Hey everyone! It's been really long. I apologize for a major time gap between my posts. Wishing everyone a Happy 2018 nonetheless~ Today, I will be covering the design aspect of waiting in mobile games.
Utilizing Request Tickets enable more game activities - Animal Crossing Pocket Camp
More often than not, many mobile games require players to wait, one way or the other. This has been a deliberate and unique aspect in mobile games. Many players, especially those free ones would simply follow the rules and be guided to play less in a single game session and come back more frequently. This article would serve to dissect the intentions behind the crafty design of Waiting Time:
Session Time Moderation
It is especially important to control players' playtime in mobile genre due to a few key factors, one of them which is preventing burn-out. Many new and some passionate players would want to play as much as possible after getting interested in the game. Isn't it counter-intuitive that we limit the players' opportunity to play in this context? This would shift our focus to the several other sub-topics below later.
There are plenty of elegant ways to moderate session time apart from mainstream stamina-based systems. Designers can try looking upon specific time slots where they can refresh recurrent activities for players; usually players will want to attempt on achieving more during their 1st session of the day. Certain activities can be controlled to only be done once a day or every few days if necessary. Certain games train players to come back during specific time to complete specific tasks.
Other suggestions include moderating sessions via difficulty progression or utilizing player skill for extra playtime. For example, certain games make it progressively difficult (e.g. Endless-Stage Raids in RPGs) to farm further levels or more rewards; casual games utilize lives/hearts to grant player a fixed amount of re-tries before having to wait for replenishment.
If a player progresses way too fast in a game, the chance of him/her getting disinterested in the game can grow exponentially higher; this is simply due to mobile games having repetitive game loops (most of them). When a player hits a major milestone of completing all story missions within 3 days, it will be less compelling to re-visit the game the following days after. Player loyalty as part of Games-as-a-Service is important and data commonly depicts that loyalty scales with account age. Trying to ensure that players always have something meaningful enough to accomplish when they revisit the game can be tricky, especially with audience of varying motivation levels.
Monetization of Time
It is also extremely common to use time as a form of monetization. Games deliberately put in waiting time (e.g. building a structure in a Tycoon game requires 4 hours to complete) in order to monetize. Players are empowered to save time by skipping the wait via in-game currency or other IAPs. These are usually present in games with a deep enough aspects of content progression such as building cities or RPG characters leveling up their abilities with a high max level. When applied in unsuitable or aggressive context, some games may blatantly feel play-to-win so it is absolutely important to moderate the paid benefits.
The last variable is an utmost important variable with regard to game production. Mid-to-large scale mobile titles that run live operations have certain cyclic timeline to update new content (e.g. new characters, new quests). Borrowing reasons mentioned above, it is especially important that players maintain a level of interest by always having sufficient content to explore sufficiently fresh things. Thus, games play with various mechanics such as Lootboxes; Gacha; IAP to prevent their content from being thoroughly exhausted while trying to strike a balance on providing free players in-game opportunities are able to earn enough credits for a shot at the new content. This also ties-in closely with Live-Operations and Production, some development teams may not afford shorter content cycles. It is essential for designers to take these factors into consideration and attempt to sparse players' attention span and interest level where possible.
Thanks for reading~ I appreciate every reader of my insights. Do comment if you have different insights, I will be willing to exchange any opinions! See you~
dreeps by YAKAN HIKO (A "totally idle" mobile RPG)
It has been a long time. Hello again! I will be writing about a most defining factor in mobile game: Time Sinks.
What are time sinks? My definition would be: "The main avenue of a series of core game actions where players spend the most time on". They vary from game to game but every game does have a time sink, even non-mobile games. Let's break down a time sink into a few factors that may contribute to it:
Core Game Loop
Nothing stranger to designers. A core game loop can be as simple as tapping once to enable Flappy Bird to start flying and have it die within seconds (or minutes if you are that good). More complex game loops like an RPG could mean leveling characters and bringing them to finish more missions where the mission time could definitely vary depending on the game and difficulty. These loops are integral to the player's willingness to spend time on the game. Doing a loop once is refreshing for the captivated player but repeating this loop and ensuring players are kept away from burnt out is difficult and affects retention.
The duration range of how long a meaningful gameplay session lasts. Session time may not represent the time taken to complete a single try of game loop. Some games may not achieve a feeling of reaching a milepost for doing a game loop once. A game character can take 10 battles to reach from Level 50 to Level 51. The leveling up is more representative of a gratifying session than battling known enemies for 10 times with the same abilities/inventory.
Some games have naturally long session time with different target audience while some have lower like level-based puzzle games. However, it is important to know how your player population is trained to get used to the time taken for their meaningful game sessions. This is especially affected by progression agency in any games which is the X-factor in affecting session time.
The state where a player progress which causes a different experience repeating game loops and alters session time. These are some possibilities that represent a state of progression:
Knowing and mastering the time sink in the game means much more than making the game fun. It represents on how we are able to plan the existing fun in the game to be an even more lasting experience before they inevitably spend their time on different games.
Players only have X-amount of hours to spend on entertainment, having clear directions on the time sink in the game means understanding what players that chose your game will be going through to reach the peak of the experience you have laid out for them.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next post where I will cover the design aspects of Waiting Time.