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Month: November 2021

5 takes on the future of games

I read this new report that covers many respondents from all around the globe. The research focuses on three kind of Players: veterans, returning players (players that were inactive before of the Pandemic and then reactivated) and new players.

In 2021 one fifth of Players are new players. The majority of those are women. We move toward a future with more gender equality. Veterans are more willing to spend for games, that is why we should consider all kind of audience.

Subscriptions and Metaverse

First considerations are regarding subscriptions. Especially in PC/Console market new players were attracted by subscription services. Most popular: Xbox Game Pass, PlayStation Now and Nintendo Switch Online. What is Steam waiting for?

TAKE 1: If you are making a game for any platform consider subscription as part of your monetization strategy.

Videogames confirmed their role of social media platforms. Social and multiplayer games are the most used platform after traditional social apps. Google offers also its personal definition of metaverse: virtual and persistent worlds that unlock creative spaces and identities for social human experiences.

Being able to create and customize your avatar is the single most important factor for Players. That means that the metaverse plays on the basic need of self-expression and triggers motivations that traditional social media are not capable to do (still).

TAKE 2: How does your game trigger self-expression?

Streaming and Platforms

Content streaming and live gameplays have become the second most important way of getting to know new games, after peers and family. Google says that looking at YouTubers and Twitchers is becoming part of the game’s experience.

TAKE 3: Create games that are fun to play online for other to watch and try to engage with content creators.

The future of games is not about a specific platform anymore. The biggest companies are investing for experiences that can be played from many devices and services. Look at Genshin Impact, check out the new projects from Zynga and study the Asphalt porting that Gameloft is doing to Xbox. The next take is clear.

TAKE 4: the future is not about which platform to develop for, but more about how let your Players to access to your game from every platform.

The report closes with the growing importance of Cloud gaming, especially in the American continent. If the chance to play the latest games from any device is interesting, I honestly believe that this conclusion is another way of Google to try relaunch Stadia. I honestly don’t see it at the moment.


The majority of new players will not stick with videogames after the pandemic. They will probably fade away. Some of them will become a veteran. It is important to consider different retention narratives for all the three kind of Players:

TAKE 5: The game can be the access door, the culture that creates around it will keep the Players coming back!

I played: Merge Animals 3D

The thing I like the most about the hypercasual trend is that I really cannot deeply understand why all of this works. My professional mind has collected a lot of assumptions regarding game design theories. So that I am constantly challenged when I see millions of people playing silly games. Fascinating!

Merge Animals 3D FTUE

This weekend I tried out Merge Animals 3D that is performing well on mobile phones. The concept is pretty cool. The game is about trying out different combinations of animal traits on a runner and see how they do perform on the track. The main character is a human anonymous mannequin. He is competing against two mannekins more, also them with random configurations. The camera is top-right and impedes having a clear view of what is coming, so that some reflexes are needed to overcome obstacles. Then you unlock a new animal trait which will permit to overcome other kind of obstacles.

There are five kind of possible traits to dominate with an animal prothesis: strength, water, climb, fly and run. I haven’t found much more. It is impossible to arrive the last, I have tried everything. If you don’t end the race first no worries: you will still pass to the next levels! No lose condition at all.

The colors and textures are completely plain, that suggests that the game works with the part of our thinking system which looks for immediacy. No complex thoughts involved at all. Classic for the hypercasual games!

The game monetises with ads. I am afraid there is too few challenge right now. Maybe developers are trying out the core loop and then they will iterate on that.

Merge Animals 3D Core Loop

After a while I found pretty frustrating having to choose manually the mutations I wanted to face the next “challenge”. A UX improvement would be in that sense.

There is nothing suggesting to the Player why is doing all of that. A narrative design improvement would probably include a level sequence or images unlock. You discovered a new animal trait? tell me something about that animal.

Levels have basically no challenge. In order to maintain that philosophy, a Level Design improvement would probably be including some bonus level where the Player could collect letters or other elements useful to unlock new mannequin skins, for instance.

The game system is super simple. For the System Design part I would probably try to find some idle mechanic for the levels. Leves are a rewarding moment and not a challenging one, as mentioned before. Probably the Players who stay more than 2 days would find fun having some automatic system where they can grind other elements related with experiments and merging.

You will find the brickfile on github, as usual.

How to deal with your boss

One of the things I wanted to understand earlier when I started working as a game designer is that part of the job is making your boss successful.

Your boss could be the founder of the company you work for, in the case of small businesses. In this case, he will likely have to be accountable to investors. Try to understand the pressure he has and adapt your proposals to it.

It is not important in the profession to be right. The important thing is to deliver the things done. It does not matter that your idea is not accepted, very often there is an external pressure that causes them to take paths that may seem wrong.

Better to make our proposals, but willingly accept the impositions. The facts may prove us right, or we may discover other things we have ignored.

If your boss is a more technical person, better focus on trying to guide him on the more business side. We try to understand the context in which we work and which solutions can be simpler and faster to implement. Our importance in the team will increase!

If your boss is a manager, or a person who generally reports to the CEO or some other manager, it is appropriate to accompany our proposals with spreadsheets with numbers that we can generate. Money, or success metrics!

We must try hard to deliver these numbers, otherwise we risk our proposals being rejected because our boss is unable to defend them properly to superiors.

It is important to empathize with our leaders and understand what profile they have. If they are successful, we’ll be that too!

Game designers and Product managers

The difference between a Game Designer and a Product Manager sometimes seems subtle. There is quite a big difference in concept, instead

Both figures exercise the act of game design. Deciding how the game should be. In fact, the whole team does that. Game designers are just facilitators of the act of game design.

Both figures are involved in studying the competitors in depth.

The main difference is the following: while the game designer works in the game, the product manager works on the game.

The product manager is the figure who defines roadmaps, objectives and above all who deals with the positioning of the game on the market. It is the bridge between development and business.

The game designer defines the mechanics and features in detail, making sure everyone on the team is really contributing.

It often happens that game designers, frustrated by the fact that they have no decision-making weight, look a product manager position. Only to find themselves frustrated that they are not working in the game, but on the game.

Too often I have met with product managers who are basically ex game designers and enter into issues they shouldn’t. Not because of inability, of course,. but because they take time away from other duties.

We are all game designers

There are four main specializations in game design: UX Design, Narrative Design, System Design and Level Design.

Each specialization is part of the game design, which in turn is part of the design. A Narrative Designer is a game designer; is a designer. A System Designer is a designer. And so on.

The difference is in the questions that each specialization asks itself.

UX Designer: What can you do in the game? What do we care that players do? What are the business objectives? Do the business goals support those of the players? Who are our players? How are they using the game right now?

System Designer: How can the gaming experience be broken down? What are the necessary resources for the experience and how do they interact with each other? Where do we want scarcity and where do we want abundance?

Narrative Designer: Who? Where? Why? What? When? How?

Level Designer: What are the metrics? What mechanics do I have? What kind of spaces appear in the game’s magic circle? How long should the level last? With what resources does the player arrive? What resources does the player end up with?

Job offers are always more specialized. In my humble opinion, any extra specialization is a specialization of these four described above.

A combat designer? He is a system designer specializing in combat systems.
A content designer? He is a somewhat UX oriented narrative designer
A game balancer? He is a level designer specializing in balancing numbers, therefore a bit oriented towards system design.

We are all game designers, and all game designers are designers!

Add the big 5 to your Personas

When I start a new game or design a new functionality for one I’m working on, an activity that I always facilitate in a team is to identify Personas.

It is about matching the profile of an imaginary Player with the team. You can be more or less informed by data and interviews, but in general it is good to focus internal discussions on the players.

It is important to create something that people want to buy, not something that we will buy. It generally marks the difference between success and failure.

There are many methods to organize a Persona, in this post I will tell you about the Big Five Personality Traits. It is a form of grouping people’s personalities, developed in the 1980s in the context of trait theory. According to this method, we can identify a person in 5 traits:

  • Openness to experience. Traditional VS Open to Novelties
  • Conscientiousness. Deep VS Superficial
  • Extraversion. Solitary VS Outgoing
  • Agreeableness. Analysis VS Adventure
  • Neuroticism. Reactive VS Receptive

This system is also called “OCEAN” or “CANOE”

The tendency of a team is to sometimes create personas with an OCEAN setup like this:

My advice for designers is to push to extremes, let team members choose one feature or another in no uncertain terms:

It’s much easier to argue about the various mechanics and dynamics like this!

Exercise: Take a game you are playing or studying and try to think in 3 different OCEAN configurations. Imagine how they would react to the important features of the game.

How to create a repository of the games we play

I learned a technique that I use a lot from a YouTube video of an industry expert. The technique is called brickfile and is an excellent tool to research and internalize some aspects of a game that we are studying and analyzing.

When I play a new title, I always record game sessions and upload them to my YouTube channel. In the case of mobile games, I wait for a session on day 3 and try to record at least 40 minutes of play by going through all possible screens.
Save snapshots of the gameplay video, watching it again. I use VLC for this operation which allows you to save snapshots using the SHIFT + S combination

vlc snapshots
Take all the snaps and pass them to the PureRef program, which is free and allows you to view them in the form of a grid.

Brickfile is the name of this format, and is very useful for future reference. You can easily check the various features of a game and use each snapshot for wireframes, too. In fact, from PureRef you can easily copy and paste into other programs such as Inkscape!

I have created a public repository on GitHub where I will upload my brickfiles. It would be great if it were a collaborative project!

Two ideas for video games of the future

The approach I see when people talk about NFT and decentralized technologies is about two sides: money and technology.

Money is useful for starting a project and is the result of the value that the game gives to people. 

Technology is the medium that allows us to develop our games.

If we really want to find value though, we have to talk about the base of game design: the experience that we desire to give to our Players. Their emotions and their feelings.

I don’t like the expression “play-to-earn”, I have never liked it. It sounds like work, not like a game. I don’t think the play-to-earn model is the ultimate model that will blow everything else out. I don’t think it will be the dominant model of the next few years in games. Probably I am wrong, I have been wrong many times anyways.

I believe, however, that there is a chance that these technologies will be a very important part of the gaming experiences of the future.

The first idea I believe in is in the strength of assets that can be sold by developers and that represent collective achievements. Imagine finishing an epic mission in a virtual world with a thousand other Players. A mission that changes the history of that virtual world forever. A virtual painting that represents the result of that collective mission could be of great value to the players who participated in it. Being a painting, it could be hung in any room of any other game that accepts it.

The second idea I believe in is the possibility of trading NFTs for other NFTs. Many players collect NFTs and don’t want to sell them. Some of them would trade them for others. Imagine connecting your wallet to a swap service. Imagine being able to list the NFTs you want to trade. So imagine seeing other people’s NFTs and proposing exchanges. You can swap one NFT for another, multiple NFTs for one or maybe add some cryptocurrency to reinforce the proposition.

My name is Paolo

My name is Paolo and I am a game designer. I live in Barcelona, ​​Spain.

I work as an employee for a company called Tangelo Games, where I am a senior game designer.

I also have a consulting business for small clients, I manage some projects and offer help on creative solutions.

Since the work has been growing a lot in recent months, I decided to start a blog to express myself. My insights, privileged moments of awareness.

I hope you can find some inspiration to make great games in these pages!

Feel free to contact me I am a pretty open person!