EGD News #77 — It's all about the players
Sent on April 16th 2021.
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It’s Joakim here! Greetings from Helsinki!
The Elite Game Developers website has been exploding with visitors in recent weeks. Here’s what the weekly visits look like.
Top pages in the last two months have been:
- Cap Table Modeling with 1,573 views
- 50 Principles for Gaming Startups with 1,397 views
- Advanced Retention Metrics in Free-To-Play with 1,132 views
I’ll be attempting to surface more interesting content on the site, and will be working on some tweaks to bring up evergreen content more often. Stay tuned for that.
Now, onto the news.
🎙 Celia Hodent, Game UX
In this week’s podcast episode, I talk with Celia Hodent, game user experience expert and former Director of UX at Epic Games. We talk about adapting the game UX mindset, breaking down how players learn and retaining information, and motivating players to return to certain games.
In EGD News 37, I covered Celia’s work on Fortnite and how they used the UX mindset to develop a hit game. I wanted to combine the top three takeaways from last year’s article and this podcast episode.
1. What causes player retention in games?
Based on what I picked up from Celia, it’s a path from Perception, to Attention, to Memory.
Perception is about seeing something in the game and understanding its meaning and function.
When you perceive something, your motivation and needs towards the meaning intensify, giving out emotions that then grant adequate Attention to the thing in the game.
Perception and Attention lead to learning things in the game, which intensifies the Perception and attention loop. You keep learning, which makes you intrinsically motivated. Learning is fun. And that learning is stored in your Memory.
The next day, you will remember how much fun you had as you were learning the game, and you will return to the game because of intrinsic motivations.
2. The best way to get into the player’s mind?
In 2009, when I was doing Facebook canvas games in my first startup, I’d been watching a presentation on playtesting. That’s when I decided to bring in a friend to play our games in our meeting room at our downtown Helsinki office. I asked the game team to join us in the meeting room to observe the tester playing the game. It opened up so many realizations on how the game was played by someone who was not familiar with the game and the developer’s intentions. We had a hunch on what players would be doing, but all the actual, verified interactions and perceptions of a player from the street were missing. The playtest got us into the player’s mind.
Celia says on the podcast:
“I think that playtesting is a great way to have that reckoning, to have that moment of ‘Oh shit, players are not doing what I wanted them to do.’ Or they’re not experiencing the game the way I intended. And this is a wake-up call.”
3. Player progression
Celia says this on player progression: “You try to make sure that players can grow and so they are going to come back. They feel they can grow, and they can get better at something. That’s going to work pretty much for everyone, whatever they care about in terms of growth. If you focus on the importance of progression, and to see yourself progressing toward a goal and have some feedback on the growing competence, this is pretty much going to resonate for everyone.”
Read more about Celia’s UX mindset by going here and on her website by going here. And listen to my podcast with Celia by going here.
🏥 Organizational health of game studios
This week, I published an article on organizational health and why it matters for game studio founders. The article is based on the takeaways from the book The Advantage, written by Patrick Lencioni, who also authored Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Both are phenomenal books.
To help founders learn the Advantage’s essence, I’ve created these flashcards for people to pick up the skills of setting up a healthy organization.
Flashcards from The Advantage
With is a smart organization?
- Good technical skills
What is a healthy organization?
- Minimal confusion and high morale
The top 3 takeaways from Discipline 1 – Team?
- Trust and full vulnerability.
- Engagement is productive, unfiltered and team members hold each other accountable.
- Needs of the larger organization go ahead of their own department.
The top 3 takeaways from Discipline 2 – Creating clarity?
- Purpose to exist, then product and customer.
- Eternal: values. Now: company priorities.
- How to reach success, and who does what to reach success.
The top 3 takeaways from Discipline 3 – Over Communication Clarity?
- Create ways and formats to constantly talk about what is “clarity” to you
- At every all hands, spend at least 5 minutes on over communication
- CEO sets example on over communication
The top 3 takeaways from Discipline 4 – Reinforce Clarity?
- First impressions matter for new joiners.
- Incentives people to do what’s best for the organization.
- If you are hiring and firing people, or starting and killing projects, contrary to your values, you have bigger problems.
Read my full article on Organizational health of game studios by going here.
🧩 Building a Successful Merge Game in 8 Weeks
This week I did a webinar with Collin Foss, the Co-Founder and CPO of Skunkworks, a Helsinki-based mobile games startup and makers of the wildly popular MergeFriends. If you didn’t manage to attend our webinar, the recording and Collin’s presentation have been uploaded to the EGD website. You can watch them by going here.
My top three takeaways from the discussion with Collin were these.
How did you know that the Merge mechanic and Hay Day would be a good match?
“It’s a perfect player fantasy fit that works with the merge mechanic. Player fantasy is so essential for merge—items that you use in the metagame, the progression. You take an item from the core game, and you use it in the metagame.”
Do players want to see narrative tied to merge? Haven’t they already fixed up these mansions in so many games? Does the merge mechanic’s novelty add enough value to fix up yet another mansion?
“There’s Merge Matters, Merge Mansion and others. You have an opportunity to create games that are deeply immersive, because the core game has these items that you can tie things into the meta game. That can’t be done in match-3, there’s no real context for the match items on the board, it’s more of a theme thing. If we can grow the audience and reach into the match space, I think that’s that’s where the opportunity is.”
How do you talk to your audience to determine what they want or need?
“We use tools like 12traits and that creates a psychological profile. We found out that our audience was incredibly altruistic and they want to help others. Everything that we do now in the game is centred around helping people. That might seem simple, and maybe an obvious thing but it really is at the core of the game. I think that surveys are really critical for reaching out to the audience.”
Watch the full recording and grab Collin’s presentation by going here.
📃 Articles worth reading
+ Three Ways the NBA Top Shot Economy Could Collapse — “All in all, you can see that the NBA Top Shot experience is very similar to any gacha based game. But instead of selling new heroes like we might in Legendary, Dapper Labs is issuing new Moments on a near weekly basis to sell in limited-time, limited quantity gacha packs at a variety of price points.”
+ The Economics of Battle Pass are Broken. Let’s Fix It. — “Reports of the death of loot boxes have been greatly exaggerated as well. Of top 10 grossing free-to-play games, 8 sold loot boxes in some form. Of the top 10 premium games, 4 did. It’s going to take more work to dislodge the loot box paradigm.”
+ The Advantage Of Being A Little Underemployed — “The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”
+ Epic vs. Apple – notes from a platform streetfight — “So, you’re probably aware of this whole ‘Epic taking on Apple, re: the App Store being the only way to buy games on iOS’ thing, right? Well, things are happening! So we thought it was worth going deeper into the mounds of paperwork that just got released to find deep nuggets of info.”
💬 Quote I’ve Been Thinking About
“Luck favors the prepared” — Louis Pasteur
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That’s all for this week! I hope to see you next week! 🙂