Gamer Hate

Belligerently lacking in remorse.

Friday, March 10, 2017

GDC Notes – 2016

So I was thinking… I archive almost everything I do, in terms of game design. Meetings, discussions, plans for new game mechanics, games, features, storylines… Stuff that will never ever be used, or help anyone (except myself). I saw that as unfair, so I’m just going to start posting random stuff that I think might be useful to others here. Because why not.

Here are my notes from GDC 2016, mostly in shorthand based on my understanding of what was said. For some real fun you could potentially look up the lectures in the GDC vault and see if you agree or disagree with what I thought. 😉

GDC Takeaways

Social Media Q&A
Developing a community and keeping them informed is critical to success.
Amazon Monetization
We should sell t-shirts, use Amazon Coins, and Amazon Underground.
Digital River Monetization
Americans use Credit Cards and Paypal, buying things is scary.
Free To Play Design Roundtable
How does New York Times have subscriptions but remain in games?
Digital River Monetization Esports
Tailor ads to consumer, use visuals.
UX Onboarding Notes
Make players fall in love with your game (then shake them down for cash).
Design Roundtable Loot Tables and Rogue-Likes
True random sucks, never do it.
Character Design for Diverse Audiences
Make characters racially ambiguous to attract adults and kids.
Vungle Secret to Game Profitability
Buying installs is stupid, make your customers spam their friends.
Design Roundtable – Mind Altering Design
Celebrate good stuff, make good things happen if bad stuff is happening too much.

Social Media Q&A
Ideas for Improvement
– Release Beta of games to Newsletter readers for early feedback and to grow our community while making them feel appreciated.
– Create community site for games. Blog, forum, etc. Collect feedback, color code it.
– Consider Tone of Voice, potential tagline to create personality (e.g. Hey Solvers!), generally build identity.
– Research journalists, reach out to those who would appreciate our products.
– Use e-mails with gifs attached to demonstrate gameplay (wordventure promo).
– Write in tone of demographic, make up a character that is your audience and speak like them based on where you’re posting.
How to Build Following
– Post pictures with every post. Text is scrolled past by most.
– Use #ScreenshotSaturdays
– Find # for similar games and hijack their threads (e.g. #NYTimes
– 1/3rd of posts about our stuff, 1/3rd engaging with others who do similar stuff, 1/3rd amplification of other people’s messages (become part of community).
– Post videos of products.
Dev Blog
– Post content daily to create backlog of information.
– Create community and interest pre-release (e.g for Wordventures).
– Read community feedback to improve games.
– Post often.
Older Women
– Keep messages short. Imitate those with similar messages.
– Use # for that age group (research). Do they even use twitter?
– Talk to older women, get reactions.
– Use Fiver…
– Facebook interest graph?
Hiring Community Manager
– Look for most engaged and dedicated in community.
– Test them with questions from community reviews.
– Writing test/style: reviewer vs PR vs marketing.

Amazon Monetization
Amazon Coins – Discounts and incentives for users, while devs get full price of coins.
Merch by Amazon – Shirts and other stuff printed on demand with no min/max. We get money, no overhead.
Amazon Underground – Free to users, amazon pays us per minute of play (approximately USD 0.12/hour). Based on median engagement (5 minutes) and 50,000 DAU, roughly USD 2,500 per day).

Selling Points for Amazon
– Higher conversion to payers among amazon coin customers.
– Can spike sales with 20% amazon coin return scheme on IAPs.
Other Tips
– Use merch as community engagement tool, ask them what art they want to see (wordventures).
Digital River Monetization

PC Gaming
– Free to play growing. Steam growing.
– Global PC market 25.5 billion with ½ revenue from DLC.
– Subscriptions are in decline.
– Payment methods by country differ:
– U.S. favors: Visa +30%, Paypal 24%, Debit 15%, Mastercard 10%.
– Germany favors: Paypal 52%, Paypal Express 10%, Paysafe 8%, Credit/Debit 12%.
Purchase Point Notes
– 50% cancel transaction if preferred payment method is not available (44% US, 61% Germany).
– Reduce spending friction by saving billing information/user account when possible.
– Have a confirmation screen to reassure customer that payment was successful.
– Visual design of payment screens should be our brand/product/company (not payment company, or other non-related graphics).
– Checkout Resistance Issues:
– Website insecure 62%.
– Preferred method not available 44%.
– Redirected to website 43%.
– Took too long (too many screens) 40%.
– Bounced to new window (feels insecure).

Free To Play Design Roundtable

Coin Economy Tips
– Give currency for free so people use it more frequently.
– Hard currency price should have higher value to time.
– Create collection systems (gatcha system).
– Subscription requires you to leave games category in Apple store (NY Times doesn’t??).
– Incentivized ads, cannot use if under 13.
– Separate cash and grind currencies.
– Time vs Money vs Friends – 3 currency types.
– Allow to convert between currencies.
– New currency every X levels in order to prevent mudflation.
– Raffles to remove money from economy.

Prevention of Cheating
– Delay sales/transfer of items to make it harder to steal (gold farmers).
– Chargebacks can cause Visa to close your account.
– Limit gifts per day.
– Hard drive ID – if you chargeback you get banned.
– Limit or eliminate P2P transactions.
– Increase time to enter the regular game economy cycle.

General Notes
– Plan for A/B testing and put elements in place for it.
– Change text colors and other innocuous seeming things to check if they influence purchases (e.g. red text increases purchases in America).

Digital River Monetization Esports
General Notes
– Contextual ads are important: they need to be relevant to the users.
– Build loyalty to your app/brand first, then advertise to the loyalists.
– Value added content: get X if you buy Y or N% off if you buy Y.
– Customer loyalty card or discounts?
– Use visuals when advertising, makes it easier to get a return.
– 15 second videos are very popular (vines).
– Animated gifs.
UX Onboarding Notes
Core Notes
– Balance luck versus skill to develop sense of mastering the game.
– Simple inputs that lead to a variety of outputs (duh).
– “Right” amount of choices. Don’t overwhelm, don’t give impression of overly simplistic.
– Clear consequence of actions (I do this, I understand that X will occur).
– Clear path to improvement of player’s “account,” (e.g. collection or experience or skill practice).
– Innovate… um… duh.
– Ask yourself: “What would it take to make me fall in love with this game?”

Theme
– Keeps player invested until they learn core mechanics.
– Sound, graphics, music, story, etc. All to keep player invested until the mechanics of the game become known and understood as a path to self-improvement.
– Replicate emotions of universal experiences (e.g. Walking Dead Season 1, teaching a child).
– Doing > Showing > Telling : Make players complicit in the core premise of the game/theme.
– Environmental storytelling, characters & animations, etc.

Design Roundtable Loot Tables and Rogue-Likes

Procedural Generation
– Provide context, where will this drop, is it appropriate for this area/creature?
– Use procedural for basic items.
– Prefix/Suffix to match themes, categorize by theme.
– Don’t try to be too specific to player experience, match the world/theme, or it feels contrived.
– E.g. Nemesis System (Shadows of Mordor) : Orcs fight orcs, what are events that would occur, what are the outcomes, how does this affect the world?
– Spend money to bypass randomness.
– Use progressive % to fix short term random frustration.
Character Design for Diverse Audiences
General
– Phenotypic identifiers that match user increase player interactivity.
– People look for phenotypic identifiers that they identify with, so characters of ambiguous or mysterious backgrounds tend to get identified as the player’s race.
– Character abstraction or ambiguity allows players to identify by parts that they believer are similar to them.
– Children 8-12 said that they preferred “Mysterious” character they can’t racially identify.

Vungle Secret to Game Profitability
The Problem
– LifeTime Value vs Customer Acquisition Cost of every user.
– 1.2 to 1.5 USD is a healthy value.
– Average CPI USD 4.00 * 1.2 = USD 4.80
– .012 per impression : of 5000, 770 engage.
– .09 per attentive view : 770, 194 click
– .34 per click, 194, 17 install
– 4.00 per install, 17, 1 pays
– Grand total of USD 67 per paying user. Compared to 4.80… hahaha… omg.

Solutions
– Qualify users through creative ads. Create ads for each segment, target them.
– Personalize first experience, good 1st impression (onboarding).
– Higher quality users through friends: facebook share, ask a friend about a puzzle via chat?
– Rewarded videos – Watch this get that.
– Push notification messages, determined by ad company?
– Give users deep links that benefit them if they share it (e.g. here’s your special link, share with friends, whoever uses it and installs our app, you get something).
Design Roundtable – Mind Altering Design
General
– Negatives should eventually build up to positives (e.g. after X wrong answers you get a free hint).
– Have an engagement currency – e.g. Solver Coins that are earned by solving puzzles or just by being in the app (typically done as a daily login bonus). Cannot be purchased with money.
– Steer towards largest sale : Best most obvious option to make player feel good about their choice (yeah I made the right call).
– Emphasize celebrations.
– Set goals but give them the benefit of already partially completed tasks.
– Players that get to see an end boss or get very close to a completion of a puzzle but then fail, tend to blame themselves rather than the game for the failur.
– Remind players when they are close to completion of certain goals to get more engagement (counter on magazine covers to show how many puzzles are left?).
– Bucket quests – prioritized by things player enjoys doing and is focused on (other quests are deprecated until player focuses on them). Reduces noise and potential to overwhelm.
– The more rare the event, the more impressive the celebration should be.

posted by CommanderHate at 2:37 am  

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Tencent’s Acquisition of Supercell

First you must read about the potential hostile takeover of Supercell by Tencent.

Tencent is basically initiating a hostile takeover of Supercell. The developer who brought us 2 of the most successful global mobile games in recent history. Clash of Clans, and Clash Royale (setting aside Hayday and Boom Beach for now, which are also successes). What this primarily means is that within China, Supercell will now become a major influence in their mobile game market. How Tencent will change the game and Supercell’s structure itself remains to be seen.

Will they make dramatic changes? Probably not to Supercell itself or to their games on the global market. Instead, they will likely add things to their games specifically for China’s internal software market (they have separate app stores from the rest of the world). They may add QQ and other layers in to entice and keep Chinese players playing the app.

If Riot Game’s acquisition is any indicator, this will be a net positive for Supercell, as they will likely be able to initiate new projects with Tencent’s money, or at the very least generate revenue from China far beyond what they were able to get on their own (for reference, only Clash Royale is just barely in the top 25 grossing apps in China). Given the 6.6 billion that Tencent has paid, you can rest assured that they are certain they will make this money back and then some over the course of 5 years. The real question is, what will Tencent do with all these acquisitions when their income finally slows and if they have no other products prepared.

posted by CommanderHate at 11:18 pm  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The End of Organized Game Media?

I’ve been reading recently about the struggles of organized game media news companies, such as The Escapist (one of my favorites when they started). With the shut down of Game Trailers, it’s apparent that game news media sites are deep in the shit. Their struggles revolve around the fact that the majority of us really don’t care what they have to say anymore. I mean, yes, it’s good to get an informed opinion on a topic, but as we all know, when it comes to the “professional news media,” they often don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

This has been more true of standard News Media, such as Fox News, CNN, etc. If you’ve ever been involved in a news story or personally knew the facts about something they were reporting on, you know that they get shit wrong all the time. This isn’t too far off from what I’ve seen from Game News Media organizations that, for whatever reason, couldn’t be arsed to do the job they’re purportedly created to do. Which is give honest and accurate information about games.

So what are the major issues that these dying game media sources need to deal with in order to survive?

1. Stop fucking taking money from game companies and publishers. Just stop fucking doing it. “Oh we need advertising dollars to blah blah” shut the fuck up! If you were legit and honest, people might pay for your service. Right now, we know you’re full of shit half the time, so why would we give you money for inaccurate reporting?

2. Admit your damn biases. Everyone is biased in some way. Every person you have working on game reviews or content for your media sites has their own personal preferences and biases. Admit to them, EMBRACE THEM! Let us know that you fucking love RPGs and that you’ve never met an RPG you wouldn’t have babies with, so that we go to you for detailed information about RPGs… That’s why you’re really losing your audience… Which brings us to…

3. Youtubers, Let’s Play, and independent individuals are KICKING YOUR FUCKING ASSES. Why? Because they are open and honest. They present themselves as human beings, as biased sources, as people with preferences, and they (mostly) don’t take money from corporations to give their views. Everything worth having now is crowd sourced. Let me repeat that… Everything new and innovate that we want, comes from us giving money to support those things. If you don’t have credibility, you have nothing, and right now, I would trust Pewdiepie over GamePro or PCGamer or even The Escapist. Though that wasn’t always the case.

4. Game News Media is suffering from a severe case of corporate necrosis. I look back at things that The Escapist produced when they first started, and I’ve read a few recent articles. The difference is night and day and it happens to every company at some point: they get big, they get set in their ways, and they stop doing things out of love, and they start doing them because it makes money. Most people who work in the game industry do so out of a love for games, and what happens at larger corporations is that the process of making games gets removed from you. You have to follow all the rules and regulations set forth by management types who haven’t created anything in perhaps a decade or more. Worse, they may simply tell you exactly what to do (like put a turret here because marketing believes people like turrets and mowing down enemies every X minutes of gameplay). The end result is passionless decrepit products that eventually no one wants. Just take a look at any franchise that EA gets a hold of and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. This is what Game News Media is going through right now, and the first to fall are the ones who don’t have their own personalities creating content. Which brings us to…

5. You’re two steps removed from your audience. You have the outward layer of the corporate brand, then you have the inner layer of your writers and content creators. Your outer layer prevents the inner layer from connecting with people, for better and for worse. Maybe you have great writers and content creators, but because you’re representing yourselves as brands, the people beneath that layer of the brand are obscured and often interchangeable (though not always, as is the case with Zero Punctuation at The Escapist). The end result is that the people who come to your site fail to make a human connection with your content creators. They must ask, can I trust your brand as a whole? Because maybe Gershwin will write that article on that game I’m interested in… or maybe it will be Mr.Fuckrpgs who fucking hates RPGs. Do I know that Mr.Fuckrpgs hates RPGs when I read his article? Maybe I figure it out, maybe I don’t, but if Mr.Fuckrpgs shits on a game that I later try and like, guess what happens to your brand? I don’t trust it anymore.

Corporate styled branded game media outlets are on their way out in a similar way that magazines and print media are on their way out. They’ve been superseded by something that people find more trustworthy, more human, more up to date, more able to quickly respond to whatever is trending or coming out. That is to say, individuals who review games or talk about games. Pewdiepie, Angry Joe, and a litany of other youtube and on-line personalities have a much stronger connection to their audience. There’s no confusion about the sorts of things they like or dislike, because anyone who follows them will hear about their likes and dislikes 10 times per video they watch. Their biases are fully known entities the majority of the time, and their unwillingness to accept corporate money or stay on the good side of various publishers is something they tend to discuss openly and honestly with their audience.

We don’t know what sort of things Ubisoft or EA or whatever publisher has forbidden a Game News Media brand from saying, writing, or discussing openly. We do know that there are various nefarious back door dealings that go on in order to stay in their good graces and get review copies of games. We also generally know that such things don’t occur with various youtube personalities, or if they do, these personalities often discuss it openly.

When it comes to games news media, we don’t know who we can trust. Which is why youtube personalities and individual game writers who turn themselves into personalities are on the rise (or really, they’ve already won). They can be open and honest and say things that a corporate brand really can’t. Even if someone did speak for a game news media brand, they’d never be trusted in the same way that a person facing a camera and speaking their mind will be.

posted by CommanderHate at 5:02 am  

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