Monday, August 19, 2013

Casual Connect 2013: Three Things to Think About When Designing Free-to-Play Games

by Tim Letourneau, CCO, Zynga

·         Summary: Have a long-term creative vision, balance your economy, and emphasize the social element.
·         Michaelangelo’s Sistene Chapel is considered fine art, but we often forget that it was also commercial. The work was commissioned by the church. This is similar to games; it’s both an art and a commercial product.
·         Free-to-play games are like a tv show. There’s no inherent cost to entry or initial investment, so it’s very easy for the audience to leave if they’re not engaged in the first few minutes.
·         There are three important things to think about when designing free-to-play games.
1.     Have a long-term creative vision. The future will be here before you know it, so you must have content planned out at least a year in advance. Don’t be like Happy Days and “jump the shark,” adding in content that don’t fit in well with the pillars of the brand. Create an “onion skin development model,” mapping your game out as a series of concentric circles. The core of the onion is the core of your game and each successive layer are new features that prolong the lifespan of the game. In the case of Farmville 2, the core features were crops, animals, and crafting, and the second layer included the country fair and competitions.
2.     Balance your economy. Tuning will make you or break you. The economy can’t be too complex for the player or too easy to exploit. Think about sessions per day, session length, virtuous consumption models, compulsion models, and strategy vs. grind vs. luck.
3.     Emphasize social. The common languages for social are awareness, togetherness, commitment, and community. Get people to talk to each other and share your game.

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