What I’ve Learned About Software Development By Listening to Will Wright

This guy created The Sims, Sim City, Spore and much more…

I believe creating great software is an art. It requires intuitive design, and great functionality to create a unique and remarkable experience. And so in order to get an understanding of what it takes to create great software, I started looking at some people that might be able to strengthen my understanding.

When given access to the service Masterclass, I had the ability to discover Will Wright’s insightful videos about game design. Will Wright is the famed creator of games you may have played such as Sim City, The Sims, Spore and much more.

But if I’m talking about software in general, why talk about a game designer? Because Will Wright’s Masterclass was about much more than game design. It was about great design in general. And great design is a large part of great software.

Here are some incredible things I have learned from Will Wright games and listening to his philosophy about great game design.

User Freedom

One thing that all Will Wight games have in common is the incredible freedom players have to create their own stories. Take The Sims for example. While there are objectives in the game, every objective is optional. This is very different from traditional games like Mario or Pacman, and even now with games like The Last of Us. This design decision makes for nearly unlimited possibilities from one players experience to the next.

So how can this compare to software tools?

Well let’s look at a tool like Evernote. Evernote is a note taking software that saves every note on the cloud. But where it really shines is giving users the ability to take any type of note and save any type of media. You can draw, add pictures, mark up those pictures, add pdfs. All these features are optional and not necessary for the user to get a great experience. But the freedom they afford is what makes Evernote flexible and unique.


On top of freedom is the idea of discoverability. I first heard this term when listening to the book ‘Intuitive Design: 8 Steps to an Intuitive UI’.

Wikipedia defines Discoverability as “the degree to which of something, especially a piece of content or information, can be found in a search of a file, database, or other information system.” But in design it also refers to UI that is can be found by users who want to get more out of a product, not necessarily the main features.

Discoverability in games like Sim City is finding out what is possible through searching through the menus and realizing you could make a bike path, or build a statue in your city. These are not required but they are other ways to interact with the game, enhancing the depth of the experience.

In software, it is important to create features that are discoverable, not hidden away, but also not front and center (as not all features can be front and center). So having features be discoverable is a key to great software. A power user of your app will want more than just one feature. Think of Facebook or Instagram, there is so much more to do that is discoverable than just post photos.

Let Your Curiosity Guide You

Nearly every single one of Will Wright’s games came from ideas that he had while reading about a subject that he was interested in. Sim Ant was created because he was reading about insects; SimCity came about because he was reading about city planning. The list goes on.

I’ve found that when building software, if I am curious about what I’m building, that is if I am passionate about it, I will create better apps. I let my ideas guide me to learn something new, and from that passion create something amazing.

This lesson also applies to ideas that might not have anything to do with software development. For example, I created a board game from following my curiosity: https://medium.com/@arichards4814/think-learn-build-a27e64b5613d ←- Read about my game Arms & Influence here.

That’s All Folks

If you would like to learn more about Will Wright, I highly recommend you watch his Masterclass. Even if you are not looking to get into game design, it is fascinating to see how he thinks.

Please find me on LinkedIn: Andrew Richards. And follow me on twitter @thedrewprint

For more information on my card game Arms & Influence please visit ArmsAndInfluence.com

Software Developer — Game Creator — Let’s work together! Reach out on LinkedIn or Twitter @thedrewprint

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