[MUD-Dev] UI Design in MMOs

Mike Rozak Mike at mxac.com.au
Sat Dec 18 04:21:03 CET 2004

I just got WoW and have been playing around with it. The
non-standard UI doesn't bother me too much, however what really got
to me was the setup...

These are the steps I had to go through to get it running:

  1) Install, flipping through 4 CD-Roms. This took 30+
  minutes. What ever happened to DVD drives? I was reminded of the
  old days of floppy install.

  2) Install said I had to register, so it opened up Internet
  Exploder and made me type in name, CC, standard
  stuff. However... what's with the bloody eye test? Registration
  not only makes you type in the 20-digit product code, but also
  look at a bitmap of a wavy set of randomly-generated characters
  and type those in. I assume it's to prevent OCR systems from
  reading the bitmap, but it took me about 4 goes to get it right. I
  also had problems with it rejecting my australian phone number
  because I put a +61 in front of it. (+61 is the country code)

  3) I ran WoW, and it required a 19 megabyte download of
  patches. (Which I expected.) The odd thing is, one part of the
  dialog claims it had downloaded 19 meg, while the other said 30
  meg of downloads and 10 meg of uploads... this got me
  confused. And WHY couldn't it download the patches while I was
  registering, or better yet, while I was installing the product?
  (IE: Have setup first install and run the installer, which then
  starts the download during install. While that's happening, setup
  installs the rest from CD/DVD.)

  4) I ran WoW again, and it decided to download a few more
  megs. Why wasn't this all installed at once? Surely the patching
  app could have realized that I had two patches waiting.

  5) I ran WoW a 3rd time and it said I couldn't connect. As I was
  to find out later, WoW was having trouble with its login servers
  that night. However, the app didn't say so. Instead it said a) my
  firewall might be causing problems, b) my ISP might be causing
  problems, etc. I spent about an hour fiddling with my firewall and
  verifying my internet connection was running before I gave it a
  rest and came back a few hours later. It worked fine then. (WoW
  helpfully provided a long in-grame writeup about what to do with a
  bad connection, but I couldn't copy (ctrl-c) stuff like their IP
  number directly from the writeup, so I was alt-tabbing between the
  full screen WoW and IE. Alt-tabbing a directX application is VERY

  6) WoW played a nicely animated intro movie which a) didn't
  advance the story, and b) put the real WoW graphics to
  shame. While I enjoy intro movies, I'd rather have them explain
  some backstory and use the graphics that appear in the game. (If
  you want to make one line shorter, draw a longer line next to it.)
  I also thought about the money wasted on the intro movie that
  could have been put to better use in game play.

  7) The gameplay has been very enjoyable and largely bug-free.

So what's the point of this rant?

I was a highly motivated user. I had lots of recommendations about
the game. I drove 80 km to the shopping mall, waded through crowds
of christmas shoppers, paid my money, and drove 80 km back.  If I
were NOT a motiviated user I WOULD HAVE GIVEN UP!

For example, I bought a DVD-magazine with SWG, since no SWG package
has appeared in retail stores in Australia. I spent 30+ minutes
installing it, had a crash/hang, and when it started downloading the
patches and told me I had THIRTEEN hours of downloads ahead of me, I
gave up. (A year after release, I would have expected that the
patches would already be wrapped up into the DVD.) SOE lost my

A poor install will lose you customers and/or cost in product
support. A poor install from a DVD magaine or download will LOSE
EVEN MORE CUSTOMERS because they're not as motivated. Since there
will only be shelf space for 3 or 4 MMORPGs, the other 95 will be
distributed on DVD-magaines or downlaod. If they MESS UP INSTALL it
doesn't matter how good their MMORPG is, they won't get
customers. (Tip: When testing install, rope in relative neophytes
(like parents and grandparents) and see if they can successfully
install the app. If they can't, fix install.)

Having worked in a software company, I know why install applications
are poor. No programmer wants to do them, so a) the assigned
programmer gets it done as quickly as possible so he can do fun
stuff, or b) install is assigned to interns or contractors. This is
a mistake.

  Sub-rant #1: If your product is download-only you must not only
  make install painless, but YOU MUST CAPTURE the player's attention
  within 10 minutes or they may go elsewhere. If I pay for a game
  I'll give it about 4-8 hours before I'm willing to give up on
  it. If I download a game, I give it 10-60 minutes before it gets
  called "boring" and is deleted. If a downloaded game doesn't sell
  itself in 10-60 minutes, the other 100 hours could be fantastic
  but I'll never know.

  Sub-rant #2: In Australia (and maybe other places in the world),
  broadband services have a 300-500MB per month allowance, and then
  charge per megabyte extra. A MMORPG that is download-only should
  provide a STRIPPED DOWN version that's small (like 30-50MB) and
  contains enough textures/models for the first 60 minutes of
  play. If a player enjoy the first 60 minutes of play, they can
  download the full 2 GB, or, order the DVD in the mail.

Mike Rozak
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