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Tag: ideas

Games that last forever

I was reading the post from the CEO of Supercell and I connected it to the announcement of 20% annual growth of King’s game Candy Crush Saga. These numbers are not obtained by chance, and finding a game that lasts forever is very hard.

I remember when Candy Crush became a big hit. For the first time, I was seeing people like my mother play a video game. It was easy from Facebook, and friends with smartphones could follow the progress from anywhere. King’s real innovation was technological: the shared progress between Facebook and mobile devices combined with a trendy game.

I remember when Clash of Clans was released for iPhone and iPad. iPad had just been released and Clash of Clans offered perfect gameplay for the device. I used to work at Digital Chocolate and a team from the company ran the Galaxy Life game. Galaxy Life was a version of Backyard Monsters aimed at a wider audience.

Clash of Clans was a better-optimized version for mobile devices that was using the same base. I don’t know how much they were inspired by Galaxy Life, but there were a lot of similarities. Even in the tutorial storyline, for example.

At DChoc, during lunch breaks, I remember colleagues spending time playing Galaxy Life. The game developers themselves found a lot of fun in the game they were working on. And this for me has always been one of the signs to see for the success of a title.

The theme and our subconscious

When you hold any level of Candy Crush Saga in your hands, what you have in front of you is a box of sweets. And you know that too much sugar is not good for you. For people of my mother’s age, but also for my generation, it suggests something childish. 

“You can’t eat all the candy, it’s bad for you!” 

“Okay mom…”

…and you spent the time sorting the candies in the box with your finger!

With Candy Crush you can spend as much time as you like playing with candies. The magic circle guarantees that you will get no diabetes from swiping all those sweetmeat. And you will not get the temptation of eating one!

When I was playing Clash of Clans, I was in an Ikea-furnished apartment, sharing a house with 3 other people. My reckless side was influenced by Northern European design. As an avid reader of fantasy literature, Vikings and dragons were one of my passions. Clash of Clans offered a light take on that theme. Little Vikings were cute and you felt that you had true power over their miserable aggressiveness. The treat was about their village, you weren’t the hero. You were their god. And the color, the clean design, and the ironic courtesy of speech somehow reminded me of those Ikea commercials. Nordic vibes!

How come people still play after so many years?

After the success, King and Supercell had the opportunity to contract talent from all over the World. Thanks to a strong base and great experience, they worked to make these services ever better adapted to all segments of players.

On the player side, however, those who have stayed longer have a sense of prestige they don’t want to lose. They feel they own their games, somehow.

Think of the players who are in the last levels of Candy Crush. They have something in their hands that the newcomer does not – they are more experienced. They overcame more challenges.

Reflect on the players who have seen Clash of Clans evolve from the first few months. They can also be guides for newcomers. They have prestige due to the fact that they are the oldest players of a game that has been since the beginning of the iPad.

Did the original creators of these games think they had these results? I think they definitely believed in their game, but something this big is very difficult to predict. We can draw a lesson from this, though: prestige in a community leads people to stay. The fantasies that can feed this prestige can be various: leadership, power, and greatness are some examples.

The Lens of Gameplay Endlessness

If we want to make a new game and our intention is to break barriers, we have to explore the world of possibilities. We have to try to identify and overcome our prejudices. I would ask those questions:

  • What are the assumptions that make me see the world of video games as I see it?
  • What could I invent to have other choices?
  • What technological barrier could I face to offer something new?
  • What is in the customs and traditions of the society that I can suggest to the Players through my game?
  • How can I introduce a sense of infinite progress of power, greatness, or leadership?

Curiosity and power

I bounced on this post by a famous French publisher. It is focused on curiosity which is a strong motivational driver:

The point of this post is that Players will be more willing to watch an ad for the reasons at the bottom than for those at the top. Adding a different visual look for the reward after the video ad is enough to give the Players curiosity. Improving the stats (top line), instead, has probably fewer chances to convert a Player because it is giving power. I have two questions here:

  1. What happens when the Players understand that all vehicles are skins (and they will)?
  2. What happens when the Players understand that more speed means higher challenge?

Intuitively, it depends a lot on the gameplay you have and your economy base. For a single player endless runner having a new vehicle can be cool, while improving your speed can cause some extra challenge you maybe don’t want. But in a multiplayer RPG game having 50% more speed of course is a huge improvement.

Trying to evaluate a game in terms of skill, luck and stats is the first step to design a good economy (thanks D. for reminding me that, the other day).

  • A game offers a fantasy to the Players
  • On top of that fantasy, Players may perform a set of actions
  • Those actions should be oriented toward goals
  • In order to reach the goals, the Players have to engage with mechanics
  • Mechanics are based on those three elements: skill, luck and stats
  • Based on that, you can design the game’s economy properly
  • On top of that, rewarded videos can offer meaningful value to the economy
  • On the short term, playing with curiosity is a great idea
  • For the long term, instead, Players that stay more will need more prestige inside of the game!

Side projects are important

Every designer should have a side project to learn.

Every company should allow their designers to have it.

The reality is not always this. Very often we designers have side projects and keep them secret. Companies sometimes do not accept an employee’s chance for success and so block it.

Those that allow them will have better-trained professionals. There is no possible training that equals a project created with the purpose of learning.


  • Be determined
  • Look after yourself
  • Focus on remaking old games adding something spicy
  • Try to overcome your need for validation
  • You are there to learn

Design concrete experiences

The main problem with the vague concept of Metaverse is that it is an experience without a central point. This year I saw the presentation of many metaverses online. All promise exploration in a three-dimensional virtual world with personalized avatars.

While exploring, you can generally meet and interact with other people. Specific content can be accessed, depending on the metaverse. Sometimes it’s about listening to music. In some other cases, you can visit museums.

And so what?

There are no reasons enough to involve people. A video game has goals, obstacles, rewards, and so on. Generally, a video game also offers the elements of a metaverse but in higher quality. These elements are created around a concrete gameplay experience, not around “whatever”.

This also allowed people to meet and ignore the rules of the game. See the case of GTA and Fortnite. When a video game is successful can also become a meeting point for people. A platform through which a brand can choose to invest in the promotion of its products.

The same argument doesn’t work the other way around. It is absurd to think that people install and frequent a virtual space without any purpose. It is necessary to think about which concrete experience to offer the player.

In 10 years maybe it will be possible to switch from one game to another without too much waiting and navigating the menus. This would be a step forward that would make life easier for hardcore gamers. But the change is always due to a desire to face a certain type of challenge and live a concrete experience.

Sometimes it seems that the dream of some marketers is to trap people in a space where they can be bombarded with advertising. This doesn’t work and never will. The human being has its limits but is capable of recognizing easy tricks. Especially nowadays where everything is connected and opinions spin and influence people.

Plans for 2023: Simple and well made games

I had time to think about my future. And yet I have not come to any conclusion!

Being a consultant is great but very stressful. Being employed is less stressful, but also less beautiful. My career has been oriented towards free-to-play mobile. New frontiers of video games are being opened. AAA game companies are taking an interest in data oriented game designers. AAA are the games that interest me the most as a player.

Many experts are pointing out the challenges of free-to-play to find new players. Free-to-play is based on the frantic pursuit of whale players. People capable of spending large amounts of money in order to have more power in the game. These people however join games that are very successful among free players. That would be the players who play without spending a cent and that consist of more than 90% of Players. Quick math, you need a LOT of people playing your game. And those people is not cheap to get.

The result is that there are a number of best practices that make free-to-play mobile games all the same, by genre. Open any puzzle game and it will probably have the same characteristics as the others. People are tired of seeing the same thing over and over again.

The hyper-casual trend is dying because its business model is no longer sustainable. Apple took countermeasures against Facebook and destroyed the UA strategies of those games. However, the development process that requires a quality video game has become redundant.

While on the one hand they offered original ideas, on the other they didn’t devote the necessary efforts to create unique experiences. The important thing was to fit into the equations on CPI and D1 retention and that’s it. The vision, the underlying fantasy, the actions, the objectives and the economies were literally sketched out. For me, that was the real reason why the system didn’t work. It’s obvious that people like to see new games that are fun and easy to use. But it’s also obvious that people want to have well-made games!

I hope this 2023 to contribute to this point: create simple but well made games!

Removing loot boxes is a mistake

Journalists and many game developers hate loot boxes. Players of games that feature this mechanic, however, love them. Just see the comments on this video:

It is true that very often considerable amounts of money are invested in order not to get what one wants. This leads many people to overspend and feel guilty. But in general, the thrill of opening a surprise is loved by the Players.

Eliminating these elements from a gaming system is risky because it damages the spend depth on the service. In practice, players will be able to spend much less money to get what they want. Given the number of people paying for a free-to-play game, this measure can be detrimental and seriously damage the service.

I think that this choice was made without taking data into consideration and without listening to the people that plays the game: the Players.

Surely there is a part of the players who will have left because of the disappointment of spending money and not getting what they want. This move maybe is a way to re-engage part of the churn. But successful games are built on Players, so people who stay and play, not those who choose to leave.

  • They could have tried split testing workarounds instead of announcing the new design before of getting the numbers proving that it actually works.
  • They could have those new ideas running in parallel with the loot box system.

This is NOT how we use to work in free-to-play. It seems like a AAA brand awareness move. I believe that they chose to follow their instincts. They are the experts, of course. For me, it is a big mistake.

AI to improve my workflow

Recently, I began a new collaboration that I hope will yield positive results. I apologize for not writing in a while due to the overwhelming amount of work I have been facing.

act like you are an interactive romance story

I am currently testing the ChatGPT tool and find it incredibly fascinating. I believe that this type of technology can help me become more productive and improve my abilities.

Using ChatGPT, you can write prompts and generate well-done, yet basic, content. To create truly human and original content, you will need to add your own input and edit the generated content.

Overall, I believe that using ChatGPT will save me hours of work and allow me to focus on other important tasks.

Mobile cloud as a feature

The classic way to start a new mobile game is:

  1. For some reason, I arrive at the virtual store
  2. I choose the game to install and tap the Install button
  3. I wait for it to install. Some games are huge.
  4. I start and there is a stage where the screen is dark
  5. I wait while looking at a splash screen for a few seconds, less than 15
  6. In case there are updates this time increases
  7. I am introduced to the game.

The games of the future should be like this:

  • For some reason, I arrive at the virtual store
  • I choose the game and PLAY
  • I wait less than 2 seconds
  • I am introduced to the game

It seems like an impossible feature, but that’s what will make the difference for me.

I broke it!

One of the trends I see in mobile game design comes from the hyper-casual wave of games: games that you can break.

Link to original Tweet

It helps the game get viral, players feel smart and it’s clever. Especially in multiplayer games, it works great!

One may feel that designers made bad work, but it’s not always the case. Often there are surprising discoveries in the process!

Can your game be broken by the Players? If not, can you make some mechanics less controlled to open up to that possibility?

Existence and storytelling

Yesterday I have finished watching a great Netflix show called “From Scratch”. Very suggested to anyone reading.

One of the topic of the series is death, still a romantic/casual audience may appreciate this kind of series.

Think in casual snackable games. What about creating some narrative to make the people reflect on existential topics?

Will that work?

Those topics are not comfy, but something very powerful may please our love for great stories.