2010-11-19 09:12 by Shubhomoy Ghosh
Social games are designed to be comparatively easy to play, and are created
so as to not be very difficult to understand and make sure that user stays
hooked on and comes back to play again.
At NASSCOM GDS 2010, Game designers Ayushman Gupta and Bhavin Sagar and Game Economy Designer, Haiderali Choonawala from UBISOFT Pune spoke on how the social game and economy system in a social game is designed.
Social games are basically targeted at the casual gamers, who are just looking for some casual fun activity which can be done with friends online, and there could also be a light competition in some ways.
"Customization and self-expression are very important aspects in not only social games but any form of interactive entertainment" says, Ayushman Gupta, Game designer at UBISOFT Pune, who is currently designing a social game for UBISOFT. They add a personal touch to the game and make the player feel more involved and pampered.
The speakers highlighted some key aspects to keep in mind while developing
a social game:
- To create a casual and fun experience and the ability to play with friends
- To encourage a sense of competition
- To create meaning full co-operative gameplay
- Ability to customize aspects of the game, and self-expression
- Alt + Tab gameplay
There are three types of player categories, Money rich, Time rich and Friend rich. Out of the entire player population only 5% fall in the Money rich category "The money rich players we call Whales" said Bhavin Sagar.
To generate revenue, the game designers focus should be on the Money rich 5%. These categories of players don't mind paying a little money to unlock items, or bypass a certain requirement to progress further in the game. Players of the Time rich category patiently wait for the game to take its natural course and progress further with very little external help. And players from the Friend rich category take all the help they can get from their friends. In turn publicizing the game and attracting more players.
Player acquisition is done via a number of different ways. First is Cross Promotion in which, if a publisher has two or more games live then one game could be used to promote the newer one by adding objectives which require the player to play another game in order to achieve a unique unlock or special item. Second is the Game Dashboard, this has the list of all the games available to the player; this method is a little slow but effective. And third is External Advertising, this helps non-gamers know that a new game is available which raises curiosity about it. Facebook's wall stream as an example allows the player to post their achievement on their wall for all to see. This is a very effective way of encouraging competitiveness and thus attracting new players.
Key ways of player acquisition:
- Cross promotion
- Game dashboard
- Stream (wall posts)
Casual games are made to entertain. So, to keep a player interested, the game designers has to make sure that the game doesn't become monotonous. To keep the player interested throughout the game is as important as attracting the player to the game. Players can be kept hooked on by a number of simple design elements but the most important factor is the progression of the game. To achieve this, a designer implement clever unlocks and level upgrade items, which the player continuously discovers in the gameplay bit by bit, level by level hence making the game more interesting.
A strong post release team is also very important to keep the game lively and interesting throughout, the post production team monitors the game at all times and adds more content as required, for instance, during Christmas the team could add special items to give the game a more personal touch. The level up system also has to be well thought of, and the life span of the game has to be decided to make sure that the players can't burn through the game very quickly.
To keep the players interested
- Design clever un-locks
- Player must continuously discover gameplay
- Strong Post production team
- Life span of the game and level up system
"Monetization of social games is necessary to generate revenue. This is targeted mostly at the players of the Money rich category, who to achieve an item or upgrade would rather pay than play the entire course. These transactions can be done through direct Premium cash or through Facebook credits (only for Facebook) hence, a good economic design is very important for the game to be successful" said Haiderali Choonawala, a game economy designer.
To design a good economic system a lot of research has to be done. Data
from other successful games should be analyzed and studied and an economy
model should be made using software like Excel. The designers must keep
trying to tempt the player to take the shorter path to unlock an item
or level upgrade. The entire game though fictional should be able to make
the player relate to it.
"For instance, a shirt costs Rs. 500 in the real world then the cost of the shirt in the game should also be close to that amount, this helps to keep the game relative" Haiderali added.
In most games there is scope for expansion so the designers must also let the economic system be open and ready for expansion to accommodate the games growth.
All in all, these are the magic words
"Do it now for a dollar"
"Get more neighbors "
"Come back after 24 hours "