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.