Social casual

    Casual games today are a very popular genre in Odnoklassniki with its well-established format. Arthur Shakalis, producer with eight years of experience, talks about the features of developing and creating casual games, about possible mistakes and recommended steps.

    What are casual games? These are games with short and intense gaming sessions, addressed to inexperienced players, with very beautiful, pleasant visual effects, a minimum of text and very catchy. It is useful to remember this when you make a similar game in order to understand for whom you do it at all and what principles the game should correspond to. A little over a year ago, the top casual games in Odnoklassniki looked something like this: basically there was hardcore, that is, games from Plarium, midcuts and all sorts of interesting twists, for example, the game “Heaven” from 2reallife, got into it with small splashes. But in September-November 2013, a turning point occurred. The gaming audience suddenly began to grow rapidly, the growth amounted to about three million completely new players. And this happened thanks to the game "Find the Cat." This is a hidden object, simplified to the point of absurdity, where in each room you need to find only one object: a cat. The whole game was built on this.

    It was not perceived by our audience as a game. Those who before this had not been particularly interested in games began to play it. Users who visited the portal saw some kind of “viral” post where their friend asked to help them find a cat. "It's just that I’ll come in, look, help, hop, here’s the cat, and I'm already playing."

    Before that, as I already said, we had quite hardcore games. And this is normal for a platform that is relatively new to the market. As soon as link games appear, those users who consider themselves players who understand that they want to play begin to enter there. We call them “sikers” - from the English seek, “search”. They are purposefully looking for new games, and they were interested in the hardcore theme. And “Find the Cat” raised a completely new layer of players. Casual.

    Constantly generating pictures with cats is very difficult, and in the end the content in the game is over, but the players already realized: “And we like to play.” They began to look for what I would like to play - and discovered casual games.

    Most of our players are women. They pay less, the average bill is much less than men, but pay more often. We can say that the audience of Odnoklassniki is a casual audience. And when you enter the Odnoklassniki market with a casual game, you must understand who you are doing it for. Now our top looks something like this: “match-3” casual games occupy the top positions, midcore and hardcore games that have remained from the old top are rare interspersed with amber.

    Let's go back five to seven years ago, in those days when casual games were on the rise, when they were just being formed, when studies appeared - what the player plays, how he plays and so on. At that time, analytics was not developed in casual games; there was not so much data to analyze what was happening in the game. Usually it was either “one shot - one kill” or nothing. You make a game for nine months, run it, and it doesn't fire. Amba.

    Therefore, at that time there were a lot of theories about what a casual game is, how and what to play. Everyone was happy to share these theories, there was a lot of “socialization” at all conferences, and some interesting postulates were formed. One of these postulates was presented at that time by the general producer of the company PopCap Jason Kapalka. His presentation was called "Ten Ways to Make the Worst Casual Game." To paraphrase in a modern way, let's go from the opposite: "How to make the best social casual game." So let's go.

    Simplicity is the key to success

    It often happens that my colleagues and I begin to play a new game and see that it is simply furious. You don’t understand much: how does it all work, why should I make so much effort? This is a direct path to the file. For casual play, the most important thing is to develop a player’s habit. The casual player is not a hardcore player, he does not invest too much of his time in the game, he does not concentrate on any “achivas”, etc. He enters the game to have a good time. And so you need the player to enter your game when he has a free minute. So at the first stage, the most important thing for the developer of a casual game is retention. You can think about monetization later, because if you don’t have high retention in the first weeks and beyond, there can be no talk about monetization.

    Tutorial? Does your game really need it?

    Back in the days of old casuals, we had this interesting joke. If your casual game needs a tutorial, if you start playing it and don’t understand what is required of you, then most likely your game is not casual. Any casual game should be played without a tutorial at all. This does not mean that you need to throw the tutorial out of the game, but the point is that any mechanics of the casual game should be clear to everyone and described in a maximum of three sentences.

    Do not ignore the community.

    By "community" I mean leading a group of fans of the game, communicating with them, etc. The casual audience is probably the most socially active on our portal. These are people who like to communicate, love to exchange photos, love to “classify” children’s photos, participate in all kinds of discussions and so on. In no case should they be ignored. Instead, arrange different events in your game’s group: for example, “Take screenshots of how you play, turn them into comics - the best comic book will get 100,500 diamonds.” Announce the updates that you are going to make for your game, discuss them with your audience. You will receive a lot of information, because these are people who want to communicate with you. Vote for the next feature to be done in your game.

    Download speed

    We used to say that the distribution of casual games should not exceed 20 MB. This was accepted because the casual player has a weak computer, weak internet, weak nerves and the same patience. It cannot wait for your game to load. You can talk for a long time about the need to optimize the load, make it diversified, that is, first load the data only for the first run, and then load the remaining ones. This is a purely technical issue. But there is another option: for example, in two games in which the load is really long enough for the user to wait and not get bored, a mini-game for loading time is implemented. While the main game is loading, you can shoot flies, click on falling elements. That is, the game begins to entertain its casual audience already at the download stage. Maybe this is a surprise for someone, but we also produce some of the games that are presented on our platform. And we checked: optimized the bootloader so that the game on weak computers loaded in some sane time - up to 15-20 seconds. This increased first day retention by about 60%.

    Payment wall and promotions

    Again, back to monetization. No need to immediately make a casual player pay. There is no need to put in front of him a payment wall, about which he is beating his forehead: either invite friends, or pay, or go from here. He wants to play your game - you need to give him this opportunity.

    There is an interesting point: the player never loses. Casual games are essentially toys. You cannot lose them, you can only play with them. Of course, in the social aspect, this concept has transformed a little, and the player still sometimes has to lose. But there is a certain positive theory: when a player loses, he must stay with the feeling “I was a little lucky”, and when he wins, then “I did everything right.” And on this you need to build a game. It is necessary to create levels in such a way that if a player loses, he does not feel that this level is impossible to pass. That is, the level-design should set the tone: "Dude, you were a little lucky, but if you use the bonus, you try one more or 50,000 times, you will pass this level."

    Diversify stocks. Although the casual audience is distinguished by certain features, but still people are different. And to do the same actions for the whole audience is a mistake. Therefore, in particular, in Odnoklassniki there are certain methods that give you the opportunity to tag your users, understand which region they are from, and direct your shares to the audience that will be more supportive of this action. Of course, if a person is constantly pestering, his eye becomes blurry, and he begins to react worse. Therefore, it is better to have more stocks for a smaller audience than large stocks at all.

    Experiment more

    It’s fashionable to do it like King. At one time, the casual industry — namely the downloadable, which was sold by try before you buy — went through the same stage. You understood that there is a hit that has reached heights and, if you repeat it, you can achieve the same. The reason for this flourishing of cloning was that then the risks were much higher than now. As a developer, you had only one chance - after all, you could not then slip the update of your game to users who already installed it. Now there is such an opportunity. You can try one mechanic, another, and understand what works and what doesn’t. Therefore, it is not clear to me why now, when it is easier to experiment, we clone more. This is strange.

    I rummaged through my archives and found three games that were made by developers from Eastern Europe and contributed a twist to established mechanics. In particular, the Dynasty game is a clone of the Zuma game (we later called them “humanoids”), where it became possible to shoot not from a static point, but from anywhere on the tape, and this radically changed the gameplay. The game Totem Quest, which I produced, is made on the mechanics of Chains, or Pipes - this is when you not only swap elements, but you can rotate a specific element around its axis and connect it to another element. That is, each tile has entry zones and exit zones. And your task, turning the element, to connect the entrance zone with the exit zone of the neighboring element. If you get a chain of elements of the same color, they are connected, you can arrange new ones, and everything bursts. At the moment, I have not seen such successful social casual games. The next game is 4 Elements II from Playrix, which implements the mechanics that we call "passifing" (path finding ). This is when a specific path is encrypted on your usual “mah-3” field. When the user starts playing, he does not see this path. But if he does the “mah” in the right place, a piece of the path opens. When a path is connected into a single whole, a character either moves along it, or something flows somewhere, and the field moves further. That's the kind of mechanics I also don’t see anymore on the market.

    In general, the modern market of casual social games is just an untoward field in terms of which mechanics can be modified, used, monetized. By the way, “King” probably introduced only one mechanic, which I had not yet seen in casual games.

    Awesome game theme

    Casual game about space bugs. How does it occur to people to make a casual space game for the above audience ?! Housewives do not like space, they love bunnies, buns, they love, at best, as the social industry has shown, to plant carrots, but not to shoot bugs in space. Remember who you are making the game for.

    Elements of different colors and different shapes. The

    audience usually reacts to either color or shape. Therefore, if, for example, you make elements of the same shape, but of a different color, many simply will not see potential “machees” on the field. There are a lot of color blind people in the world, about 11% of people do not distinguish colors well. A different form of elements is a 10% increase in profitability.

    Stinginess on promotion

    I do not mean rewards in the form of bonuses and attractions of unprecedented generosity. I’m talking about the responsiveness of the game and the fact that if a player clicked, then he’s done, you need to pat him on the head. The player made an awesome cool match - Chain Reaction or combo - you need to make a wow-effect, everything should explode, fumble and sparkle. Because the casual player likes to see the game reward him for what he does. Multiply all your rewards, that is, all flying points, by one hundred, for example. If you got one point for a match of three elements, then let it be a hundred. This does not ruin your balance in any way, but the players like it, they want to earn a lot, they want to see this responsiveness of the game.

    Give the player a story

    Many players and developers who have already worked on the social market and consider themselves luminaries, say: “Oh, a casual toy? Easy as three pennies! Now let's do it. Two weeks - the mechanics will be ready. ” The mechanics will be ready, the game will not. Give the player a story. Remember that any casual mechanics you use are just mechanics. This is not a game. If you have something like: “Bam - level 1, field 10 by 10, collect 5 elements of this type. Collected - well done. Level 2 - collect 20 elements of this type ", - it is not interesting! They will not play it. Make the player solve global problems with his matches. Let him decide the fate of the world. Let him feel that, having passed a certain level, he is advancing towards the goal that has been set for him. It is very good if the player associates himself with some hero whom he sees on the screen. There was such a hit - Magic Match, there was an absolutely fun adviser character. He constantly prompted: “Oh! Good Master! You're running out of time! ” But when we tested on the target audience, many associated themselves with this dude. When a person has an attachment to a specific character, this greatly enhances his retention. He feels that this character is “this is me,” and if something else happens to him during the game, if something rises, grows, is added, clothes change - this is very nice, and casual players are very love. When a person has an attachment to a specific character, this greatly enhances his retention. He feels that this character is “this is me,” and if something else happens to him during the game, if something rises, grows, is added, clothes change - this is very nice, and casual players are very love. When a person has an attachment to a specific character, this greatly enhances his retention. He feels that this character is “this is me,” and if something else happens to him during the game, if something rises, grows, is added, clothes change - this is very nice, and casual players are very love.

    Do not ignore the “spiral”

    As I said, a casual audience is the most socially active audience. They like to generate a “spiral”, they actively react to it. The same game "Find the Cat" crawled out only due to "virality". I’ll talk a bit about what “viral” methods are used in Odnoklassniki.

    If we are talking about notification, this is Send Simple / Send Mass - a method that allows you to send a notification directly to a player without the participation of another user. There are user-user notifications, such as "Send me some kind of a bun, send me something else." In the first case, the text is generated by the developer. Think about what you are doing, because the player receives a lot of such notifications. And you need to somehow stand out from everyone else. Prepare the text purposefully for those who want to receive this notification, who will be interested. Do not write simply: "New levels are open." It's boring, they won’t play, they won’t react. This is especially important in light of the fact that we recently launched the so-called Black Box, which introduces a limit on notifications for each application, depending on

    We also recently launched a method called the Mediatopic Post. This is an opportunity to post a large beautiful picture in a tape. At the time of the “Cat” this method was not used photo content. Users posted to the feed, to the profile. We clicked on a photo, read comments on it, or saw a link to the game in the comments, and went in. Therefore, now the effect would be even more avalanche.

    Voice of the people

    If your casual audience is not playing your game, maybe you should not continue to work on it. Make it play. It pains me wildly when I look at another strange clone of a strange game that comes to us for moderation, since I really like casual games, and this is the industry that I grew up in.

    Adequate invitations

    Two options: left - right, right - wrong. Why is left correct? Firstly, it’s immediately clear why you need to send it. A person on one screen understands that he has either “buy” or “invite”. It is from the point of view of the layout of the window itself, inducing "virality", this is a very good option. On the second window you won’t understand why, what, to whom, what I’ll get - horror!

    About pricing. A

    casual player pays in fairly small portions, but more often. And when you form a shop window of your goods, remember this. Always sort products by price increase. This is not hardcore, here ARPPU is much less, like the average check.

    Calculate prices appropriately. Remember about the difference in income in different regions. Plan stocks for depositing and withdrawing funds. It’s very reasonable to make a promotion at the beginning of the month, say, to deposit funds (for example, it’s cheaper to buy in-game currency with us), and at the end of the month to withdraw funds (“And now we have cheaper boosters for which you can spend that money what you bought then "). Alternate these stocks. Do not abuse discounts and sales. Discounts and sales are very good only very rarely, because if you buy goods only during the discount, then you have problems with pricing. It is better to make sales and discounts, disguising it as bundles. That is, to connect several elements together, make a starter boost for some amount, which is lower than if you buy separately. So you don’t accustom the player to

    Instead of a conclusion

    So, I will summarize and once again list the principles that should be followed when developing a casual game:
    • make the game simple and give up a long tutorial
    • do not ignore the community, communicate with players
    • optimize game loading
    • don't force to pay the player right away
    • do not clone already created games, create new mechanics
    • make elements in the game of different colors and different shapes
    • make the game responsive and don’t skimp on promotions
    • do not ignore the viral
    • think over game promotions

    If you still have questions, I will be glad to answer them in the comments.

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