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Why You Shouldn't Design Games Through Analytics 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-you-are-bad-at-math dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Game designer Tadhg Kelly writes at TechCrunch about a trend many gamers have noticed over the past decade: designers increasingly relying on statistics — and only statistics — to inform their design decisions. You know the type; the ones who'll change the background color if they think it'll eke out a few more players, or the ones who'll scrap interesting game mechanics in favor of making the game more easily understandable to a broader market. Naturally, this leads to homogenization and boring games. Kelly says, 'Obsessed with measuring everything and therefore defining all of their problems in numerical terms, social game makers have come to believe that those numbers are all there is, and this is why they cannot permit themselves to invent. Like TV people, they are effectively in search of that one number that will explain fun to them. There must, they reason, be some combination of LTV and ARPU and DAU and so on that captures fun, like hunting for the Higgs boson. It must be out there somewhere. ... Unlike every other major game revolution (arcade, console, PC, casual, MMO, etc.), social game developers have proved consistently unable to understand that fun is dynamic in this way. ... They are hunting for the fun boson, but it does not exist.'"
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Why You Shouldn't Design Games Through Analytics

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  • by equex (747231) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @06:23AM (#42573361) Homepage
    Didn't they actually just find the Higgs ? Kinda blows the analogy,
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13, 2013 @06:30AM (#42573397)

    The goal is money: get more people to buy the game and get more people to buy in-game purchase items.

    • by TheLink (130905)

      I wonder if anyone has designed chocolate through analytics and statistics.

      That said there is no perfect game/chocolate or spaghetti sauce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIiAAhUeR6Y#t=0m24s [youtube.com]

      • I wonder if anyone has designed chocolate through analytics and statistics.

        I assume it must have happened some time for some brand. I know for certain that the Heartbrand Magnum [wikipedia.org] ice cream was designed by a team of food scientists.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        this reminds me of that time when alcohol influenced cooking placed chocolate chips in our spaghetti...

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @07:05AM (#42573485)

      Close. Social games are generally F2P/Freemium. The objective isn't to get people to buy the game. There are three objectives:

      - Get people to play the game. A lot. This brings in advertising money.
      - Get people to promote the game to their friends, typicially by either offering some bonus to those who recruit others or by giving players an advantage based on how many friends they have helping them out.
      - Get people to spend money on the game. Usually this is by making the early stages fairly easy on time requirements to get players dedicated, but the later stages require a silly amount of dull and repetitive grinding to complete which can be bypassed with a small payment.

      • by robthebloke (1308483) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:11AM (#42574059)
        No, it's really much simpler than that. Encourage a parent to install a free game from the app store, and then guide the child to the 'buy more gems' IAPs before the 15 minutes password window expires. The reason analytics has become so prevelant, is that its a way for game designers to mentally divorce the ethically dubious mechanics of their game, from the profit it's generating. I've actually had conversations with people about their daily graphs, which clearly show huge profits from new players within the first 10 minutes of play, followed by no profit thereafter. When I've pointed out what those graphs indicate, by and large the response was always "but the analytics says these people are all in the 30-40 year old age range, so we aren't exploiting children in the way you're suggesting". Sure there are some people who will make IAPs to get around some of the grind, but by and large, the vast majority of profit is made within that frst 10 minute window. It's a business ethic that made me quit the industry.
        • by Fnord666 (889225)

          I've actually had conversations with people about their daily graphs, which clearly show huge profits from new players within the first 10 minutes of play, followed by no profit thereafter. When I've pointed out what those graphs indicate, by and large the response was always "but the analytics says these people are all in the 30-40 year old age range, so we aren't exploiting children in the way you're suggesting".

          If you have verifiable data available that shows this I would love to see it.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          This was fixed back in 2011. App purchases followed by an IAP purchase requires you to enter the password a second time.
          http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/10/apple-now-requiring-passwords-for-all-in-app-purchases/

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          No, it's really much simpler than that. Encourage a parent to install a free game from the app store, and then guide the child to the 'buy more gems' IAPs before the 15 minutes password window expires. The reason analytics has become so prevelant, is that its a way for game designers to mentally divorce the ethically dubious mechanics of their game, from the profit it's generating. I've actually had conversations with people about their daily graphs, which clearly show huge profits from new players within t

      • by bondsbw (888959)

        The make-it-simpler strategy fails to account for competition. If you make a game too much like others, and throw it into a pool of a hundred thousand games, your game will get lost in the crowd.

        Games must be different to succeed. They have to find a niche market, and hope that the niche becomes larger.

        Angry Birds is probably an exception to that rule. It got famous through a lot of luck. There are several games out there like it, but it was just in the right place at the right time and somehow caught o

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sadly that's true for majority of the people making games today.

      I find it hard to work with a team anymore because I say "no" when someone ask me to stop working on functionality that's important for the game itself and instead work on implementing some money grab bullshit. It almost always comes up, typically when nearing the end of development, at the point where coders should be focusing all of their efforts getting everything working right, tweaked, and balanced. There is never enough time in developing

    • The key difference between games and F2P social "games" (aka. Pokies 2.0) is the difference between a game player and a potential customer.

      Social games are closer to digital drugs than games, they aim is to get you addicted and keep you coming back to pump more coins in... Basically Pokies 2.0
    • by niftydude (1745144) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:18AM (#42573649)

      The goal is money: get more people to buy the game and get more people to buy in-game purchase items.

      True. This behaviour isn't just limited to games though, but all commercial "creative" endeavours: music, movies, tv shows, etc. Everyone has seen the hollywood movies that have been run through so many test audiences that it has become just bland pap.

      This is the reason that indie music, games and movies can often break through and become a runaway success. People are tired of the dross that big entertainment keeps churning out.

      • This is the reason that indie music, games and movies can often break through and become a runaway success.

        They can, but I'm not sure I'd say often.
         

        People are tired of the dross that big entertainment keeps churning out.

        That claim keeps being repeated endlessly... but somehow, those the make the claim fail to notice how disconnected it is from reality. People keep flocking in droves to what the soi-disant tastemakers of Slashdot pronounce to be 'dross'.
         
        The intelligent person would notice the disconnect. The dogmatic just screws his blinders on tighter and repeats the claim.

        • by Fnord666 (889225)

          This is the reason that indie music, games and movies can often break through and become a runaway success.

          They can, but I'm not sure I'd say often.

          For an interesting look into indie game development, take a look at the film Indie Game [imdb.com]. It is quite revealing

        • People are tired of the dross that big entertainment keeps churning out.

          That claim keeps being repeated endlessly... but somehow, those the make the claim fail to notice how disconnected it is from reality. People keep flocking in droves to what the soi-disant tastemakers of Slashdot pronounce to be 'dross'. The intelligent person would notice the disconnect. The dogmatic just screws his blinders on tighter and repeats the claim.

          An intelligent person might try to find a reason for the disconnect. In this case, the saving grace for the entertainment industry is that the largest market of concert- and movie-goers is the teenage to early 20s demographic.

          Which means they can rehash and resell the same dross: anything sounds good when you are growing up and the last album you owned was from The Wiggles.

          The music industry excels at this - targeting the new generation of kids for whom everything is new, whilst also exploiting the tee

          • An intelligent person might try to find a reason for the disconnect.

            Yes, an intelligent person would seek to find reasons why his beliefs diverge from reality. But you are no such person.

            The music industry excels at this - targeting the new generation of kids for whom everything is new, whilst also exploiting the teenage needs to be cool/fit in with peers, and the movie industry reboots franchises so often that it becomes ridiculous - look at the incredible hulk movies.

            That would explain why the mo

            • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

              by niftydude (1745144)

              Yes, an intelligent person would seek to find reasons why his beliefs diverge from reality. But you are no such person.

              As would be expected of someone not so intelligent, you can't tell the difference between bias and reality.

              tldr; you're making shit up thinking it makes you match your self perceived notion of being 'intelligent'. It doesn't. Quite the opposite in fact.

              Most of your post is made up of personal attacks against me. Why are you so angry dude?

              That would explain why the movies not aimed at that demographic fails...

              If you are going to accuse someone of being not so intelligent, then you should try to make sure that the grammar in the rest of your post is correct. Otherwise you run the risk of sounding like a sputtering, petulant twelve year old. Hint: the sentence of yours that I quoted above has too many instances of the letter S.

              The good news is that when you achieve maturity, your hormonal levels will balance out, and you wo

      • Everyone has seen the hollywood movies that have been run through so many test audiences that it has become just bland pap.

        Fortunately we have African movies, which are completely untested, and the plots, effects and acting are all so bizarre that you can't stop laughing.

      • by tepples (727027)
        Not if indie game developers are cryptographically locked out of certain genres that aren't practical on PC or on touchscreen mobile devices. I can give examples if you're curious.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Not if indie game developers are cryptographically locked out of certain genres that aren't practical on PC or on touchscreen mobile devices. I can give examples if you're curious.

          The only thing which falls under "not practical on PC or touchscreen mobile device" is something that needs a massive fucking server to run. And the only thing keeping anybody out of that is money. So yes, how about some examples.

          • by tepples (727027)

            The only thing which falls under "not practical on PC or touchscreen mobile device" is something that needs a massive fucking server to run.

            Or anything that's best played with a gamepad, which most players don't already own and which is more expensive (about $40) than buying several mobile games. Without a Bluetooth gamepad on mobile, you're stuck with an on-screen gamepad where you can't tell by sense of feel whether your thumb is over the correct button. And without a USB gamepad on PCs, you're stuck with only playing against online strangers, not the friends who are visiting your home right now.

    • by ildon (413912) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:23AM (#42573665)

      Exactly. Social games designers don't give a shit about "fun." They care about revenue. And these numbers *do* appear to increase revenue. They're closer to slot machine designers than game designers.

    • Unfortunately yes. It's not about fun anymore, it's about milking dough. DLC (Paid Patch), Free to play (Pay2Win) etc.
    • Exactly. Witness:

      Unlike every other major game revolution (arcade, console, PC, casual, MMO, etc.), social game developers have proved consistently unable to understand that fun is dynamic in this way.

      Apparently whoever wrote this hasn't paid attention to arcade, console, PC, casual, or the MMO market lately. Add "Social games" (e.g. Farmville) to the list of games that found an intriguing gameplay that was a hit, then everything thereafter has been clone, clone, clone!

      Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO is s

    • by fatphil (181876)
      Exactly. It sounds just like the "beer" industry. Cheapen, and aim for the lowest common denominator in order to expand in the market. Once you're there, milk the suckers through crossbranding and cynical tie-ins.

      However, there will be revoltions, people will object to the pablum every now and then.
  • by seebs (15766) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @06:33AM (#42573413) Homepage

    Admittedly, I don't play any of Zynga's games, but I play a lot of games, and I talk to a lot of gamers, and I've never heard of anyone designing games exclusively through analytics or statistics. I am not convinced that this is a real thing...

    • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @06:56AM (#42573467)

      'social' games and regular games are very different things, and most people who play social games wouldn't consider themselves gamers. They are the people who start to twitch uncomfortably if they are unable to check facebook for more than an hour.

    • by Ironhandx (1762146) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:04AM (#42574021)

      See: The homogenization of WoW over the last 8 years while throwing more and more shiny at it to try to call that the creativity. They tried to go against the numbers ONCE but called it so badly that their subscriber base revolted and they lost a large portion of their North American/European subscribers.

      TL;DR for rest of this: World of Warcraft has shot itself in the foot for several reasons but mainly due to exactly the reasons stated in the article. They relied on numbers, and then when they realized numbers weren't getting them anywhere as a lot of people didn't like where the game design was headed... they relied on the absolute worst group of people to advise them: The hardest of hardcore gamers.

      They removed the wrong functionality based on the opinions of elite players. While overall class homogenization and general horribleness really started its massive downwards spiral in Wrath of the Lich King, Wrath had one thing going for it: Variety of raids. Elite players in wrath had difficulty filling raid spots even just a month after the world first lich king kill because there were things to do. Thus when consulted they put their own interests ahead of everyone else and voted in a removal of seperate cooldowns for difficulty mode of raid encounters. This was ostensibly done for good reasons but since gated raids with gear from previous raid instances being required to progress into harder raids are no longer there... removing this trashed the list of things to do for the folks that "populate" the game world. The people that are on constantly. The ones that have little to no life outside of the game. These are the guys that get made fun of the most and they are absolutely vital to your games success. Most of them are quite friendly and helpful and they deserve better. Besides that they broke the nostalgia factor of re-rolling alts for most of their older players, who no longer fully return to the game because they don't feel like re-learning the zones in addition to the classes.

      They continued homogenization while removing those things in Cata leaving everyone in the semi-hardcore(people who play a lot but not super competitively) bracket bored out of their fscking minds.

      The graphics don't help.... original gfx were grittier and less cartoony. When the graphics were updated for Cata they went wayyyy too far into the looney toons bin for myself and a lot of others. I would have preferred mildly more realistic environments than vanilla(but not too realistic, the original art style had a "fun-looking" appeal to them) with much more realistic player characters. The fact that my dwarf hunters nose and hands with the new cartoonier textures look nearly as bad as the graphics in Aidyn Chronicles from the N64 is fucking depressing. Especially when its stressing a computer with hardware powerful enough to account for a 20x10 server room full of N64s.

      Their numbers and polls state that graphics don't matter to their customers however, which is only partially true. Graphics quality doesn't matter AS MUCH but graphics style most certainly does. Its one of those intangibles that will likely never show up on most exit surveys unless you start forcing people to give you their top 5 reasons for leaving instead of one or two. Blizzardat the moment gets one or two.

      The thing is, once you start getting the 5.... if the top 1-2 reasons are varied and split around a relatively even-looking pie-chart... then they all need work but its probably already being worked on for your next expansion etc. If 95%+ of people leaving place an issue in their top 5... it needs to be addressed immediately.

      Additionally... don't just poll people who are currently playing. Poll those who have quit. Those who respond who have quit probably want to return but won't due to the reasons they list. If wow was trying to get its subscriber base back, this is where it needs to start.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @10:43AM (#42574219)

        I really hope people (that matter) read that last paragraph. Allow me to quote it and stress it: Poll those players that have quit. Asking the players that are around for their opinion is pointless, they are already here and they are already staying. It's like looking at the bombers that make it back from the enemy raid and reinforce the parts that have holes in them. They don't need reinforcement, those bombers made it back, you should reinforce the OTHER parts of your bombers because those are the parts where those were hit that did NOT get back.

        What's worse is actually that every maker of MMOs out there tries to copy WoW, ignoring the fact that those that want to play WoW are already playing WoW, and those that are not are looking for something that is NOT WoW. Now, how should making a clone of a game I don't want to play convince me that I want to play yours?

        • Thanks and maybe responding will get your post some more attention as well. That message really needs to be heard.

          Something I also forgot to mention is the tendency for these companies to all end up using the same Beta testers and these testers are being listened to FAR too much on basic game design elements. Once the product goes to beta those things should be decided and done. Those are things you have decided by your extremely well-paid game designers, not the idiots clamouring begging and bribing their

          • by Phrogman (80473)

            I have watched this cycle with every MMORPG I have played so far. The people who scream the most about the game endlessly on the forums are NOT the ones to listen to. The average gameplayer is not qualified to do game design, even though they think they are. Almost every one of those raging complaints I have read is about 1 aspect of a game design and is often far too personal and coming from far too narrow a perspective.
            Now there are people that analyze the game, do endless math, and seriously try to quant

            • Well, I dare to disagree on the DAoC matter. What killed DAoC for good was Trials of Atlantis. IMO, Shrouded Islands was maybe one of the best ideas they had. It closed the gap between those that started new and those that have been around for ages, it offered a starting point where all classes would start and where you could progress in a linear way from starting point through increasingly difficult opponents instead of taking a few steps from a zone for level 10-20 into a zone where a level 40 is a one hi

            • I have watched this cycle with every MMORPG I have played so far. The people who scream the most about the game endlessly on the forums are NOT the ones to listen to. The average gameplayer is not qualified to do game design, even though they think they are. Almost every one of those raging complaints I have read is about 1 aspect of a game design and is often far too personal and coming from far too narrow a perspective.

              I used to argue for the status quo on a class forum for a certain MMO for precisely those reasons. People would argue about how the class needed to be changed to be "competitive", and I'd point out how those changes made other classes obsolete or broke other aspects of the game's design.

              Then the next expac came and the game incorporated many of the suggestions I argued against, and I realized there was no more point to holding to the status quo. (Which to be fair, should be shaken up by an expac).

              I

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        The Secret World took the opposite approach to class design - almost unlimited flexibility in how you put your class together, using a point-based system. You're limited to 7 or 8 active and passive skills (ala Guild Wars), so high "level" players don't necessarily have better powers, just more choices to select between them. Everyone in the game, additionally, is multiclassed.

        I hated the cookie-cutter nature of WoW. I hated getting yelled at in raids because I took talents that matched my playstyle instead

      • by towermac (752159)

        Yep. Yep. Yep.

        They've got business people making business decisions about the business of WoW. Has that ever worked for a game? Hear us Blizz: Never let anyone close to your game (mechanics, story, balance, etc.) that doesn't love it, and hasn't played it for years. It's too bad really. They are slowly blowing their chance to own a significant corner of the internet, in the same way that Youtube and Amazon and Ebay do.

        Yes, the bad influences started in Wrath, but it (was) a really big game, and takes a long

      • by seebs (15766)

        Just a side note:

        I know easily ten people, probably more, who "used to" play WoW.

        Of them, not a single one has ever commented on any of the things you've talked about. Every one of them quit over something pertaining to Blizzard's general corporate attitude post-merger; Real ID, the video with the anti-gay slurs at Blizzcon, lack of action about trolls and abusers in chat... In short, stuff that had nothing to do with the game, only with the company and community.

        Had the company not been so spectacularly ho

        • I don't really touch on the community issue because thats an entire other problem. Suffice to say Blizzards own tools have driven the community to where it is now, which is to say a very bad place.

          For the Real ID stuff I have to sadly point out you're in a (thankfully) very vocal minority.

          Blizzard received a lot of feedback on the required Real ID system which was almost entirely negative but not many people would have actually left because of it. Most of those that would have did so as soon as it was threa

        • Almost all my friends left due to class homogenization and the general compression / "dumbing down" of stuff to do. I personally began to doubt the direction of the game when they added recuperate to the Rogue skill tree - they needed a way to stop Rogues from going down in fights that didn't involve lots of escape skills (because those would be 'un-fun' to their enemies) so what did they do? They added a blanket x% heal every couple of seconds. Bloody terrible. I didn't even get to 85 in Cata. In my opinio
          • Oops I meant the final class balance patch before they added the 40 point talents, as those blew absolute chunks.
        • by bane2571 (1024309)
          From my point of view, these are excuses. They are things that only become an issue if you are already dissatisfied. It is very hard to tell what your exact reason for quitting really is. The reason I think I quit is a general lack of fun brought about by a focus on repetitive tasks that I didn't want to be doing. You may say that that is the point of MMO, but I hadn't had a problem with it up until the point where I quit.

          The trouble with design by statistics is that it creates the average, which means 50
          • by seebs (15766)

            I absolutely loved the game the day before the Real ID forum announcement. That, and their handling of it, killed any trust I had for the company, and I never actually played the game again. Logged in often enough to send all my sendable loot to guildies, deleted account. I was satisfied with the game as such, I just couldn't take the company anymore.

  • by steviesteveo12 (2755637) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @06:33AM (#42573415)

    MVP and F2P eventually passed into regular industry jargon along with a boat load of other terms. Most every company involved in the space now talks about DAU, LTV, ARPU, ARPPU, ARPDAU and even ARPPDAU. They talk about performing cohort analyses. Some of them ask whether they are working on an MVP or an MDP? Most don’t really bother discussing viral K-factors any more, and instead obsess about the CPA of players. These are significant changes for an industry that used to worry more about Metacritic ratings.

    Jesus, some executive just had a seizure on that guy's keyboard.

    • some executive just had a seizure on that guy's keyboard

      One of those wipe-clean seizures, one might suspect.

  • Minecraft (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @06:35AM (#42573419) Homepage Journal

    I would be interested to see if Notch has any interest in Analytics at all.

  • Missing the point. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @06:49AM (#42573455)

    Social games aren't supposed to be *fun*. The objective is to keep people playing. Fun is one way to do that, but there are other methods that can be just as capable or even more so. Social games depend on a few effective psychological hooks:

    - Time sinks. Once you have gotten the player to invest enough hours, they become reluctant to leave and throw away the invested time.
    - Social interdependance. Allow players to assist each other. That way if someone does want to stop playing, they'll have to abandon friends who need their help.
    - Constant progress. Players need to feel like they are constantly getting further and further, so an effective social game makes sure there is always a new milestone just ahead - and that there is a way to show off this success.
    - Ease of promition: Make sure your players can tell everyone else they play via facebook.

    Social games aren't about fun. They are about operant conditioning. Zynga has a psychologist on staff to advise their designers on how to make a game people will feel compelled to play, and the approach works.

    None of these actually require the game be fun. Or have we forgotten Cow Clicker, the parody of social gaming deliberatly designed to be as dull and un-fun as possible, yet which still achieved a moderate level of success purely by following the rules of social manipulation.

    • by Bostik (92589)

      Social games aren't supposed to be *fun*.

      There was a pretty good write-up on the topic more than a year ago: Who killed videogames? [insertcredit.com]

      It's a long read, but most of the important points are made in the first page. The rest (sadly) qualifies for TL;DR - it simply rehashes and expands on the same ideas from different angles and in more depth.

      • It's a long read, but most of the important points are made in the first page. The rest (sadly) qualifies for TL;DR - it simply rehashes and expands on the same ideas from different angles and in more depth.

        It sounds like your neat summary of the article might also describe the difference between "social" games and "regular" games.

    • All you said could as well apply to MMO really. From the time sinks to constant progress. Social gaming did not invent skinner box for games, they just refined it with cost effective way.
    • So, essentially, social games are the antisocial stepbrother of real games?

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >Zynga has a psychologist on staff to advise their designers on how to make a game people will feel compelled to play, and the approach works.

      Yes, as reflected by their ever-rising stock price.

      Oh, wait, no.

      People hate Zynga because their "games" are crap. If you can call them games, really. Any "game" that can be played optimally by a very short shell script really isn't a game in my opinion.

      • Dance Dance Revolution on a standard controller can be played optimally by a bot loaded with the step chart. But that's not the point of DDR; the point is the physical activity from playing on a dance pad.
        • by ShakaUVM (157947)

          Some sports can have perfect play easily programmed into them (such as with pool), but are interesting to us because we are not perfect.

          I'm talking about intellectual games.

  • Even more subtle (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @07:01AM (#42573471) Homepage
    I hate any company that is driven through spreadsheet thinking but I think this story only really applies to the Zyngas of the world. My beef is a little bit different. It is where multiplayer games slowly cut off all the interesting discoveries. Too perfect a sniping spot; modify it to make it vulnerable. Room too perfect for a grenade tossed by a defender; change it. Gun a little too powerful; tone it down. All these fixes make eventual sense in that once enough people make one of these discoveries then they exploit the crap out of it and it really ticks the other players off. But at the same time these discoveries are cool. When I find that perfect ambush site I will annoy a bunch of players until they just start tossing a grenade into that spot every time they walk by. So if the spot is too perfect by all means fix it but then create another "too perfect" problem. Let people find it and then fix it. Too many multiplayer games get fixed until it is just a boring stalemate while other games never get fixed and that perfect sniping spot just runs all the other players out of town. In real war you often have move/counter moves the whole war along which is the thinking that drives the whole "Fighting the last war" syndrome where after the war the winning side keeps countering the enemy's last move better and better. But in many games all the counter moves just fix existing problems while not actively seeking to create new ones.
    • by Tom (822)

      What you talk about is meta-gaming and it only exists in games with enough complexity to allow for it.

      Basically, someone finds a strategy that is better than all others, so everyone adopts it. But then it isn't better anymore, because everyone is doing it. It becomes predictable, which allows someone else to find a counter-strategy, which then everyone employs.
      In your example, grenades would become a standard loadout item. Now there is suddenly room for someone exploiting the fact that, say, nobody packs he

      • No, he's talking about counterplay, which is heavily linked to the metagame but it's not the same thing. For example, you can have a perfect sniping spot that has no vulnerability - the metagame will shift to favor use of that spot, but he's talking about including options for counterplay, which is adding that hole to toss a grenade in where they'll die but can't hear it come in, or having 3 entrances to the room. Once people adapt to having less healing kits, which itself is countered by submachine guns, w
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like the way that Windows 8 was made. That development blog kept talking about "studying real world usage" or whatever.

  • by Bostik (92589) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @07:04AM (#42573481)

    Scott Adams nailed [dilbert.com] the tunnel-visioned focus on nothing but metrics.

    'nuff said.

  • by kasperd (592156) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @07:20AM (#42573517) Homepage Journal
    I can understand why aiming for mainstream market share leads to homogenization initially. But why does it keep doing that? Doesn't there come a point where another mainstream game is going to lose out due to tough competition from the number of games they are competing with? At that point one would think niche markets would start looking attractive.
    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      Essentially it is "lowest common denominator" syndrome. Let's say your potential market is 100 people. 50 of them like the same sort of thing. The rest all form 5 different niche groups of 10 people. Your game (or whatever product) will cost roughly the same amount to make whichever group you aim for. Which group do you try to please with your game- the 50 or one of the 10s?

      With low value commodities like games, music etc. there never reaches a point where the market is so saturated that targeting the bigge

      • by kasperd (592156)

        With low value commodities like games, music etc. there never reaches a point where the market is so saturated that targeting the biggest group doesn't make sense. In our fictional example, you'd need 100% of one of the niche groups to buy your game to equal the success of only 20% of the mainstream group buying your game.

        I'm quite confident that the market is so saturated that it is very hard to get even close to 20% of the mainstream customers to buy your mainstream product. The question is how many you c

  • "you can’t improve what you can’t measure"?

    Huh?! Well, that doesn't preclude that you can improve what you can measure.

    Yes, I believe that valuable insights can be gained from what you can measure. For example, if your data couldn't determine a success factor that is a valuable result in itself! The insight then is "there must be an unknown factor we have not included in our model".

    What is the big deal? I also think that the unexpected can be found within a mainstream setting, it all but takes a

  • misconception (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:46AM (#42573729) Homepage Journal

    While the point is largely true, the submitter is missing the most important point:

    So-called "social games" aren't about fun. And they aren't games. The game is just the packaging. These things are basically drugs. Read up on the corporate background of Zynga and what kind of people they employ. They create designer-drugs that are scientifically designed for maximumg addiction potential.

    The "fun" and "game" part are just the coating that gets you to try it. Much like a drug that you take for the first time because it promises a good trip or great sex or whatever, but that's just for the first few times. After that, it's the addiction that makes you take it, not the high, no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise.

    Social games aren't meant to be fun, they are meant to keep you playing (and spending, or creating ad-impressions).
    The reason we (I'm a game designer) talk about things like "gamification" in the work environment is not that it is fun, but because we've found ways to make people repeatedly do things that they have no intrinsic reason to do and that are not rewarding in themselves.

  • All of these analytical processes and gathering of statistics during the centrally planned development process, striving for ever more fairness, balance, and equality--not only in the game mechanics but in the themes and storyline as well--are precisely why games such as Guild Wars 2 ultimately become boring, flat, and dead to many players. Sure, when the game first came out, it was fun digging into it, but for all of the fairness and equality in the reward system, you came to loathe the game for not offeri

  • by Jayde Stargunner (207280) on Sunday January 13, 2013 @08:50AM (#42573741)

    This article only makes sense if you assume that "social game" or F2P game developers actually care about those metrics because they are trying to find "fun."

    They aren't. They care about those metrics because they are trying to maximize revenue for the current title. After experimentation, they then take the combination of factors that had the maximum revenue for the previous title and then repackage it into a rebranded version of the same game with that combination as the starting point. It's more like casino design than game design.

    By and large F2P games are not really about creating a "fun" experience. They are about creating an addictive experience loop which yields them income through impulse micro-transaction purchases. While "fun" is a factor (the game has to be interesting, after all) it certainly is not the primary goal of this part of the industry. Although some games buck this trend, the top-grossing ones are certainly not games which would typically be considered wholly "fun" compared to standard console/PC game titles.

    None of these acronyms have found their way into mainstream console or PC title development. They are all monetization terms which are primarily applicable to "games" which have the sole purpose of monetization. This should not be surprising.

  • .. one should try to write games which one likes playing. Human beings are not that different from each other, despite what hate media in different mediums might have you believe..

    Having said this, Yes I am a software developer and no I have not invested the (great) amounts of energy and time required to become a game developer.. I'm earning my bread the easy way.. by being a Ruby on Rails developer.

    I've nothing against the RoR community or framework - it earns my daily bread - I just respect the game deve

  • The problem is not analytics. The problem is that the analytics are applied exclusively to what will sell more games, and not to what makes better games. Obviously, they have to devote some or perhaps even most to selling more games, but they should devote at least some time and effort into making better games.

    Decisions made in the absence of evidence will almost never be better than evidence-based decisions. That's why when you get sick you go to a doctor instead of a shaman.

  • To ignore statistics and customer feedback is to display an arrogance that can result in an awful experience for players.

    The biggest example of this in recent times is FFXIV. Throughout the betas and previews they ignored feedback and imposed what they felt an MMO should be like on their users. The result? An incredibly bad, high budget MMO where design choices got in the way of the user at every turn (a server side UI that was slow and painful to use, limits on the amount of quests you could do, awful c
  • Joust and Tempest are fun, but weird. In the first, your only controls are flapping to control how high and fast you fly, and directional left-right. In the second, it's totally a "WTF kinda drugs was this designer on?" experience. While not nearly as developed as modern games, these provided me with plenty of entertainment when I was a teenager. Don't be afraid to do something completely different, because if the gameplay is cool enough, the game sells itself.
  • In my eyes the problem isnot running spread sheets and having lots of numbers but:
    a) the conclusions you draw
    b) the verification of your changes

    Most people are completely dumb assed about the conclusions, in other words they rig the spread sheet and collect only the numbers they want to support the (wrong) conclusions they already made.

    After making changes, ofc the numbers of their original spread sheet change. So they conclude: the change was effective. However they miss that another team also made a lot o

  • same Analytics BS is used by HR for hiring.

    And you end up with people who cheat at it / people who really can't do the job.

  • This is exactly what happened to WoW

    "You know the type; the ones who'll change the background color if they think it'll eke out a few more players, or the ones who'll scrap interesting game mechanics in favor of making the game more easily understandable to a broader market. Naturally, this leads to homogenization and boring games."

    I would daresay interesting game mechanics were scrapped starting when the Wrath of the Lich King expansion came out, then Cataclysm for sure which really made it easier, and now

  • This happened with Halo.

    For Halo 2 they literally tested the game with soccer moms then made adjustments based on their play. They made it easier to aim and made it harder for one person to be too much better than another.

    This had a very negative impact on the competitive gaming crowd. Some of them just kept playing Halo 1 but most toughed it out and played Halo 2. However, Halo 2 sold more copies and the Halo player base grew. It being easier to play likely had nothing to do with the growth, Xbox
  • People love art. Music, Film, Games, Performance. By the very nature of art, its a unique, dynamic and inspired moments of human insight, expression, understanding, enlightenment, communication. The act of attempting to formulate this process, is like climbing up a cow's ass in an attempt to witness the magic of grass turning into milk. In both cases the outcome invariably ends up mixed with cow flop.

    Enough already with the endless attempts to turn a film into a franchise then milk every atom of joy, love a

  • Remember Mass Effect 2, where weapons suddenly had to be reloaded (despite needing no ammo) and loading screens were introduced (because kids were confused and bored by elevator rides)?
  • When something becomes popular enough to make big bucks, big money men become interested.
    Blandness does NOT occur because of conspiracy. Blandness occurs because of the definition of popularity. The MOST POPULAR in an already existing market is by definition the lowest common denominator. In a new market or new presentation, then things get stirred up.
    None of the money men will pick a dark horse such as O Brother Where Art Thou? sound track. They aren't venture capitalists.
    The big money will invest in Ta
  • I’ve been a hard-core gamer since I was 12. In the last few years I have virtually stopped gaming. Why? I’m bored because all the big developers that produce the best quality games have just been selecting from a pool of idea’s that worked before and replicating. There are few places that differ from this. Eve online I think is one, but it’s been doing it’s thing for years. Companies take so long to produce a working game that they stick only to what they know, sitting comforta

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