CRITICAL ANALYSIS AND REFLECTIVE JOURNAL:
Once I decided that I wanted to make an endless runner game, I needed to get straight in my head what it is that makes a basically a repetitive game so popular. The answer in part is that they have basic controls, simple gameplay and extreme replayability.
For my game to be successful, the player needs to get a little further down the track each time. Ideally, this needs to be through upgrades and bonuses so I need to figure this aspect out very early on in development. Since coin collection is the key mechanic I need to make sure that it works well.
This is going to take careful planning and is going to be the most challenging part of the game because it is the make or break aspect of the game.
I’m aiming to make a free to play game (or a token amount say 69p) where you have to play the game consistently over time to get an upgrade. There will be an option to purchase coins and upgrades to progress more quickly but you won’t need to purchase to enjoy the game. The game will have incremental improvements and my upgrades will help players achieve longer runs consistently and won’t be very hard to get so you will enjoy the game and be motivated to keep playing.
Most companies try a range of monetisation techniques for free-to-play games. The endless runner genre provides hours of entertainment for players and can still provide income for the developers and games companies through the merits of a good game design. It’s a bit like when Netflix automatically runs to the next episode and you’re sucked in to watching it – with a good endless runner game you can’t resist just one more go.
It’s getting annoying that games are called free-to-play but in fact they are anything but free to play. That’s why I’m considering a small charge so players and parents of young kids buying games know exactly what they are buying.
I will definitely not be using microtransactions as a way to make money from my game.
The modified table below is 15 design patterns specific to endless games and their relevance based on a study by CAO, D. (2016) Game Design Patterns in Endless Mobile Minigames, Master Thesis, Malmo University. Available from https://muep.mau.se/bitstream/handle/2043/21375/DavidCao_GameDesignPatternsInEmm_2016.pdf?sequence=2
I will make sure that my game has all the essential elements listed below and I will continue to research throughout the development of my game.
|1||Endless mode||Infinite gameplay, no winning state, one level||Essential|
|2||Quick progressive difficulty||Elevation of difficulty, short-liveliness, difficulty limit||Essential|
|3||Random level generation||Progressive addition of level pieces, difficulty of level pieces||Essential|
|4||Protagonist||Main character, inter- action through physics||Not a necessity|
|5||Score system||Point system, high score||Essential|
|6||Obstacle||Impediment, avoidance, dynamic/static||Essential|
|7||Supporting object||Helps player, dynamic/static, platform||Not a necessity|
|8||Simple control||No complex controls, taps/swipes/tilt||Not a necessity|
|9||Power ups and specials||Facilitates gameplay for short period||Not a necessity|
|10||Currency||Collected while playing, usage in store, ex- change with items||Not a necessity|
|11||Challenge||Specific mission while playing, earn extra coins||Not a necessity|
|12||Character selection||Visuals of protagonist||Not a necessity|
|13||Mini tutorial||Instructions, graphical/textual||Not a necessity|
|14||Leaderboard||Comparison of high- score, global/local||Not a necessity|
|15||Store||Buy items/characters, real money/virtual currency||Not a necessity|
Björk, S. and Holopainen, J., Patterns in Game Design, Charles River Media, isbn 1-58450-354-8, 2004. Available from: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.629.6783&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Lundgren, Björk, Sus, Holopainen, Jussi, Game Design Patterns, Play Interactive Institute, Nokia Research Center, Level Up – Proceedings of Digital Games Research Conference 2003, Utrecht.
Oh, Chang-su Kim Eun-hai and Hoon, Kyung and Kim, Jae Kyung, The appealing characteristics of download type mobile games, doi 10.1007/s11628-009-0088-0, pp. 253-269, 2010.
Rubem Jose Vasconcelos de Medeiros, Tacio Filipe Vasconcelos de Medeiros, Procedural Level Balancing in Runner Games, ISSN: 2179-2259, pp. 797-801, 2014.
Park, Hyun Jung and Kim, Sang-hoon, A Bayesian network approach to examining key success factors of mobile games, Publisher: Elsevier Inc., issn 0148-2963, doi 10.1016/j.jbusres.2012.02.036, pp. 1353 1359, 2013.
Sun, Y., Zhao, Y., Jia, S., Zheng, D., Understanding the Antecedents of Mobile Game Addiction: The Roles of perceived Visibility perceived Enjoyment and Flow, National Natural Science Foundation of China, Project No. 71201118, Hubei Province Science and Technology Support Program No. 2014BDF106, 2014.
Supporting my reflective Journal
Microtransactions are something that I want to research further and I am going to make this the subject matter of my Reflective Journal. Games companies have introduced “loot boxes” which encourages you to spend money to unlock favourite characters or other in-game rewards. This is on top of the price for the game which is around £50 so games companies are double dipping. Normally you could complete the game entirely without spending any money or if you did spend money it would be just for skins or character customisation for mainly aesthetic purposes.
When Star Wars Battlefront 11 was released a member of Reddit posted a comment that he had to spend $80 to unlock Darth Vader. In response to EA’s claim that you could unlock popular characters by playing the game and that you didn’t have to pay, members of Reddit compiled a spreadsheet that showed it would take 40 hours to unlock a single popular character so they clearly designed the game to get people to spend money.
Another issue is that you don’t necessarily get anything when you pay your money. Baseball card example.
Far worse than the fact that gamers are being exploited, are the charges that microtransactions are a form of gambling and target the vulnerable.
So, what are microtransactions?
Defined by en.oxforddictionaries.com as “A very small financial transaction conducted online” and further ‘analysts believe the company would earn a lot from pay-as-you-go microtransactions’
‘the game derives all of its revenue from microtransactions’
They have been around since at least 2010 but with the increase in smartphones and as a result mobile apps, game companies realised there was a shift and they couldn’t charge the same money for an app as they did for a game and microtransactions took off.
I intend to examine the relationship between manipulative nature of microtransactions and gambling and the lack of regulation for gaming companies when all other sources of online gambling is highly regulated.
There is also an argument that microtransactions target the vulnerable and exploit their weakness, the young or the people with an addictive personality.
“With advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, it may become possible that one day publishers can tailor in-game purchases. Like customizing microtransactions to your gaming abilities and price sensitivity to encourage more spending”. Intelligent Economist. This takes me right back to my starting point for this game.
There are a lot of studies, articles and posts about the psychology of microtransactions which I intend to read to inform my reflection, including:
International Journal of Internet Science, 2015, The Hidden Cost of Microtransactions: Buying In-Game Advantages in Online Games Decreases a Player’s Status
Laurijsen, D.W.J., Tilburg University, Running head: MICROTRANSACTIONS AND PLAYER SATISFACTION.
The Troubling Psychology of Pay-to-Loot Systems. Available from: http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/04/24/the-troubling-psychology-of-pay-to-loot-systems
Activision Patents Matchmaking That Encourages Players to Buy Microtransactions. Available from: https://kotaku.com/activision-patents-matchmaking-that-encourages-players-1819630937
The Physiology of Gaming. Available from: https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RaminShokrizade/20180108/312629/The_Physiology_of_Gaming.php
Park Associates, Trends in Digital Gaming: Free-to-play, Social, and Mobile Games. Available from: http://www.parksassociates.com/bento/shop/whitepapers/files/Parks%20Assoc%20Trends%20in%20Digital%20Gaming%20White%20Paper.pdf
Eira A. EkreThe Whales of Microtransactions, and the Elephant in the Room. Available from: https://modelviewculture.com/pieces/the-whales-of-microtransactions-and-the-elephant-in-the-room
Microtransactions: the scourge of the industry. Available from: http://mancunion.com/2017/09/25/microtransactions-scourge-gaming-industry/