Opinion: Epic Owl’s Design Journal – PART 6

Epic Owl

Editor’s note: The following blog was written by a NordicGameBits.com Opinion-blogger. The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the individual writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of NordicGameBits or the other writers and authors of the community. 

Hey all! Today I’m breaking the radio silence with a look into designing the next step for your game. We’ve had a busy time getting the MVP version of our game done, which means that we’re at an enticing spot. The core game is there, but beyond that we’re talking mostly about a bare bones product. Now is the time to improve what we’ve got and build what we need.


Now as a designer it’s my nature to view the game and see a whole world of stuff that could be better. We’re all trying to make a perfect title here, but now’s not the time to slave over the fine detail (too much). As discussed before, our mission is to make a deep, diverse game, and while polish does play an important part in this, it’s more important to step back a little and have a look at the bigger picture.

Now I’m standing back and looking at it. Yeah, it’s a fine game. Got loads of awesome stuff, some rough edges – nothing we couldn’t iron out. But should we dedicate all our efforts to tweaking and smoothing it out? Let’s forget about that for now. We need to identify the largest, most brutally gaping hole this game has. And, sure enough, after a thorough session of contemplation we find a culprit.

Using Celestium (our Hard Currency) allows players to buy stuff in the game they don’t have Credits for (our Soft Currency). A typical scheme and very straightforward. Battles reward you with ample amounts of Credits. While a perfectly functional setup in most cases, we realized that with some users who hoard piles of Celestium, Credits become obsolete. This inadvertently discourages the core loop as you retain little to no benefit from battles.

It’s quite clear now that we need to have alternate methods of spending Credits. The big question is how to go about this. In situations like these you, as a designer, are typically faced with two options: make a fix to the mechanics, or create a new feature. Both resolutions have their own pros and cons. Fixes in core mechanics tend to have repercussions on other unintended parts of the game, tilting the game from another corner, but if designed well they can be unobtrusive and clean solutions. New features bring about a lot of excitement and possibilities, but tend to bloat the game and harbor danger of diverting focus from the proven and functional core game. A fix is inherently less painful to create when you factor in the workload on your team, so that is naturally what I’ll be looking into first.

After theorizing with multiple fixes, ranging from limiting Celestium purchases to removing Credits altogether, I concluded that none of these ideas are enjoyable or feasible. Then it is time to approach the option of a new feature, and giddily did I this task approach. Since we were going to plug in a new feature, I might as well swat another issue while at it. The plan was to make a Credit sink that would further diversify the gaming experience for our players.

While in earlier stages of development I find it good practice to approach design in an analytical and scientific manner, I do not believe this mindset is the best one for a new feature at this phase. So I play the game vigorously and gradually transform my perspective from game designer to fanatic player, and once the transition is complete, I think of what the feature that I, as a player, would love to have. The answer comes surprisingly naturally.

The new design has to enable massive Credit spending, and it has to tie in beautifully with the nature of the game. The core game is built around competition and battles, so that’s what I’ll design around. The battles are normally one-on-one spaceship duels against another player, but I’ve long wanted to have larger scraps involving more players. Technical limitations made it impossible to run such a mode in a similar, high detail format on the mobile, but now we have an opportunity to create that mode in a different manner.

The design of what I call the FFA Arena (free-for-all) was born. Players buy entire fleets of ships with Credits, and once their setup is ready, they send them off into large scale melees where there could be up to 50 ships involved. The battle is simulated on the server and the result is sent back to the players who can subsequently inspect the battle report. Ships destroyed in the FFA mode are permanently destroyed, so both the risks and rewards are higher. The mode does not reward new Credits (lest it counter its purpose), but instead grants large amounts of Experience, and even small surprises of Celestium.

The end result is a feature that allows big spenders and risk-takers to earn well deserved boosts to their progression speed, that enables players to engage in massive battles against their peers and is hassle-free and neat. But, above all else, it serves its primary function as a Credit sink incredibly well.

So, let’s glance through this in summary. The foundation of your game is done, and now you need to build and improve on what you have.

1. Identify your game’s most pressing problem.

2. Does addressing the issue require a fix or a new feature?

3. Understand what the Player wants.

4. Design the fix or feature with respect to the Core Game.

5. Implement with passion.

 


That’s all for this time! Perhaps the next blog will explore the unforseen hazards of shoving in new features…

Best,
Risto

 

This article was originally posted in blog.epic-owl.com by Epic Owl‘s CCO/Founder Risto Holmström.

Follow Epic Owl in twitter: @epicowlltd and check out Epic Owl’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/epicowl.

Authors
Juha Vainio

Founder and CEO of Epic Owl Ltd, a Finnish game company that makes mobile games for hard core gamers.

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