When I was a little boy, I always rushed to open my new Super Nintendo game on the drive home and poured through the manual so I’d be ready to start playing as soon as I stepped in the door.
Reading through gaming manuals has a special place in many people’s hearts. Those were the days when you flipped through the pages and learned little secrets and bits of information that’d make the whole gaming experience all the more special. But times have changed. With the rise of digital game distribution, there’s no more manuals and the physical copies have been downsized to a one-sheet overview at best. The magic is lost.
Interestingly, the problem facing gamers today is not lack of instruction. Instead gamers are drowning in an overwhelming amount of information—which often lacks focus and offers no direct solution. Today’s gaming community heavily depends on information created by fans—from commentated Twitch streams to fan-made strategy guides on GameFAQs. On the surface, this growing community of peer-to-peer help seems like a good thing, but in reality it means that gamers with specific questions have to jump through one too many hoops to find their answer online.
While the days of Nintendo hotlines are gone, the truth is that we don’t want to dial in for a simple answer that can be solved in real time. What gamers really want is functional in-game support. They want a quick answer to their question without being forced to exit the game.
As games increase in complexity, we need to focus on getting our players the best possible resources while making it easy to engage with the players. More and more, games have started to feature public and transparent development processes which aim to help developers incorporate feedback from users into a more seamless design and experience for players. With multiple alphas and betas for a lot of games, it’s becoming clear that getting player feedback early and often is becoming the standard for increasing the quality of a game at launch. So finding ways to simplify the process for players and developers alike can help make the process more valuable and less painful.
Even still, while hard-coded links to Read Me files and mail:to links provide discoverability to support resources, they still shuttle your players out of the game, resulting in lower engagement.
Good in-game support can be just a pause button away. During the 2015 Game Developers Conference (March 2-6), our VP of Product and Platform Marketing, Sam Boonin, will dive into the best practices for building the best player support experiences. We’ll also be at the expo (March 4-6) and would love to play some League of Legends (for charity) with you.
A successful game keeps players immersed in the experience. And high level engagement keeps gamers loyal and coming back for more.