游戏邦注：本文原作者是Playdom游戏设计师Joshua Dallman，他改进了《Wild Ones》一些游戏机制、视觉效果等设计，成功扭转了该游戏的发展颓势，使其华丽转身成为Playdom的头牌社交游戏。他在文中通过丰富的图片和具体实例，展示了该游戏脱胎换骨的过程。
我在一年前结束了几个月的外包设计工作，成为以Playdom联合创始人Ling Xiao为主导的内部工作室首席设计师。我在这个工作室的第一个任务是重整一个状态不佳的项目—–回合制射击游戏《Wild Ones》。
为什么我这么有自信断言它能做得更好？主要是因为这个游戏理念有广泛的吸引力和成功的先例。这种类型游戏的普遍性几乎堪比《Snake》，而《Artillery》、《Human Cannonball》、《Scorched Earth》、《百战天虫》、《iShoot》、《愤怒的小鸟》等大量轨道型射击类游戏也已经数不胜数，无需我再赘述。
《百战天虫》系列更是这类型游戏的佼佼者，推出了大量续集和移植版本，而且还在Xbox Live Arcade平台上长盛不衰。
凭借深厚的游戏背景知识，我知道应该关注的重点在哪里。《Skee Ball》是第一款因提高易玩性而大获其益的游戏。原版游戏中又大又长的滚道、笨重的球，真是特别难上手。当这款在十年后改头换面时（游戏邦注：在今天的电子游戏厅里，仍然可以看得到这个游戏小巧玲珑的新面孔），它的人气开始一路爆涨。我认为只要简单地改进游戏易玩性和提升设计，《Wild Ones》里的球也能那么容易击中目标时，《Wild Ones》也能人气飙升。
解决方案：当玩家死亡，玩家的鬼魂就浮在屏幕上（这里是受到《Toe Jam & Earl》的启发），之后玩家便可复活。这个改动只是简单的一小步，不过却带来了多个积极作用。
既然玩家可以无限重生，做出比角色还大的武器也没什么不可能了。我最喜欢的绿色、全屏尺寸、秒杀激光枪叫作“Gamma Star”（当然是出自《Death Star》中的致命电波），其实它更恰当的名字应该是“Game Over”，因为它会破坏屏幕上90%的地形，同时葬送90%玩家的性命。
解决方案：我比较主张要么让游戏走紧张路线（一堆夸张刺激的笑点，类似《Itchy & Scratchy》的氛围），要么明确地保持游戏的兔巴哥风格。就算其他地方一尘不染，一旦设计师在游戏中稍微加入一点成人向和带硬伤的东西，所得的结果不言而喻，那就是细节影响大局。
我的设计方向与Ling Xiao的想法一致，他很直接地授权我对这个游戏做出彻头彻尾的调整——这是对我最大的信任，而其他高管们可能害怕和怀疑我对现存的交易（尽管量小）基础做出如此大规模的调整。Ling Xiao确实明智，他料到如果我们固执地按原版运营下去，我们能得到的也就像以前那么多，总之重大调整势在必行。
[Designer Joshua Dallman dives into 10 critical factors in the redesign of Wild Ones, which saw the game transform from a failure into Playdom's top social title, and offers up a comprehensive picture with concrete examples on how to do it.]
One year ago I went to work for Playdom, joining as the studio design lead for an internal studio led by co-founder Ling Xiao after doing contract design work for months for projects such as Social City. My first project in the studio was to fix a game that wasn’t performing well — that game was the turn-based artillery shooter Wild Ones.
Through game design alone (no marketing tricks and no ad spend) I increased DAUs by 44 percent, increased MAUs by 25 percent, and quadrupled revenue, at a time when policy changes put all games on Facebook in decline.
It’s now Playdom’s number one game, comprising a quarter of its entire daily traffic. Here’s how I did it.
Normally, the rule in social games is to direct by metrics. This is considered evolution, the next wave, modern. We think of the days before metrics as the dark ages, brute, unsophisticated.
Yet companies that evolve to use metrics then direct by metrics alone find success only in optimizing what can be perceived by metrics, which is often just the tip of the iceberg.
Bad game design is imperceptible to metrics; you have to play something to know it’s bad, and you have to know bad design when you see it. Metrics can show that something is broken, but not what is broken. I say this because although metrics will indeed take you to the next level as a designer, they amplify your design sense, not replace it.
When I looked at Wild Ones, I saw so many crippling mistakes of bad design that I didn’t have to look at a single metric — nor did I — to determine what was wrong, or how to fix it. I only saw how the game was performing overall and knew from my experience that it should have been doing way better.
Why was I so confident it should have been doing better? Chiefly, because the concept behind the game has such broad appeal and historical precedent. The genre itself goes very far back as a casual game. Its ubiquity is almost that of Snake. I’m not going to do a history of the genre, but its history includes Artillery, Human Cannonball, Scorched Earth, Worms, iShoot, Angry Birds, and dozens of successful others in the artillery trajectory genre.
The Worms series in particular has been wildly successful, with many sequels and ports, and ranks as a consistent bestseller on Xbox Live Arcade.
Worms has done a great job of softening the aggressive war aspect with cute cartoon characters and cute weapons and themes to draw a wider audience and more casual player base in. Meanwhile, the game was still skill based and challenging enough for more strategic core players. Everyone loves Worms; it has universal appeal and is fun, casual, and accessible. I wanted to see Wild Ones hit the numbers that a Worms-like game would.
However, in its original state at the time, Wild Ones was far too intimidating, difficult, and unrewarding for a wider audience to play. The high level goal I set out for myself was to grow the game by reaching out to a larger audience by increasing the game’s accessibility. My secondary goal was to grow retention by increasing game accessibility. My final goal was to monetize the game by designing a completely new monetization strategy where there was none before, and making sure that the monetization was as completely accessible as possible.
Why the focus on accessibility? Like most designers and those in the game industry, I come from a common shared hardcore game background — MUDs, Dungeons & Dragons, Doom, Half-Life, MMORPGs, etc. When Bejeweled and Diner Dash defined a generation of casual games, I eagerly jumped ship to the promise of “games for everyone” instead of a small hardcore fraction of the market.
I see the primary difference between hardcore and casual games being that of accessibility. Hardcore players will recompile their Linux kernel to make a game compatible with their system; casual players are so sensitive as to drop out of a funnel in significant numbers if asked to make just one extra click to get into the game.
My background informed my area of focus. Historically, Skee Ball was the first amusement game to benefit from accessibility improvements — its original form was designed with a huge, long bowling lane, and a large, heavy ball, making it difficult to play. A decade later, it was redesigned to be the tiny size you still see in arcades today, and that’s when its popularity exploded. I wanted to make the ball easier to throw in Wild Ones, and the game easier to play to capture that same explosion in popularity through simple accessibility and game design improvements.
Here were the ten big design changes I made to accomplish these goals:
1. Unlimited Life
Problem identified. In the previous design, players would spawn on a map, and once killed, would remain permanently dead in that game, unable to perform any game action other than exiting — which players did. This was an innovation in Counter-Strike, adding tension to the FPS genre where unlimited respawns were previously the norm.
However, this tension and resulting punishment is highly inappropriate in a casual game where the rule is to reward, praise, and offer opportunity to interact. My first and most important design decision was to offer unlimited life to players that they may play continuously through a timed round and never be punished with the inability to interact.
Solution. When players die, their ghost now floats to the top of the screen (inspired by Toe Jam & Earl) and then they respawn. That’s it. Dead simple (excuse the pun). However, this has a number of positive effects.
First, the player is engaging throughout the whole round, instead of only part of it, which drives up engagement (duh), but also drives up retention (keeps them from quitting while waiting and bored watching) and as a bonus drives up monetization, because the player is shooting the whole round instead of only part of the round, and the more they shoot, the more they consume, and need, and spend.
However, there is an echo effect, in that the more players kill each other, the more antagonistic they get about killing each other, upping their weapons grade tier — thereby upping the ante for all players in the room. This also provided the benefit of releasing constraints on what weapons you could bring into the game (restricted before to keep games from ending too soon), and allowing weapons to do bigger and even one-hit-kill damage as death was no longer a big deal (humiliation being the biggest punishment).
Another benefit was by changing the winner determination from last man standing to most points scored, it made all players who scored any points (any hits) feel like winners, instead of a purely binary one winner/all other losers. This one change had so many benefits it could practically be a whole article unto itself.
Suffice to say, it was the right thing to do, and no metric could expose that (short of post-release A/B). A minority of hardcore players vehemently opposed this change, but the feature opened the game to wider player base by making it less punishing and more engaging while still rewarding skill with points all in one stroke, and was a big “single reason” for the rebooted game’s success.
N.B. Social game designers may look at giving unlimited life to drive engagement a cheap tactic, akin to giving unlimited energy to an energy-based game to drive engagement and calling it a success when it’s a foregone effect. The difference here is that the player who died (“ran out of energy”) did not do so based on their own action or inaction; it was another player’s action that forced that game state, making it feel potently unfair to a casual player.
There is also no way to pay past it, nor pay or engage to increase your potential to avoid future death so quickly. It was also doled out universally to new players and engaged players alike, whereas with energy you do not want new players to run out of energy before they have a chance to get engaged.
Monetizing the valuable commodity of life directly was tempting, but doing so would gut the engagement you need to get players playing long enough to be motivated to
monetize in the first place. Instead, I wanted to make life an unlimited commodity so that the weapons used against that unlimited commodity could be similarly dispensed in “unlimited” fashion — each shot consuming ammo and making us money.
2. More Accessible Firing Controls
Problem. In the original design, in order to shoot you first have to find your mouse cursor, find your character, place your mouse outside your character at the desired angle to fire at, hold down the mouse button, observe the tiny shot power meter rising up, observe the point the meter reaches the desired location to fire at that shot power, then release the mouse button.
Not only were there many steps, but it was timing-based, adding another layer of skill and obstacle to the game.
Solution. After reviewing many trajectory game controls (including a side-view platform-style golf game!) I designed an alternate control input that removed the timing-based shooting and had players move their mouse to control the angle and length of an arrow that represented the angle and shot power of the shot, then fire with a single click.
Ultimately the two controls were both released in the game, with the updated version touted as the “Enhanced Aiming” version (now there’s a marketing spin for an accessibility feature!)
However, even the standard timing-based aiming got a big accessibility upgrade in the form of a huge, gradient-colored, multiple-times-the-character-sized arrow pointing where you’re shooting, replacing the tiny, subtle, smaller-than-the-character meter previously used.
Additionally, I added angle and shot power numeric readouts to make the interaction clearer. It could be seen as too much information, but I feel it exposed the two most important numbers in the game since the days of Artillery — angle and shot power.
3. More Accessible Movement Controls
Problem. Moving your character in the game was extremely frustrating and felt like a constant battle, rather than a seamless brain-to-mouse-to-avatar meld. Due to the destructible terrain, the player would constantly fall in holes, then be unable to get out.
Additionally, any terrain changes at all seemed to immediately restrict the player’s movement, as they were unable to jump over the simplest of obstacles. Since movement was half the game, this made half the game frustrating and not fun. In addition, movement was taught using the keyboard as control input, which is a kiss of death for casual games.
Solution. Removal of keyboard emphasis for controls in tutorial, and in-game, and a rebooted movement scheme where you simply aim with the mouse and the avatar moves where you click and hold.
My initial design called for a jetpack to stream you to your mouse cursor destination, though with some wizardry a programmer was able to change the algorithms and re-balance the movement such that the character effectively moves where you aim without having to add a new jetpack feature wholesale.
The simple answer is that the character jumps higher and the math is much looser to make sure you can almost always get to where you want to go without getting constantly stuck, though under the hood there is much more involved This was a great lesson for where engineering ingenuity can offer solutions to fix broken design without having to add more design and features to the product, which is never as elegant.
4. Allow All Weapons into Game
Problem. The previous design used a weapons loadout, restricting weapons to just a couple that the player selects at game start. This is, to be blunt, extremely dull.
The fun in this genre is in being able to fire lots of different types of weapons to experiment with. The loadout artificially choked engagement (and consumption, so therefore monetization) and its only purpose was specifically to keep players from bringing too much power into games — which, due to permanent death, would end the game too quickly.
The weapons loadout was also extremely confusing and inaccessible from both a game rule clarity and usability standpoint. It didn’t make sense that you could have weapons you couldn’t bring into the game, and further confusing still was why, if you had 10 of a weapon, you could only bring a certain number of shots of that weapon into the game (say, 2, or any low arbitrary number that didn’t instantly kill an enemy). The rules didn’t make sense and neither did the displayed numbers — it was a mess, and again, no metric could ever point to this.
Solution. With unlimited lives, there was now no reason to restrict weapons used in the game. The loadout was deleted; the “max shots per game” for powerful weapons
rule was deleted. You can now bring your whole inventory, and every shot quantity of that inventory, into the game, and dispense punishment as you see fit. A “choose weapon” button was added to select among your whole inventory. This was simple, intuitive, clear, and is how it should work!
5. 50 New Weapons
Problem. The game overall was slow-paced, skill-based, anti-climactic, and dull. It needed more action, easier action, bigger climaxes, and more excitement. It also had a meager offering of about 10 weapons, total. For a game that is all about weapons and destruction, it needed more weapons — period. Not one or two. Not 10 or 20.
Solution. 50 new weapons, for about 60 weapons total. I designed new weapons to be entirely based on existing weapons, as variants, with no new weapon programming for any new weapon.
As a designer I believe in maximizing value out of current assets first before putting more demand on engineering and art for new assets, which is often lazy design.
By having this many weapons, I was able to offer players one new weapon per level, and advertise the next weapon to be unlocked on the main menu — critical to drive retention.
These new weapons were absolutely the crown jewel and crucial centerpiece to the reboot. I designed the new weapons to be larger than life. This not only gave the game more action, excitement, and climax, but also made it more accessible to play, as big explosions are an easy way to score big points with gamers.
A single, flat, badly animated explosion was previously used as the art output for every shot of every weapon. Significant time was spent on new animations using multiple layers and dynamic sizing and rotation to create an unlimited array of explosion combinations from a limited base set of original layers, creating unique per-weapon explosion effects for all weapons and adding further character, impact, and value to the weapons.
An area of monetization that many people forget is that of the dispensing stage of the product consumption cycle; a player needs to feel satisfied in the consumption of their purchased product in order for them to re-purchase. The enhanced explosion effects added to the value of the dispensed product such that players are more motivated to re-purchase to experience the effect over and over again.
Part of the game’s difficulty with accessibility was that it was very difficult to make shots hit their targets; you had to be exacting and precise. To solve this with the new weapons, I increased their overall shot radius while keeping the maximum damage area of effect small. This was a simple math change that allowed players firing even small shots to have a high probability of scoring at least some points, while keeping the reward of direct close shots high by keeping those high-scoring. A simple change that gave everyone more points, while keeping skill shots in the hands of skilled players.
The size variants allowed me to make extra-small, small, medium, large, extra-large, and obscenely-large weapon variations, with extra-small being engagement-currency based to onboard into more expensive versions of the weapon, for a weapon that would otherwise never have a “free trial” mini-version, as its effect is too premium.
The highest “obscene” category allowed me to specifically target whales, a common social game design tactic.
The unlimited respawn change allowed me to make truly larger-than-life weapons, my favorites being the green, entire-screen-sized instant-kill laser named “Gamma Star” (after the Death Star’s deadly beam, of course) and the aptly named “Game Over” nuke which destroys 90 percent of the screen’s terrain and players.
These new weapons also allowed me to fix the problem of average players feeling ineffective and unable to affect the game state. By making larger weapons, I could ensure that players could at least take out large chunks of the terrain even if they wildly miss their shot, making them feel at least able to affect the game state, instead of feeling like their presence and interaction with the game doesn’t matter.
Who cares how powerful a weapon is when you can always price it appropriately? For $5 a shot I’d sell a weapon that reboots other players’ computers! I’m kidding, but you get the point; obscenely powerful weapons are balanced by simply being obscenely expensive.
Weapons were themed to strike humor and fun — hence the cartoonish anvil and the Earthworm Jim-inspired cow that goes splat with green goo when tossed. These weapons were endlessly tweaked and refined with love to create a weapon set and game that would truly be a joy to play.
I believe the time and extra care I spent designing, refining, and balancing these weapons — two weeks of straight around-the-clock work — shines through in the final quality of the product. Here more than anywhere, I simply wanted to make players feel visceral pleasure and simple joy. And there is simply no metric for tracking that.
6. Menu Streamlining
Problem. Game lobby menu adds friction to game entry, and an additional point and opportunity to exit. Players have to click “ready” to continue, stalling the game unnecessarily.
Solution. Kill the lobby; make players automatically ready upon screen load. The screen serves as a timer alone, as it waits for other player games to load and synch, but everything happens automatically and quickly.
Problem. Level select screen forces players to tediously scroll through one level at a time and select from a confusing selection of overwhelming, hardcore, overly-custom options.
Solution. Show all (or a large quantity of) levels on a single screen as thumbnails with one-click entry to play each; replace myriad custom options with simple categories of game types, including descriptions of each game type, which effectively just pre-selects confusing custom options, leaving the same amount of choice but filtered more effectively.
7. Removal of Wind
Problem. Game mechanic of wind direction and speed adds additional complexity to game and reduces probability of successful shots, especially for new players who haven’t learned to adjust to wind — let alone fire shots, period. The changing wind on every turn further exacerbates the problem. In the same way that 3D is exponentially, not incrementally, more difficult for players to navigate than 2D, the third axis variable of “wind” makes it exponentially more difficult to shoot when compounded with the X axis of angle and Y axis of shot power.
Solution. Kill wind. No wind makes it easier to shoot, especially for new players, and angle and shot power optimizing alone is already engaging and difficult enough to try and master.
This was a polarizing design choice I made with many on the team feeling it reduced game fun, but it was a minor fun enhancer that carried major accessibility costs, and the game grew and retained far better without it.
8. Unfocused Monetization Design
Problem. I cannot speak to the monetization or non-monetization of the product, I can only discuss public figures on Appdata and publically obvious game design changes before and after. With that in mind, I can make the non-specific relative comment that I increased monetization five-fold, and that the pattern held, and was not just an overnight fire sale.
What I can discuss in detail is that the original monetization design is that of most first-time or amateur monetization designers, which is trying to make money off of everything.
This is the same as having no strategy at all. Many consider retail box product sales to be the dark ages, and microtransactions to be the modern way to do it, but just tossing microtransactions into your game across the board is blunt, and won’t get results.
Some think you have to understand what your players want, then monetize around that. That is also wrong. In that scenario, you are being reactionary instead of proactive; you are the slave instead of the master.
In reality, you are the designer and you create the experience the player has. You create needs for the player, and you direct the player to monetization via your design. So the question is not “where are players spending?” The question is “where do you want to design players to spend?”
Lazy design will leave monetization areas to the players — it will throw its hands up and say “I’m sorry, I don’t understand this, and I don’t know where to charge you, so you tell me.”
Instead, your design should say, “this is where I want you to play for free, this is where I want you to feel some pain, and this is where I want you to unequivocally pull out your credit card.”
There is some optimizing from feedback from players — namely what within a category they spend the most on — and there are definitely surprises. But it is ultimately up to the designer to construct the framework that drives supply and demand to the bottlenecks and motivations that will monetize best.
Quite simply, in its original design, we attempted to sell everything in Wild Ones, an experience akin to walking into a movie theater and seeing the seats, fixtures, and employee outfits all being pushed in equal proportion to the movie ticket itself. This led to not only less than desired levels of monetization, to say the least, but stifled engagement and retention as well, because it failed to exploit features that were engagement features as engagement features.
Solution. My solution was radical — make all maps, characters, and clothing free (or as cheap as free) and open from the get-go, with monetization design centered around the most desirable thing players want in the game — weapons. Everything else used to drive engagement and retention.
There weren’t enough maps to sell, and selling maps is a poor choice for monetization anyway, as maps are the platform for engagement. Characters were also few in quantity and a critical mass of free characters was needed for basic engagement and retention and player customization of their personality.
Clothing is an agent of player avatar customization, which itself is an agent of retention, as the more you customize your avatar the more invested and personal you feel with it — therefore, I wanted players to customize away so that they stay long enough to enjoy the real motivation and status of the game, blowing people up.
Another reason to make clothing free in this case is that monetization of avatar customization works best when there’s status associated with that customization. Here, the status is in your ability to inspire shock and awe on the battlefield via your willingness and frequency of use of expensive and rare weapons – not what color fedora you’re wearing. The hat is just a fun extra to make you feel connected to your character; it’s not a bottleneck that gets you to pull out your wallet.
Focus on the most needed and desired content, then market the heck out of that
Again, I determined what the most desirable, inspiring category of content was in the game — the weapons — then monetized aggressively around that, both by expanding the product lineup within the game and through careful onboarding and an aggressively high ratio of premium currency weapons. I then used all other features as engagement and retention features to support that core monetization. Engagement and retention features can still have some small percent of monetization items, but should not strive to make income, and receive it only as incidental occasional byproduct.
When I discuss the matter of where a designer wants to make money, I’m talking about aligning that with the greatest monetization characteristics for opportunity. Selling consumables unequivocally trumps selling durables.
Here I could sell durables like levels, characters, and clothing, or weapons, which are constantly consumed, constantly needed, easily used and replaced, and core to the central game loop. Obviously weapons are where I want to base my monetization, so I make sure the design centers around and encourages their consumption, and if it doesn’t, I change the design until it does and fits.
9. New In-Game HUD
Problem. HUD does not show a clear winner, is not social; game time is not communicated so game seems to end abruptly; turn timer counts down second by second, unnerving casual players.
Solution. New social display shows each players avatar, name, life bar, and ranking (e.g. 1st/2nd/3rd/4th) with additional info when clicked; game time shown as bar on HUD; turn timer changed to visual circle countdown timer with intentionally no numbers shown to reduce stress and pressure while still communicating how much relative time is left.
The social display represented the most useful UI improvement, as competition is the key thing that drives the game, where other UI changes were either necessary due to other design changes made or were simply opportunistic improvements.
10. Mature Game Art
Problem. Game mascot (“Sargent Bunny”) often pictured smoking a cigar space marine style, with his paw on the skull of an enemy corpse. All other game art is children’s or all-ages appropriate.
Solution. I’m all for edgy — but either make the whole game edgy and take it decidedly in that direction (lots of campiness, Itchy & Scratchy vibe) or keep it decidedly in the Looney Tunes arena. As soon as you add a little adult and hardcore vibe to just one tiny area of your otherwise sanitized game, it pollutes the whole game.
In advertising they call this brand identity and management, and you can’t have a confused one. It’s either a kids’ game, or it’s edgy. A kids’ game with one or two edgy screens by accident is lazy brand management, not some kind of best of both worlds between kids’ game and edginess.
To that end, I removed all cigars and skulls from game art on multiple screens where they had snuck in. Nobody noticed the art change except the parents that were stopping their kids from playing due to mistakenly thinking it was an adult game from the cues provided, when in fact it is exactly age appropriate for their child in the same way Worms is.
How did the community respond to the changes? The weekend that some of the biggest changes were deployed got so many people playing — and staying — that it melted our servers for three days, despite ample preparation beforehand.
We literally couldn’t handle the incoming surge of traffic and interest in the game, and the team’s engineers worked around the clock to fix it. Players played the game in record numbers, stayed playing in record numbers, bought in record numbers, and most importantly, had record amounts of fun.
Wild Ones DAU and MAU statistics before and after the game redesign and still holding steady
Not everyone was happy with the changes — some players called for my termination, leaving comments such as “I hate the new Wild Ones, fire the game designer, bring back wind and skill into the game” with hundreds of similar negative comments.
The qualitative feedback coming in was that the game changed too much for the player base and was now terrible — but the quantitative feedback for number of players, session lengths, and monetization told a completely different story, showing that players loved the new game, and it was thus an unequivocal success. In live game design you have to be careful not to design around the vocal minority, thereby ousting the silent majority. Those who played and stayed and paid never said a word — they spoke with their actions. Those that hated it made sure we knew it.
Did we lose some players? Absolutely. But that cost was worth it to bring the game to a wider audience and make it more fun and accessible for everyone. Changes were made with consideration to the established player base so that I wasn’t alienating them (the game was still about skill in the end), but not with exclusive consideration. The established player base, after all, was not making the game a true success in the first place, so to design with exclusive consideration towards them would change the overall product by none.
When a game is failing to perform as desired, big, substantial changes need to be made of the size and scope to the point where making them makes you slightly uncomfortable. If you stay only within your comfort zone, you are only propping up and maintaining a failing status quo.
The biggest credit besides my design direction goes to my boss Ling Xiao who quite frankly had the chutzpah to allow me to make changes this dramatic where other executives might have had fear and doubt about changing a game so dramatically with an existing, monetizing (though poorly) player base. Ling was smart enough to know that if we kept doing what we’ve always done, we’d get what we’ve always gotten, and that big changes were needed.
This is the nature of games as a service as opposed to traditional boxed product, and the beauty is we can always test any changes we make, and even revert if needed.
Being afraid of making changes to live games is the same as being afraid of success and profits with live games, and I have no interest in anything other than success and profits as a designer and I pursue those fearlessly.
If you’re working in social or live games, consider accessibility your top priority: not just play accessibility, but monetization accessibility. If your game is trying to make money off of everything, that is the same as having no monetization strategy, so craft one. When crafting one, don’t look at where players want to spend money, determine where players should be spending money, then craft the design around that to create that reality.
By all means, join the modern age and embed tickers in your game and track statistics on absolutely everything, then pour over those numbers with good analysts to determine their meaning – but don’t hold them up as if they’re an all-seeing eye, as they only tell you what’s happening after the fact, as output. If the base design is broken at its core, it’s going to be garbage-in, garbage-out, and the data will tell you nothing meaningful that can be used to fix the core game. Be modern, then go beyond that by making sure that design rules statistics, not statistics ruling design.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to make big design changes for a failing product. Incremental changes will give you incremental gains. If your product is truly failing to perform as desired, you need to step outside your comfort zone and try a radical new direction. If this makes you fear alienating your audience, then by all means keep doing what you’re doing and let the product slowly sink into obscurity, but don’t blame anyone but yourself for your own lack of willingness to leap into the unknown and find success.
There was an entire team of over a dozen people who worked on this reboot and helped make it a success — I don’t want to name them individually at the risk of omitting anyone — but I do need to acknowledge that without their hard and thoughtful work, my design changes would have existed only on paper and in theory, and Wild Ones would have long ago been sunset as a disappointment.
Instead, it’s currently sitting as Playdom’s number one game, comprising 25 percent of its entire DAU traffic from a portfolio of over 40 games. And it’s still more fun than ever to jump in for a quick game and blow shit up.（source:gamasutra）