Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
4.3 Social Games Give Power to the Users
There's a reason why Zynga's number of daily users is larger than the
population of many small countries. Their games are based on a wider variety
of themes than traditional games, and thus appeal to a far broader audience.
Users don't have to buy or install anything to try the games out. Once they start
playing, many gamers find Zynga's products compelling and even addictive,
due to their intuitive gameplay, tight reward-loops, and the social interaction
between users. And Zynga isn't the only social game company to recognize that
putting the power of choice in the hands of their players open up a whole new
market by attracting those who were never interested in computer or console
gaming before. But they are currently the undisputed best in this market. Let's
take a closer look at some of the high-level design philosophies that have
contributed to their success.
Make it easy to start playing
One of the truisms of web design is that “you lose 50 percent of your users
for every additional click it takes them to find what they're looking for.” It's
possible that this statement is just one of the many urban legends of the
dot-com era, but it's a useful premise for frontend and UI designers to keep
in mind. Even if you're designing social games for a touch platform on which
the user does not actually “click” to take action, the point still applies. Don't
introduce barriers between your user and getting into the game. If you're
an old-school gamer, you probably remember Origin Systems, whose slo-
gan “We Create Worlds” was synonymous with epic open-world experiences
throughout the late 1980s and the 1990s. You probably also remember the
terrific hoops gamers had to jump through in order to get their 386 and 486
machines to have enough free RAM to actually play any of those wonderful,
genre-defining games. (Custom boot disks, anyone?) At that time, being a PC
gamer required a level of technical sophistication that is typically reserved for
the IT department these days. As computing and gaming became more main-
stream, and as everyone got wired, the concept of accessibility and usabil-
ity rose to the forefront. When users had already paid $60 for a game, they
were a lot more likely to spend an hour or five to set up and install before
they were rewarded with a title screen. (Games like Strike Commander used
to require a user to install from more than 15 disks, a process that could take
hours.) It's not that gamers were more dedicated to their hobbies than they
are now, but instead that the marketplace offers so many more options that
gamers are no longer required to be willing to jump through such hoops.
Users have a plethora of choices now, and they won't tolerate lengthy setup
periods and extensive extra hardware. And even if they would be willing, it is
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