案例1：《Clash of Clans》
在看似简单的结构中，《Clash of Clans》的核心循环包含了三种不同的活动：资源收集、建筑和训练、战斗。这个循环的所有部分，除了建造，都鼓励玩家每天多次上线。非常 快速的30秒的回合可能只够收集资源，而战斗和培养新军队的完整回合所需的时间也不超过5分钟上。
在《Clash of Clans》中，资源收集是玩家随时可以做的事，因为自动收割机制——资源生产建筑总是处于收集状态。换句话说，任何时候玩家打开游戏，就会开始收集资源（即 使玩家已经被抢劫了）。因此，快速访问游戏鼓励玩家积极通过核心循环，而长时间离线则是轻微的惩罚，因为会损失未收集的资源。
案例2：《Marvel War of Heroes》
这是一款卡牌战斗游戏，也是我最喜欢的一款。《Marvel War of Heroes》是成功使用双重循环的又一个经典案例。与《Clash of Clans》将核心循环与PVP紧密结合起来的做法不 同，《Marvel War of Heroes》的核心循环被分成单人循环和多人循环。
太长的回合对中等硬核游戏来说是大忌。作为开发者，我们往往对这些游戏失去自制力，因为它们正是我们爱玩的类型。不要误解我了，长回合没有什么不好的。事实上，长回合 是玩家喜欢这款游戏的明显信号。但如果每一个回合都需要玩家保持注意力几分钟，往往会导致留存率问题。如果玩家在一天的破碎时间里不能玩上几次，玩这款游戏就不会变成 他们的习惯。当你的游戏从兴趣变成习惯，你就会看到不可思议的留存率数字。
（Gameloft的《Heroes of Orders & Chaos》是一款很漂亮的游戏，但因为每一个回合都是10分钟的连续玩法，不能被中断，所以它不可能成为玩家打发破碎时间的习惯。）
（在《Clash of Clans》中解锁新单位是玩家的明确目标。新单位能提高战斗表现，这就给进展创造了积极动机。）
过程目标是玩家认为他们达到主要目标必须经历的所有步骤。我个人喜欢给可独立的游戏经济设置过程目标。与其他策略游戏一样，《Clash of Clans》是一个使用这种经济结构 的好例子，它给玩家提供了明确的目标，且隐藏了达到那个目标必经的漫长路径。这样，玩家就会觉得通向那个最终目标的路径很短、是可以达到的。只有当他们走完一半路径， 才开始意识到，那个目标其实还很远，但在那个时候，他们已经投入太多了，根本不舍得半途而废。
成功的事件往往具有以下几个关键元素。第一个自然是限时性。第二个是事件专属的不可购买的奖励——如果玩家在给定的时间内完成事件，就能获得这种奖励。为了增加沉浸感 ，奖励必须是独一无二的，同时不可购买意味着这种奖励也是一种地位象征。另外，当事件结束再给予完成事件的玩家以奖励，可以提高留存率。有些玩家在事件正在进行时就感 到厌烦了，因为耗时太久。但是，考虑到事件结束就能获得实用的奖励，这些玩家就会继续玩下去，因为他们将获得新东西。最后，事件必须紧接着游戏的核心循环，而不是给核 心循环增加新元素。
案例：《Marvel War of Heroes》
为了达到这样的留存率指标，开发者必须确保玩家想继续进展下去，然后用可靠的游戏经济创造完成目标的路径。我不会花太多时间在所谓的“留存率特征”如每日奖励和推送通 知，因为它们的意义并不大。相反地，我更加关注游戏经济和平衡性，保证玩家想进展下去，并为此树立目标。然后，无论是引导玩家对过任务结构达成这些目标，还是让他们自 己创造自己的过程目标，务必保证每一次上线都让他们至少更加接近自己所树立的目标一点点。
游戏如何“社交”起来？那就是允许玩家们一起玩游戏——或至少让玩家产生与别人一起玩的错觉。在我看来，社交机制存在的首要目标应该是提高留存率。正如我在之前的文章 中所说的，留存率主要与进度有关。但进度是相对的，不同的玩家对进度有不同的衡量标准。例如，玩游戏几周以后我可能觉得自己的进展得不错，但对于玩了几个月的玩定来说 ，我仍然是菜鸟。
《Puzzle & Dragons》
（《Puzzle & Dragons》的“帮手功能”遵守社交机制的黄金法则：双方都会从合作中得到好处，并且给玩家炫耀的机会。）
玩家扫荡完地下城后，他可以通过发送好友请求添加帮手的主人为自己的好友。根据等级，玩家的好友数量有上限。等级越高，可添加的好友数量上限越高。使用好友的怪物作为 帮后可以产生好友点数，以及额外的领导技能—-这可以让你的怪物更强大。所以，结交活跃的好友是很重要的，因为玩家只能使用帮手一次，一次过后必须等待帮手的主人下次上 线才能再求助。
总之，《Puzzle & Dragons》中的社交机制通过鼓励每天多次上线来提高留存率。社交机制也促进玩家进展，因为玩家的怪物越好，被其他玩家选为帮手的可能性就越大，这就给 玩家带来更多好友点数，然后玩家又可以拿这些点数换到新怪物。
《Clash of Clans》
现在，我们都知道《Clash of Clans》中的军队捐赠机制很有效。当玩家加入一个部落时，他可以请求和捐赠军队。捐赠的军队可以帮助防御玩家的村庄，也可以用于进攻。这个 功能除了简单，也是我见过的最强大的社交机制之一。
（《Clash of Clans》的捐赠功能是我见过的最强大的社交机制之一。）
与《Puzzle & Dragons》一样，《Clash of Clans》也遵循合作机制的黄金法则。捐赠军队一定程度上也是一种炫耀，因为玩家让别人看到了自己的军队多么高级和自己出手多么 大方。最终，双方都从捐赠中获得好处。那些收到捐赠的人得到战争支援，那些捐赠军队的人提高了自己在部落中的声望。
（团队排行榜，如《Clash of Clans》中的部落排行榜，就是扩大玩家排行榜的影响力的好办法。）
另一种排行榜是团队排行榜，如《Clash of Clans》中的部落排行榜。这个功能不仅影响大部分玩家，而且迫使作为团队中的一员的玩家拿出最好的表现。通过直接交流方式如团 队聊天和发送信息，可以刺激成员之间的竞争，因为部落成员会迫使落后的玩家跟上进度，同时公开表扬进度靠前的玩家。
（《Rage of Bahamut》中的圣战是发生在短时间内的大规模公会战斗。当公会领袖宣战时，圣战就会被触发。对手公会是随机选择的，该公会的所有成员都会收到战斗通知。）
我的意思是，在设计社交功能时，你必须遵守一些非常简单的原则。首先要让玩家有时间按自己的方式玩游戏。让他们学习和享受游戏。然后把他们引入游戏的社交系统中。一旦 玩家喜欢上这款游戏，他们就会希望自己的朋友也来玩它，这时你可以加入社交机制，让玩家合作。合作应该有利于玩家双方，允许玩家炫耀。一旦玩家习惯合作后，你就可以加 入竞争元素。
较高水平的盈利性，其通常法则也相对简单：DAU（日活跃用户）X 转化率（%）X ARPPU（每付费用户的平均收益）。即使该法则中有三个关系变量，我们通常也会因为鲸鱼玩家（ 高消费用户）、售价点、DARPU、玩家数量以及开发者诱使玩家不断花钱的伎俩而更常关注后面两个变量。
（Machine Zone所推出的《Game of Wars》以其频繁的促销活动而得名。他们开展了太多促销活动，以至于我都怀疑玩家到底会不会购买那些非促销道具）
Mid-Core Success Part 1: Core Loops
by Michail Katkoff
I’m going to be honest with you. I didn’t want to write about “mid-core.” I’m not a fan of portfolio thinking, and that is what mid-core essentially stands for: Casual games designed for adult males with gaming background but who simply don’t have time to play now that they are older. Games designed for adult males who have a steady income, a credit card and the desire to compete in a virtual world.
But what can I do? You demand a post on mid core and I deliver. So here it goes. Instead of one very long post, I’m going to break it down into 4 posts going through core loops, retention, social and finally monetization in separate posts.
This first write-up is about mid-core core loops, concentrating on not only the loop structure but also on what the loops aim to achieve. I’ll also talk about the cardinal sin of most mid-core titles and how to avoid it with proper core loop design. Finally, I’ll go into the invisible yet essential part of any mid-core game, the metagame.
Mid-Core Core Loops
When looking at core loops of successful mid-core titles, they all have three distinctive key elements. First is the dual loop, where each core loop consists of two separate session loops. A second element is the controlled length of a median session, which actually results from the dual loop. The third element is the metagame, which isn’t visible in the core loop, but is still a key part of any mid-core game’s success.
1. Dual Loop
Having a core loop consisting of two loops enables players to either stop their session after the first loop or continue playing through both of the loops and thus extend and deepen their session. Enabling and rewarding short sessions encourages players to play the game on the go, increasing overall engagement and setting players up for the metagame, which I will dive into later in this post.
Example 1: Clash of Clans
In all its simplicity, Clash of Clans’ core loop consists of three different actions: resource collection, building & training, and battling. All pieces of the loop, except building, encourage players to do multiple sessions per day. A very quick 30s session might be just about collecting resources, while a full session with attack and setting up new troops to be trained takes less than 5 minutes.
In CoC, resource collection is something players can do any time due to automated farming mechanics, where resource production buildings can always be collected. In other words, anytime the player opens up an app, there are resources to be collected (even if player has been raided). Quick visits to the game are thus encouraged via core loop positively, while long times away from the game are mildly punished with looting of unharvested resources.
Automated farming mechanic enables multiple ultra-short rewarding sessions a day.
Resource collection and threat to be looted are the main drivers for short sessions for low-level users, while high-level users are driven back to the game with social features, which I’ll cover in the metagame portion of this post.
Building new buildings is fast in the beginning but exponentially slows down as the game progresses, creating powerful mid- and long-term goals for players. To keep the timers in balance, the troop training is a lot faster, forcing player to wait often less than an hour till full army is again ready for battle.
Example 2: Marvel War of Heroes
Card battlers, and especially my favorite one, MWoH, are another example of successful mid core games with double loop. Where CoC’s core loop was tied to PvP, MWoH’s core loop is separated into single and multiplayer loops with distinctive energies for each of the loop.
Single-player loop is all about grinding and earning cards. Player can complete a level in well under a minute, earning several cards in the process. Same goes with PvP loop, which is even faster, as it’s only one battle. These two loops, fueled by energy mechanics, encourage players to come back to the game multiple times per day.
Longer sessions are created as a result of several smaller sessions. You see, when every session rewards player with multiple cards, at some point of the day player will end up spending considerable amount of time going through the gained cards entering the metagame of leveling up and evolutions.
2. Session Length
Overlong sessions length is the cardinal sin a mid-core game. As developers ,we just tend to get carried away with these games because they are the type of games we love to play. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about a long session. In fact, long play sessions are great indicators of players enjoying the game. But if every session demands several minutes of uninterrupted attention it tends to result in retention problems. If players don’t play the game several times during short brakes around a day, the game won’t turn into a habit. And it’s when you go from a fun game to a habit that you start seeing those incredible six-month retention numbers.
Heroes of Orders & Chaos by Gameloft is a beautiful game but when every sessions demands 10minutes of uninterrupted gameplay, it’s just not something you can pick up and play.
3. The Metagame
In my mind, the most distinctive element of any mid-core game is the metagame. Metagame is the invisible part of the core loop that you have to experience. The part where players don’t actually earn or consume any resources but simply stay engaged in the game with a simple goal to optimize their progress.
Kixeye has one of the best metagame loops. Players are allowed and encouraged to micromanage their game in their pursuit for an edge in competition. And this whole micromanagement metagame is actually a lot of fun. It gives sense of control, which is very important in competitive games.
Short median session length is ideal to keep players engaged during the day. But in order to create that deep gameplay, which differentiates mid-core games, a game has to be able to keep players engaged fo long sessions as well. Enable sessions where players can go deep into the game strategy, break their goals into sub-goals and most importantly, interact with other players.
It’s All About the Balance
It should be no surprise that successful core loop in a mid-core title should follow pretty much the same lines as any f2p game’s core loop. Short, accessible and rewarding session should be the main goal. Instead of forcing players to do long sessions, players should be lured to spend more time inside the game through the metagame. Hiding the complexity and letting players to get curious themselves makes the game more accessible and is the key for successfully working metagame. Oh, and a gentle slap on player’s wrist for not logging in for a while is just fine.
And finally, don’t try to segment your audience. You’d be surprised who actually plays these games we like to call mid-core.
Retention is the foundation for a successful F2P game. Players who keep coming back to the game several times a day, day after day and month after month enable the game as a service model. But creating that drive for players to keep returning is without a doubt the toughest challenge for a game team. In this post I’ll break down how to overcome this challenge with a well thought out core loop, balanced game economy and clever use of events.
*Social mechanics are essential when building retention and progress, yet I’ll leave them mostly out of this post and instead concentrate on them in the following post.
The Main Goal
In my mind, there’s no better way to retain players than to have them set up goals for themselves. Self-motivated players will be logging in numerous times per day just to achieve that goal. But to create a user base of self-driven players, the game team has to first make players want to become better by rewarding them for progress and punishing for falling behind.
With the desire to improve comes the desire to progress. And desire to progress is extremely powerful, as players will self-create sub-goals for themselves and work to optimize their gameplay. My opinion is that the desire to become better should always be the main goal for every player. Because in a well- designed f2p game, improving equals progressing and progressing should equal the amount of time spent playing the game.
Personally, I like to divide progression incentives into positive and negative, where positive incentives promise players that they’ll be stronger, tougher and better once the goal is achieved. Negative incentives on the other hand threaten players that they’ll fall behind if they stop progressing towards the main goal.
Positive Incentive to Progress
In-game shop is one of the best ways to encourage progression. Price and unlock requirements needed to gain access for specific units create a very clear target for players. Also, the position of a specific unit in the in-game shop is important, as it communicates value – the last ones to unlock are the strongest and the most desired.
Unlocking new units in Clash of Clans is a clear goal for players. New units also promisebetter results in battle creating that positive incentive to progress.
Negative Incentive to Progress
Players’ progression slows down exponentially with time. Timers will increase and prices will rise, making it harder and harder to progress. At some point the next unit or a building just might seem bit too far away. This is when negative incentives should kick in, showing players that slowing down just isn’t an option.
Getting raided is a negative incentive. Players realize that current defenses aren’t enough and that they need to progress to defend themselves. Negative incentive at its best.
Most importantly, when designing progress incentives, one should always keep in mind that the social element is an important driver for progress. Progress is hard to objectively measure, which is why game design should encourage players to compare their progress with other players be it through collaboration or competition. I’ll cover social elements in the third part of mid-core post series.
Sub-goals are all the steps players acknowledge they need to take in order to reach their main goal. Personally I like setting up sub-goals with interdependable game economy. Clash of Clans, among other strategy games, is a great example of this kind of economy structure as it presents a clear goal for the player hiding the long path it actually takes to get to that goal. This way, the road to that ultimate goal might seem short and very achievable to players. Only once they are mid-way through the grind will they start realizing how long it actually takes to reach the target, but at that point they’ve Unlocking the next unit might seem like a pretty easy task – all a player needs to do is upgrade the Barracks. But before that they need to upgrade the Town Hall. Oh and Town Hall upgrade is so expensive that they have to upgrade Gold Storage. Pretty straightforward. Right? It only takes 21 days to get there with an optimal gameplay. Add few raids and the 21 days get doubled…
There are two schools when it comes to sub-goals: Some designers like to communicate sub-goals to players and almost force them to follow a set path of progress. Another way to handle sub-goals is to give players the freedom to progress as they will, even though this often leads to not so optimal progress. Also, free progress makes tracking of an average player’s progress more complicated, which leads to challenges in content updates.
Kabam likes to manage players towards the main goal with strict mission structure.
This allows control over player flow and thus helps to optimize it.
Supercell uses an achievement system, which incentivizes players’ repeat actions in the core loop.
This system doesn’t help to optimize the player flow but it does give players freedom to make up their own sub-goals instead of just doing what the game tells them to do.
Regular in-game events are a powerful tool for driving short-term engagement and long-term retention. Because of their timed nature, events encourage players to heavily engage with a game for a relatively short period of time.
Typically, events last from a few hours to several days, but sometimes events might last for weeks. Usually events are designed for players who have already been playing the game for a while. Overall, events are an excellent way to spice up the gameplay for these retained players resulting in increased long-term retention.
There are few key elements all successful events tend to have. The first one is naturally the limited time the event is active. Second is the event-specific inconsumable reward, which players receive if they are able to complete the event in a given time. Uniqueness of the reward is important for engagement, while the inconsumable nature of the reward turns it into a status symbol.
Also, giving the reward for completing an event after the actual event has ended is a way to boost retention. Some players do get tired of the game during an ongoing event, as it requires so much playtime. But, giving that usable reward after the event has ended will keep players playing the game, as it will have something new for them. Finally, it is important that events follow a game’s core loop instead of adding new elements to it.
Example: Marvel War of Heroes
From time to time the player receives a Treasure (collectable item) when grinding through the PvE quests. Each collectable item is a part of a six piece collection. Once a player possesses all six items in the collection she’ll receive a unique card and the collection will be completed. Completed collection transfers into collection reward while also closing the collection from looting.
Players can loot the lacking treasures from other players while buying timed shields to protect looted ones.
Of course, having one rare card is never enough in Ngomoco’s card games as you need at least two of the same to fuse into one super-powerful card. So the player is encouraged to finish the collection three times: first collection reward is the card XY, second reward is Bonus and third reward is again the card XY).
What makes grinding collections interesting in Mobage’s card games is the fact that you can steal specific Treasures from other players – and other players will try to steal the Treasures you posses. Stealing ends only when collection has been completed.
The way looting monetizes is amazing:
A player has to be fast when he sets to complete a collection, as somebody is always looking for the Treasures he has at the moment. Being fast means usually buying PvP energy as there’s no time to wait for energy to reload.To loot a Treasure a player needs to have strong attack deck. Buying an additional card pack seems like a good investment when you get beaten one too many times.
To successfully defend the collection while looking for missing pieces, a player needs to have a strong defensive deck. Buying a card pack sounds like a great idea when your defenses have been defeated over and over again.
Players can also put a timed defensive shield over the collection items they just looted. When a player tries to loot an item protected by a shield, they automatically lose. There’s a custom animation to this kind of battle and it sucks to be on the receiving end. It actually sucks so much that you want to put shields on all of your Treasures just to make all those players who try to steal from you regret it.
Make Every Session Count
Retention is simply a games most important metric. Successful mid-core titles hold on to players for months, having them play over half a dozen daily sessions and spending well over an hour interacting with the app daily.
To reach these retention numbers, developers need to make sure players want to progress, then create paths to these goals with an interdependable game economy. I wouldn’t spend too much time on so-called retention features like daily bonus and push notifications, as they bring nothing more than cosmetic improvements. Instead I’d concentrate on the game economy and balancing. Make players want to be better and set up goals into the horizon. Then, either guide players to these goals via mission structure, or let them create their own sub-goals. Just make sure that every session takes them at least a bit closer to that goal they’ve set up.
Having started my gaming career back when Facebook was the ruling gaming platform for casual games, for a long time I saw social mechanics simply as viral mechanics – levers, which game teams could use to drive up the returning and new users to the game. But (luckily) both my perspective and the ruling platform have changed.
Forcing players to connect via Facebook and making them send dozens of invites and requests a day may still work for a few developers, but you’d be amazed how poorly these mechanics fit and work in mid-core titles. So instead of K-factors and virality, I want to write about true social mechanics. The kind of social mechanics that add to the gameplay, improve overall player experience and make the game feel more alive.
What makes a game social is that it allows players to play with each other – or at least create an illusion that this is happening. In my mind, social mechanics should be implemented first and foremost to improve retention. As I discussed in the previous post, retention is mainly about progress. But progress is a player-specific metric. For example, I might see myself as well-progressed in a game after few weeks, but to players who have been playing the game for months, I’m still a noob.
To solve the issue of progress measurability we can use social mechanics. When players collaborate with each other in a game they are bound to compare each other’s progress. Comparing progress leads to two kinds of feelings. Firstly, those players who are clearly lagging behind will want to progress and catch those ahead of them. On the other hand, progressed players will feel good about themselves and won’t want to lose the feeling of being ahead and above.
The key thing to remember when designing collaboration mechanics is that collaboration between players should take place in an area of the game, where players can easily show off. Also to keep in mind is that collaboration must benefit both of the players.
Puzzle & Dragons
Every time players enter a dungeon they have to choose a player to help them. When the players have cleared a dungeon they can become friends. Having friends helping you out gives you more Pal Points, which are then used to get monsters from the Machine.
Puzzle and Dragons relies mostly on one social feature: Helper. There’s no chat in P&D. No player versus player mode. No direct messaging with other people. No guilds. And no social network integrations. Yet every time player enters a dungeon they have another player as their helper – and the amount of friend requests players send to each other is huge, due to this simple mechanic.
The Helper feature in Puzzle & Dragons follows the golden rule of social mechanics.
It allows players to collaborate so that both parties benefit and occurs in an area of the game where players can show off.
Before entering a dungeon, the player has to always choose a helper, which is a monster from another player. Every time players use another player’s monster as a helper, helper’s owner receives Pal Points, which are a sort of currency consumed to operate the Machine and get new monsters. The more often a player logs into the game, the higher the chance there is to appear as a helper for other players and thus earn more Pal Points.
After a player has cleared a dungeon, they can add helper’s owner as a friend by sending a friend request. Players can have a specific amount of friends based on their rank. The higher the rank the more friends players can have. Using friends’ monsters as Helpers results in getting more Pal Points, as well as getting additional Leader Skill, which makes your monsters more powerful. Having active friends is thus crucial, as players can use helper only once, after which they have to wait until helper’s user logs out and logs back into the game.
So in short, the social mechanics in P&D drive retention by encouraging several logins per day. Social mechanics also drive players to progress, as the better helper monster they have to offer the mre often it will be used, which will result in player getting more Pal Points, which are then used to get new monsters from the Machine.
Most importantly though, the design of this feature takes place in an area of the game where players can show off. I mean, it’s all about how tough of a monster you have, and giving another player a chance to play with your monster is the ultimate show off. Also, both players benefit from these social mechanics. A player who borrows a monster gets Pal Points and a player who uses other player’s monster gets much needed help to complete levels.
Clash of Clans
Now we all know how Troop donation mechanic in Clash of Clans works. Once a player joins a clan they can request and donate troops. Donated troops will either help to defend a player’s village, or they can be used in attack. Despite the simplicity of the donation, it is one of the most powerful social features I’ve experienced.
Donation feature in Clash of Clans is one of the most powerful social mechanics I’ve seen.
From the game side, there’s no set number of troops a player should donate weekly. Neither is there a bonus for donating more, nor punishment for failing to donate. Yet nothing is followed by players as much as donations. Simply by enabling players to collaborate and communicate, the game allows players to create rules themselves – and with the ability to kick players off the clan, these rules are also enforced.
So in practice, once a player joins an active clan, they have to donate constantly. Active clans tend to set a number of donations each clan member has to make in a week. If a player falls behind without a good reason, they get kicked out of the clan. Donation drives retention, as players not only have to constantly be training troops for donation, but they also have to progress in the game because clans naturally demand the best type of units for donation.
By adding tracking to donation collaboration starts transforming into competition.
Because donation follows the game’s core loop and requires progression, it is a very powerful monetization feature as well. With every monthly update there are new troops and troop levels. Because clans demand the best possible troops for donation, players tend to buy the missing resources (and speed up research times) to finish the troop upgrades. Being the first one in the clan who donates a new unit raises that player to a social pedestal and drives everyone else to hurry up their upgrades.
As with P&D, Clash of Clans also follows the golden rule of collaboration mechanics. Donating troops to other players is – in a way – a show-off, as players can boast on the level of their troops as well as on how generous they are. And, in the end, both partiers benefit from donations. Those who receive them get help in battle, and those who donate improve their status inside the clan.
Creating competition between players is another excellent way to have players compare their progress. The problem with competition designs in games is that most of the developers want to get players into the competition phase too early. The best way, in my opinion, is to have players first enjoying the game, then enable social mechanics by acquiring in-game friends, have them collaborate with these friends and only after that incentivize them to compete.
Generally speaking, there are two types of competitions: the ones where players compete against each other individually and the ones where players form groups to compete with other groups of players. Most importantly, when designing competition features, social mechanics should be an important part of the conversation, as they intensify these features tremendously.
If you want to target your top players, the leaderboard is one of the best features for that. Simply putting players into order based on how they have progressed or how they fare against other players will affect only a very small percentage of your players. Yet those who it affects tend to be the most engaged ones and will appreciate this opportunity to show off.
Group leaderboards, such as the Clan Leaderboard in Clash of Clans, are an excellent and very easy way to broaden the effect of simple player based leaderboards.
The next step is group leaderboards, such as the Clan Leaderboard in Clash of Clans. Not only does this feature affect a larger percentage of players, but putting players into teams and grading them as one will force every player in the team to do their best. By enabling direct communication such as group chat and direct messages, you basically enable peer pressure, where clan members will force lagging players to up their game while publically praising the top performers.
In all its simplicity, guild wars are timed events between two groups of players triggered directly by players themselves. As with leaderboards, what makes guild wars powerful is the social aspect. Again, peer pressure plays an important role, as communication inside the guild is all about who’s active and who isn’t doing her/his part in the war.
Holy Wars in Rage of Bahamut is a large scale Order battle where within a very short time frame, order members will engage in battle against each other. Holy War will trigger when leader of an order declares a war. Opposing Order is chosen randomly and battle notification will be sent to all members in the Order.
Apart from being a timed event, guild wars also differ from leaderboards by using nomination techniques to super-engage a few players in the battling guild. By enabling guilds to nominate specific players as leaders, vice leaders, attack and defense leaders and others, you will enable the guild to run more efficiently during the event, as these few nominated players will drive the whole guild to over-engage.
Essentially, raids are like guild wars, as they unify a group of players against a common opponent for a specific set of time. Yet raids differ from guild wars in two ways: Firstly, raids are against AI. Secondly, because raids are against AI, there tends to be a story element in raids, which is lacking in guild wars. Also, raids tend to award participating players with unique items based on how active they’ve been.
Kixeye has pretty much mastered raid mechanics. All of their live games run periodic raid events in which players are rewarded for the level of engagement they show during the raid. By participating in the raids, players gain access to special units and parts. And yes, raids are promoted heavily, like the video above shows, which make them an essential part of the game and storyline.
Just Don’t Force It
I know a lot of people are against my opinions when it comes to social mechanics. For them social games are all about measurable virality, where social features can be directly tied to the amount of returning players and new installs. For them, X amount of invites sent is Y amount of new installs.
Yet from my experience these unmeaningful social mechanics just don’t work on a long-term basis. After the first couple of spikes in metrics, you’ll need to generate more and more invites for one single installation. This leads to an increasing amount of slapped-on requesting and inviting features that degenerate user experience and hinder retention.
What I’m saying is that you should follow a very simple approach when it comes to social features. First start off by giving your players time to play the game by themselves. Let them learn and enjoy it and have fun, then allow them to turn social. Once they like the game and want their friends to play it as well, you can introduce social mechanics, that let players collaborate. Collaboration should benefit both of the players and occur in a game area where players can show off. Once players are collaborating you can start adding competitive element.
In the end it’s pretty much all about retention and social mechanics are an amazing way to improve especially long term retention.
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I left monetization as the last piece in the mid-core success series simply because I see monetization as a result of a well-functioning core loop, strong retention and meaningful social mechanics.
Thus you won’t find best tricks and tips on how to get people to spend in this final post of the mid-core series. Instead, I’ll present monetization as a flow of all 3 of the success parts introduced in previous posts.
Formula for Monetization
On a high level, the formula for monetization is actually pretty simple: DAU (Daily Active Users) x Conversion (% of payers) x ARPPU (Avg. Revenue Per Paying User). Even though there are three key variables in the formula, we tend to focus on only the two latter ones with the discussion revolving around whales, price points, DARPU, amount of payers and all those little ‘tricks’ developers employ to incentivize players to pay and pay more.
Personally, I have a different approach. I honestly believe that in order to achieve that desired financial result you have to simply forget all those monetization features. Instead of monetization you should concentrate on retention, game economy and social mechanics.
I believe that demand for players to convert is created by slowing down the rate of progress in line with time spent playing a game. Social mechanics are vital in monetization because they make players compare their progress to others’ and thus tend to create a social obligation to keep up.
Players are primed to spend when their progression slows down over time and they are constantly comparing their progress through social interaction inside the game.
The Monetization Don’ts
There are two commonly used approaches I suggest avoiding when it comes to monetization. First is the concept of in-game items, which players can only get by spending real money. Second is the concept of in-game sales.
1. Premium Items
Adding in-game items, which are sold only for hard currency, is the most-used way to create a pay-to-win game. By adding these super powerful items and offering them only to players who are willing to spend real money on the game, you’re essentially discriminating against the non-paying players, aka. the majority of a player base.
If there’s absolutely no way to earn these powerful premium items, the players who have them will be seen more or less as cheaters when they rack up wins. And who wants to play against ‘cheaters’? Also, who wants to win when everyone around him knows he paid to get the W?
Zynga’s Respawnables encourages player to purchase premium weapons, which players can get only with hard currency. These premium weapons eliminate all the need to progress and unlock new weapons thus killing the core loop.
The problem with constantly running in-game sales is that they significantly change players’ purchasing habits. Sure, you’ll get those nice sales spikes when the sale is running, but once the sale is over, your numbers will drop way below the levels where they started. In other words, you’ll teach your players to purchase only during sales and avoid making purchases at other times.
Product Managers, who like to run sales, tend to underline that they are selling virtual items (at least that’s what I used to say a few years back), which is essentially an infinite resource. But virtual items have value and that value is progress. So running sales actually allows engaged players to progress faster and thus increases the demand for more content.
Game of Wars by Machine Zone is notorious with their pushy sales. They run so many sales that I’m actually unsure if you can purchase something that’s not on sale.
Don’t get me wrong though. I’m not totally against sales. Personally, I like to do two kinds of sales. First are sales aimed at players who haven’t yet converted. Encouraging these players to make their first purchase, then stopping offering sales to them after the purchase is made is a sound approach. The second is seasonal sales. Halloween, Black Friday, New Year etc. Seasonal sales won’t affect a player’s purchasing habits, as the season communicates clearly the uniqueness of a sale.
Treat Monetization as a Flow
In my mind, sustained monetization is a result achieved through excellent game design, balanced game economy, engaging social mechanics and a fresh approach.
Personally, I like to look at monetization as flow. It all starts when player begins the game, by creating the impression that this is a cool new game, full of action and entertainment. It’s a game players haven’t played before.
After wowing the player and getting her to come back, it’s time to get to work. Make sure player enjoys playing the game. Gradually show all those interesting features that make the game experience so much better, and most importantly, create demand for the player to progress.
When your players want to progress, it’s time to get those social mechanics in. Make sure that players can collaborate in a way that benefits both players. Also, make sure that the collaboration between players happens in an environment where both of them can show off.
When your players are wowed from the get-go… When your players are enjoying your game and want to progress… When your players collaborate and show off their progress… Then you have a mid-core success.