Thursday, April 24, 2014

Gumball Fall - Keep 'em Coming Back

Version 0.10.7 Released:

GumBall Fall v0.10.7: Web Player | AndroidGoogle Play BETA | Google+ | Twitter

Major Changes in v0.10.6 (April 25, 2014):
  • [Fix] Changing name should now properly save
  • Rework of the guts of the Game Active state to make it a bit more robust
  • Any remaining Bomb Balls at the end of the round will detonate. Any gumball caught in the Bomb Ball’s radius will be added to the player’s score
  • Leaderboards now show player’s rank for Daily/Weekly/Alltime
  • Introducing Daily Challenge Boards:
  • Each day, a new, predetermined board will be presented to the player
  • The player can see the ‘normal’ leaderboard for today’s challenge
  • The player can see his/her Rank for today’s and yesterday’s games from the main menu
Major Changes in v0.10.7 (Mar 26, 2014):
  • Tutorial rework. They now more closely represent actual game play
  • Graphical Updates

Sooooo, you have a game, but, after a few plays, what motivates the player to keep playing? That's a loaded question with an infinite number of answers, but, player retension is certainly a key metric to consider when developing your game.

First and foremost, you need an enjoyable game. But, even with that, the player will eventually get bored. She wants a challenge and at some point your game just isn't going to cut it.


Effective, but, too time consuming to create

For Gumball Fall, I opted to NOT introduce the concept of game levels. Perhaps that's an ill-advised choice, but, introducing levels into a game inevitably requires one to actually develop unique/fun/interesting/engaging levels. When done right, the results can be fantastic. Extending your game's lifespan can be as easy as releasing new levels for fans to play. But, alas, level design can be a huge time-sink... Even if you come up with a way to proceduraly generate GOOD levels. When you're creating a game with a round-completion time of under a minute, you're not developing 1 or 10 or even 20 levels; you're talking about developing 100 or 200 or 300 levels as well as a back-end framework to support them.


Will Daily Competitions generate repeat players?

In lieu of game level progress, I opted to roll the dice with the allure of competition being my main form of player motivation. Several releases ago, weekly and daily leaderboards made their way into the game. For each of the four game variations, the player could now see a more localized score target to gun for. But, I was looking for more...

The first 'more' has been introduced in v0.10.6, Daily Challenge Boards. The concept is simply: For 24 hours, a unique competition board is made available. The board will generate gumballs in a predetermined order giving all participants the same set of gumballs to play with; giving them a level playing field, if you will.

The hope is, given a time-limited goal, the player will be enticed to complete it. Once complete, she'll have motivation to relaunch the game the next day to find out her results. Aaaaand... since she's already loaded the game, she'll hopefully feel compelled to compete in the new Daily Challenge. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

What's currently implemented, is far from ideal. Short of seeing their rank, the player receives no other positive reinforcement. There's no celebration music for being in the Top 10. No medals to reward a high rank. No confetti exploding. No tracking of historical data (i.e. how many times has the player been ranked #1, Top 5, Top 10, etc.). Nothing. That'll come... eventually.


Even if Daily Challenges catch on, that's still only tapping one segment of the population: The Competition Crowd. How can I up my odds of retaining the folks that could care less about competition? Right now, my thoughts are leaning toward appealing to the Collection Crowd (i.e the Completionists).

Players LOVE achievements

Achievements for the Xbox caught on for a reason: People love to see that 1000/1000. There's something compelling about 'completely finishing' a game. And, companies took notice. Sony introduced trophies in the Playstation platform. Valve introduced achievements into Steam. Apple, Google and Amazon introduced similar accomplishment tracking. The list goes on. I'm currently in the early planning stages of integrating Achievements into Gumball Fall. Along with implementing a more traditional set of achievements (most likely tied to Google+ and/or Amazon) I'm also considering offering Daily Challenges/Achievements as well. Think Subway Surfers and similar games. Each day, the player must complete a (usually) simple challenge to collect a reward. Completing challenges across multiple days equates to even larger rewards. Bottom line: The player (hopefully) keeps coming back for more

So, what do you think of my plans? Good? Bad? Ugly? What other 'hooks' might be out there just waiting to be tapped? Drop me a message if you have some ideas!

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