Diablo 3 and the devil in the gameplay

When I was younger, Diablo 1 took some level of skill to complete, and consideration of ones armour or weapons. The game was atmospheric, challenging and a load of fun. I’ve got Diablo 3 for Switch now and it just feels like there’s such a missing element in the gameplay, like under the hood the game format changed, but the style, atmosphere and story haven’t.

Diablo 1 from, https://www.polygon.com/2016/11/4/13530784/diablo-3-diablo-1-level-details-darkening-of-tristram

In Diablo 1, you had to make time to consider the best load-out for your character, inspect the item properties and fawn over new items. You were scared entering a new area or level because who knew what may be about to pop and and take you!

With Diablo 3, I’m desperate to enjoy it, and the cut scenes and story are the things that have got me so far. However, even on the higher difficulty, the levels involve me doing nothing me than moving a character towards the dungeon spawn and rolling around control pad buttons to win. You get a new cool upgrade, and you equip them and repeat. You get some new armour, you equip that if it’s stronger and get going.

You just wade through any dungeons like a hot sword through butter without really any concern. The challenge is gone. It’s like the Total War “auto-resolve battle” button was just omni-present throughout the game and bound X,Y,A and B buttons. I fear I may get more enjoyment from just watching all the story cutscenes on Youtube and bypassing the RSI inducing middle-bits. I just don’t enjoy Diablo 3.

Hero image from “dave“, http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/diablo/images/2347181/title/diablo-3-wallpapers-wallpaper

Design thinking – part 1 – my recap

Everything is designed. You don’t have to be a designer to influence the design of things.

Adapted from Tim Brown, IDEO CEO

A quick write-up to further solidify my week 1 learning.

  • At it’s core, design thinking is empathy, ideation and experimentation

I remember this seems odd, because I was expecting it to be a set of set stages you followed to be a “design thinker”, however it appears to be more about a way of acting with some “set pieces” to maximise that approach.

Agile was a way of thinking, but had lots of managed stages and a particular roles / rules to help you at each stage to make further support an Agile team. However, this quite literally is a way of thinking. #CluesInTheName It sounds obvious but I hadn’t realised it.


Really understanding your user’s / learners perspective leads to being able to make a better design for them (and potentially others). Some tips were,

  • Always say yes to what they offer (tea, coffee, biscuits) so they feel comfortable
  • Be brave and leave pauses during an interview, this allows your participant to mull on their answer more and potentially share more
  • Fall in Love, not literally, but you need to be thinking in an empathetic manner with them, so loving them means you care more for why.

“Treat people like partners in research” – this struck a chord with me, I always collaborate i.e., involve my colleagues in the discussions as partners to the solution.


Go wild. Some of these ideas won’t make it past the whiteboard, but you’re allowed to go there.

This to me is seriously linked to Agile in that the board can list everything, but really only the priority ones that hit the goal will naturally boil to the front.


Small experiments early always tell a lot. Whether it’s a few <div>s and a bit of javascript, or a notepad and a conversation, that’s a real experiment.

In Agile it’s the same, iterations and releasing early lead to better, more valuable work. I’m used to producing things on a notepad first, moving them further along with OmniGraffle or PowerPoint.


A lot of design thinking is quite similar to Agile, “Lean startup” and 7 day startup and also my own way of working, so really I think I’m looking for,

  • more tips through the course to improve my general skill-base,
  • applying that thinking to my work today, and
  • #humblebrag sharing “I’ve completed a design thinking course” on Linkedin

Good, onwards to week 2 and learning more about “inspiring new thinking”.

Featured image from, pixabay

Voting for what you believe in

Yes. It’s clear that people voting for Brexit had no plan, and yes that is frustrating, however do you blame them?

To put it in context, think of something you really want to buy. Take 10 seconds…

Now what if I told you there’s a possibility you could have it, but we’re not sure how yet… would you pursue it or leave in the vain hope that the opportunity may crop up again.

If it wasn’t a material thing, what if it was a social change, or a vote to show you wanted believed in something controversial but would make things better. You’d have to vote for it, even if it was slightly blind.

The vote to leave was based on people wanting to leave, possibly irrespective of a plan. Yes it sucks, yes it’s causing Britain to need martial law and potential food shortages but… if people hadn’t have voted that way wouldn’t they have been told they’re silly for not voting for it and “that was their chance”, only, who’s to say if they’d have had that chance again?

Zelda breath of the Wild and learning design

I love this game. My wife and I have played it every evening after work for about 5 weeks non-stop now.

By the way, this post is riddled with spoilers about Breath of the Wild.

However, the further down the rabbit hole you go the more it speaks to you as a learning designer and the more it reveals as a clever piece of entertainment and learning scaffolding.

Win their hearts

A clever colleague of my always mentions that a module should be meaningful and you need to win their hearts early. Zelda, breaks you straight into a magical world where you start scraping around but the landscape in the distance tells you there’s going to be adventure to be had once you’ve passed your basics.

Endless scenery – https://www.zelda.com/breath-of-the-wild/

Engage with your student early

To start with, your companion is an mysterious old man who guides you between all the early action so you know where you’re going. Also interestingly he is also a bit un-hinged, you’re never quite sure who’s side he’s on until later… this may just be me but it adds to the early game excitement.

The mysterious old man – https://zelda.gamepedia.com/King_Rhoam

Teach in your own style

The best IDs and teachers are able to be creative and teach using methods and techniques that they find engaging. In Zelda, the whole land is based on an early Japanese era and Shinto like shrines. You can tell that for the designers it was like second nature for them to invent these things and challenges because somewhere in their history they’ve engaged with those ideas first hand.

It’s like in Fable 3, the game is based on a dirty old-English industrial revolution and you can tell again that the designers have been taught this througout their history lessons and it’s imprinted in their culture.

Alignment – Formatives lead to Summatives

All of Zelda’s game play and stories is so well set up as training for the ultimate final assessment, calamity Ganon (or calamity Gammon as he was re-named in our house). The daily grind is scaffolding your learning for making elixers, fighting tips and solving puzzles which… apply in the champion bosses (formatives). The champion bosses require lots of effort put in before upgrading your character and button skills before you could stand a chance of flooring them. This then leads to the final boss, Calamity Ganon (the summative) which we can see is going to involve calling on all our training and upgrades so far.

The formatives are aligned to the summative.

Calamity Ganon Fanart – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/623185667161763399/?lp=true

All of the Zelda grind is scaffolded learning to achieve when you need it. Not much more to say there 😀

Surprising Learning

I talked about this in another blog post, however the Zelda game never ceases to surprise you. The designers team have played with scale of monsters and NPDs, the sound team have pushed the boundaries of music and effects and the level designers have surprised you with challenges.

The world is humungous and each corner brings with it a surprising and new engaging new race. Some are quite close to human, others are a twist on a beast + human. But each one has their own personality and brings with it a new surprise and technique to learn from them.

Let them find their own path

An early design feature of Zelda was to let the player find their own way of doing things, you can cut down logs or knock barrels over to solve puzzles, it doesn’t matter, you can do it. You can skip sections if you want, or you can complete every activity you ever cared to, it’s your own path.

It’s the same in learning design, an adult learner will likely come to your module with their own ways of doing things and is likely to try to approach the problems in their own way or have covered something before. This game allows you to explore many different ways of winning and you can solve them how you want.

Collect Kurok seeds or not, it’s your choice – https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2017/03/09/what-to-do-with-korok-seeds-in-legend-of-zelda-breath-of-the-wild/


Well yeah… obviously!

What a game


Breaking democracy?

What was the point in voting in the first place?

Shouldn’t MP’s respect the outcome of the refurendum?

A second vote would destory confidence in government.

Well these are all seemingly correct statements but in today’s modern world I can’t help but feel they’re out of touch still.

A second vote to me would mean being reactive to change, would mean being more Agile around our government and choices. It’s possible to both accept the referendum, but also be smart and accept and act on the fact it’s going to cause significant disruption.

Yes. People voted out, the Leave team won that. Done. Dusted. However, to ignore the result of that choice, i.e., businesses are leaving the country, the NHS not getting that extra money… wouldn’t it be better to avoid a massive mistake rather than following it blindly? It’s possible that people who voted leave are comfortable with the what’s at stake, do not see it as a mistake and value the nation’s independence a lot more so want it to continue.

But really what is everyone afraid of? A second vote doesn’t have to be a “best of three” and it doesn’t have to be seen as a democratic fail. It’s a complete democratic win, it’s a chance to say, “well here we are and is this what we wanted?”. In fact, it’s more democratic to ask again since so much has seemingly changed since the initial vote. The people get to choose, do they want the deal and the UK’s freedom, or do they want to stick with the bigger European picture?

You wouldn’t dream of carrying on something so un-settling in any local club you were part of without checking with the members on the way, so why should government be any different? Yes we honour the vote, but also we honour our own smarts’ and not forge ahead blindly.

This really is an opportunity for a more democratic UK government, and it could be embraced as a win for all. It’s not breaking democracy, it’s making democracy.

When the student is ready, udemy shall disappear

Or did I mean, “When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.”?

Lao Tzu – https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1339572-when-the-student-is-ready-the-teacher-will-appear-when

I love that saying because it reminds you that as an adult you have to need to learn, not just want to. And this led me to a revelation on the learning sites I keep frequenting to advance myself in areas I find interesting, namely udemy.

Recently I’ve seriously wanted to understand more about Product Management and also Design Thinking and have been reading blogs on the gov.uk around service design and product management. It whetted my appetite enough to know I wanted to know more, so I put my money where my Lao Tzu is and purchased a udemy course.

It was the “Become a Product Manager” course actually. Without really thinking about it when choosing between them all I went for the one with more video hours. It seemed a good idea. More video is more learning right?

Photo by Niklas Hamann on Unsplash

Turns out I was wrooooong. Even as an ID I should have known that was a stupid choice to make, but I’m afraid I’m not perfect in the evenings. The course is just some guy talking for ages around things that even I know he’s not totally correct on. And he’s making up acronyms all over the place like they’re industry standard pieces you’d repeat in every office… they’re not. Then there’s the fact that the module is actually just him talking… for hours… and hours… with a pop quiz on something sensical every now and again.

More video does not equal more learn


So, after trying hard… I’ve dropped that module, realising I actually do quite a lot of Product Management in my present Senior ID role where I manage the learning product.

Now, you’d think I’d have learnt after that, however I signed up to a Design Thinking udemy course with some kind Keypath sponsorship (we are VERY lucky and our boss protects a full hour every week for professional development – like you get in trouble if you skive). However, this module again seemed to rely on the andragogy that “more video = more learn”. I sat through a gruelling 20 minutes of a man smugly talking around Design thinking without actually covering any points or telling you where it was going. To make it worse his super sensitive microphone picked up him rolling spit around in his gob for all those 20 minutes. Again… a course that didn’t ask the learning to engage anywhere, didn’t test they picked up any points (not that he made any) and failed to map out the learner’s journey through the 400 minutes plus of him waxing lyrical.

Photo by Danny Postma on Unsplash

However, as I said, “when the student is ready” – so I’ve dropped the module and flipped to IDEO U’s free 5 email course on design thinking which is much easier to read and lays out where the learning is going and why. I highly suggest it if you’d like to understand the basics of an apparently messy and never ending process called “Design thinking”

So, where’s this going then! I can’t imagine even my Mum would have read this far, but, how would I make udemy to improve their learning Product? Well, with a bit of design thinking obviously.

  • To improve on Learning Design: Offer course designers some learning patterns / template to follow which encourage a mix of content delivery styles. This is showing Empathy towards people who are not IDs or teachers, show them a pattern with…
    • Videos
    • Simple HTML interactives
    • Set reading and discussion
    • Automated quizzes on real topics
  • To build on the Social-constructivism, you can improve the UI: Take a leaf out of Futurelearn’s book and make the comments ever present (not 200px wide and stuck on the side) so students can engage with the material between them and learn with / from each other
  • On upholding quality: Encourage the teachers do do less, maybe set a limit on video hours above which their course has to be reviewed. It’s presently a bit “myspace”, wild and messy without really doing what it’s meant to do. Go more “Facebook” and focus on making sure students are getting what they need by offering shorter modules

After writing these however, I suspect that udemy’s KPIs are more based on dollars to grow quick rather than actual learning, so they need to make an attractive offering and sell it quick so maybe their offering makes sense to them…

“Lots of video hours means lots of learning money”.

Actual udemy product goal… honest

The cost of training

Something that I remember not really appreciating about 10 years ago at Thought Den was the real cost and value return of training staff.

Sometimes when you’re working out the value return of the training against the actual money you’re spending, it never quite seemed to add up. Training had to be spent on very specific skills our studio needed, like Apple iOS and Android publishing skills, Agile training or new Flash (yes, adobe flash) skills. Also, one of your valuable team away from their day to day work seemed very costly against a constant spin of projects and product.

Now, that’s fine when you’re in a small studio and training is expensive. The cost seemed basically high, against a negligible return on value.

Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

However, since moving up through the ranks in larger organisations I really see the difference the opportunity of training can bring to an employee’s day to day working life and career path.

Also, with the advent of the gig-economy in education, where more people are able to offer relevant light training in various related subjects for cheaper, the cost and value have changed.

By offering training to employees generally helps break up the daily grind of their days / lives. Able to express their interests in related subjects, the value may not necessarily translate to their day to day actions any more than 2%, BUT, the value of them learning something related and interesting helps them meet their own targets of learning and growing. The other factor I’ve noticed is you need to be bold with your commitment to improvement, every week all the Learning Design Team (US, Canada and UK) all join for a call where we have set subjects and initiatives to work through. Every ID, every week. That’s a huge cost of hours right, but that commitment shows that the company recognises its employees as people who want to know more, who have a growth mindset.

The cost of training is now cheaper, but the value in reduction of employee turnover and employee happiness can be outstanding.

The company is filled with clever people with minds that need sharpening.