I now have my own eSports Team in Heroes of the Storm!

To Make Games Meaningful

Back in 2003, I had an epiphany that changed my life. I had just quit playing Diablo II and I felt a rush of emptiness.

I spent thousands of hours becoming strong in a video game, but once I was done with the game, all that disappears. I’m still at the same place in life.

It was then when I went on a life journey to make games more meaningful towards our real lives.

At the time, I had considered two options:

Option 1: do what was considered “Gamification” (in today’s terminology)

Option 2: do what was considered “Esports” (in today’s terminology)

Both of them were relevant in my quest of making real life better through gaming (and ensure that playing games wasn’t a “waste of time.”).

The Non-Existent Esports Industry

Back then the esports industry didn’t exist, besides some serious matches of Starcraft in South Korea.

It was just more of a vision for me where, if videos games could be like a real sport such as Basketball, then there would be a real economy and ecosystem around it (Managers, Players, Coaches, Media etc.), and playing/studying games all day long suddenly became very productive.

It wasn’t unfathomable (despite sounding crazy to everyone I talked to – they thought I was just creating more excuses to play games). “Real Sports” like Basketball and Football are basically just games that people played for fun. But when enough people enjoyed playing and watching the game, it sets up a whole economy of ticket sales, advertisers, staff, dedicated venues, and cultural change.

It becomes “legit” and is no longer “just a game.”

Octalysis Esports Players

Octalysis Esports

As you probably know, I ended up choosing the Gamification path. As a result, I became a leading pioneer in the gamification space and am running many of the biggest gamification initiatives in the world (consulting company, the education platform Octalysis Prime, FB community). It worked out quite well for me, and I live every day of my life as a passionate gamer. Even Blizzard has sent their game designers to my workshops to learn about the Octalysis Framework.

But I sometimes can’t help but think about the other choice I didn’t make. If I chose to go down the esports path, I would also become an early pioneer in esports and today I may be running some of the largest esports infrastructure entities in the industry (I’m realistic enough to know that I wouldn’t become a pro-player myself). That would be tremendously fun too.

The two passions meet

Gamification Esports Jersey

Gamification Esports Hoodie

Luckily, because of how strong my gamification efforts are doing, I suddenly have the unique opportunity to go down the path I didn’t take.

We have now sponsored a team in the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship (HGC), the premier Heroes of the Storm competitive league from Blizzard Entertainment. Our team “Team Octalysis” (formerly Team Twelve) is currently a Top 3 Team in North America.

Team Octalysis has 5 amazingly hard-working players, a great team manager, a coach/game analyst, and media members – all there to support competitive play at the highest levels, engage the fans, and spread a little bit of Octalysis love.

Team Octalysis is officially competing in the HGC, where eight teams in each of four regions compete every week to qualify for international tournaments and a shot at a world championship.

Every weekend, you can tune in on Twitch.tv or the HGC Website to watch their competitions, support Team Octalysis, and muse over obviously-less-talented teams fight each other.

You can also follow Team Octalysis on their Twitter: twitter.com/TeamOctalysis

Exciting times for Octalysis and for Gaming!

Esports Gamification Octalysis DratedEsports Gamification Octalysis Drated

4 Experience Phases in Gamification (#3): The Scaffolding Phase

Gamification Purpose

The 3rd Experience Phase of Gamification: Scaffolding

Earlier I have covered the first 2 experience phases of player’s journey: Discovery, and Onboarding. Scaffolding is the 3rd experience phase of a Player’s Journey.

Scaffolding starts once a player has learned the basic tools and rules to play the game and has achieved the “First Major Win-State.”

This phase is a bit difficult to cover in one writing because it’s the regular journey and activity that the user engages in, and anything goes during this stage based on what your product or service actually is. I’ve written a fairly long post here about this phase but it will be very core to my gamification concepts so for those who are learning about Octalysis and hope to design something engaging, you should read through it.

Scaffolding: the Regular Journey

Regarding the scaffolding phase, one thing to note is that more often than not, it requires the exact same (or very similar) actions on a regular/daily basis, and the Gamification designer must answer the question, “why would my users come back over and over again for the same actions?”

Rewards, Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

This is where people think about Rewards.

Rewards are great because they continuously motivate people towards a goal, even if it means repetitive activity.

However, it is a bit too focused on extrinsic motivation instead of intrinsic motivation.

Therefore, there are different types of rewards to engage more core drives beyond the reward itself.

In an earlier post, I have defined 6 Contextual Types of Rewards, including Fixed-action rewards, Random rewards, Rolling rewards, and more.

Keep note that usually extrinsic rewards are better at attracting people to participate in the first place (Discovery and Onboarding), but towards the Scaffolding and EndGame, you want to transition to intrinsic motivation as much as possible.

Let’s explore the Scaffolding Phase within the 8 core drives of Octalysis.

Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning & Calling

Continue reading 4 Experience Phases in Gamification (#3): The Scaffolding Phase

4 Experience Phases in Gamification (#2): The Onboarding Phase

4 Experiences Phases in Gamification # 2: The Onboarding Phase

The User Experience of Learning the Basic Skills of the Game

Previously, I wrote about the Discovery Phase (Phase I) of the 4 Experience Phases of a Player’s Journey. In this article, we’ll look into Onboarding, which is the second phase of a player’s journey.

Onboarding is about teaching users the rules and tools to play the game. Onboarding starts as soon as the user signs up, and ends when the users have mastered the fundamental skills needed to play the game and achieve the early stage win-states.

In the Discovery phase, the goal is to create motivation towards trying out your product through clever marketing and messaging. Generally, there are combinations of of Curiosity and Unpredictability (Core Drive #7), Epic Meaning & Calling (Core Drive #1), and perhaps Social Influence & Relatedness (Core Drive #5) if you want things to become more viral.

Onboarding, like the Discovery Phase, generally retains a weak form of Unpredictability & Curiosity (Core Drive #6), and it is the Gamification designer’s job to install other Core drives into the user experience.

Objective of the Onboarding Phase

When a user first joins, she generally just feels curious about the product. Depending on how well the Gamification designed the Discovery Phase, users could come because they just read about it somewhere (Core Drive 7), their friends told them to do so (Core Drive 5), its for a good cause (Core drive 1), their boss made them use the product (core drive 8) or because of high exclusivity (Core Drive 6).

No matter why the user decided to join the service, the most important Core Drive in the Onboarding Phase is mainly making players feel a sense of Development & Accomplishment(Core Drive #2). You want to make users FEEL smart and competent with lots of instruction, interaction, Empowerment and feedback reinforcements (Core Drive #3).

Far too often, Onboarding experiences for products feel confusing, too hands off, or too complex. This results in the user feeling stupid.

If your user feels stupid during Onboarding, then you’ll be fighting an uphill battle along with the user (think Google+).

This is why games deploy techniques such as the interactive step-by-step tutorials, the “glowing choice,” and early stage Win-States to reinforce Developement & Accomplishment in the Onboarding Phase.

Step by Step Tutorials (Game Technique #9)

Continue reading 4 Experience Phases in Gamification (#2): The Onboarding Phase

4 Experience Phases in Gamification (#4): The Endgame

Endgame Design

Endgame: The Final Phase for Experience Design

The Endgame is the 4th and final experience phase of Octalysis Gamification. The Endgame is all about how you retain your veterans and obtain more longevity in your experience.

This is the phase where users have done everything there is to do at least once (according to their perception), and they are figuring out why should they stick around and continue to play the game (especially when there are newer more exciting alternatives out there).

Many have said that, in World of Warcraft, the real game starts when your character has reached the max level. This is not intuitive for non-gamers, because the basic assumption is that once you reach the max level, there is nowhere to go. In the case of well designed games, that actually is the beginning of a multi-year journey.

Unfortunately, not many companies design for the Endgame, which I believe is a huge mistake. Your veterans are usually your best monetization vehicles, your best community moderators, and also your best evangelists.

The problem is that they have been there as long as they can remember, so why should they still continue to stay on board? Have you designed anything that specifically keeps them engaged and motivated?

The game-term Endgame

Often times there is a misunderstanding towards the term “Endgame.”

Some people think that this means the game is about to end, and ask, “What about games that are meant to last forever such as infinite games?”

In reality, in the gaming world the term Endgame is not where the game ends. The Endgame is where a user has reached the highest level and is transitioning from the basic day-to-day scaffolding mechanics to a new set of mechanics that only advanced level players can infinitely do.

The Endgame is about endless fun

In Plants Vs Zombies, once you finish all the levels twice, the Endgame is about custom challenges that you can unlock and conquer. In the Diablo series, it’s “Diablo Runs” where players band together to defeat the final boss multiple times a day in order to get enough loot to perfect their gear. In FarmVille, it might be using all your gold and plants to create masterful artwork and take a screenshot before they all wither out.

Gamers would sometimes complain in many games that the game developers need to do more work because there’s really nothing to do in the Endgame, which means they have done everything but long for more. Some games may have the general journey (Scaffolding) of striving towards the max level, and the endgame lies in player versus player battles, or Group Quests of Max Level Players taking on extremely difficult challenges.

Differences to other Models

My terminology is also different from other gamification professionals’ last phase of a player’s journey. Kevin Werbach and Amy Jo Kim call the final phase of the journey “Mastery,” as the player has now achieved the highest level of play.

While I think the phrase Mastery is accurate, I believe that the term “Mastery” creates a feeling that it is actually the end of the journey – you have achieved mastery and are looking for something else to master now. With “Endgame,” it is still a “game” you play and try to master. It suggests that the journey keeps going.

So let’s examine how the endgame can be more engaging based on the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis

Core Drive 1: Epic meaning and Calling in the Endgame

During the end game it becomes much more difficult to install more Epic Meaning and Calling into the process. Continue reading 4 Experience Phases in Gamification (#4): The Endgame

Gamification Design: 4 Phases of a Player’s Journey

Gamification Onboarding

(Below is a manuscript snippet of my book, Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards. Please subscribe to the mailing list on the right to order the book when it launches. This post may be moved into a Premium Area after a certain period of time. For a video walk-through, check out: Episode 5, The 4 Experience Phases of a Game).

We have covered in much depth and details on how to apply Level 1 Octalysis and the 8 Core Drives to your projects. While I believe a great amount of projects can be massively improved just with a good understanding of Level 1 Octalysis, it does have its limitations.

This is where we introduce the deeper arts of Level 2 Octalysis, particularly how it relates to different phases of a player’s journey.

Treat your product as Four different products

Most people see a product or service as one summed up experience – the product is good, bad, interesting, easy to use, funny or boring. That seems to be intuitive – after all, it is one product.

However, when it comes to user engagement design, I believe that’s a big mistake.

From a motivation standpoint, a user’s interaction and journey with a product is continuously evolving. The reason why a person is using a product on day one is often very different from the reason why this person is using this same product on day one hundred – the goal she is trying to fulfill is different, and even the features she sees are different!

People become involved with a game or a product, not as a single encapsulated event, but through a series of stages where they grow to understand it better. The user experience will develop gradually as familiarity with features and structure is gained.

If a product attracts people at the beginning, but as time goes by becomes boring and uninspiring, that’s a failure in design.

Similarly, if a game offers an amazing experience only after 20 hours of play, but prior to hitting the 20-hour mark it’s boring and torturous, then it almost does not matter as no one will reach that level.

A better way of think about the product is to view it as a user’s journey through evolving phases of product perception or experience. With each phase the product appears to be different – in essence, a unique, different product.

Therefore, a good Octalysis Gamifier can break the process into four distinct products, which emphasizes on the 4 Experience Phases of a Game: Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Endgame.

A Level 2 Octalysis Gamifier will then gamify each of those 4 phases in an innovative way that adapts the 8 Core Drives.

In this chapter, we will look at a brief summary of each Experience Phase.

Note that the 4 Phases in Octalysis has certain overlap with UPenn Professor Kevin Werbach’s theories of Identity, Onboarding, Scaffolding, and Mastery.

In fact, I modified my original phrasing to sound more like his because I prefer to have a more unified language with less confusion in the gamification world. My framework is slightly different due to my own experiences but I do want to give Kevin Werbach credit for doing great evangelical and educational work in the industry.

The First Phase in the Player Journey is: Discovery

Continue reading Gamification Design: 4 Phases of a Player’s Journey