The principles of success of midcore games. Part 3: Sociality
I started my gaming career back when Facebook was the main casual gaming platform. Then I thought that social mechanics are exactly the same as viral mechanics - the leverage by which developers return old players to the game and attract new ones. And how wonderful that the main platform and my views have changed. Let me
remind you about the first and second part of the translations of the beautiful Misha Katkoff .
Techniques when the game forces people to log in via Facebook and send a ton of invitations and messages to the feed still work. However, you will be surprised how powerless these mechanics are for midcore games. Therefore, instead of describing the K-factorand virality, we will discuss real social mechanics. I mean mechanics that diversify the gameplay, enrich the player’s experience and make the game more lively.
Playing with each other is what makes the game truly social — at least create the illusion that it can be done. I would say that social mechanics must first of all strengthen retention. As I wrote in a previous post, retention generally consists of progress. The player must feel that he is developing. However, progress is a subjective assessment of the player. For example, I played a game for a couple of weeks and it already seems to me that I'm pretty experienced. But here comes a couple of people who play for several months, and you understand that you are still a noob.
Therefore, developers solve the problem of measuring progress using social mechanics. Players cannot but compare their own and others' progress during a joint game. And such a comparison leads to two different feelings. First, players who are behind will definitely want to catch up with the front ones. The second - developed players will feel satisfaction with themselves and, at the same time, they’re motivated not to lose this feeling.
Most importantly, do not forget that the cooperation mechanics should work right in the game - where players are the easiest to paint on. And, of course, collaboration mechanics should reward both players.
Example: Puzzle & Dragons
Each time a player enters a dungeon, he is forced to ask another player for help. And when they clean the dungeon together, they may well become friends. Helping friends give you more buddy points that are used to get monsters from the Machine.
Puzzle & Dragons relies on a single social trick: Helper. No chat, no PvP, no private messages and guilds. Even communication with social networks is not. However, every time a player enters the dungeon, he needs an Assistant. Because of this, players send each other an incredible amount of friend invitations. And all thanks to one single simple solution.
The assistant mechanics in P&D follow the golden rule of social mechanics. It allows players to collaborate on a win-win model. And of course, it allows players to show off in front of other players.
As we already found out, the player is forced to choose an assistant - the monster of another player. Moreover, every time a player uses an assistant monster, the owner of the monster receives friendly points . These points are used in the Machine to get new monsters. And the more often the user enters the game, the higher the chance that his monster will be chosen as an assistant. Thus, whoever comes into the game more often has more points.
The player can add the owner of the assistant monster as a friend after clearing the dungeon. Moreover, there can be no infinite number of friends - it all depends on the level. At the same time, the game rewards the user, who calls friends for help, with friend’s points and gives the Leader’s skill, which increases the damage of the user's monsters. You also need to make a reservation that the use of friends' monsters is very critical. A player can use a monster once per friend’s session. That is, to re-call the friend’s assistant, you need to wait until the friend logs in and comes back in.
In short, the P&D social mechanics motivate the player to enter the game, progress, because the stronger his monster, the more he is called for help, the more he gets friendly points and new monsters.
Well, and most importantly, all this mechanics should be inside the game, where the player wants to paint, show all that is. I mean the whole process with the monster, with a demonstration of its power, is the display of pure water. And, of course, the game rewards both sides. The owner of the monster with extra points. Player - help in completing the dungeon.
Example: Clash of Clans
Few people do not know how the mechanics of reinforcements in CoC work. Once a player joins a clan, he can ask for reinforcements and send him to other players. Reinforcements help both in defense and in attack. And, despite the simplicity of the mechanics, this is one of the most powerful things I've seen.
Sending Reinforcements to CoC is one of the most powerful social mechanics I've seen.
The game does not have any certain number of reinforcements that the player must send, for example, in a week. There are no bonuses for those who send a lot, and there is no punishment for those who do not send at all. However, nothing so takes the attention of players. The game just allows players to collaborate and communicate, allows them to create rules themselves. If you remember that the player can be kicked out of the clan, the power of these rules becomes enormous.
In practice, this translates into the fact that as soon as a player joins a clan, he is forced to constantly send reinforcements. Active clans seek to determine the amount of reinforcements each member must send per week. If a clan member does not cope with the task and has no reasonable reason, he will be expelled from the clan. You need to understand that all this only strengthens retention. The player is not only forced to constantly send reinforcements, but also to constantly develop, because the clan needs more and more powerful reinforcements.
The ability to track who sent how many reinforcements turned this mechanic into a competition.
Reinforcements with might and main support the basic cycle of the game and require constant development from the player, and therefore it is such a powerful force for monetization. Each month, updates are released with new troops and the levels of development of these troops. And, as you remember, clans require the best units for reinforcements. Therefore, the player seeks to buy the missing resources and boosters in order to complete the upgrade of units. Plus, everyone sees who was the first to send a new unit to reinforcements, which puts such a player on a social pedestal and rushes everyone else.
Clash of Clans - like P&D - follows the golden rule of social mechanics. To send reinforcements to another player is, in a sense, a show, because a player can boast of the level of his troops and, of course, his generosity. Plus, both participants receive buns, one in the form of enhanced defense and attack, the other in the form of increased status.
There is another great way to let players compare their development - to arrange a competition for them. But the main problem of the developers is that they want to draw the players into the competition too early. The best way, in my opinion, is to give a beginner to enjoy the game, then let him make friends and learn to cooperate, and only then allow him to compete.
Generally speaking, there are two types of competition: single competition, or one on one competition, and group competition, respectively, team to team. The most important thing in creating a competition is the communication of the players should be a fundamental part.
If you want to highlight top players, then there is a great tool for this - a leaderboard. Just arrange the players in the order of their progress or how they look compared to other players. This will affect a very small proportion of players, but those who are affected will be powerfully motivated to go to the top and be grateful for the opportunity to show off.
A group leaderboard — such as in CoC — is a great example of a very simple way to extend the effect of a regular leaderboard.
The next logical step is to create a group leaderboard. Not only does this move affect a large proportion of the players, it also motivates them to join in groups. With all this, the group table simply makes each team member give all his best, otherwise there will be no result. Plus, add to all this various direct communication methods: group chat and private messages and you will get a powerful pressure tool. A strong player will be publicly praised, and lagged behind. All this spurs development, retention, the basic cycle and, ultimately, monetization.
Guild War is a pretty simple thing. This is a kind of temporary event between the two groups, which occurs at the will of the players. The result of this event is reflected in the leaderboard, and this gives a very powerful social effect. After all, the pressure of the clan members has not gone away - they will still praise active and scold passive players.
Holivars in the Rage of Bahamut is a big battle in which the Order can take part. A battle where in a short period of time one order fights with another. Holivar begins when the head of the Order declares war. The enemy is randomly selected and reminders of the battle will be sent to all members of the Order.
In addition to its temporary nature, the guild war differs from the leaderboard by a nomination system that over-motivates several players. The guild may nominate some players as leaders, vice leaders, attacking and defensive leaders, and so on. In these conditions, the guild will perform more efficiently, thanks to these few players who will lead their team to super-results.
In essence, raids are very similar to guild wars, as they unite a group of people against a common enemy for a certain time. But raids also differ from war in two ways. First off, raids are a PvE mission. Secondly, because of the game against AI, some kind of story is often played out in raids, which is very lacking in the guild war. Plus, a raid usually rewards particularly active players.
Kixeye seems to have perfected the raid mechanics. In all online games of this company, raids periodically occur in which players are rewarded for activity. For participation in the raid, unique units and spare parts are also issued. And yes, raids are advertised very powerfully, take a look at least in the video above. It shows how the raid will affect the game, and what story it tells.
Just don't push them
Yes, many people think that I'm wrong. Like, social mechanics is, in fact, a measurable virality, where all the chips are aimed at achieving the desired volume of return and new settings. For these people, the X invitation in the tape turns into Y installations.
And yet, my experience suggests that these meaningless mechanics do not work in the long run. Nobody argues, of course, they will reach a couple of peaks in the metric, only then it will be necessary to generate more and more invitations to one new installation. All this leads to endless requesting and inviting chips that degrade the player’s experience and interfere with retention.
All that I ask, follow a very simple rule. At the beginning, let the player play alone, Let him enjoy, feel the taste of the game. And after that, proceed to socialization. After all, he already knows and loves the game, wants to play with friends. Then then go out with your social mechanics, but for now only with those that promote cooperation. And as soon as the player has learned to cooperate, immediately offer him and compete.
After all, in the end, social mechanics is just an amazing tool for long-term retention.