Game Design part 1: No hard choices, no losing, only false achievement
What makes a great virtual world? Why do some worlds keep players coming back time after time? And what can we learn from social games? This is the first in a series of blog posts answering those questions, and more, as we dig into, and dissect, the design of successful virtual worlds. In this first post we’re going to look at ‘False Achievement’. Check out the other posts in our lessons learned series.
Everyone wants to feel like a winner, a success, and a hero; you want to feel like you’re beating the game! Yet the overwhelming majority of your audience are never going to be talented enough to reach the top of your leader-boards. So they just don’t bother trying.
This is a real problem for virtual worlds. If you’re going to make interesting revenues you’ll need to reach the millions of players who will never be the talented few at the top of the ranks. So design your world for the majority, delight them, and make the many feel like heroes!
We do that by rewarding them for something they can control. They might not have the natural hand eye coordination to excel at skill games, and they can’t change that, but everyone can control how much time they spend playing. Reward your players for the time they spend in the world.
Of course, we don’t really reward them for the time they spend. Standing in a room waiting for points to tick up is not a fun game! That’s going too far. Time is a proxy, players need to feel like they’ve done something to earn their reward, only make it something simple, repeatable, and something they can’t fail to succeed at.
Take Zynga’s new Treasure Isle game. For those unfamiliar, the concept is quite simple: explore a series of island and dig for treasure. Each island is split into a grid, players click to dig one of the grid cells. The game engine decides if the player found treasure, coins, fruit, or nothing at all – nearly every dig has some reward, few have the treasure.
There is no skill to the game, it’s a case methodically clicking and digging. But That’s the beauty. Through a simple repeatable action, players earn experience, level up, find treasure and along the way Zynga make sure they get to celebrate every little success.
Really, there are no hard choices, no losing, no difficult obstacles. Players are tasked with very little, but are rewarded handsomely. Anyone can succeed. It’s false achievement, success made easy. That’s a great thing for your virtual world.
Contrast this with a game like Halo – I actually have to become more talented to finish the game. I need to learn how to plan an attack, shoot faster, more accurately, and with the right weapon. For many casual gamers it’s all a little too much.
I’m not critiquing Halo, it’s a superb game. But it’s not the right game for the millions of casual gamers. And there really are millions of casual gamers; Zynga’s Farmville has over 80 million monthly players, and their latest game, Treasure Isle, with its simple click and dig mechanic, has achieved over 6 million players in it’s first two weeks. It’s huge.
There’s much more to games like Treasure Isle than simple clicking and digging, and this is only the first post in a series exploring the design of virtual world. But right now, I just want you to take away the importance of false achievement.
Not all players are talented gamers, so find a mechanic that’s so simple anyone can do it, and then reward them handsomely inline with the time they spend. Give all your players the chance to feel like a winner. (Source: Dubit Platform)