***** Marty: I scooped this piece to Magento Ecommerce Revolution, but was fun to create, a challenge, and important to one of my core curation ideas - that ecommerce, gaming and gamifiation are becoming very similar. Important enough ideas to have them On Curation Revolution too.
Frank Cifaldi: "Creating a living, breathing, believable city is one of the biggest challenges to developers of open world gaming, so we asked the creative director of the upcoming Assassin's Creed III to share his secrets with you."
My theory is that games and ecommerce are rushing at each other like long lost lovers. To put one of my pet theories to the test I decided to take a great article, 5 Tips For Making More Believable Open World Cities and apply the tips to my 12 years in ecommerce to see if they meld as well in reality as they do in my head (lol):
1. Two-tiered Reactions
"If someone hires you to kill Character A, and you do it, and they react like, 'Good, that's what I asked you to do.' But then you go and kill some other random person and they're going to freak out, like you've lost your mind. Whereas someone who wasn't involved in that conversation would freak out at both of the instances."
Dynamic HTML5, CSS3 Sites
Making an ecommerce site dynamic is close to this idea. When I reserve certain areas within an ecommerce site as "fill on behavior" the idea is to curate the conversations in near real time in an ever tightening loop like a constrictor. In the gaming example context creates one freak out lack of context creates two. On a dynamic ecommerce site A has one path and B another. Context is predetermined for some and ad hoc for others based on what is happening now. Ad hoc based on a series of "business rule" choices (a limited set). Context is being dropped in like sets in a play based on what click behaviors or predicted and modeled paths are present.
2. Random Behavior From A Pool
The Assassin's Creed series has perhaps the most believable crowds in games today: walk through an environment, and you'll see countless people going about their lives in realistic ways.
Building In Fake "Randomness" In Ecommerce
Ecommerce designers want the appearance of randomness too. Tighten the constriction too fast and visitors see the wizard's hand. Big brother and security fears come in fast when shoppers feel watched instead of helped. The key is to appear to have just the right amount of random white noise content.
If you are behaving like you want a book about fish it may be smart to create some noise about deep sea fishing even though your customer is looking for goldfish. The apparent non-relevant content helps define the relevant content and the site doesn't appear too smart too fast (Read Ariely Predictably Irrational for more on the idea of behavior bounding like presenting a really high price to make another price look more acceptable).
The other issue that feels in common is the idea of work as the ultimate definition of an environment. In a game you want people to appear to be unrelated to the hero's behavior. The more random and "normal" the non-hero crowd behavior the more heroic is the protagonist. Same is true in ecommerce where social signals such as reviews, curated content and stories reinforce the shopper as hero, the shopper as protagonist. The shopper needs to feel as if they are on the hero's journey (See Managing Content Marketing by Rose and Pulizzi for more on this key concept).
3. Variety Over Complexity
Though a minority of your players will be troublemakers trying to break your game and peek behind the curtains (including this author), most of them will play your game just as intended. And in an open world environment, that means running quickly through the crowds from point A to point B.
Take advantage of this! Most players will only look at your random NPCs for six seconds, max, Hutchinson tells us. So instead of focusing on a complex AI routine full of animation cycles that last much longer than that, put more emphasis on a wide variety of different, shorter actions.
Variety In Ecommerce
This is my favorite related lesson. The most repeated pattern in all the numbers I crunched (millions it felt like lol) was the long tail fractal. No matter how small I cut our sales data there was always a 80/20 rule where 80% of the money was generated by 20% (or less) of the products. Here is the rub, you can't eliminate the huge selection creating the smaller amount of sales, the 80% of your products only generating 20% of your sales are critical too.
These two groups of merchandise are dancing together. Cost reduce out the "nonperformers" and you willl readjust the mix and may not like what you get. What you can do is adopt the game strategy - know you need the inventory but don't spend near the time on it since its roll is to help define the head and tail of products that will form your 80 / 20 fractal. Write less magical copy, don't worry as much if you get a bad review and focus your team where you make your money. The web is a lesson in focus. You have to do more than time allows, so prioritization is your greatest skill.
**** Going to stop here as it is late and I need some sleep, but think I've made my point. Ecommerce and game development share more than most realize. The next ecommerce team I form I want a great game designer to help. Bet we make more money with that kind of help than not.
Via The Digital Rocking Chair