Kixeye: Creativity should lead over data, "can be an aid" but nothing more
Posted: 01.02.2012 13:46 by Simon Priest Comments: 0
Will Harbin of Kixeye has hit out against those who would let pure data crunching lead a developer by the nose in game design. Data for Kixeye is used only to "enhance the gaming experience."

Creativity and passion must come before data, he argues. Data can help "separate the vocal minority" from the overall community. If a team lacks 'passion' then you're going to make rubbish.

Naturally then the social giant Zynga and the like don't impress Kixeye, as Harbin says they "rely too much on data and user studies." They're all lacking in design.

"Data does not inform our road map," Harbin revealed. "I mean, it's only us as gamers that informs our road-map."

"What we do with data is we try to enhance the gaming experience. So for example when you have a lot of people who, let's say, complain in user forums about a new feature that you've launched, well the data might be saying that these guys are spending hours on this feature and it's causing them to come back to the game at an increased rate."

"That's a helpful experience that allows you to separate the vocal minority from the overall user base. If you just listen to the basic user feedback you might be making a severe error in game design decision by modifying something just because a few people are being vocal about slaying your decision," he continued in an interview with

"So we definitely do not design our games around data."

"We try to make improvements around data, and actually I had to give this speech to my team yesterday about being a little bit less reliant of A/B tests and data and trusting our intuition and instinct, since it seems to be more effective at moving the needle at a larger scale than doing a lot of micro data analysis."

"But it's very helpful when you come to a decision where you have two or more options, it's good to allow data to influence some decisions. But you can't do game design through data exclusively."

"It can be an aid, it can be a tool, but if you're not creative, if you're not a thoughtful gamer or you're not super passionate about the space then you're not going to make a good game."

Creativity is choked at social game developers because of their over reliance on data feedback during the design phases. It causes a cycle of copy-cat titles which turn off core gamers.

"No, I think those guys rely too much on data and user studies," declared Will Harbin.

"I think they're lacking in the game design and creativity department to be honest. Playdom is essentially just a Zynga rip off. They've tried to do some other things and now Gardens Of Time is relatively successful and Zynga's copied that, but I wouldn't say that's a super creative approach to gaming."

"The hidden object thing has been around for a while. It's not that interesting to a core gamer. Bottom line, they haven't done anything that I think would appeal to a core gamer, they've obviously found a little bit of success in the social gaming quadrant, but I think they rely much more heavily on data, user studies, etc. I don't think they have a team like ours that really thinks about the users and wants to make a compelling user experience."

Are social developers nothing but shameless copy cats? Check out the full interview between Will Harbin and, where they discuss Kixeye's War Commander.

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