Posts Tagged ‘game design’
Whilst playing No More Zombies on the iPhone recently, I found myself trying to set a limit to my gaming. My limit was set to 100 residents. If I get to 100 people in my town I will stop playing, delete the game and get on with my life. Free of the distraction of stocking shops, building buildings and killing zombies I can discover the other delights of the mobile gaming world.
By 99 I knew the end was near and I was making my price with the world whilst secretly hoping that number 100 was far away. To my surprise, however, the illusive centennial resident was really far away. I continued to pack my shops full of goodies, made a shed load of money and killed more than my fair share of the undead. Yet the regular resident that appeared every few ‘minutes’ (in game time, not real time) failed to materialise.
This got me wondering. Is there a part of game theory that deals with checkpoints, achievements and round numbers in terms of exit points. Is there a shelf life for the casual gamer that can be manipulated to extend the general playtime?
In the old days a game had a beginning and an end, whereas now we have downloadable content which can extend the life of a game ten fold . What interest me though is whether game designers or testers look at ‘exit strategies’. In business an exit strategy is a point in which the investor or owner has got all the best out of a business and leaves the company with money, shares or a general good feeling. I suppose in games with DLC the main exit point is after the main quest or story has been completed but with more endless games such as city builders, when is a good time to unplug?
After some time scouring the Internet for studies or papers to support my theory I was surprised to find nothing that helped. There is a lot online about rewarding gamers in order to keep their attention which I assume is the reaction to losing gamers. However there is little written about when and why they leave the comfort of the gaming world. So for the record, I would like to claim the study of exit theory in gamers as my own.
Gamers leave a good game for many reasons. The top five reasons are:game completion (main game) most achievable achievements achieved left for newer/better game difficulty to steep time, family and other commitments
With further study and a whole host of questionnaires it might be possible to predict the most likely exit points of a game and inject these sections with additional goodies to retain their attention. Being aware that you might lose some of your players at 100 residents might encourage game designers to be smarter when it comes to these exit points.
The path to video game developer success is long and fraught with danger. It might be easy to have and idea but how do you take make that idea a reality. More than that, how do you make game design and development your life?
Developing video games requires knowledge of many different disciplines. Whilst you might be able to outsource certain aspects of the game build, such as game asset design and music composition, your first few games will require you to envisage, creatively direct, project manage and deliver all by yourself. Sadly, game creation is more than just having a game idea, coding the mechanics and then slapping on some lovely graphics… The modern day indie developer needs to manage the marketing and patiently test the final creation in order to secure some commercial success.
Outside of the game design and development process you may want to think about joining a game development team or established studio in order to gain valuable experience in the industry.
With SO many questions floating around, including those questions that you don’t know to ask yet, wouldn’t it be nice if some kind person or website put together a handy list of resources in an easy to read infographic that would act as an ultimate guide to lead you through the ferocious land of game development…
Thanks to the helpful people over at ‘Online Game Design Schools’ you now have such a document.Behold, Click here to read The Ultimate Online Guide to Video Game Design
It dawned on me recently whilst researching game design that there is a fundamental question that you should ask yourself when starting a game:
Am I making a game or a narrative driven fantasy simulation?
Before video games were around, a game was an activity with a set of rules than could be enjoyed again and again. From Tic Tac Toe to soccer they all have a fixed set of rules and can be played anywhere with almost anything. By this I mean that both the examples can be played on a beach, for example, as Tic Tac Toe can be drawn in the sand with a stick and soccer can use a beach ball and use sweaters as goal posts.
Popular video games such as Tetris and Angry Birds adhere to this pattern. Moles could easily replace the birds and the setting changed to a garden. The rules and enjoyment of the games would still be the same. Game developers need to decide right at the beginning whether or not they are making a game and if so, what are the rules, how is it enjoyed and can it be replicated no matter what the graphics, story and rewards.
A narrative based fantasy simulation sees the player assume a role in a story and the player must walk the protagonist through a series of events and/or confrontations until the narrative is complete. Whilst fun, these games are pretty linear and often are disposed of when complete similar to books.
One question that is asked when designing games is:
How is the game won or beaten?
For a narrative driven games this is easy, as it concludes when the story is complete. However, with Tetris, the game is never truly beaten. Success is achieved by beating previous scores. Games like chess can be mastered but never really beaten.
So when your next devising your next video game ask yourself if it’s a game or simulation and if the answer is a game then focus on the rules, the gameplay and how a player wins. If the later is true, focus on story, experience emotion and characters. Trying to mix the two from an early point might just lead to a game that has mediocre effort in both areas.
Let’s say that you are creating a game and you want to build anticipation among the gaming hordes. Furthermore, let’s say you’re not one of the giants, and thus your resources are limited. Regardless, you and your partners have designed this awesome game for the iPhone, and you want to generate excitement about it, which in turn will morph into paying customers, thereby allowing you to continue in your dream job of designing games. How do you go about achieving this dream?
First and foremost, creating a blog, especially one told from the point of view of the designer, is essential, as in mandatory. Not only does it get your company/product name out there, it gives people a chance to take a peek behind the curtain, and get excited about what they see. If you do in fact create a blog from the perspective of the game designer, people can follow along and see the progress, and anticipation builds as the release date gets nearer. If you can fit in a few sneak previews, screen shots, advance details, then so much the better.
Hooray! A company I never heard of is coming out with a game I know nothing about!Let’s Be Social
Put together a Facebook page dedicated to the game. This is even easier to do than a blog, and considering the strong gamer community on Facebook, you have an instant audience. Don’t forget Twitter, either. When it comes to financial outlay and time, it doesn’t get any easier than social media.Conventional Thinking
Okay, now we’re getting into a pricier realm here, but as the old adage goes, you have to spend money in order to make money. If you have an advertising budget set aside, then it’s time to start dipping into it. The thing is to not wait until after the game is released; you need to generate advance buzz. Naturally, in order to do so, you must already have a good idea what the game is about and how it’ll turn out. And you don’t even really have to go all out; get some cheap t-shirts printed up, or colorful information handouts, something that stands a good chance of sticking in gamers’ memories. Booth babes may be out of the question, but hey, there’s always a booth sock puppet. When you stop and think about it that would be pretty memorable, right?
No, not one of those that are pulled by your car. Movies generate excitement and interest by showing trailers before the main feature. You know, right before they warn you about smoking, using cell phones during the movie, and where the exits are located. It’s the same with the world of gaming. Put together a good trailer, or even multiple trailers, to show players what all the fuss is about. This idea fits neatly with the idea of blogs, since that’s where the trailers would ultimately reside. See? These things are interrelated.I’ll Alert The Media
It may seem obvious, but let’s be complete here. Fire off e-mails to periodicals, websites, trade journals, any media source that fits the gaming nice you’re going after, and introduce yourself. If you’re not a known quantity, forget targeting the mainstream media, and focus instead on the smaller outlets that specialize. And while you’re at it, generate some good word of mouth by notifying gaming bloggers. Try to cultivate a rapport with them, and let them help spread the word. But again, make sure that the blogs cover the type of game you’re developing. A blog dedicated to paper and dice gaming will be a bad choice to market your new iPhone game that features steel cage death matches between pieces of sentient produce.
If you find yourself in the position of having both an awesome new game release and a shoestring budget, consider gathering together a dedicated group of gamers that you’ve given a preview of your game and they happen to love it. This loyal army may get paid in merchandise, free copies of your game, or any other benefits you can think of, and in return they spread the word on websites, forums, at conventions, whatever. They are your evangelists. Remember that the most effective, the most trusted advertising is word of mouth!Final Thoughts
There are so many independent developers out there that it’s easy to get lost in the crowd. You need to stand out, build a rep, and give the people a killer product.
Photo Credit: Photos.com
Everyone has an idea in mind of the key features and functionalities that they desire in their phones. For iPhone consumers, one of the top key features them our driven to be games. With a higher interest in games, iPhone is crowned “mobile device king” by an end of the year study this past year. Data driven from users of popular platforms such as Androids, iPhones, and Blackberries, iPhone conquered far above its opponents when it came to devoted gamers. This provides interesting feedback about iPhone consumers.It’s All in the Numbers
iPhone gamers come from a wide spectrum of interests and tend to be very loyal to their playing time. It is recorded that iPhone gamers play their games of choice typically 743.1 minutes on a monthly basis. This number far exceeds the Android gamers who clocked in at 484 minutes on a monthly basis. So iPhone attracts their consumers to their games and then captivates them into playing on a more regular basis than any other mobile device platform.
And the numbers are just rising! With more mobile consumers turning towards smartphones, gaming popularity is just increasing among Americans. In a couple of years, estimation 2016, more than half of mobile consumers are going to be dubbed iPhone gamers.
The most striking data derived from the increase popularity of iPhone gaming is that it has been determined that iPhone game features are used significantly more than any other feature on the iPhone. Popular features such as texting, social networking, and even the basic phone call, all fall short of the minutes used by iPhone games and their devote gamers.iPhone even Appeals to Game Developers
It is true that the market of Android is open source; however, top notch game developers prefer developing their product on iOS versus Androids. Think of the iPhone as a “playing field.” Most extremely popular and successful games that people of all interests flock to be probably introduced on the iPhone first. After the game proves in its success, it may then be converted and developed into an Android game. So die hard mobile gamers, who typically want “it” first, tend to migrate to the iPhone knowing they can get the latest and greatest from top game developers first.
Game developers have even been stumped into thinking that with the high success of their product on iPhone it would do just as well or better on the Android. However, in some cases this is proven false. This all relates deeply on that iPhone gamers are more devoted to their favorite games and out play an Android gamer any day. I phone devices themselves are much more advanced devices than that of most android driven devices. Apple has created the iPhone in such a way that it utilizes each aspect of the device and typically out performs the Android. What this means is that for the most part iPhone game developers can experience their game on a better platform and device to get the full experience of their game.
In conclusion the iPhone is the best testing and developing platform for mobile games. Expect big things from our iPhone game developers and even bigger things from our iPhone developers themselves. This is not a hard thing to imagine considering the iPhone consumer expects big things so under delivering is not an option.
In the near future we should expect machines that are faster smaller and capable of allowing the gamer to experience a much more lifelike streamlined gaming experience than ever before. iPhone developers know that game developers and consumers are counting on them so look out and expect the unexpected.
Game development is a fickle thing, when its good its fantastic and when its bad it really is the pits but each and every game is a learning experience. Here is a few tip and techniques from a like minded game developer:Telling all of your friends and family about your latest indie game (work in profess) doesn’t demotivate you (as seems to be the general thought). Instead, they will keep nagging you so much that you will not be able to just give up and start something new. Try and read as much as you possibly can about different techniques, algorithms, theory and even other developers case studies. Even if they do not apply to your situation, it will teach you to think differently about your own games and how you approach them. You may have experience with the a certain programming language, but making a complete game is a whole new adventure. Assume you know nothing and you won’t disappoint yourself. Don’t expect computer memory to be this infinite resource. If you’re doing a lot of crazy loops and calculations on very big collections (lists, arrays, etc) you’re gonna find yourself hitting some trouble. Keep a notepad handy. Write down anything that comes to mind when it pops in there. This is especially handy when your are away from your computer and travelling or stuck in the kitchen making dinner. There’s so tonnes of different ways you can do things so don’t be afraid to do it your own way. Sign up and learn Git (or any other version control) is will be your best friend. Get some remote backup such as dropbox, Google drive or any online storage as this will be invalauble. Split and re-use. It’s easier to roam through a couple of different methods and fixing once than it is to read through a over a thousand lines of code and then fixing the same piece of code wherever it occurs. Use forums and chatroom, people are generally nice and have had the same issues. Also help others once in a while as this can speed up the response rate of getting help yourself.
I hope these have helped and if you have any others please feel free to add them on the comments below.