Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
Make it easy to stop playing
It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes players avoid games that require
too great a time commitment. If you're a hardcore gamer—or have ever dated
one—then you know what it's like to end up delaying bedtime so you can go
on “just one more” corpse-run in EverQuest , or to wait for a raid to finish in
World of Warcraft , or to have to go find your body in Demon Souls before you
can finally put down the controller. By way of comparison, watch the way peo-
ple play a turn based game on a mobile phone, playing a quick turn at a stop-
light, then another turn at the next stoplight. Watch an iPad player casually flip
shut the case, returning their attention to real life, confident that the game will
be waiting for them, just where they left it, when they return. What can we
learn from this? Also, many users play social games at work, where they may
either be distracted at a moment's notice and have to stop playing, or where
they aren't really supposed to be playing in the first place and may need to be
able to instantly close their browser or shut the case on their mobile device.
Make sure that your game lets users stop playing instantly and they'll find it
easier to integrate your game into their busy lives.
Many users are reluctant to make a substantial time commitment or com-
mit to any gameplay the endpoint of which they cannot control. A game that
might make me late to dinner, or penalize me for having to stop playing with-
out having time to “make camp,” or somehow force me to go through a time-
consuming logout process may dissuade users from starting up a session. On
the other hand, a game that allows players to suspend play instantly—any time,
with one click—then return to a game that is exactly like they left it, the minute
they have time to return to it: that's a game that millions of users can play at
home while waiting for the kids to get ready for school, or on the subway while
traveling to a friend's house, or in line at the grocery store, or at work when
the boss isn't looking. Think about how users quit playing and how you can
offer them tiny, bite-sized chunks of gameplay that can be resumed at any time,
without having lost the thread. Make it easy to quit your game, and users will
return more often.
For a great example of this mechanic, play Infinite Interactive's wonderful
Puzzle Quest (any version). Although it is not a social game, it offers several
lessons that illustrate the previous point. First, notice that no matter what hap-
pens, when the user picks up the game, they know what to do: match three
like gems. That's it. No matter how long it's been, no matter how drunk or
distracted your player, they know how to play. True, it might take some time
to remember second order strategies (saving up certain types of mana for cer-
tain spell combinations, and so on; and maybe even longer before they recall
the maze of whatever dungeon they are exploring, where to proceed next, and
the like). But when they face these issues, they'll already be playing the game.
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