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    Medieval Price List

    Game Design and Theory

    GameDev.net

    List of prices of medieval items
    courtesy of Kenneth Hodges (hodges@jif.berkeley.edu)

    The list of medieval prices which follows is by no means complete or thoroughly researched; I merely extracted references from some of the books I have, and I thought others might like to inspect it. The sources I used are listed at the end. If an item is listed several times, it is because I had several references I wished to record.


    Money goes as follows:
    1 pound (L) = 20 shillings (s)
    1 crown = 5 shillings
    1 shilling = 12 pence (d)
    1 penny = 4 farthings
    1 mark = 13s 4d

    The French Livre, sou, and denier are equivalent to the pound, shilling and penny (Latin liber, solidus, and denarius, I believe, which is where the weird English abbreviations come from).

    For ease, I've divided this list into the following sections: tools, horses, food and livestock, books and education, buildings, cloth and clothing, armor, weapons, marriage, funerals, travel, miscellaneous goods, and wages.

    Of course, a price list is a misleading guide to a feudal economy, because so many goods were either produced within a household, or supplied by a lord. Retainers could get money, but they would also get food, lodging, weapons (sometimes), and cloth. Knights Templar were provided with clothes, horses, and armor.


    Tools

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    2 yokes                         4s          c1350       [3]     170
    Foot iron of plough             5d            "          "       "
    3 mason's tools (not named)     9d            "          "       "
    1 spade and shovel              3d          1457         "       "
    1 axe                           5d            "          "       "
    1 augur                         3d            "          "       "
    1 vise                          13s 4d      1514        [5]     27-28
    Large biciron                   60s           "          "        "
    Small biciron                   16s           "          "        "
    Anvil                           20s           "          "        "
    Bellows                         30s           "          "        "
    Hammers                         8d-2s 8d      "          "        "
    2 chisels                       8d            "          "        "
    Compete set of armorer's tools  L13 16s 11d   "          "        "
    Spinning Wheel                  10 d         1457       [3]     170
    

    Horses

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    War Horse                       up to 50s   12 cen  (?) [7]     30
    War Horse                       up to L80   13 cen      [3]     72
    Knight's 2 horses               L10         1374         "      76
    High-grade riding horse         L10         13th cen     "      72
    Draught horse                   10s-20s     13th cen     "       "
    

    Note: Horse prices varied dramatically; for instance, they doubled between 1210 and 1310. ([3], p. 37).

    Food and Livestock

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    Wine:
      Best Gascon in London         4d/gallon   1331        [2]     194
      Best Rhenish in London        8d/London     "          "       "
    Wine:
      Cheapest                      3d-4d/gal   Late 13 cen [3]     62
      Best                          8d-10d/gal    "          "       "
    Ale (beer comes later):
      Good                          1.5d/gal    14 cen      [2]     201
      Medium                        1d/gal        "          "       "
      Poor                          .75d/gal      "          "       "
    Ale:
      First-rate                    1-1.25d/gal 1320-1420   [3]     58
      Second-rate                   .75-1d/gal    "          "       "
    Ale (best):
      Somerset                      .75d        1338        [3]     210
      London                        1.25d        "           "       "
    Beer, good                      1d/quart    late 16 cen [8]     xx
    Dried Fruit (eg raisins, dates, 1-4d/lb, up
      figs, prunes), almonds, rice  to 6d rare  14 cen(?)   [3]     62-63
    Spices (cinnamon, cloves, mace,
      pepper, sugar, etc).          1-3s/lb       "          "        "
    Pepper                          4s/lb       mid 13 cen  [9]     218
    Pepper                          6d/.5lb     1279-1280   [3]     11
    Saffron                         12s-15s/lb  14 cen(?)   [3]     62-63
    Cow (good)                      10s         12 cen(?)   [7]     30
    Cow                             9s 5d       mid 14th    [1]     99
    Cow                             6s          1285-1290   [3]     206
    Ox                              13s 1.25d   mid 14 cen  [1]     99
    Sheep                           1s 5d         "          "       "
    Wether:
      Somerset                      9d-10d      1338        [3]     210
      London                        1s 5d        "           "       "
    Pig:
      Somerset                      2s          1338        [3]     210
      London                        3s           "           "       "
    Fowl                            1d            "          "       "
    2 Chickens                      1d          14 cen      [4]     78
    2 Dozen Eggs                    1d            "          "       "
    Goose (in London)               6d (legal)
                                    7d-8d asked 1375        [2]     198
    80 lb cheese                    3s 4d       late 13 cen [3]     114
    Salted herring (wholesale)      5-10/1d     1382        [2]     198-199
    Salt conger                     6d each     1422-1423   [3]     69
    Oats:
      Somerset                      1s/quarter  1338         "      210
      London                        2s 2d per    "           "       "
                                     quarter
    Cost of feeding a knight's or   L30-L60,    15 cen      [3]     199
      merchants household per year  up to L100
    

    Related note: around 1380, these are the average costs per day of feeding people on an estate ([3], p. 65): lord, 7d; esquire, 4d; yeoman, 3d; and groom, 1d.

    Books and Education

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    Monastary School                L2 (approx) 1392-1393   [3]     75
                                    per year
    Schoolmaster at Croyden:
      Board                         2s/week*    1394        [2]     186
      Instruction                   13s 4d/year  "           "       "
    Oxford:
      Board                         104s/year   1374         "       "
      Clothing                      40s/year     "           "       "
      Instruction                   26s 8d/year  "           "       "
    University:
      Minimum                       L2-L3/year  Late 14 cen [3]     75
      Student of good birth         L4-L10/year  "           "       "
    Fencing Instruction             10s/month   Late 16 cen [8]     xx
    7 Books                         L5 (approx) 1479        [3]     76
    126 Books                       L113        1397        [3]     77
    To Rent a book                  .5d-1d per  mid 13 cen  [9]     172
                                    pecia**
    

    * Source says 2s/day. This is not only insanely high, but the text also claims that the board was the same as at Oxford--i.e., 2s/week or 104s/year.

    ** A pecia is 16 columns of 62 lines of 32 letters, i.e., 31 744 letters, or about 7 500 - 8 000 words. Rental period is not specified, but I would guess a year; books were rented to be copied, and copying the Bible took 15 months. See [9], p. 172.

    Buildings

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    Rent per annum for 138 shops on
      London Bridge                 L160 4s     1365        [2]     114
    Rent for the three London
      taverns with the exclusive
      right to sell sweet wines
      (hippocras, clarry, piments)  L200        1365-1375   [2]     195-196
    Rent cottage                    5s/year     14 cen(?)   [3]     208
    Rent craftsman's house          20s/year     "           "       "
    Rent merchant's house           L2-L3/year   "           "       "
    Cottage (1 bay, 2 storeys)      L2          early 14 cen "      205
    Row house in York (well built)  up to L5     "           "       "
    Craftsman's house (i.e., with
      shop, work area, and room
      for workers) with 2-3 bays
      and tile roof                 L10-L15     early 14 cen [3]    205
    Modest hall and chamber, not
      including materials           L12         1289        [3]     79-80
    Merchant's house                L33-L66     early 14 cen [3]    205
    House with courtyard            L90+         "           "       "
    Goldsmiths' Hall (in London,
      with hall, kitchen, buttery,
      2 chambers)                   L136        1365        [2]     114
    Large tiled barn                L83         1309-1310   [3]     79
    Wooden gatehouse (30' long),
      barn, and drawbridge:
      Contract                      L5 6s 8d +  1341        [3]     81
                                    builder's
                                    clothing
      Estimated total               L16          "           "       "
    Stone Gatehouse (40' X 18'):
      with all except stone         L16 13s 4d  1313        [3]     79-80
      estimated with stone          L30          "           "        "
    Tower in castle's curtain wall  L333, L395  late 14 cen  "        "
    Castle & college at Tattershall L450/annum  1434-1446    "      81
                                    for 13 years
    Transept of Gloucester Abbey    L781        1368-1373   [3]     79-80
    Stonework of church (125', no   L113        13 cen(?)    "        "
      tower)                        (contract)
    

    note: tithes were often calculated at 1d a week for every 20s of annual rent paid (4, p. 208).

    The following are the estimates of raw materials and labor that went into the tower of Langeais, a rectangular, tapering stone tower built in 992-994. The source is [6], pp. 47ff. The dimensions at the base were 17.5 meters by 10 meters; the height was 16m (3 floors); the walls were 1.5m thick, made of two shells filled with loose rock.

    Limestone in building: about 1050 cubic meters, or 2 600 000 kg
    Wood in building: 47.5 cubic meters, or 34 600 kg
    Nails: 3 400, or 50 kg
    Mortar: 350 cubic meters.
    To make the mortar:
    sand: 225 cubic meters, or 360 000 kg
    limestone: 40 cubic meters, or 160 000 kg
    green wood: 540 cubic meters, or 286 000 kg
    Labor Costs, in Average Working Days (AWD):
    procurement: 14 250
    transport: 2 880
    labor:
    unskilled: 63 500
    mason: 12 700
    smith: 1 600

    Cloth and Clothing

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    Fashionable gown                easily L10, late 14 cen [2]     53
                                    up to L50
    Gentry:
      Shoes                         4d          1470s       [3]     79
      Boots                         6d            "          "       "
      Purse                         1.5d          "          "       "
      Hat                           10d, 1s 2d    "          "       "
    Craftsman's tabard and super-
      tunic                         3s          1285-1290   [3]     206
    Reeve's murrey (dark brown) robe 6s 4d      1349-1352    "      176
    Reeve's red robe                5s 3d           "        "       "
    Peasants (wealthy):
      Linen Chemise                 8d          1313        [3]     175
      Shoes                         6d           "           "       "
      Woolen garment                3s           "           "       "
      Fur-lined garments            6s 8d       early 14 cen "       "
      Tunic                         3s           "           "       "
      Linen                         1s           "           "       "
    Landless serfs' tunics          1d-6d       mid 14 cen   "      176
    Cloth for peasant tunics        8d-1s 3d    early 14 cen "       "
                                    per yard
    Best Wool                       5s/yard     1380        [3]     78
    "Tawny and russet"              6s/yard     1479-1482    "      "
    Silk                            10s-12s     15 cen(?)    "      "
                                    per yard
    Furs added to garment           +L2-L3 to   15 cen(?)   "       79
                                    garment
    The worth of cloth provided
      yearly by a lord to:
      esquires                      2s 11d/yard 1289-1290   [3]     78
      yeomen                        2s/yard         "        "       "
      lesser servants               1s 7d/yard      "        "       "
    

    Note: loose tunics take 2.25-2.5 yards. In the late 14th century, shorter doubled (lined) tunics, known as doublets, became fashionable, requiring 4 yards ([3], pp 175,176).

    Armor

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    Mail                            100s        12 cen(??   [7]     30
    Ready-made Milanese armor       L8 6s 8d    1441        [4]     112
    Squire's armor                  L5-L6 16s 8d "           "       "
    Armor for Prince of Wales,
      "gilt and graven"             L340        1614        [5]     20
    Complete Lance Armor            L3 6s 8d    1590        [5]     185
    Complete corselets              30s          "           "       "
    Cuirass of proof with pauldrons 40s          "           "       "
    Normal cuirass with pauldrons   26s 8d       "           "       "
    Target of proof                 30s          "           "       "
    Morion                          3s 4d        "           "       "
    Burgonet                        4s           "           "       "
    Cuirass of pistol-proof with
      pauldrons                     L1 6s       1624        [5]     189-190
    Cuirass without pauldrons       L1           "           "         "
    Lance Armor                     L4           "           "         "
    Targets of Proof                24s          "           "         "
    Cuirass with cap                L4           "           "         "
    Armor of proof                  L14 2s 8d   1667         "      68
    Bascinet                        13s 4d +    1369         "      88
                                    3s 4d to
                                    line it
    Armor in a merchant's house
      (leather?)                    5s          1285-1290   [3]     206
    Total Armor owned by a knight   L16 6s 8d   1374         "      76
    Armor in house of Thomas of
      Woodstock, duke of Gloucester L103        1397         "      77
    Fee for cleaning rust off
      corselets                     5d each     1567        [5]     80
    Fee for varnishing, replacing
      straps, and rivetting helmet
      and corselet                  1s 4d       1613        [5]     90
    Barrel for cleaning mail        9d          1467        [5]     79
    

    Note: mail is chainmail; almost all the rest is plate-armor. The armor of the knight in 1374 was probably mail with some plates; same for Gloucester's. Mail was extremely susceptible to rust, and was cleaned by rolling it in sand and vinegar in a barrel. Pauldrons are shoulder plates; morions are open helms, burgonets and bascinets closed helms; and a target refers to any of a number different kind of shields. Armor of proof is tested during the making with blows or shots from the strongest weapons of the time; if a weapon is listed, the armor does not claim to be proof against everything, only that it is proof up to that weapon's strength (eg pistol proof is not musket proof, but may be sword proof). All plate armor was lined with cloth, to pad the wearer, quiet the armor, and reduce wear between the pieces. This, along with the necessary straps, was a significant amount of the expense. An armorer asking for money to set up shop in 1624 estimated production costs and profit for a number of different types of armor: I give two examples below ([5], pp. 189-190).

    Cuirass of proof with pauldrons:
      plates:                         5s 6d
      finishing, rivets, and straps:  7s 6d
      selling price                   26s
    Lance armor:
      plates                        14s 5d
      finishing, et cetera          40s
      selling price                 80s
    

    Weapons

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    Cheap sword (peasant's)         6d          1340s       [3]     174
    Pair of wheel-lock pistols,
      with tools for them           L2 16s      mid 17th    [4]     208
    Holsters for pistols            6d             "         "       "
    Wheel-lock carbine              L1 10s         "         "       "
    Shoulder belt for carbine       1s             "         "       "
    Pair of flintlock pistols       L2 5s          "         "       "
    Flintlock carbine               L1 2s          "         "       "
    Musket                          16s 6d-18s 6d  "         "       "
    

    Note: Sorry, folks, that's all I found. It was mandatory in England for all freemen to own certain types of weapons and armor. (In 1181 every freeman having goods worth 10 marks (1 mark = 13s 4d) had to have a mail shirt, a helmet, and a spear. All other freemen should have helmet, spear, and gambeson (quilted armor) [4], p. 39.) Later, the government stored arms and armour in churches for use; in the 13th century anyone with an income of L2-L5 (wealthy peasants) had to have bows; archery practice became compulsory on Sundays and holidays. You may know that the extreme range of the longbow was 400 yards, but did you know that a statute of Henry VIII no one over 24 could practice at a range of less than 220 yards? (See [4], p. 95 and elsewhere). Note: for guessing prices, see the section on tools (an axe for 5d). An armorer might make 24s a month; say a week to make a decent sword, and you might get a price that way. See the section on books and education for fencing instruction.

    Marriage

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    Sample peasant dowries:         13s 4d,     14 cen(?)   [3]     179
                                    35s 11d,
                                    57s, 63s 4d
    For serfs, mechet (fees) to lord,
      depending on wealth           1s-13s 4d   14 cen(?)   [3]     179
    Wedding feast, wealthy peasant  20s           "          "       "
    Wealthy peasant wedding total   L3-L4         "          "       "
    Dowry for esquire's daughter    up to L66   15 cen       "      84
                                    13s 4d
    Dowry for baron's daughter      L1000 +       "          "       "
    London parents (both sets)
      each offered couple           L100        1385        [2]     154
    

    Note: these costs will be wildly varying depending on circumstance.

    Funerals

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    Cheap gentlewoman's funeral
      (bell-ringing, clergy, food)  L7          1497        [3]     85
    Brass monument, with a figure
      incised, on marble base--
      fitting for lesser aristocrat L8          early 14 cen "       "
    Bishop Mitford's funeral
      (with 1450 guests!)           L130+       1407         "       "
    Memorial Chapel for Richard
      Beauchamp, earl of Warwick    L2481       1439-1463    "       "
    Bronze effigy on guilded tomb   L400            "        "       "
    

    Note: Christopher Dyer gives as a rough rule of thumb 1 year's income for a funeral ([3], p. 85)

    Travel

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    Queen's chariot                 L400        14 cen      [1]     99
    Lady Eleanor's chariot          L1000       14 cen      [1]     99
    Chariot                         L8          1381        [3]     72
    Chariot maintence               1-3s/year   14 cen       "      "
    Barge                           L10           "          "      "
    Iron-bound cart                 4s          c1350        "      170
    Guide for a night               1d          14 cen      [1]     129
    Ferry ride per horseman         1d           "           "       "
    Keeping an earl's warhorse
      82 days in summer             36s 9.5d    1287        [3]     71
    

    Note: [1], pp 126-129, gives the following prices at an inn in 1331. For one day, 3 men with 4 servants spent: Bread, 4d; beer, 2d; wine 1.25d; meat, 5.5d; potage, .25d; candles, .25d; fueld, 2d; beds, 2d; fodder for horses, 10d. The four servants staying alone sleep 2 nights for 1d. Generally, all 7 spend 2d a night on beds; in London, it is 1d per head.

    Miscellaneous

    Item                            Price       Date        Source  Page
    6 silver spoons                 14s         1382        [2]     24
    2 gold rings with diamonds      L15          "           "       "
    Gold Ring with ruby             26s 8d       "           "       "
    3 strings of pearls             70s          "           "       "
    6 gold necklaces                100s         "           "       "
    Fee to enroll an apprentice:
      with mercers (rich merchants) 2s          14 cen      [2]     111
      with carpenters               1s            "          "       "
    Fee to join guild at end of
      apprenticeship:
      with mercers                  20s           "         [2]     111
      with carpenters               3s 4d         "          "       "
    Fee to join guild               6s 8d-L3    14 cen(?)   [3]     208
    Fee to gain freedom of a town
      (to enjoy its exemption from
      feudal duties, I assume)      3s 4d-20s   14 cen(?0   [3]     208
    To empty a cesspit in a city    6s 8d       15 cen(?)   [3]     209
    Candles
      Somerset                      1.5d/lb     1338        [3]     210
      London                        2d-2.5d/lb   "           "       "
    Candles
      tallow                        1.5d/lb     15 cen(?)   [3]     74
      wax                           6.5d/lb     1406-1407    "      "
    Vat                             4d          1457        [3]     170
    Barrel                          3d           "           "       "
    Bottle                          4d           "           "       "
    2 buckets                       1s           "           "       "
    1 sheet                         4d           "           "       "
    1 mattress                      2d           "           "       "
    4 pillows                       4d           "           "       "
    3 boards for a bed              4d           "           "       "
    2 sheets, 4 blankets            5s 8p       1349-1352    "       "
    16 bedspreads, 20 sheets,
      8 featherbeds                 L3 1s       1285-1290   [3]     206
    Duke's bed of cloth of gold,
      with blue satin canopy        L182 3s     1397        [3]     77
    Table                           6d          1457        [3]     170
    Chair                           3d           "           "       "
    Chest with necessaries thereto  2s 2d        "           "       "
    2 chests                        6d each      "           "       "
    Metal ewer                      6d          1349-1352    "       "
    Brass pot                       2s              "        "       "
    Basin and ewer                  8d              "        "       "
    Basin and ewer                  2s 8d           "        "       "
    Towel                           6d              "        "       "
    Coffer                          1s              "        "       "
    2 stools                        8d              "        "       "
    Ceramic cooking pot             .5d         1340s        "      174
    

    Note: most of these come from inventories of peasants' belongings. The fine goods would be more expensive.

    Note about lighting: great houses could use 100 lb of wax and tallow in a single winter night ([3], p. 74). Others, not as rich, would go to sleep earlier.

    Wages

    Profession                      Wage        Date        Source  Page
    Mercenaries:
      knight banneret               4s/day      1316        [4]     78
      knight                        2s/day       "           "       "
      man-at-arms or squire         1s/day       "           "       "
    Regular Army
      Esquires, constables, and
        centenars                   1s/day      1346        [4]     79
      Mounted archers, armored
        infantry, hobilars,
        vintenars                   6d/day       "           "       "
      Welsh vintenars               4d/day       "           "       "
      Archers                       3d/day       "           "       "
      Welsh infantry                2d/day       "           "       "
      Captain                       8s/day      late 16 cen [4]     181
      Lieutenant                    4s/day        "          "       "
      Ensign                        2s/day        "          "       "
      Drummer or trumpeter          20d/day       "          "       "
      cavalryman                    18d/day       "          "       "
      infantry                      8d/day        "          "       "
    Laborer                         L2/year max c1300       [3]     29
    Crown revenues (at peace)       L30 000     c1300        "       "
    Barons per year                 L200-500+   c1300        "       "
    Earls  per year                 L400-L11000 c1300        "       "
    Sergeant at Law (top lawyer)    L300/year   1455         "      47
    Chief armorer                   26s 8d/month 1544       [5]     182
    Other armorers in same shop     24s/month   1544         "       "
      except "Old Martyn" who made  38s 10d/month 1544       "       "
    Apprentices in same shop        6d/day      1544         "       "
    Master mason                    4d/day      1351        [2]     24
    Master carpenter                3d/day       "           "       "
    Carpenters' Guild stipend to
      a sick member                 14d/week    1333        [2]     156
    Weavers                         5d/day, no  1407        [2]     146
                                    food
    Chantry priest per year         L4 13s 4d   1379        [2]     24
    Squires per annum               13s 4d-L1   14 cen      [1]     116-117
    Carters, porters, falconers     5s-8s 8d    14 cen      [1]     116-117
      grooms, messengers            per year
    Kitchen servants                2s-4s/year  14 cen      [1]     116-117
    Boys and pages                  1s-6s/year  14 cen      [1]     116-117
    Wardens of London Bridges       L10/year    1382        [2]     128
    

    Note: sheriffs of London paid 300L per year, hoping to make a profit from the fines they collected.

    Note: 30 adult sheep could produce about 20s of wool per year in 1299 ([3], p. 114).

    Note: To get a VERY ROUGH sense of money, I reproduce the following chart from Dyer ([3], p. 206). These are averages of daily wages in pence.

    Decade        Thatcher          Thatcher's mate
    1261-70       2                 -
    1271-80       2.5               1
    1281-90       2.25              1
    1291-1300     2.5               1
    1301-10       2.5               1
    1311-20       3                 1.25
    1321-30       3                 1
    1331-40       3                 1.25
    1341-50       3                 1.25
    1351-60       3.5               2
    1361-70       3.5               2
    1371-80       4.25              2.5
    1381-90       4                 2.25
    1391-1400     4.25              2.75
    1401-10       4.5               3
    1411-20       4.75              3
    1421-30       4.5               3
    1431-40       4.5               3.25
    1441-50       5.25              4
    1451-60       5.5               3.25
    1461-70       4.75              3.75
    1471-80       5.25              3.75
    1481-90       6                 3.75
    1491-1500     5.5               3.5
    1501-10       5.75              4
    1511-20       5.25              4
    

    [1] English Wayfaring Life in the XIVth Century, J. J. Jusserand, trans Lucy Smith, Putnam's Sons, New York,1931 (Orig. 1889).

    [2] London in the Age of Chaucer, A. R. Myers, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1972

    [3] Standards of Living in the Later Middle Ages, Christopher Dyer, Cambridge University Press, 1989

    [4] English Weapons & Warfare, 449-1660, A. V. B. Norman and Don Pottinger, Barnes & Noble, 1992 (orig. 1966)

    [5] The Armourer and his Craft from the XIth to the XVIth Century, Charles ffoulkes, Dover, 1988 (orig. 1912)

    [6] "The Cost of Castle Building: The Case of the Tower at Langeais," Bernard Bachrach, in The Medieval Castle: Romance and Reality, ed. Kathryn Reyerson and Faye Powe, Kendall/Hunt, Dubuque, Iowa, 1984

    [7] The Knight in History, Frances Gies, Harper & Row, New York, 1984

    [8] Methods and Practice of Elizabethan Swordplay, Craig Turner and Tony Soper, Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 1990

    [9] Life in a Medieval City, Joseph and Frances Gies, Harper & Row, New York, 1969



























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    • By Tulip-Toucan
      I'm a designer newbie looking to team up with other fellow newbies to create an Elder Scrolls inspired RPG called Ogera: Land of Shadows. Someone who can work with either 2D or 3D graphics and knows a program called Stencyl or Godot is a plus. 
      Info for the game - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1CoqyOfc8stg6XP-7nklOitiRg8wBRutSDy0ZeOboACQ/edit?usp=sharing
       
      Contact me through Discord at claire#2922 if you wish to help.
       
    • By chiragc
      Some may argue that hyper-casual is probably one of the easiest genres to analyse when it comes to game design. Some may argue that hyper-casuals aren’t worth analyzing because it’s a trend that will die soon. I beg to differ, and I wonder who are these people and why do they argue so much?
      I don’t claim to be an expert in hyper-casuals. I am just a consumer who can no longer enjoy games as a consumer, thanks to my analytical game designer eyes. Since I’ve been playing (analysing) a lot of hyper-casual games on mobile recently, I thought, why not do a short write up on what’s so intriguing about them and what we as game designers can learn from them. Again, it’s not a go-to guide on making hyper-casuals, it’s a short hypothesis (always wanted to use that word) on various game design choices and systems that help make hyper-casuals fun. If you don’t agree on something, know that I’m always up for debates.
      Let’s dive right in, shall we?

       
      Hyper what?
      For those living under a rock for the past few years, a hyper-casual game is an ultra-simple game that offers an addictive gameplay loop, combined with minimalist art, and usually playable with nothing but a screen tap. It often presents straightforward goals – get the highest score (Stack), clear levels (Phases), and more. Think of it as something developed in a game jam, but with better production quality and meta.
      If you are someone like me who looks forward to the App Store refresh every week, you will notice hyper-casuals taking the App Store by storm, and that’s because of a good reason. Since these games are built around minimalism, developers can produce them quickly within a few weeks, if not months. This is a part of the strategy that makes hyper-casuals a success, and you’d see all major hyper-casual publishers like Ketchapp, Voodoo, Appsolute Games release at least one game a week. And boy, people love ’em – Hyper-Casuals were downloaded more than 100M times in 2018!
      But enough about numbers and analytics, let’s get our hands dirty!
       
      Let me play this thing already!
      For the sake of simplicity and since I can’t possibly play all the hyper-casual games available on mobile, I am going to use a few of the popular games as examples while exploring different areas in the genre.
      With that said, let’s start with discovery.
      One day, I was bored and browsing Instagram. That’s how I discovered this game called ‘Ball Blast’. A short 30-sec video ad, showing nothing but the best features of the game, made me download the game. The video showed how easy it was to play the game and beat it. In short, it looked fun. I wanted to start playing it immediately, which was made possible thanks to the low download size, a crucial thing for hyper-casuals.

      An example of an ad that runs on social media
       
      Now, you have to understand how most of the users discover these games. Hyper-casuals rely majorly on User Acquisition campaigns on social media. Whenever someone’s browsing one of these social media channels, it’s safe to assume that they are bored. They are looking for ways to bring an end to this boredom, and that’s where these hyper-casuals come in as a ‘Knight in Shining Armor’, ready to put an end to their misery. 
      The idea is to quickly educate potential players about this game that’s super fun and allow them to start playing instantly. Since they’re browsing on their phone, chances are that they are on mobile data. Nobody likes to download GBs of data while on mobile, except if you are super rich or your daddy pays your bill. Even if you are on Wi-Fi with good download speed, it’s hard being patient after seeing how fun the game looks in the ad. Hence, the low download size.
      Okay, so the player has managed to download the game and is ready to enter the game’s world. Now what? This brings us to our next topic – onboarding.
      Roughly, it takes about 7 seconds for a player to decide if the game’s fun and worth the storage space on his phone. Such a short window means, no lengthy tutorials or UI transitions!
      Ball Blast does just that. The moment you fire up the game, you’re presented with the game screen which says “swipe to shoot”, and that’s the only gameplay ‘tutorial’ you ever receive. You touch the screen, and the canon starts shooting bullets.

      How inviting!
       
      When you start shooting, you notice that the canon also has the ability to move horizontally by following your finger. When your brain has become used to the idea of shooting and moving, multiple numbered balls enter the game area for you to shoot. You shoot the balls, watch them explode dropping coins, and realize that bigger balls burst into smaller ones. Simple, isn’t it?
      Same goes for this neat little game called Stack by Ketchapp which also boots at the game screen, allowing the player to start the game by tapping anywhere. As soon as you tap, you watch a square move to-and-fro, and you learn that whenever you tap, the moving square drops on the stack of squares below and any part which is outside the stack gets trimmed out. Because these games boast a simple single mechanic, it’s reasonably easy to teach it without using complex tutorials. The player learns by failing and overcoming the challenge. The gameplay is “Youtubeable”, meaning, it’s easy to learn by just watching.

       
      Get in and get out!
      Have you noticed how easy and quick it is to start playing a hyper-casual game on your phone? You take the phone out, unlock it, tap on the game’s icon, and within 2 seconds you are in! Isn’t that great? 
      That’s what the brain wants when it’s dead-bored and wants a potion that can revive it instantly. I start the game, play a session, fail a couple of times, beat my high score, and collect my rewards. That’s what makes up the short feedback loop in the core gameplay. The actions contributing to success or failure are communicated instantly. Combine this with upgrades (discussed later in the blog) and you have a strong positive feedback loop that’s rewarding and highly engaging while being short.
      EDIT: In the short feedback loop illustrated below, you’d realise that the player also improves by failing, thanks to Sampath for pointing that out!

       
      If you’ve managed to create a game with a fun gameplay hook and the players love it, know that’s probably the only thing they care about in your game. Ball Blast puts me right into the action as soon as I start the game because it understands my needs — instant fun. No UI transitions, cutscenes, or texts. 
      Even if I play the game after a week, I know how to interact with the game, thanks to the ultra-simple mechanic, and no prior commitments. Getting in and out of a game session is another crucial aspect that helps towards the success of these games. 
      While at work, I often take breaks in the form of short game sessions on my phone and I rely on hyper-casuals for the same, because I know I don’t have the time or the environment to play anything “complex“. Hyper-casuals give me my dose of fun when I want it and where I want it.
       
      Give me all the power!
      This is where things get interesting. As mentioned earlier, the core gameplay is what makes the player stick. It’s simple yet addictive, and mastering it encourages the player to come back. If you remember Ball Blast, you’d wonder what’s so fun about shooting balls repeatedly? I wondered the same when I saw the game’s ad for the first time — “Okay, this looks fun, but would it still be fun after a couple of days?”. To answer that question in short — yes, it was fun, and it still is!
      To better understand what makes the core fun, we have to talk about the key behind it — upgrades! 
      In Ball Blast destroying the balls reward you with coins and gems, a form of soft currency. Let’s talk about coins, as gems only allow you to purchase cosmetics, and don’t affect the gameplay much. Coins are used to upgrade your canon. There are four types of upgrades available:
      Fire Speed: upgrades the shooting speed. Fire Power: upgrades the damage dealt with bullets. Coins Drop: improves the value, and the rate of coins dropped after shooting balls. Offline Earnings: which increases the rate of coins earned while the game is in background. If you observe the upgrades closely, you will notice that they work in synergy to enhance your ‘power‘ in the game. For example, upgrading Coins Drop allows you to collect more coins in a session, which makes it easier to horde coins and spend on other upgrades. Upgrading your canon is what makes you feel powerful because it lets you destroy balls quickly, even the bigger ones who felt harder to destroy at some point. This is what makes the core loop special. The player feels powerful after each session. The player is always craving for power, which he can only achieve by playing more, earning coins, and then using those coins to upgrade his power.

       
      Levels are well-balanced to support this loop by giving you areas to showcase your power and then introducing stronger balls, encouraging you to upgrade the canon even more. The progression is not only meaningful but is easy to convey. Spend just five minutes in the game, and you’ll see what I am talking about. 
      Another game which uses this methodology quite well is Mr. Gun by Ketchapp. You kill bad guys, they drop coins, and you can use these coins to buy guns with better damage and fire rate, enhancing your ‘power‘ in the game. You are introduced to your first premium gun pretty early, as a gift, and that’s how the game teaches you about upgrades in the form of new weapons and how they can benefit you in the game.
      I’d also like to use this opportunity to compare this type of hyper-casuals with dungeon crawlers. Bear with me, please. 
      Now, if you have played Diablo or any other dungeon crawler, you start with mediocre gear and face Tier 1 enemies, who are relatively easy but still require multiple strikes to die. As you continue on your adventure, you earn powerful gear, allowing you to kill those Tier 1 enemies with a single blow. Suddenly, you feel powerful, nothing can stop you now…
      … Until you enter a new area and the game throws Tier 2 enemies at you, and soon you realize that your powerful gear is not so powerful anymore. Since you’ve tasted the ultimate power once, you want it back. You want to feel powerful again, and the cycle continues.
      Ball Blast makes you feel powerful the same way but instead of using better gear, it allows you to improve/upgrade your canon, and carefully paced levels keeps you craving for more power.
       
      What if there are no upgrades?
      You may ask — “upgrades are cool, but what about games where there are no upgrades?” 
      I say to you — good question! 
      You’d be aware of games where the goal is to achieve the highest score globally or within friends. These games rely on a special kind of power. Let’s use Stack as an example, where the objective for the player is to achieve the best score possible, by repetitive play. Sure he can’t ‘upgrade‘ anything, but the more he plays, the better he gets at the game. Instead of upgrading a game element, the player upgrades his own skills. This encourages him to keep going at it. And if you make him compete with his friends, as most games do via a leaderboard, that’s when things get personal and competitive — another hook to keep him coming back to the game. There’s no way Mark can beat my score in this game!
      These implicit upgrades make the player feel smart or powerful and provide a sense of progression. Same goes for puzzle-based hyper-casuals where the player feels smart by solving more and more puzzles, which ramps in difficulty over time.

       
      Nowadays, you’d often come across levels-based hyper-casuals. Instead of an endless-type of gameplay, they break down the experience into custom-crafted levels where each level has something unique with increasing challenge, generating curiosity, which encourages the players to keep going and “beat” the game. It’s also a great way to convey progression, moving the player from level to level.
       
      The Secret Sauce
      So far we’ve talked about how hyper-casuals attract players via aggressive social media ads, retain them with snappy onboarding, engage them with simple-but-power-craving mechanics, but is that all?
      No.
      A magical element, invisible to the naked eye, is what I believe, the MOST important aspect in a game – Gratification.

       
      What is ‘Gratification‘? The official definition states:
       
      To better understand it in terms of game design, it can be defined as a form of visual/audio/emotional feedback received after performing an active or passive action in the game, which makes the actions joyous and meaningful. The action could be as simple as walking or jumping or shooting a bullet.
      Let me give you a few examples:
      Notice how tight and responsive the character’s movements are in Super Meat Boy? The moment you press the JUMP button, the character jumps gracefully in an arc, taking into account the momentum (if any) accompanied with a perfectly timed animation. Making that perfect jump to leap over a gap or an obstacle feels satisfying. Since the game requires the player to be quick and precise in his movements, the entire game system has been designed to gratify the user in the form of effects, challenges and problem-solving.

       
      Nex Machina by Housemarque (the king of Gratification) – when the bullet hits an enemy, you get the confirmation of a successful hit via a subtle white flash over the enemy, who dies with a big explosion of cubes accompanied by relevant sound effects, giving you a sense of satisfaction and euphoria, by killing just one enemy. Imagine killing the boss. Different guns, enemies, levels, gratify the user at each point. I highly recommend playing this game!

       
      By this time, you might have realized that Gratification is such a broad topic that it probably needs a separate blog post. But, the reason I wanted to talk about it is to highlight how some of the best hyper-casuals understand Gratification well and use it to deliver a fun experience.
      Remember Ball Blast? The ultra-responsive canon’s movement which accurately follows your finger, the hit feedback on bubbles and how they burst into smaller bubbles, the effect of temporary powerups on gameplay, and of course the ‘upgrades‘ – all these elements work together to deliver joyful feedback throughout the game. 
      Take any good game, and analyze the factors which gratify the actions making them enjoyable and you’d notice how these subtle details, often un-noticed, adds to the fun and immersiveness. Hyper-casuals are no different, and good designers take Gratification into account while crafting these systems. Another great example is Stack Fall (by Voodoo). You control a bouncing ball which falls when you tap and hold on the screen, breaking a stack of blocks along the way. Paint splatter, haptic feedback, destruction of blocks, are some of the elements that are really gratifying and enhance the experience.

       
      No matter what the action is, the player should feel satisfied doing it. Imaging a platformer game where the character jumps but when it lands, there’s no animation to convey the change of state or dust effects on the ground where he lands, imagine how odd and boring that’d feel. And it’s not just confined to game actions, you can also gratify the user through the UI by using relevant and subtle effects, and animations. One example I can think of is Homescapes. When you clear a level, multiple effects and animations play out to emphasise your victory and gratify your accomplishment. It’s even more rewarding when the level is hard, and you finally manage to clear it, the gratification received at the ‘Level Cleared’ screen makes it worth it. Not just the UI, but every action you make in a level is profoundly satisfying and a joy to watch.

      Now that’s what I call a HD quality GIF!
       
      An engaging core loop combined with elements to enhance Gratification makes up the majority of the ingredients required to create a fun hyper-casual game.
       
      To conclude…
      I remember there was a time when I frowned upon hyper-casual games, but I had my reasons: non-existent art, little-to-none originality, aggressive use of ads, to name a few. I felt that innovative games were getting overshadowed by these swarm of hyper-casual games every week on the App Store.
      I’m the guy who believes that games are a form of art, an experience crafted with polish and care, probably that’s why my games take years to come out of production. All these reasons combined didn’t create an excellent first impression of hyper-casual as a genre for me.
      We, as designers, take pride in designing complex game systems, with multiple layers of depth but often neglect the simplest of things. Hyper-casuals have enabled me to pay attention to the finer details. It has allowed me to gain a new perspective while designing games. The core essence of a game which defines fun.
      A mechanic that’s hard to put down and doesn’t need any tutorial. Gratification to encourage the player’s actions and produce joy. Short feedback loops. Easy to get in and out. Sense of power/smartness in the form of progression. Simple meta to support the core gameplay Who knows what the future holds for hyper-casuals. I don’t know if it’s here to stay, but there are several things to learn from the genre, which might be of help while designing your next game, be it of any genre.
      I understand there are problems with the genre and the business model, but let’s leave that for some other day.
      What do you think about hyper-casuals? Do you think it provides a fresh perspective in game design? Is there anything that you’ve learned from the genre?
       
      ---
      Chirag is passionate about crafting experimental and narrative-focused interactive experiences a.k.a games.  
      As an Indie Game Developer, he operates under the label of Lucid Labs, where he has managed to create an Editors’ Choice game on the Apple App Store and was fortunate enough to be a part of Google’s first ever Indie Games Accelerator, and successfully graduate out of it.  During his tenure as a Game Producer, he has shipped more than 15 games, in genres ranging from puzzle, RPG, match-3, social casino, arcade, and fantasy sports, satisfying more than 10 million users.
      Chirag is currently working on Possessions with Noodlecake.
      Twitter: @wearelucidlabs | @notthatchirag
      Instagram/Facebook: @wearelucidlabs
       
      Note: This article was originally published on Chirag's blog, and is republished here with kind permission.
    • By BaneTrapper
      Hello, i am BaneTrapper.
      I am here looking for artist for Project no Hope, a 
      Story in few lines:
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      Revenue
      asd
    • By Pitch Black A Dusklight Story
      Hello there! We at Purple Jam Limited are currently developing #PitchBlack : an original, immersive #audiogame project which features a complex, dramatic story-line told through the binaural medium. #indiedev #unity
      We're very keen to build a community for our game through our #Discord which we will link with our other socials at the end of this post!
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      We're very excited about the project which has already received a substantial backing in various forms, including support from the UK's leading blind charities upon the release of a Kick-starter for the game in September.
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