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长文:开发者谈如何进行F2P游戏的测试发行?

发布时间:2018-07-06 14:08:16 Tags:,

开发者谈如何进行F2P游戏的测试发行?

原文作者:admin 译者:Vivian Xue

许多游戏开发商在测试发行(soft launch)游戏时都存在这样一个问题:他们一次加入了过多的测试元素。

但这样做的后果是浪费时间、产生不必要的开支、并且危害了游戏未来的长期发展,为什么这么说?原因如下。

测试发行的意义究竟是什么?

我认为,测试发行的存在是为了验证一个问题。

这个游戏在市场上足够好吗?

谈到这一点,我想最好先给测试发行下个定义。“测试发行”的含义有很多,它可以指一项技术测试、一个最小化可行产品(minimum viable product)、一个垂直截面(vertical slice),或者表示“是的,我们做好准备了”。

我认为测试发行的目的就是测试。测试发行, 用Eric Ries(精益创业运动的发起人)的话来说,就是“走出办公楼”(get out of the building)。尽快地让你的产品(游戏)到达真正的玩家们手中并能在平常的环境下体验它(而非在一个焦点小组里)。

我认为游戏的发行或测试大致有三种类型。

clash royale(from bilibili)

clash royale(from bilibili)

技术测试。如果你是3A级游戏开发者,你可能会称之为“Closed Beta”甚至“Closed Alpha”。这个版本主要是对游戏的技术方面进行检测,这对于有联网需求的游戏尤为重要,比如《炉石传说》(Hearthstone)或者《部落冲突》(Clash of Clans)这样需要匹配的PVP游戏

商业测试。这是人们对测试发行通常的理解。商业测试的关注点主要是用户留存、首次用户体验(first time user experience)关卡完成率以及转化率和平均用户收入这样的盈利指标。它旨在回答一个问题:我的用户的终生价值是否足以证明产品投入市场的合理性?

投入市场。到了这一步,你将开始着手为游戏调动所有的营销支持。利用Google或苹果这样的特色平台,如果你拥有《植物大战僵尸》(Plants versus Zombies)或者《愤怒的小鸟》(Angry Birds)这样的强大的IP,你很容易就能把游戏推广到全球范围内。这就意味着你可以利用游戏进行交叉推广,带动其它游戏的增长,或者在用户获取方面下血本。无论采取什么样的营销手段,你的目的就是最大程度地确保发行的成功。这也是测试发行的关键。

那么让我们深入探讨一下如何做好它们吧。

(一)技术测试

并非所有游戏都需要单独的技术测试。对于很多非多玩家参与的线性游戏来说,在进行商业测试前没必要进行大规模的技术测试,比如《微型摩天塔》(Tiny Tower)或者《辐射避难所》(Fallout Shelter)这样的单机游戏。

需要进行单独技术测试的游戏包括:

多人游戏:服务器足够应对登录高峰期吗?当同时在线用户过多时要如何扩展?如何优雅地处理服务器连接失败问题?

匹配游戏:我们的匹配系统足够稳固吗?如果无法匹配到对手该怎么办?我们的匹配算法运行的实际效果如何?我们能怎样将匹配时间缩到最短?

在线游戏:凡是要求玩家时时在线的游戏大概都需要单独的技术测试,这样才能保证服务器的承载量,不会造成让用户难以忍受的延迟。

单独的技术测试的一个关键好处就是,它可以为你省下不少的钱。很多游戏公司选择在丹麦、新西兰和加拿大进行商业测试,原因我后面会讨论。这些都是高人均国内生产总值的国家,用户获取成本会非常高。

但是如果你只是做技术测试,你无需考虑盈利这样的商业因素。你只需考虑你的游戏是否能容纳10000名用户,或者你的匹配算法的流动性,因此,很多公司会选择用户获取成本低的国家进行技术测试。

像印度尼西亚和菲律宾这样的国家,用户获取成本仅为高人均国内生产总值国家的十分之一,因此它们成为了技术测试的最佳选择。比起新西兰,在这样的国家,你能够花更少的钱修炼用户获取技巧。

第二个好处是可以利用时差。通常人们使用智能手机的高峰期是晚上7点到10点的下班黄金时段。这意味着印度尼西亚的高峰期刚好是法国的工作时段。这使得你完全可以在工作时间完成高峰期负载平衡和服务器的响应时间的测试,而无需等待数小时。

因此如果你需要进行技术检测,选择一个用户成本最小的国家进行。

(二)商业测试

商业测试的存在是为了回答一个问题:我的用户终身价值是否值得我把有限的销售资源投入到这个游戏上?

很多的开发商在进行测试时,都会关注首次用户体验的完成率,首日、七日和三十日的用户留存数据,还有像转化率和平均用户收入这样的盈利指标。

他们还会在测试发行版本里加入一堆并不合适的元素比如:

每日奖励

每日挑战

成就

分享到Facebook或Twitter

等等

上述的规则有很多例外,但是有一条原则是:你的根本目的是为了测试用户的留存和游戏盈利模式的可行性。像每日奖励这样的用户留存手段在任何游戏中都是奏效的,他们不是影响你的游戏设计的关键。当然,在花费营销资源前你肯定会想把他们加入到你的游戏中,但是在把他们放到测试发行里会干扰你对于游戏核心玩法是否能留住用户的认知。

事实上,比这更糟糕的是,像登录奖励或者成就这样的元素会掩盖那些真正影响用户留存率的指标。《天天过马路》(Crossy Road)和《飞扬的小鸟》(Flappy Bird)因为自身足够有趣,根本不关注这些用户留存策略。但是即使是像Simpsons Tapped Out或者《辐射避难所》这样的游戏也需要提高游戏的趣味性来吸引玩家,而不是仅靠每日登陆奖励。

到底哪些东西应该放到测试发行里,哪些又该舍弃?下列问题可以帮助你对游戏元素进行优先排序,尽快让游戏进入商业测试阶段。

这项用户留存策略对游戏核心循环来说是否必要的呢?如果是,保留它。

这个游戏元素对于行业或者是团队是否是全新的呢?人们对它会产生忧虑吗?它有风险吗?如果是,保留它。

如果游戏没有了它,能完美运行吗?每日登录奖励就是一个很好的例子。

我们是否可以在后期加入这个元素,并且不会对游戏的核心体验造成影响?那么去掉它(成就和Game Center关联通常属于这一类 )

我们知道如何去运行它吗?或许最好还是放弃它吧。

加入它能够为游戏营销提供有用的信息吗?如果不能就舍弃它(这也是为什么关联Facebook经常在这一阶段被舍去。在游戏的测试发行阶段,你大概不会希望它马上火起来,再说就凭寥寥无几的玩家,恐怕也火不起来。)

当然,这些规则也有很多例外。如果每日任务是你游戏的核心,你肯定需要保留它。如果你的游戏是个单纯的多人游戏,那么你也许需要利用Facebook来提高玩家的流动性。也许进入GameCenter的排行榜是玩家们玩你的游戏的主要动机,那就留着它吧。

但是有一个基本原则:如果你仅仅是因为它是“最佳的做法”,或者只有加入它才能获得苹果的推荐,又或者你只是随波逐流,那么把它舍弃掉。

测试发行不是一个时刻,而是一个过程。测试发行(无论是技术测试还是商业测试)让你第一次获得了普通用户大量反馈,你得努力利用好这些数据和反馈信息,对游戏做出调整。

但是在前几周,你得等待收集这些数据然后弄清楚它们是怎么一回事,基于你搜集到的数据,你的团队将研究最终要加入的游戏元素——例如每日登录和成就等等。也许这些数据会表明某一元素没什么用,必须要剔除,也许一些你从没考虑过的问题会突然出现。最终你的游戏元素优先列表会有大的变动。

最关键的是,如果你准备正式发布一款游戏,那么就别测试发行了,因为你已经为它耗费了很多时间和资金,可能已经制作了很多不需要的东西。就算之前对于游戏可以如何进行改善有过许多假设,但想改变也已经太迟了。

改变你的想法。12个月的开发,6个月后就进行测试发行。把那些F2P游戏里华而不实的元素去掉,它们会干扰数据,妨碍你对游戏形成正确的认知。鉴于它们的生产风险和设计风险都很低,你完全可以后期再把它们加入到游戏里。优先测试那些你不确定的、害怕出问题的元素,而不是些简单的玩意儿。

这样一来,你将更快地获得你所需要的信息、减少开支,并且你最终发行的产品也会更成功。

正式发行(The hard launch)

到正式发行的时候,你得使用你的稀缺的营销资源。你将打开闸门,让成千上万(最好是百万)的用户涌入。

你也许得花点钱,也许会获得某个平台商的推捧,也许会利用你或者你的发行商的系列产品进行交叉推广。你可能会获得拥有1000万粉丝的YouTube合作伙伴的推广。这可是件大事。

但是如果你在测试发行上花了很长的时间,在产品正式发布时就更有可能成功。这篇文章的目的不是建议你不要在游戏里加入每日登录奖励,或者成就,或是社交媒体关联这些元素,而是想说明在长达6到9个月的测试发行过程中,这些功能大部分能被很轻易地添加到游戏中。

那么,对这些元素进行优先排序吧,剔除那些并非游戏体验核心的元素,把测试发行提前3个月,你将能够省下一笔钱并且大大提高你获得长远成功的机会。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

You are putting too many features in your soft launch.

Don’t worry, everyone else is too. But by doing so you are wasting time, spending money you don’t need to and jeopardising the long-term future of your game. Here’s why.

What is the point of a soft launch?

A soft launch exists to answer one question:

Is this game good enough for a marketed launch?

Perhaps at this point, it would be good to have some definitions. People use the phrase “soft launch” to cover a multitude of meanings. It might mean a technical test. It might be a minimum viable product. It might be a vertical slice. It might be a final “yep, we’re ready to go.”

To my mind, the purpose of the soft launch is always to test. You want to use the soft launch to (in the word of Eric Ries, the founder of The Lean Startup movement), to get out of the building. To get your product (in our case, a game) into the hands of real players, using it in a normal circumstances (i.e. not in a moderated focus group), as soon as possible.

I consider there to be three types of launch or test:

A technical test – if you come from AAA development, you might call these a closed Beta, or even a closed Alpha. This launch tests if the technology works. It is particularly important for a game with significant online functionality, such a PvP game with matchmaking like Hearthstone or Clash of Clans.

A commercial test – this is what is often thought of as a soft launch. The commercial test focuses on retention, FTUE (first time user experience) completion rates and monetisation metrics like conversion rates and ARPU. It is designed to answer one question: is the lifetime value of my users good enough to justify a marketed launch?

A marketed launch – this is where you pull the trigger on whatever marketing support you have for your title. It might be a platform feature from Apple or Google. If you have a strong brand like Plants versus Zombies or Angry Birds, it is simply making the game available globally. It might mean cross-promotional support from other titles in your network, or it might mean spending a million dollars on a User Acquisition campaign. Whichever marketing tools you have at your disposal, you want to maximise the chances of a strong, marketed launch. That is the point of the soft launch.

So let’s dig into how to do each of them well.

The technical test

Not all games need a separate technical test. For many linear games with no multiplayer element, there is no need for a large-scale technical test separate to the commercial test. Games like Tiny Tower or Fallout Shelter, which are essentially single player, may not need a separate test.

Games which might need a separate technical test include:

Multiplayer games: can the servers handle enough peak logins? How can we scale if peak concurrent users get too high? How can we fail gracefully?

Matchmaking games: is our matchmaking system robust? What happens if we can’t find a match? How does our matchmaking algorithm work in the real world? How can we minimise the delay between pressing play and starting to play a game?

Online games: any game where the player is required to be online at all times might need a separate technical test to prove that the servers can handle the load without creating unbearable delays for the user.

The key advantage of running a separate technical test is that it might save you lots of money. Many commercial tests take place in Denmark, New Zealand and Canada, for reasons I’ll discuss below. These are high GDP per capita nations and user acquisition costs can be high, not least because of all the soft launches in those territories.

But for a technical test, you don’t care about commercial issues like monetisation. You just want to know if your game can handle 10,000 users, or how much liquidity you need for your matchmaking algorithm. For that reason, many companies choose countries where the user acquisition cost is low for a technical test.

Countries like Indonesia and Philippines have UA costs 1/10 as high as nations with higher GDP per head. They make good candidates for a technical test. It also means that you can practice your UA skills using much smaller amounts of money than you can in, say, New Zealand.

A second advantage, particularly for Europeans, is the time zone. Peak playing time on smart devices continues to be prime time: the evening between 7 and 10 pm, after work. That means that peak playing time in Indonesia happens during the working day in, say, France. So when you are trying to test load balancing and server response times, the peak load occurs when you are working, not after hours.

So if you need to run a technical test, do it in a country where you can acquire a critical mass of users cost effectively.

The commercial test

The commercial test exists to answer the question: Is the lifetime value of my customers good enough to justify spending my scarce marketing resources on this title?

Many developers focus on testing how the FTUE completion rate, retention statistics like D1, D7 and D30 and monetisation metrics like conversion rate and Average Revenue per Paying User (ARPPU).

They also throw in a laundry list of features which have no place in a soft launch.

Daily rewards

Daily quests

Achievements

Sharing to Facebook or posting to Twitter

Dozens of others

There are always exceptions to the rules above, but this is the principle: You want to test the fundamental retention (and, subsequently) monetisation of the game. Features like daily rewards are retention techniques that can work on any game. They are not a big element of risk in your design. You absolutely want them in your game before you spend your marketing resources, but by putting them in your soft launch, you are delaying learning whether the core of the your game has good retention.

Actually, it’s worse than that. By putting in systems like login bonuses or achievements, you can obscure the true retention metrics of your game. A game like Crossy Road or Flappy Bird doesn’t focus on these retention techniques because it is just so fun. But even a game like Simpsons Tapped Out or Fallout Shelter needs to be able to draw users back just because of the intrinsic fun of playing the game, not just because of the extrinsic rewards of getting your login bonus every day.

As you prioritirise your soft launch, this is how to determine what is in or what is out, that should be left out so you get to the commercial test as fast as possible:

Is this retention feature essential to the core loop of the game? If so, it should be IN.

Is this feature new, either to the industry or the team? Are we nervous about it? Is it a risk? If so, it should be IN.

Does the game function perfectly well without this? In which case it should be OUT (a daily login bonus is a great example here)

Can we add this feature to the game at a later stage with no impact on the core experience? OUT (achievement or GameCenter integration often fit this bill)

Do we know how to do it? Then it is a good candidate to be OUT?

Will including it tell us nothing useful to inform our decision to market the game? OUT (this is why Facebook integration is often out at this stage. In a soft launch, you may not want your game to go viral, and with only a small pool of users, it probably won’t go viral anyway. So leave it out.)

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. If daily quests are at the absolute heart of your game, you need them in. If your game is multiplayer only, then maybe you need Facebook to provide liquidity for your players. Maybe GameCenter leaderboards are the primary motivation for people to play your game, so put them in.

But the basic rule is that if the reason you are putting a feature in is because it’s “best practice”, or because Apple won’t feature you without it, or because everyone else does it, leave it out.

A soft launch is a process, not a moment in time

What happens the day you soft launch? Do you think you’ve gold mastered and can give the team a month’s holiday and a pat on the back for a job well done.

Of course not. A soft launch (whether technical test, commercial test or both) is the first time you get feedback at scale from ordinary users. It’s a time to work really hard to respond to data, to feedback and to tweak the trajectory of your game.

But for the first few weeks, as you wait to get data and then make sense of it, the team can be working on all those features that you are going to add eventually – the daily logins and the achievements and so on. But they are doing it while you are gathering real world data on what your game needs. Some features that seemed like Must Haves move down the priority list because data says they are not needed. Other things suddenly crop up that you hadn’t considered. The schedule gets rearranged, features added and features dropped.

This is the whole point. You shouldn’t get to the soft launch with a game you would be happy to hard launch. You’ve spent too much time, too much money and probably built lots of things that were unnecessary. Early assumptions about what would your game better have now been baked in, and it’s too late to change.

So change your thinking. In a twelve month build, launch after six months. Leave out the F2P bells and whistles that will obscure the data and stop you from knowing if you have a hit on your hands. Add that stuff in later in the process, because it carries low production risk and low design risk. Prioritise the stuff you are unsure of, or are scared of, not the stuff that is easy.

That way you will learn what you need to know faster, you will spend less money and your marketed launch product is likely to be much more successful.

The hard launch

The hard launch is when you use your scarce marketing resources. It’s the moment you open the floodgates and let hundreds of thousands or, hopefully, millions of users into your acquisition funnel.

You might spend money. You might get featured by a platform holder. You might cross-promote your game thoughout your portfolio, or that of your publisher. You might get your YouTuber partners to tweet to 10 million Twitter followers. It’s a big deal.

But if you have spent a long time in soft launch, you have a much better chance of that hard launch being successful. The purpose of this post is not to argue that you won’t need daily login rewards or achievements or social integration in your game. It’s to say that most of these features can easily be added during a six or nine month soft launch process.

So grab a red pen and your feature list, strike out every feature that is not absolutely core to the experience and move your soft launch forward by three months. You will save money and significantly improve your chances of long term success.(source:Gamesbrief


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