There has to be a reason why someone picks up a game, and then continues to play it. From the player’s perspective this could be the graphics style, the genre, who the game developer is, and how they came to know about the game. All of these factors could steer someone towards wanting to play the game. After you have players downloading the game, the challenge becomes “How do we get the players to continue playing?” Put simply, as a game developer the goal after getting someone to install the game is to get that person to continue playing it. How does one achieve that?
Besides design and a good gameplay experience (such as a smooth progression curve), it is important to:
- Set goals at different intervals
- Have characters and story line that make the players care.
Setting goals as short term (STG), medium term (MTG), and long term (LTG) serves the purpose of giving the players an incentive to continue playing the game, to have a purpose in finishing and succeeding at a specific level. In a mobile game the goal could be unlocking new characters, gaining more in-app currency, racking up experience points, getting to battle the boss, or other achievements. What makes these goals different from each other is how long (as in session length, or average number of days) they take to complete. Of course as a game developer you will want there to be an overall goal to the game, such as defeating the main villain or finding that special treasure chest, but there needs to be MTG and STG in order to keep the players entertained and engaged with the gameplay.
Let’s say you are playing a new game and you are clear on what the LTG of the game is, and you are currently grinding away at a task to gain points to get to the next level. This method would work towards retention if the players get the sense that the grinding mechanic was going to undoubtedly help them towards reaching the LTG; by extension this means that there are MTGs and LTGs.
In the case of Crashing Season, the LTG is reaching the boss level. This makes the MTG unlocking new animals (which each have different abilities) and the STG winning stars. By incorporating these shorter goals, as a game developer you are making sure the player has a reason to continue with the game and to put in effort and time into completing levels. Doing this is good for the lifecycle of the game since it incentivizes the players to play as long as it takes to achieve the LTG. Of course, longer playtime comes with an increase in the number of goals that are required to win the game. This means that as a game developer it will pay off to have smaller tasks that lead to completing the overall task of the game. In addition to improving the lifespan of the game, goals of differing lengths also make the game experience better. After all, isn’t that what a game is for, to create a positive experience?
In addition to setting goals of different lengths, another way to get the players to want to continue to play the game is to create characters and story lines as part of the game that are appealing. If the players care for the characters and what happens to them as the gameplay progresses, then that will aid in retention levels and add to the metagame. Within Crashing Season, the animal characters are clearly the ones that the players are rooting for since they are the ones that they play as, and are working toward defeating an enemy. Because the goal is for the animals to win in the end (the LTG), in order to have players who will want to achieve this goal, they will have to care for the characters. This way of achieving the LTG of the game relies on creating an emotional connection with the game.
Like in a previous post on animal characters, think of how stories and movies get you to care for the characters and therefore get you invested in the storyline, it is an analogous case in games. This means that getting players to fall in love with your game does not only require goals of differing lengths but also making them become invested in what happens to the characters. As a game developer it is important to pay attention to the methods used for getting players to continue playing the game. Ways to achieve this include creating incentives via goals of differing lengths, along with characters that you grow to care for. A good rule to stand by is to develop a game that creates the best experience possible, is loved by the players, and makes you want to tell all your friends about it.