Cognitive Account of World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is considered the most popular and user-friendly MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game).  With millions of people playing it, myself included, I decided it would be a good technology to make a cognitive account of.

Attention:  So, when you start up the game for the first time, what grabs your attention the most?  The picture to the right is what you initially see.  When you first start off, the screen is pretty clear.  The first thing that catches my eye is the blinking ! marks near the bottom of the screen.  These give you helpful tips to teach you how to play.  The minimap in the upper right corner, another useful tool in the game, also catches my eye.  The game is very good at giving you visual cues to help you along, showing you where to go, who to talk to, and what to do.

Perception:  World of Warcraft relies heavily on icons to convey meanings.  The second screenshot is of a more established character.  You can see that the screen is alot more cluttered with icons that represent skills, equipment, food, etc.  Almost everything in World of Warcraft has its own recognizable icon.  This can, at times, be a little taxing on a player because, let’s face it, it’s a bit cluttered.  Sound also plays a huge role in a player’s perception.  Every skill has a unique sound when used and it’s pretty obvious by the sounds when you’re being attacked.

Memory:  This game is very good about not overloading a new player with information.  It gradually hands you new skills and abilities.  It gives you enough time to play around with the skills you have before it adds one or two more.  The interface also promotes recognition through the use of consistently placed things, like a ! above questgivers’ heads, familiar town features like an inn in every town, and colors over different types of player’s heads (green for friendly, red for hostile).

Learning:  World of Warcraft encourages learning through exploration, but the interface doesn’t really constrain new users to guide them correctly.  The game’s very open-ended.  Beyond only having a select set of skills at the beginning, you’re free to go wherever you please and do whatever you want.  You’ll do most of your learning through reading and experiencing.  Every icon, when scrolled over, tells you about that specific item/skill and what you need in order to use it.  Clicking on the icon itself and putting its text to use though is where you really learn.

Problem Solving/Decision-Making:  World of Warcraft itself doesn’t make it very easy to solve the game’s problems.  This, however, is where the game’s community steps in.  There are various websites dedicated to help those that have trouble in the game, detailing every aspect of how to do, well, pretty much everything.  Any faults that players find in the game’s interface have also been addressed by the players themselves through the use of player-made additions to the game, such as an in-game bar that displays various information for you or a gadget that swaps your equipment for you.

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21 Responses to “Cognitive Account of World of Warcraft”

  1. Cognitive Account of World of Warcraft | Frubb dot com Says:

    [...] here to see the original: Cognitive Account of World of Warcraft Author: admin Time: Sunday, September 21st, 2008 at 8:33 pm Category: General Comments: [...]

  2. dakassen Says:

    argh, u were first to write about wow ). perhaps it’s worth mentioning mods which help handle cluttered interface for high-lvld characters. what realm btw?

  3. dvanlani Says:

    Heh, guess I beat you to it! Yeah, I mentioned the mods in the last section of the post, but definitely could have mentioned mods that help with the clutter (there are plenty after all). I’m on Hellscream alliance, main’s a priest (the guy shown in the second screenshot).

  4. Eddy Says:

    The interface doesn’t constrain the user, but the game has other discouragements built in to keep the user sort of guided (as in quests that give direction, “Turn this in at X location” which lead to new quests that are appropriate, as well as high level mobs killing you quickly as a discouragement from exploring too much).

    The developers are also pretty keen (especially lately, in the Wrath beta) about what addons players are interested in, and are adding things like threatmeters to the UI.

  5. A cognitive look at World of Warcraft | Built Horde Tough Says:

    [...] of the students in a class there has written up a cognitive account of what it’s like to play World of Warcraft, which is a look at the game strictly through sense perception. Even if you’re an experienced [...]

  6. A cognitive look at World of Warcraft | Warcraft-News.com Says:

    [...] of the students in a class there has written up a cognitive explanation of what it’s like to play World of Warcraft, which is a look at the game strictly through sense perception. Even whether you’re an [...]

  7. MMO Clerks » A cognitive look at World of Warcraft Says:

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  8. A cognitive look at World of Warcraft | Cyberscene.co.uk Says:

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  9. A cognitive look at World of Warcraft | WoW Junkie Says:

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  10. A cognitive look at World of Warcraft | Says:

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    [...] of the students in a class there has written up a cognitive account of what it’s like to play World of Warcraft, which is a look at the game strictly through sense perception. Even if you’re an experienced [...]

  12. bejitt Says:

    I’d be really interested in seeing a writeup of how different Addons assist in gameplay. Well, at least of the ‘common’ ways this is done :)

    One of the best examples that comes to mind is the search feature in the bag Addon named ‘Bagnon’. When you start typing the name of an item in its search box, it dims the color of items with names not matching what they typed, thus drawing their attention to the items that do match.

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  14. A cognitive look at World of Warcraft | Game Pet Says:

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  16. WhiteSox Says:

    This article was lame. It says nothing other than what you can get from the WOW box. Hopefully no one paid you much, if anything for this. There is no analysis. There is no compare/contrast with other games. There isn’t even any extrapolation into how the organization of the game could be used outside the game in other human activities or what a successful interface and game queues show us about how we learn and operate.

    Boo! Thumbs down to a waste of bits and bytes.

  17. A cognitive look at World of Warcraft | Wow Gold Says:

    [...] of the students in a class there has written up a cognitive account of what it’s like to play World of Warcraft, which is a look at the game strictly through sense perception. Even if you’re an experienced [...]

  18. dvanlani Says:

    To WhiteSox,
    This was simply a homework assignment. I answered the questions posed in the assignment. It wasn’t meant to be an all-encompassing breakdown of WoW. If I get credit for turning it in, then I don’t consider it a waste of bits and bytes :P.

  19. Dan Says:

    Thanks for the article, it’s a nice one..
    and great to see it on various sites.

  20. web rpg Says:

    i can\’t wait for a new mmo to replace wow, even if it comes from blizzard again, its getting so old :|


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