我在PAX大会期间参加了“World of Farmcraft”座谈会，与会人员有Tyler Bielman、James Ernest、Henry Stern和Paul Peterson。我终于能够一睹这些家伙的风采，但我这里要谈的不是这个。我只能说他们是非常伟大的设计师。
Social Game Design: Virality part 1
In attending PAX this past weekend I went to the “World of Farmcraft” panel, featuring Tyler Bielman, James Ernest, Henry Stern, and Paul Peterson. I could go on at length about how awesome these guys are but I have a lot else to talk about today. Suffice it to say they are good people and great designers.
During the panel Tyler asked the others what percent of their time they spend designing the engagement, monetization, and viral parts of social games. Good question.
Many social game companies focus on these three aspects when evaluating an existing game or the design for a future game. In the next several posts I’ll break down each of these beginning with Virality. In social game design circles the term “virality” is used to denote how well the game or application spreads from players to non-players. How fast does it go from 100 users to 10,000,000.
Non-social games don’t have viral features as part of their game design. They might have advertising, but very few (if any) have mechanics integral to the play of the game that help spread the game from existing players to non-players. Trading card games might be the notable exception.
In the early days of social games (2008) most games simple had a button to “invite your friends” that would generate a message or notification that told your friend the game existed. Then came the heavy-handed mechanics that required you to invite friends to play before you could progress in the game. On Facebook, rules came down from the platform that this had to stop.
Now (2010) viral mechanics are starting to get interesting. Here are some examples of mechanics that encourage players to spread the game around:
* You can increase the size (area) of your farm for $1 real money, or, if you have invited 5 friends, you can use the “free” earned currency from the game to make the upgrade.
* The more friends you have the more powerful you are when you attack other players.
* Your friends can heal your character when it’s injured (and the more friends you have, the more likely one of them will be online when you need healing).
* You won 100 earned currency. If you publish to your news feed, friends who click on it will also receive 100 earned currency.
* You can hire a friend to work in your shop – doing so invites them to the game if they are not already playing.
* You got a new high score, hooray! Tell the world!
Your new high score is higher than your friend’s score, time to rub it in their face.
You may have noticed that some of these mechanics seem to operate in different directions. We can break down viral mechanics into types based on how they recruit your friends and why you want to publish them.
* You publish to help your friends (they earn currency by clicking on it).
* You invite friends to unlock something.
* You invite friends to make yourself stronger.
* You publish a victory – personal achievement or competition our of a sense of pride.
There are many more subtle reasons a player can have for spreading the game around. These are just some of the more common and more obvious. You have likely also noticed by now that social game platforms have two main channels for viral spreading: Publications and Invitations.
Publications come from the player and are shown to the world – or at least to all of their friends on the platform. These are shouts: “Hey, look at what I did!” that are driven from the player’s desire to express themselves, to share a moment of their lives with others. Getting a high score, a new level, finding a rare item, these are typical things you want to tell your friends about. The “publish this and your friends will get something” concept is an exciting new twist on publications. It will be interesting to see if other new twists become popular.
Invitations are direct communications between the player and a specific friend. Due to their more personal nature they are more likely to be responded to. In theory when a friend invites you there is some feeling of gratitude and perhaps obligation to join. In practice invitations to games on social networks has become such a tsunami of annoyance that some people no longer respond in the same way they would to a real-life invitation to something. Is there a sociologist in the house?（source:designsideout）
Social Game Design: Virality part 2 – Gifts (part 1?)
Happy New Year!
When I was very young, I received many gifts on certain holidays. Being a child, I didn’t have much control over these gifts, and because my family wasn’t wealthy, I didn’t ask for much. I got everything from socks to bicycles, and I loved the surprise of opening something and not knowing if I was going to get something really awesome. (Also, for a kid, “really awesome” has a much wider range than it does for adults.)
It’s not like that anymore. I ask for specific things, and I get them. If I don’t make a list, telling my family what to get me, they become cross with me! When I was a kid, it was easy for them to guess what I wanted. Being a kid, I obviously wanted things that were fun to play with. (Plus, I grew out of my socks on a regular basis.)
As an adult who earns a hearty income, I can now buy most anything I want, I don’t have to ask for it and hope it will come to me as a gift. It’s nice to be able to do that, even if it means discipline is required, and that I know there are some things out of my reach. I miss the old days, when gifts made me happy, when they were not just a shopping list I had to write – of things I would just be buying for myself if a gift-getting occasion were not approaching.
Perhaps that’s why I hate this so much:
Don’t pretend you haven’t seen this, or something like it. In this example, Frontierville blocks your forward progress with a lot of “gifts required” obstacles like this one. Each time you try to add an important building to your homestead, they show you this popup. You cannot add the building until you collect 40 items. These 40 items can only be acquired in two ways. 1) demand your friends send them to you as “gifts” or 2) buy them for yourself.
I’m not sure why I hate it so much in Facebook games. It certainly seems to work – there millions of people who are more than happy to send a gift to 50 friends each day, and go through the tedious process of collecting their gifts and sending more back, day after day. Also, for the players who have 50 friends playing the same game, it’s trivial to collect all the hammers and nails they need, but for me, it’s impossible. My friends don’t play Facebook games, so this becomes a pay cash or leave scenario for me. So I leave whenever I encounter this “mechanic.”
Giving a gift should be a personal expression of me thinking about a friend and deciding there is something that they would really like, and out of love for my friend, give of myself to get that gift for them (by making it or buying it). Sending out 50 identical gifts to all my friends, whether they want it or not, every day in a routine, without affection, and with the express purpose of getting them to send me something in return… that’s not gifts. It’s a spam.
So I am on a quest to figure out how I can incorporate the idea of gifting into future social games in a way that isn’t an evil spam engine. The companies making these games (such as Zynga) respond to the analytical data they collect about the players. They put in spammy mechanics like this “gifting” because in the short term it leads to better numbers in their games. The need to get these gifts makes players spam their friends, and the constant reminders to come back to the game are helpful. But wouldn’t it be better to have a fun reason to come back, not a spammy reason?（source:designsideout）