Game designers about players or how to program players?
I thought a lot and analyzed the information on the topic of game development. And in order not to lose, as well as share with people, get tips, advice and comments - I decided to design and post the article. Today, "game design" is increasingly taking on the shape of a science that requires a special approach and study. Unfortunately, very little structured information is publicly available. As for foreign authors with extensive experience and a number of successful projects, often their works never reach the shelves of domestic stores. And to study them in the original, the language barrier prevents many.
In this situation, articles where people share their impressions and personal experience in game development are the salvation. These articles not only and not so much convey new information to readers, but present it in a new light, allowing them to more clearly realize and reflect on life.
I want to note that the writing of the material was influenced by the performance at Sociality Rocks 2011 Henric Suuronen - the head of the Wooga studio, the developer of Bubble Island and other hits. Of particular note is the article by Andrei Plakhov, “Game designers about programmers or how to program programmers.” By analogy with that article, the idea arose that it was possible to program users as well. Program their behavior model to entertain and extract the values we need - payments, retention in the game, attracting new players. And one of the retention tools is a set of functions in the application, which can be arbitrarily called a game cycle. We will talk about this further
1. What is a game loop and why is it needed?
The basis of the whole game is content. On the one hand, it determines the capabilities of users and determines the amount of work to create a project on the other hand. It is he who draws people in and is the reason why they return to the game. Moreover, most of the actions in the process of obtaining this content are cyclically repeated.
Game cycle - a sequence of actions carried out throughout the game over and over again. For example: building a building, waiting, receiving currency, building a building, waiting, etc.
Is it possible to do without game cycles? - It is possible, but let's imagine that in our project there is only linear (not looped) content. For dozens and hundreds of hours, the player sees more and more new art, animations, mini-games, hears constantly new music. How much will such a game weigh? How long will it be developed? How much to install?
Despite what has been said above, the reader may wonder, “Why, then, select game cycles and follow them.” The answer is banal - to create an interesting, understandable and at the same time not too difficult to develop a product. Consider the positive effects:
- It’s easier for the user to master the game. 2-3 simple actions for any person is easier to remember and get used to them than to complex long sequences of actions.
- Less content required, less application weight, faster loading. 100 hours of play, each sequence takes 5 minutes, and an average of 30 minutes of waiting for production. With such simple math, you can see that the volume of the application becomes hundreds of times smaller. As a result, we get the game of the greatest length with the least expenditure of resources.
Game cycles are in all games.
- Shooter: bought weapons - killed opponents - got money;
- Quests: solved the puzzle - got the item - found application;
- Casual arcades: menu - level - reward;
- MMORPG: bought equipment, spent a number of fights, received an award;
- Social games: built a house
- planted a tree - raised a son - placed- waited - made a profit.
2. Typical game cycles (housing, PvP, PvE)
Consider social games. In them we can define the following actions of players - digging beds, building houses, crafting things - these actions are related to game cycles of the Housing type. In this type of game cycles, people can spend a lot of time waiting, which is worth brightening up somehow.
Then, sooner or later, some computer-controlled NPCs (NPCs) appear in the game, which give quests, attack houses, crops, etc. Is a cycle of interaction with the environment, PvE. This type is more dynamic because you usually do not need to wait for anything, you need to act quickly, reacting to the behavior of the game character. But since the artificial intelligence of the characters is linear and does not cause difficulties, it simply brings diversity to the game.
The third kind of cycles is interaction with other players. In war games, these are attacks and battles - the PvP cycle, in peace games - helping friends, gifts, competitions. Let's call it Player for player. This type of cycle is most important. Correct interaction with other players is of most interest to the public.
3. Game cycles in peaceful and military games
Social games are based on passing game cycles to get more points for further competition with live people. In peaceful games - players compete for points for building, completing quests, helping a friend. Such indicators are usually the level, cost of the city, the number of achievements. Players help each other by increasing the amount of their energy, points, etc. In war games, users get points for attacks, increasing their performance and characteristics. These cycles are similar. The only difference is that in the peaceful, both sides benefit from interaction, in the military - only the winner.
4. What should be the game cycle
- the game cycle should simulate the actions of people in real life;
- the game cycle should be easy and simple both at the first and subsequent times;
- the game cycle should be short so that the sequence can be quickly remembered and repeated over and over again;
- the game world needs a player. To do this, you must in every way remind the player that you need to return;
- gaming opportunities should be provided to the person gradually. This is necessary so that the player has a reason to grow, develop and gain access to new content;
- game cycle should end positively.
Congratulations! Here's a pie from the shelf;
5. Examples of game cycles in well-known games.
Example 2.1 (Castleville):
1. Select the desired building, buy it, build and wait for the profit. after a fixed time, we get profit, then we build another building, again we wait and again we get profit.
Fig. 1. - Game cycle: building a building - waiting - profit.
2. In the game, we have beds on which you can grow plants. We select a bed, plant a plant on it, wait for the set time, and collect the crop. And so in a circle.
Fig. 2. - Game cycle: planted a plant - expectation - profit.
Game cycles in Castleville are extremely simple - once you show it, then the player does everything on the machine.
Example 2.2 (Airport city):
1. Choose a building, buy, build, collect profits and still build buildings. This cycle is typical of many games.
2. We select a flight, refuel the plane, load, ship, wait for the set time, collect profit and select the flight again. Although it seems that there are more actions - they are all intuitive. And despite this, all the same, at every step of the user, hints surround. You can not use them. The choice to use / not use is very relevant at the beginning of the game.
Fig. 3. - Game cycle: flight selection - aircraft equipment - waiting - profit
Fig. 4 - Game cycle: building a building - waiting - profit
We can conclude that the accompanying tips are an alternative to the simplicity of the cycle, but you should not abuse complexity.
6. How to start a game cycle?
Here you are in the game. Where to begin? The player must not be allowed to understand the game on his own. This quickly bothers and he has a desire to close the application, and since he has no positive emotions left, he will not return. In the game you need to introduce training that will teach the player to independently enter the game cycle and go along it, as well as talk about the main controls. The first step in the first game cycle will be the click me button. In the future, the player, taught by positive experience, having seen an empty garden or a hungry cow, will do everything himself. Therefore, to start the cycle, you need to show with all sorts of flashing lights, sound signals and animations where to click in order to start doing something.
7. How to guide players through the game cycle?
There was such an experiment on rats when electrodes were injected into their brains. And they gave a button, when pressed, discharges entered the brain and gave rats a pleasant feeling. Animals stopped eating, drinking, sleeping. And they pressed the button until they died. So: the principle of leading a player in a cycle is about the same. Throughout the game cycle, the player must know what to do next and where is his happiness button. Get a bonus reward or build something - take any action. The process shows learning. And then, with flashing icons, sounds, movements of actors and small clips, mark achievements and indicate a new goal. And calibrate the intensity and solemnity of blinking depending on the importance of the achieved goal (the effect of the happiness button). Or a timer to show the time before the event.
8. How to end the game cycle
At the end of the game cycle, the user should have the impression that everything in his game world is good. He did everything he could. Received an award and is ready to do new important tasks. A positive mood at the end of the game cycle is necessary for its successful closure.
9. Broken game cycles
We examined simple game cycles that are used most often. But in order to lure the player you need to make the game look like a living creature. So she missed him and sent notifications, so she was waiting for him, and the player had, why come back.
Game cycles are short in time - when we build something we wait 5 minutes and get some “cool stuff”. Such cycles occur during one game cycle. There are also long cycles in time, when in order to wait for profit you need to wait a lot of time. Typically, these cycles take 2 or more game sessions. Such cycles are called broken game cycles. For example, we planted some mega-pumpkin. So that it is ripe, and we can get a lot of bonuses for it, you just have to wait for just 100500 hours. Of course, no one will sit in the game so much and wait. But the player can do all other things, spend all his energy, visit all friends and come back next time when everything is ripe.
If short game cycles give the user to organize the game process, then broken cycles are also important - this is the main tool to keep the user in the game.
10. How to use it all?
After the appearance of the game, the creators have 3 problems:
- how to attract players;
- how to keep them;
- how to make them pay;
where to put money.
Player engagement and monetization are topics in other articles. As for user retention, broken game cycles contribute to this. They create the appearance that the game goes even in the absence of a player and thereby help users return back after closing the application.
11. To summarize
So how do you make a game that will definitely captivate the user, and he will play it for a long time. There is no universal answer to this question. Here are the main points without which it is almost impossible to make a successful game:
- in any game there are game cycles;
- game cycle - the main part of the game, which should give the player positive emotions from being in the game;
- the player needs to be trained in the passage of the game cycle;
- the game must have broken game cycles.