Full Circle: What players want to know from devs

Full Circle: What players want to know from devs
James Batchelor

By James Batchelor

November 19th 2015 at 11:19AM

Concluding our new series of interviews, a mobile gamer learns more about the development process

Today, we bring our new series of Full Circle interviews to a close as a former hardcore player questions a developer about the decisions made when designing and releasing a game.

In case you've missed them, feel free to read our developer interviewing a publisher, and publisher interviewing a player.

For our final part, gamer and mother Kristen Rutherford (above left) speaks to Andrew Deegan (above right), game designer and founder at Sugra Games.

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Rutherford:
How do you decide what genre game to develop?

Deegan:
Tough question. The correct answer is to make an experience for a specific target audience. Sometimes we take a popular genre and put a new theme on it. Other times we might see what happens if we combine two genres together, or focus on one aspect of a genre. Then we test these proposals using prototypes or mockups to see if the audience likes it. The genre we decide to go ahead with is usually one which we believe the target audience will understand, have fun with and be willing to pay for. 

Rutherford:
What influences your decisions on monetisation?

Deegan: 
The target audience and the platform heavily influence the choices we make on monetisation. It is important that we have something of value in the game experience which the player is willing to purchase. Sometimes this value is the whole game (Premium). Sometimes the value is in items or extra features which enhance the players experience (Free to Play). To decide this we sometimes look to other games for inspiration, and other times try something new to see if it works. In all cases, we test early to see what items of value the player is interested in and we design and develop the game with that content and business model in mind. 

The target audience and the platform heavily influence the choices we make on monetisation. It is important that we have something of value in the game experience which the player is willing to purchase. 

Andrew Deegan, Sugra Games

Rutherford:
How do you decide how to publish your mobile game?

Deegan: 
Publishing a game is a very challenging task. It takes time, knowledge, money and persistence to get your product in front of the audience. A game must stand out from millions of other games every day.

It is very rare that a team who is good at designing and developing games is also good at marketing and distributing games. We tried it ourselves for a while. It did not give us the distribution we needed to be successful. So now we are aiming to work with publishers like Spil Games who have the knowledge, time, money and the audience which we want to target. These partnerships allow us to continue doing what we do best, making fun game experiences.

Rutherford:
How do you market your game to consumers?

Deegan: 
We use a variety of methods to market our mobile games. We advertise on webpages where our target audience visit; we run competitions; share interviews and articles with the press; engage with current customers and respond to reviews; talk to platform owners such as Apple and Google in hopes to get featured; try to engage with our audience with interesting content on social media like Twitter or Facebook; we try to optimize our search words, keywords and digital presence on the app stores by updating graphics, text descriptions and adding features inside our games.  Some methods are more successful than others. All cost money and time. 

To get players hooked requires a balance of challenge, variety and progress. Players need to be challenged to stay interested. Too difficult and they drop out, too easy and they drop out. It has to be just right. 

Andrew Deegan, Sugra Games

Rutherford:
How much development goes into a game after launch?

Deegan: 
For a premium game, we might make a few extra content releases to sell or give the player. For a free to play game, the launch is only the beginning. The game will be updated weekly or monthly with new content, levels will be balanced, tutorials tweaked, different prices and items will be trialed, new monetisation methods tested. All this is based on customer feedback and analysis of the game performance. Free-to-play games are an ongoing service and that means constant updates to keep the playing and paying customers happy. So long as the free to play game is profitable, it will never finish development after launch, unlike a premium game.  

Rutherford:
How do you make a game that consumers get hooked on?

Deegan:
To get players hooked requires a balance of challenge, variety and progress. Players need to be challenged to stay interested. Too difficult and they drop out, too easy and they drop out. It has to be just right. They also need to have variety. Too much re-use of the same art or game type can become boring very quickly. Players also need a clear path to progress, clearly seeing where they are going and sometimes where they have been. They also need a good mix of short, medium and long term goals. In a free to play game for example, developers should have content which the player might play for years. Getting this balance right takes months and even years of testing and tweaking.

Want to take part in a future Full Circle series of interviews? Email jbatchelor@nbmedia.com to find out more.