Game Development Reference
Interview with Exploding Barrel: Give Them
What They Want—cont'd
pay for more, and people screamed bloody murder. We learned, don't
give away too much at first! Go the other way. Be stingy, and then give
more over time.
It's amazing because it's free to play, but people don't think of it that
way. They just think of it as something they put a lot of time into. 98 per-
cent of them never pay a dime. They'll even write in and tell us, “I spent
so much money on this game!” and we'll look it up and know that they
never spent any real money on the game.
You've got to be really careful when you take away even the tiniest
things. In Top Bar , we had a Patron Toss minigame, where you threw
other patrons into various items, including a giant swinging donut, and
you got a prize worth $0.10. And we realized there was a cheat; there was
a way to get perfect every time. I couldn't do it, but other people could.
So then we had to limit it so that you could only win real currency the
first time, then you'd just get a prize coin. Again, unbelievable how mad a
few people got! So that was good learning from Top Bar .
HP: Scott brings up a great point on the mindset of people playing these
free-to-play games. They feel like their time is every bit as important as
money, emotionally. They have been trained that if they spend 20 hours
playing the game a week, whether they gave a dime or not, that's of real
value. It's important to them. They invested time, dammit! You've gotta
be very careful with that.
SB: Some of them value time even more than money. If you've spent two
months with something for a half hour a day, you've become heavily
invested. If the developer does something bad … this happened to me in a
game I was playing that I was very addicted to. There is an example of a
game I was playing for several months, where they went and changed some
features that made all the load times longer. I never went back because I had
16 different areas I had to visit to maintain every day. I couldn't wait for a
30-second load for each one, and they lost me. I'd put probably $400 into that
game, but they changed it to where there was just too much friction, and I
was gone. You've got to be really careful with any kind of changes you make.
HP: You asked earlier about minigames. Another thing that we believe in
is leaderboards. We think social benchmarking, knowing where you stand
among your friends on all these minigames, is a very powerful thing. If I
know that you have caught a bigger fish than me and I'm one person away
from the top of that leaderboard, I'm going to spend a little more time fish-
ing. And that's a very powerful motivator. It's good-natured competition.