A long time ago I read a thread on a gamedev forum where the opening poster asked what was ‘fun’ and how was it achievable in a way that would raise the ‘addiction’ factor. I found the question to be very interesting but the debate around it, considering that was a gamedev forum, extremely poor.
Most of the people that participated in the thread could not separate their development background from their playing background. Remember the Gamer != Game Designer post? It’s pretty much the same argument but on a later stage. Why is this important or relevant? Read on…
I’m betting that a huge percentage of flash game developers/designers implement features in their games because they’ve seen it in sucessful games. If it is successful it is usually named: high-scores, achievements and so on are excellent examples of successful features.
Implementing it enhances a game, for sure, but does it increase the fun and entertainment value? I bet you’ll say YEAH! but can you explain why? We are just copying formulas, not really digging why we are doing it.
Well we keep doing it… When we do a certain game genre, we are categorizing our game. Again we are copying a formula but by doing it we are giving the player an opportunity to filter what he wants to play. Don’t take me wrong, this is more than fine. After all we do want players to play what they want or that will take the fun out of the experience. Why does it take the fun out of the experience?
Understanding the factors
By copying formulas we are adding factors such has re-playability and by categorizing we channeling that value. Both work if the game has value on its own and most don’t! It does not matter how many success formulas you include or how you categorize your game if you ultimately fail to understand why is a game fun and entertaining.
Some developers simply copy entire games and it works for them. I think they are convinced they have achieved a higher state of game design knowledge… well… I’d love to see them do something new under a different name, just to see what would the reaction of their fans be.
On the other hand, developers that understand the factors that create a great experience do wonders, they create new genres, make the gamedev theorists and journalist come up with new terms and I’m under the impression they don’t even think about it. The mob simply follows their lead.
So what are the factors?
That’s up to each one of us to find out I guess. Being a Raph Koster fan I believe that factors reside in the purest of forms, in understanding how the brain processes the experience. My personal view on it is that if you apply that basic processing to a target audience, it will work. Our talent and experience only makes it work more or less, but it will work! That’s the basis of how I design.
I bet other developers will have other ideas, but this whole post is a “think out of the box” kind of thing. What I’m trying to express is that if you don’t think in terms of your own gamer clichets. Don’t think that you like multiplayer, or that a certain game was cool because it had swords. Think on what will the reaction be to something you create. Think what is the typical player of the game you are creating. Think on how you’ll reach him or her individually. Stereotype your player, not you as a player.
Disclaimer: this post, unlike most of this blog, does not have the intention to present information or discuss any particular item. It is a fun motivated post, one that should be taken lightly, with a smile and nothing else.
Most if not all flash game developers have read comments about their games that triggered some feeling. Many times we fail to see the positive side and focus on the negative side. We are taking content to an audience and nowadays that means that either we like it or not, that audience will voice an opinion. Is is much easier to take the strong opinions with a smile and I hope this helps giving you that smile.
The 100m athlete
His only motivation is to be the first. He wants to, he has a lot of competition, but sooner or later he will be fast enough to be able to write:
and he won’t rest until he is banned! That’s his gold medal!
It could be better.
O’rly? It could, I admit, but how? It’s like saying that it is a game, isn’t it?
This type of player is really unpredictable. We never know what’s his next comment. It can be something like:
LOL OMG it’s yeah!
to something really strange like:
Loved the game! 1/5 because I don’t like the name!
We never know what to expect… by the way, this last quote… true story.
The sober policeman
This player plays a lot of flash games. He knows the portals, he knows the developers, he knows if a game was uploaded by someone that is not the rightful owner. What can I say? The sober policeman is a real helpful player in many ways.
The drunk policeman
Ok… I only wrote the previous one so I could write this one. This player plays a lot of flash games but all games that look alike were stolen! What was the stolen game you may ask? Easy! The first game of the same genre he played. He also assumes that a sponsored game uploaded by the developer was, without a trace of doubt, stolen by the developer.
Games with stolen IPs are ok though, as long as he is a fan, like a Mario clone or something that remotely looks like Zelda… with Zelda graphics…
The analyst aka flash game journalist
This is a real, typical comment from this player type:
It feels… restricted. As far as I can tell, it is perfectly unclear as to how money is being earned. It just hands it to you at the end of the level. Similarly, there is almost no indication as to whether you are hitting something, unless it dies. Having scrollwheel weapon change is bit odd, considering that most people will be playing tihs in a browser.
I honestly love these guys (and gals)! They usualy know what they are saying, they write well, take the developer hardwork into consideration. They pinpoint problems the game has and they do so in an elegant way. Bottom line, they are really helpful.
Needs more levels…
<insert your favorite need here>
Now that I think about it, usualy it’s not the game that needs it. It was designed like that so, that’s what it is for better or worse. Who needs something is the player.
The nice guy
I don’t like this game. It’s boring! I have better things to do than to waste 5 minutes of my life playing it. But since you used red in the logo and my dog is running after his tail, I’ll give it an 8.
Thanks mate, very helpful!
The complacent father of all developers
Really funny… he assumes that ALL developers are 13 years old. It’s really easy to spot! If you make one mistake, serious or not, he will say something like
The mute button is not working! I don’t expect that you 13 year olds can do a proper game.
or (and this is just hilarious) if you do something that he doesn’t like, it is not a mistake, bug or problem, he just doesn’t like that…
You 13 year olds still have a lot to learn. Ice towers also deal damage, not just slow down.
The uber game designer
This is probably the only type of player that I really don’t like and that annoys the hell out of me, but there are so few of them that their presence is rarely noted, thankfuly. This is someone that took a couple of hours to create something that remotely looks like a game and that from that moment on feels he has all the know-how to trash every single game that he doesn’t like.
He usualy shares pearls of wisdom such has:
This game sucks! Collision detection fails more than 50% of the time!
These pearls of wisdom usualy meet the following logic: the game in question does not have collisions, or even if it had, how does he know that it is more than 50% of the time? It’s funny because it’s true.
The spell checker
The typical spell checker is usually also a complacent father of all developers. But there’s a weird breed of spell checkers… I can’t really explain how they are, so here’s a comment…
LOL u dont now how 2 spel aphrodisiac
and last but not least… The follower
The follower is cute in a way. Followers simply follow an opinion that is from someone else. For instance if a uber game designer says that the game has a problem with collision detection, even if the game doesn’t have CD at all, he will just state that he also noticed that. A lot of followers follow spell checkers, I don’t know why. Followers are good if you have a good game and bad if you have a bad game.
Hope you like it!
Like I said, this post is for fun and kicks, don’t think too much about it. Many comments are really good and helpful and we have to look at pointless comments as part of it.
A lot of info spread through the web about what flash games must have or not. Here’s our take on it:
…a mute button
Although everyone will scream their hearts out that a mute button is a must have, I beg to differ. Since Atomik Kaos that we changed the mute button (or key) for an entry screen that asks if the player wants sound and music. We did it because it personally annoyed me to enter games with bad audio and music and have to wait until the place where the developer decided to put the damn mute button.
We received a lot of feedback praising such a decision and one rant about it because the sponsor intro sounds played because the decision screen was after the sponsor intro… that one negative feedback completely forgot that even with a mute button, it would hear the sound way before the usual mute button showed up.
Some games need saved games, others don’t. But saving data is more important than just saving your game state. You can present the player with a lot more stuff if you get used to gather statistics.
I won’t go to long with this since it’s very game specific but you can do some very nice things, such as present end-level or game-over statistics that will keep the player going.
…right mouse button context menu
Someone mentioned this in the FGL chat. I personally only took it off twice, both times by request. I understand that it is something that I’ll probably address now that I’m conscious of it, but I never felt or received any feedback about it for our games.
…the right instructions
Don’t throw all the instructions at once at your player. As he progresses through the game, give him the info he needs for that task.
Often instructions are loads and loads of text that no one reads. Everyone did that mistake at least once.
…pause on lost focus
Some games have it, others don’t. For the download market it was a feature that every portal asks for, in the flash market I honestly prefer not to do it.
This is quite easy to explain. Most flash games take a small area of the whole web page where they are embedded. Usually and unless the mouse is the input of the game, the mouse is taken off the game because it’s pointless to be there and it is just covering something.
In my opinion, catch and pause the lost focus event only if your game is time dependant and the mouse is the player’s input to the game. Appart from that it can be pretty frustrating.
…user input customization
Some developers do it. Most don’t. Give the user the option to configure keyboard input that feels most natural to them. You can then leverage the ’save data’ feature to store those preferences locally. Thanks to Phil Peron for pointing it out.
Nothing else occurs right now, so feel free to pop up something I might have forgot and I’ll write it here!
In my opinion, web2.0 offers a priceless opportunity for game developers. For the first time ever, this is our chance to be face to face with the players that play our games. No second hand information, no idiotic knowledge from people who never cared for a game.
This time it’s upclose and personal between us and the players. You do have to understand them though, because if you are a game developer, you crossed a line that will make you look at games from a whole new perspective. You are unable to walk in the common player shoes. Here’s what I think of it.
You are not above the players
Creating a game does not turn you into some kind of mithological entity that players are supposed to love. Don’t jump on your players with an attitude because you can make a game.
Understanding that most players think they could make the best game ever should also be put into perspective.
Filter your player’s comments
Players will say anything, from verbal abuse to expressions of love. One word punchlines is the way of people saying “Yeah I’m here and I participate a lot but I really have nothing to say!” so ignore those unless something really get’s your attention.
Put comments into context
Imagine your latest game is a fantastic dress-up game with dolls! Then you upload it to Newgrounds and Kongregate. What kind of comments are you expecting? The context in which the player accesses your game is important to his own understanding of the game. You need to find where player, portal and game meet to know what comments to filter.
Stay in touch with your players
If you read a comment that is meaningful in some way, take your time to react to it in a positive way. Players want to hear from you. They want to know more and keep in touch.