validated.

Josh doesn't even know I exist, so there's no way he read my posts on the matter before cutting this video, and yet he's said the same things about Normies being the majority of players and what their expectations are.

What does this mean? That most game designers, developers, and publishers are fucking morons leaving money on the table because Dunning-Kruger. Yes, this also applies to the tabletop game business.

Deal with it. Accept, adapt, and thrive.

We can break down the problem into three separate issues: Purchasing (incl. install for videogames), Using, Retaining.

All of these are User Experience issues.

Purchasing needs to be as easy as buying on Amazon, Steam, or Good Old Games: hit "Buy", insert credit card info (incl. shipping address for physical media), and hit "Confirm". Get a tracking number/download code via auto-generated Email. Go the extra mile and email the recipient upon delivery (as Amazon does where I live) with a photo of the package at the location indicated or do as GOG does as let them keep all the files on their local system (and thus no need to go through a launcher or any other roadblock to use it).

Installation needs to be so easy that someone with dementia can do it. Hit "install", auto-detect for optimum ease-of-use installation (with custom as an option for power users), wait, done. First-time launch should default to Full Screen, and for the love of God make Full Screen Windowed not fuck over a user's system resources like Chrome with too many tabs.

Strict adherance to the K.I.S.S. maxim is required to succeed with Normies. Never make them use three buttons when one will do. Never make them spend more time looking at their UI/sheet than at the screen/board. Never listen to demands for "skill" or "finesse", because that always ends up with those "skilled" and "finesse" options turning into doing far more work to get the exact same result; if it actually delivered on the promised benefit, it becomes the best option and therefore the only acceptable option- especially in multi-player play, amplified yet again in PVP play.

Everything I said about Normie entertainment expectations in gaming comes into the mix here. Make your thrill rides thrilling button-mashing exercises, like the arcade games of old, and you will thrive every single time. There is one other thing I need to add here: Make It Brief. Your MMO/CRPG dungeons and raids need to clear in 15 minutes. That constrains you heavily for Normal modes; three or four bosses, little or no trash, short or no travel between boss arenas. It also means that, thankfully, your bosses needs to be simple-but-punishing (i.e. all fights are Patchwerk)

Tabletop needs to be just as tightly focused. No fucking about with shitty amateur acting, shit voices, shopping at the store, etc.; get to the point, get to the start of the dungeon, and get on with it. Literally this: "You arrive at the gates to The Hole of Bad Rats. You have a map to the Rat King's lair. What do you do?" (This, of course, assumes that you're not in a Standard-compliant campaign where such workarounds are necessary.)

Retaining means what players do when they hit endgame. Flat-out, the simplest thing to do is just embrace the seasonal aspect of this and accept that Normies will just go elsewhere when they're satisfied with what's there. Keep them in the loop on new stuff coming out, and they will come back for more when you release it, which is where keeping your gameplay simple will pay off big dividends: a simple user experience is easy to pick up and reacquaint with after being gone for months or years, and a well-done simple one will be like swimming or riding a bike- it will be something your users never lose their mastery of, so returning after a hiatus will feel like they never left and thus will stick around longer.

Death Penalties: Yeet them. All of them. No repair bills, no running back, no lost items or XP or whatever- nothing at all. The lost time and removal from encounters unless another player raises them has proven to be sufficient. Furthermore, yeet the possibility of anything other than a player's own fuckups getting their character killed (when talking about multiplayer PVE games like MMOs and RPGs). When you die 15 times in a raid, and 14 of them are because someone else ran their may-very-well-kill-them shit into you, that's bad game design and it too causes Normies to quit because they're being punished for some fuckup's actions and not their own. That's Gamer-tier shit.

Normie-friendly games are passtimes, not hobbies. Hobbies require work. Passtimes do not. Normies don't work for their entertainment. QED. Deal with it. Accept, adapt, and thrive.

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