GameDesign for Software

Posted by in Ventures

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I was lucky enough to attend this year’s #GDCEurope in Germany. GDC Europe is the little sister of the main conference that takes place yearly in San Francisco, but nevertheless since a big part of the most creative game studios is located in Old Europe, this conference had nothing to envy to its bigger sister.

A lot of my readers have no clue about games. They find it childish and consider them as a waste of time. I’m not going to argue their views here, yet if you look at it from afar, games are massive software projects involving very different skills from pixel artists to assembly language developers al aiming at creating emotions through a unique interactive experience.

And those projects are really massive, seeing how CTC (EVE Online) and Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain) are handling virtual teams and subcontractors while still ensuring a high level of quality and timely execution is really impressive. Quantic Dream for instance has designed highly detailed “subcontractor pack” with all the raws elements and the artwork for a scene for the 3D artists and level designers to build. In their case managing the subcontractors and preparing their work seems something like 30% of the company’s total energy (they are about 100).

One of the main theme this year was “casual is the new hardcore”. Even non-gamers have got addicted to casual Facebook games such as Farmville and spend countless hours on them. I have a few raw notes on this topic I wanted to share :

  • Setting up a 2D casual game should be around 50keur (Unity 3D game is about 250k, Java over 1Meur)
  • After launch games should be updated weekly/bi-weekly with new contents
  • Marketing the game is 7 to 10 times the development cost
  • Social games players are 43yo 55%female play multiple times a week
  • Active users lifetime around 8months
  • Managing microtransactions can be a pain – bigpoint has integrated with 200 payment systems
  • The lifespan of a game is hard to evaluate – social games have trouble dying
  • Conversion rate to paying players : 6 to 7%
  • Virality accounts for 1/3 of the new user recruitments
  • Virality works best when based on a social substrate – FaceBook, MySpace…
  • The viral feed must be another way for the player to express their motives – get help tools resources…
  • Having people “Like” a game will ensure more stickiness since the player wants to have some level of consistency
  • Most popular viral feeds include
    * Sharing reward resource
    * Offering partnership apprenticeship < best retain value
    * Cries for help
  • Achievements are a big part of the stickiness – one of the main player motivation is always to be “better” than his mates
  • Achievements can point of exemplar values quantitative or qualitative of ur game
  • Achievements must value both for main track and side quests
  • Achievements help bring ppl in places they would have missed without it

As you can see most of these techniques actually can be applied to any piece of software. Recruitments of users, ensuring stickiness and loyalty are core objectives that one should always have in mind when building a piece of software. Seeing your software as a game and designing it as such brings a lot the the end user experience and can drastically change the dynamics of your community.
Understanding those mechanics has been one of the key assets for services such as Foursquare to actually emerge while so many other LBS in the past have failed (software using those techniques are known as Funware).