GUIDE: Metric & analysis tools

GUIDE: Metric & analysis tools

By Develop

May 29th 2009 at 11:28AM

With more and more games adopting a post-release maintenance system, having data about your playersâ?? experiences is more important than ever if you want to keep people involved. Ed Fear takes a look at the metrics tools availableâ?¦

It’s often said that the future of games is a more service-orientated model, where content and updates are provided far beyond the mastering date. But to make the extra effort worthwhile, you need to make sure that people keep on playing the game – and while providing new content is a big part of that, making sure that the game is still fun to play is also key.

Massively multiplayer games are often the example, and with reason: often featuring a huge number of different classes, making sure that none of them are significantly more powerful than the other is paramount – especially if you have any sort of player vs. player element. No MMO developer, big or small, is immune from the calls of ‘nerf!’ on official forums.

And it’s not just multiplayer games – how many of your players are completing your game? Which levels are posing a problem? While an increased focus on play-testing during development is encouraging, only so much can be done before the game goes gold. Being able to see the experiences of millions of players can only help us all make better games – and there’s more tools than ever out there to help you do it.

Epic

Technology: Unreal Engine 3
Clients: Many, including Midway, Sony Online Entertainment and Epic
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Price: Available on request
Contact: mrein@epicgames.com

www.unrealtechnology.com

Are there many areas left for Epic to explore with it’s near-standard Unreal Engine 3? The latest 2009 updates to the engine include the introduction of the Unreal Master Control Program, a set of services that were developed by the Gears of War 2 team and have now been rolled into the stock engine. Developers can track online populations and use offline data analysis services to profile game data, such as top-down level heat maps based on variables such as death location.

Gamespy

Technology: ATLAS
Clients: Many, including Nintendo, EA and Rockstar
Platforms: PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, DS, PC
Price: Available on request
Contact: Via website

www.poweredbygamespy.com

GameSpy’s various multiplayer services have been around for quite some time now, but have been diversifying of late. Although primarily geared towards leaderboards and persistent user-tracking, ATLAS can also be used to store any sort of data about your users – including their progress and their experiences. This can then all be collated with a web tool, so that overpowered weapons and map bottlenecks can be quickly – and easily – identified.

Valve

Technology: Steamworks
Clients: Sports Interactive, Relic, Valve
Platforms: PC
Price: Free
Contact: jasonh@valvesoftware.com

www.steampowered.com

Much has been said about Valve’s Steamworks suite – particularly about its unlimited bandwidth, no certification and impressive community features. But it also allows partner developers to integrate metrics into their games to get a better feel of where players are stumbling. From simple things such as staggering and then monitoring achievements to reporting your own data, the suite also gives you access to stats about the hardware your game is being played on, too.

+7 systems

Technology:
+7 Balance Engine
Clients: MrJoy
Platforms: Not applicable
Price: Available on request
Contact: contact@plus7systems.com

www.plus7systems.com

The problem with any game design, says +7 Systems, is that it will likely have inbalances. Which might not sound awful, but when applied to online games such as MMOs and first person shooters, the player base will quickly find the dominant strategies and exploit them. In comes the +7 Balance Engine, then, which runs on your own server and accepts periodic play data. Given a ‘game universe’ description it claims to be able to find those weaknesses and balance them iteratively. Is it the end for nerfing?