Simcountry is a multiplayer Internet game in which you are the president, commander in chief, and industrial leader. You have to make the tough decisions about cutting or raising taxes, how to allocate the federal budget, what kind of infrastructure you want, etc..
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Got Me Thinking - Game Docs (Little Upsilon)

Topics: Problems: Got Me Thinking - Game Docs (Little Upsilon)

Accordion_This (Little Upsilon)

Friday, January 21, 2011 - 11:26 pm Click here to edit this post
The opening of the Simcountry blog has got me thinking - it's about time W3C got around to rewriting the game documentation.

Now, I may have only had this SC account for a month and a bit, but when you add up all my other accounts, you'd find I've been a member for around a year or more. I was playing this game back in 2008, and one of the things I've always noticed (that still hasn't changed) is the game docs and the wording you guys use. So here are the issues:

Firstly, the game docs aren't all up to date. Some of them are very far behind, and others are only a little behind, but the point is that the vast majority of the game's documentation is behind. If I were a new player who needed to find out the rules and was too scared or too shy to ask on the forums, I'd be screwed, because the documentation is out of date. The documentation should always be updated the moment you make a change. Instead of posting "We just made all presidential images 'Hello Kitty'" in the game news, post it in the relevant game documentation section in a way that fits the rest of the game docs (i.e. don't just copy paste game news into the game docs, actually format and rewrite it so that it fits). After you've done that, then you can post it on the game news. If you do that, you might add an extra 20 minutes to the time that you spend on game news each day, but you'll guarantee that the docs are always up-to-date and comprehensive.

Second point: you need to cut down on the jargon. We're all familiar with the "Defensive Index", but for a new player, that just sounds like jargon. When a new player reads the game docs or forums and continually hears about "IPOs" and "Defensive Index" and "Employment Index", they can very easily become confused. I (along with most fairly experienced players) understand these terms, but I can still remember the confusion that the jargon of SC caused for me when I first started playing the game. Personally, my pet hate is "the war game". What is the "war game"? Is it a different game we play when we go to war? Is it a poor movie starring, if I remember rightly, Matthew Broderick? Do I have to play a minigame when I go to war? Etcetera etcetera. The point is, "the war game" is just a pointless, jargon-y way of saying "war in Simcountry".
So what's the solution to this? Cut down on the jargon. "When a player goes to war" or "players at war", instead of "When a player participates in the war game" or "players in the war game".

My next point is fairly simple and ties in closely with my last: for God's sake, hide or get rid of indexes that don't matter. For example, there is no need to have an "Employment Index" and an "Unemployment Index". Even the lowliest of players knows that anyone who isn't employed is unemployed; everyone knows that 70% employment means 30% unemployment. Similarly, you need to cut out or hide from players indexes that don't apply to them or that they won't understand. It's fine to have the "Business Index", but it would probably be more wise to hide it away in the corporations or financial section so that it doesn't confuse people. I, for one, have no idea what the "Business Index" is, and I've gotten to Game Level 8 without needing to look it up. Unless I'm missing something, I think that the "Business Index" (among others) is fairly unimportant in the grand scheme of things. That doesn't mean you should get rid of it, though - hide it away in a little menu somewhere (making sure to tell us where to find it) so that new and inexperienced players don't get confused and bewildered by the mass of numbers being thrown at them.

Which brings me to my last point. I do understand that this is, essentially, a game of numbers. However, half or more than half of people aren't going to understand most of Simcountry's numbers when they first play the game. They're going to look to the documentation to find out what the numbers mean. And it is here that the game docs fall down a bit. Poor spelling and grammar or poorly worded sentences, along with a large helping of the jargon I was talking about before, can make it very difficult to understand the game docs without having a more experienced player explain them to you. And believe you me, the Simcountry wiki (as wonderful as it is) doesn't always have the answers. And why should it? The programmers of the game are from W3C, and so W3C should have the right information. Players shouldn't be forced to go to a wiki to find out how the rules of the game work, they should be able to find that in the game's docs. A wiki is for discussion of rules and roleplaying; game docs are for rules. And when I say rules, I don't mean jargon or code or numbers, I mean an accessible, easy-to-read explanation of the rules and laws that govern the game of Simcountry.

So, after all that, what do I want from W3C?
-Fully updated and regularly updating game documentation.

-Less jargon in the game - simpler wording where possible. Was it Scarlet that recently said "Eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation"?

-A more streamlined, accessible interface. If an index is just going to confuse a new player, put it in a place where they can access it once they are familiar with the rules or need to access the number. All in all, the less numbers and the more English, the better (for the vast majority of people, anyway).

-Work harder on your game docs. Make sure they are comprehensive with impeccable grammar and spelling. Most of all, remember that your target audience with game docs are, essentially, the noobs of SC. Most vets know the rules, so they can handle jargon and numbers. Most noobs do not, and so they need to be able to understand what the rules of the game are. Ultimately, that means more impeccable English, less numbers, but overall, more simplicity.

Now, how many people are going to skip most of that and say "TL;DR"? Hopefully W3C reads it all :P

NiAi (Little Upsilon)

Friday, January 21, 2011 - 11:36 pm Click here to edit this post
*two thumbs up*
W3C ought to read and act upon this thread.

Psycho_Honey (Little Upsilon)

Sunday, January 23, 2011 - 04:10 pm Click here to edit this post
I want my money. I hope they read that too.

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