A Rewarding Player Experience for your Games.
As developers you face many concerns from your audience regarding the replayability of your games. Often times the solo indie developer will create casual games, and put them on the mobile app stores for their preferred devices and be unprepared for the responses that may come from the public eye, or lack thereof.
When it comes to a successful game there is no “secret sauce”, but there are some things you should consider and be aware of for pretty much most genres. Our focus in this article however will be on “Hyper Casual” or Arcade games. We will be borrowing our community member Oj, or “Ojzach#9271” as seen in discord and his game that’s in the process of development called “Wood Runner 2” and taking a look at ways to improve replay-ability to an already functional title.
Wood Runner 2 is a rather addictive infinite runner that's in the early development stages, and can be played here: ( https://gamejolt.com/games/woodRunner2/369872 ).
Oj is a talented young developer and continues to increase his skill. When he’s not busy at home and school, he’s hanging out with us in discord increasing his knowledge, sharing it, and being an awesome advisor to our community.
The goal of this article is to share the same conversation I had with OJ about changes that can be made to polish games off and provide a real commercial feel to it. The findings here are based on research I’ve conducted myself, and you can compare the results to your own findings and determine if it is something you’ll choose to use or not.
Simple actions, dramatic execution.
In Wood Runner 2 the player uses the A and D keys to move across the center lane of rivers and rocks to try and cut down trees as you make impact with them. The longer you last, the faster the game speed increases. Hitting the rocks or falling in the river takes away lives which you have a total of three to keep you going.
Very simple functionality like this has huge success on the mobile market. Ease of use, very casual one handed play, feel great. However, there are some major understandings developers should have as to what makes one game with the same functions shine over the others. This comes down what I simply state as simple action, dramatic execution.
To take advantage of simple game play mechanics, you have to provide an over dramatic simple experience. Let’s make an example of the basics:
Tap the screen, and your character jumps. He lands on a coin and it is collected at the top right of the screen.
Very standard right? Now here is what I would do to turn this basic function into something interesting.
Particles, Colors, and Animations - Oh my!
Tap the screen and your character jumps. Particles splash out where your finger touches. A trail of motion appears behind the character while he is in moving through arched physics that follows him as his direction changes in the air.
When he lands on the coin it shatters into particles towards the front direction of the character as if he crashed it so hard it shot forward, and those particles appear to get sucked back inwards at increasing speeds and interesting shapes as it makes impact to your score adding the points together for each particle smashed into the previous number.
You see how this is a much more dramatic approach to the simple action? All we are still doing is just jumping and collecting a coin, but by applying all these additional effects to the action we create a dramatic execution that makes the action of collecting the coin feel rewarding. This simple understanding creates a massive effect to your audience, and is something that I see all to often missed in early developers.
In OJ’s case, perhaps what can happen is when you impact the tree, the tree crumbles into particles, or falls over into the river and shakes the camera and little pieces of logs fly off into the UI and get collected! When sliding left and right to dodge things, a smooth transition of animating the cube left and right into place with perhaps a smear of color on the ground leaving a trail everywhere he’s touched making cool patterns on the ground. When he dies, perhaps he explodes into little cubes.
Perhaps you could get rid of the cube and add a lumberjack who is angrily swinging in front of him hoping to hit a tree eventually. The possibilities are endless, and with a little dramatization the simple act of collecting trees can be a blissful visual experience that captivates users to continue further and further. Whatever direction is chosen, there is always tons and tons of creative approaches to truly master a dramatic execution to simple casual actions.
The Sounds of Development.
Additionally as with particles and effects, sound is equally important. A lot of people ive met actually play mobile games with the sound off. This is generally only because they are in a public space like the work restroom or hanging out at parties refusing to socialize.
Usually though, if they are away from those scenarios they’ve heard the game sounds, and I personally always hear the sound when I’m playing a game in my head because i’ve heard it so many times before that it still ends up rewarding. So don’t skimp out on sound!
The psychology of rewarding sounds is rather in depth. Essentially its like ASMR effects on the brain, without the weird shivers (usually). You can check out a list of games that successfully provide awesome sound effects on little things like collecting coins and feathers and whatever other items available to give yourself the cutting edge here in this video I pulled for you: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6USSr7L6Sk ).
Let's take OJ’s game for example. Imagine the sound of sliding your feet on a wood floor, or the sound cardboard sliding on ice as a makeshift sled every time you slide from left to right across the forest. Or the sounds of trees cracking in the wind as they fall over to the ground, and apply a screen shake as it hits and the thunderous bass kicks in on impact. See what I mean? I know you hear it in your head, and I know you love it! Haha.
Rewards, and Collection.
In our last bit to this article, we go over the art of collection. Outside of ensuring there is fun effects, and funny sounds, and playful physics to keep us entertained, you can add additional objectives to your game without adding additional functions. This would be what you know as achievements, or objectives even.
Take a classic town builder game. Once I play actually is Rise of Civilizations. (Shameless plug, Add me Ryoxis on kingdom #32 if you play, 800k Power. Yeap. I did that. )
In RoC the game functions are all laid out. You build your city, you gain troops, you gather for resources, and fight other cities. Every day however a random objective is provided for you. Each objective provided to you gives you a hefty incentive to complete it. The objective is always focused around pushing you to play the game a certain way, or complete an action to keep you motivated to continue. In most cases my objectives are go kill barbarians, and be rewarded free resources so you have to gather less today.
Additionally over time you get a list of achievements. Set up more like weekly goals. Be it the amount of troops you have or how many times you’ve gone out and gathered resources. These objectives are similar to your daily ones, but more so counts a larger total. So instead of Go kill 10 barbarians like todays objective, it says complete 10 daily objectives about barbarians. So now there is a even higher tier reward for completing the lower tier action. See how this creates cause for you to continue playing? The rewards get larger and larger as time goes on and the difficulty increases.
Let’s take OJ’s game for example. While we have a much simplier game, we can still create rewards that give you incentive to alter the way you play. Instead of just worrying about logs and your score, perhaps we say that collecting 10 logs in a row without losing a life once, grants you a new life. Now you have a new way to gain life instead of just potions. Maybe collecting three potions to heal 3 times in a row gives you invulnerability so you can just plow through the forest for a moment. Perhaps getting a game over 3 times gives you a burst of speed forward on your next restart to make it easier to get to the better speeds. The options here are equally as endless and there are tons of ways to apply these type of objectives.
To keep it in the spirit of achievements, you can maybe make a menu with a list of all the possibilities and keep track of how many time you’ve done them. Maybe if you manage to activate invulnerability 20 times you get to start the game with a free invulnerability at the start now every time. Now you want to aim at these goals to increase your chances of survival to get you farther and farther every time you play.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that even with all these things it does not determine the success of your game, but it does certainly help. I’d like to take a moment to thank Oj for continuing to be an awesome community member, and for letting me take the time of using his game as an example during this article.
Hopefully after reading it himself, he becomes inspired to add all kinds of things to his title and really ready it up. If you’ve played his game, please take the time to reach out to him and congratulate him on his progress. There are many members of our community that deserve the same congratulatory commendation, and I can’t wait to dig further into our community to ensure I can do so.
I hope some of you found this insightful. Let me know in the comments what kind of actions you add to your games to make them rewarding to play. I look forward to seeing what you all create.