Yaniv Nizan

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About Yaniv Nizan

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  1. So you have a great concept for a mobile game and you've heard that free 2 play games with in-app purchase is the way to go but you are not sure where to start. Guess what? You are not alone. Designing a good in-game store is very different than designing the core of the game and many game developers are unsure about how to do it right. Before we start the discussion about 'the how' let's start with 'the why'. What is the goal of adding an In-App Purchase Store? The right reason for adding a store is to engage users. Sure, games with virtual economies and stores make more money but that's because the users become more engaged. If you focus on squeezing revenue, you will scare users away and ultimately earn less. When done right, an engaging economic world around the game will improve the users' sense of progress and accomplishement and will make the game experience interesting for a longer period. Focus on that! Let me take you through some of the keys to designing an engaging store that users will visit frequently and for long periods of time: Put the store where users can find it and make it a natural part of the game loop Create items that players use in your game every day Make the store experience an interesting one Use "Waiting Mechanics" Balance Virtual Goods' Capabilites and Prices If you implement these elements in your game you are significantly increasing your chances to succeed. Adding a few of these is good but if you want 3 stars try to get them all. Here is more specific advice about each one of these. Put the Store Entrance Where Users Are Getting users to naturally enter the store as part of the game flow is very important. Let's check a few methods for achieving this. If your game has levels, it should be easy enough for you to add a button to the store from the screen that notifies the user about a successful level completion. Is your game a 'survival mode' type game or an 'endless runner'? No problem. These games have limited sessions that usually end with a summary screen. This will be the right place to put your store button. Designing other types of games? If you implement the 4th tip you would actually break the game into sessions and would be able to use the session end screen. Alternatively, you can add the store button to screens that notify the user about achievements. You can also use virtual goods that require users to activate or equip them and use the store as the interface for picking the active character/vehicle/weapon. This will help you get users to the store more frequently. Add Items that Players Need Regularly Ok, so the store is now accessible from every screen in the game but why would a user want to enter it? Let's think about the real world. The store that we enter the most is the one that sells the product we use and consume every day. Let's create some goods like that and make them easy to buy with game coins. How easy? The user should be able to collect enough coins in 1-3 levels or a few minutes of game play. The item itself should be regularly consumed and make it easier for the user to collect more coins. If you do this correctly you end up with a consumption loop that brings the users to the store almost every time they play the game. Here is how to make an effective regular use item: Make it complement the game store (bananas for a monkey, fuel for a car, ...) Price it so that users can earn enough to buy it within a few minutes of game play Create an item that is fun to use and makes the game more engaging Give the item powers that will make earning coins easier Design an Engaging Store You should also give the user reasons to spend time in your In-App Purchase store. Think of ways to make the store engaging and interesting for a long time - extend the variety, add some mystery and try to keep it fresh. If you want to look at a good example of store variety - look at CSR racing. That store has over 2 million items you can buy. You can also add mystery by using silhouettes to hide an item until the right time has come. This helps in keeping the user engaged and curious about what the store has to offer. The last bit is to keep your store fresh by adding items, unlocking items and even featuring seasonal items and limited editions. Add "Waiting Mechanics" If you want to really play it like the pros, you need to limit the user's ability to play continuosly and add short breaks. This is a bit tricky so you will need to approach this carefully and make sure not to annoy your users. The best way to do it is by experimenting with different levels of limitations and measuring the impact on users until you reach the sweet spot. If you do choose to explore this direction, you should design a resource that is consumed naturally in gameplay and automatically adds up as time goes by. Candy Crush Saga has 'lifes' and in other games you can see fuel or energy. When the user runs out, she can choose to do one of three things: buy more, stop playing and come back later or wait inside the game. If you followed the rest of the advice, the option of staying inside the game and visiting the store should be a likely choice for a user who wants to kill some time. Balancing Prices, Capabilities and the Game Difficulty Imagine the following scenario - a user pays a dollar to buy something and now the game becomes too easy and he looses interest. This is a bad experience for the user and it's also bad for business. Users often pay on impulse but they wake up the next day and if they don't see the value they are not going to like it. The paradox is that the impulse buy is often to make things easier but at the end of the day the user will want the game to still be challanging. How do you do that? There are a few ways around it but before we dive into them it's important to understand that balancing requires a great deal of fine-tunning which means repeatedly measuring and adjusting until the criteria is reached. You will need to integrate an analytics tool or use a store platform that has analytics built in. So back to the paradox: Method 1 - Make it steep If the difficulty curve is steep enough and the item's impact is limited the player might skip ahead a few levels but will soon reach a bigger challange. Method 2 - Randomize it Giving luck a role in overcoming the challenge will limit any virtual good ability. Dungeons and Dragons, American Football and Soccer are just a few examples of great games where chance plays a role and even an inferior opponent can win at any given day. This is part of what makes them so great. Method 3 - Items that Consume Resources If you followed the second advice in this article you already have something that the player consumes regularly (let's call them resources). If you design the other virtual goods in the game to always consume resources you are limiting the users ability to use them to much. A machine gun might get you more fire power than a pistol and will win any batlle UNLESS the user needs to buy the bullets as well. Not much you can do with a machine gun if you only have 5 bullets. I'm sure there are a few more methods I missed. Please comment and share other methods you are using to balance the virtual goods in your game.
  2. How To Publish on GameDev.net

    Hi, I'm wondering if there is a way to add Google authorship markup to articles? This is normally done by linking the Google Plus profile of the author with rel='author' markup.
  3. Just finished. Let me know what you think.
  4. Don't worry about the comments in the blog post. I like to discuss aspects of what I write in the comments and it seems like in-game stores are a controversial subject so it's hard to discuss it without discussing the pros and cons.   I actually don't believe that the purpose of the store is maximizing money. The purpose of the store is to gamify the game (as weird as that may sound) and create longer term engagement - it needs to be better reflected in the article.   So, I want to make the following edits: - Add a section about 'good use of store' vs. 'bad use of store' at the beginning. - Add a section about balancing the in-game economy. There might be two parts here: with and without cash transactions - Add relevant links when referring to external content.   What do you think?
  5. Hi Gaiiden and Mike, thanks for the quick response. I now understand the process a bit better. Would be happy to help with reviewing if you ever get stuck.
  6. I love this initiative. I think it's a great way to share insights in the community. I believe the process can be a bit quicker. I published an article in the game design section and it's been in the process for over two weeks. Is this normal?
  7. I think at the end of the day it's a matter of free choice. For game developers - they can choose to turn the store into something evil that only aims to get money out of players. HOWEVER - they can also choose to implement a store in a way that adds a real-life simulation to the game and actually make the game more fun. For users - if the users gets more excited by buying things as opposed to blowing things up. Maybe that's a choice we need to leave to them. Yes, you can say that one could get carried away with in-game shopping. Frankly, I rather he would get carried away with that and not get carried away with blowing things up. At the end of the day, the key is to make the store part in a way that complements the game and doesn't turn it into a competition of who has more money. You can design it in a way that would still give the collected coins something that you can never buy with money and keep the game in balance that way.
  8. I'm not sure you are looking at the entire picture here. Problems indeed makes the game interesting and challenging but sometimes a user gets stuck on one problem and he still wants to access more advanced and harder levels. In this situation the user is paying to access harder dificulty while 'cheating' his way out of the current problem. In games that have advanced economies, the challange becomes how to utilize the coins you earned in game play to buy virtual goods that makes the game more complex and fun. This actually makes the challange more advanced and difficult as there are more options and more strategy involved. Yes, one can say that any game that has in-game coins or a store is evil and greedy and only games that are artistic by nature should be allowed. Let's ban reality TV while we are at it - that's not art for sure. The fact is that people need entertainment and are playing games with in-game economies longer. Maybe users like earning coins and buying things they can't afford in real life. Is that really so bad? My view is that games (even the ones that simulate economies) are much better form of entertainment than any other popular media. They are interactive and actually turn your mind on instead of turning it off.
  9. Hi @Plethora, you are indeed part of a minority group. I'm actually the same way and am looking for concrete value when I'm paying. It's possible that being also 'behind the scenes' of game design makes us see through the virtual economy. My experience is that I enjoy more when I'm struggling with the challenge without buying my way out but the majority of users are not like that. It is proven over and over again that items that make the game easier, give additional play time and help compete with other players sell better. In some countries it is even considered an honor to buy your way to a win. It is a proof of financial stability - like some people are buying fency cars. I'm not sure what that tells us about the human race. Probably not good things :-) Back to game design, even if your game will only sell items that you would buy (permanenet bonus, additional content, customization) users are more likely to buy it if they are already engaged with the store and the economy of the game. So you can actually have a closed system of in-game coins that you cannot even buy in the store just to make the store a part of your game and then sell bonuses and content in the same store for hard currency. In other words, the economy of the game and the real economy will have no connection. The in-game economy will just be used as an engagement tool and the real-economy will only be used to sell permanant bonuses, content, ...
  10. I totally agree that "5 gold coins to continue playing" is a bad practice. My tips were about making the store an integral part of the game and creating an economy mechanics in the game that add to the user engagement. Yes, it's true that some of these games get the player so engaged that if you look from the side, it looks like the user is in a rat race but that's simply because the game simulates real life. I would go even further and say that if you are designing a store and a game economy in order to make money you are likely to get it wrong. The function of the game economy is to create engagement and that's what these tips are about.
  11. Hi @GameGeazer, thanks for your comment. I'm not sure why you would think building a good store experience is diabolic. My experience shows that games with good in-game stores and economy are simply more engaging. My articles doesn't suggest dirty tricks for making users pay with cash - that is not what this post is about. The article is about methods for making the store an integral part of the game and improving the store experience. I would actually go on a wild guess here. Without knowing anything about you, I would bet that if you look at the 10 mobile games you like the most - you will see that many of them have some of these tips implemented. I spent a good chunck of time playing Clash of Clans, CSR Racing and Subway surfers. All of them have at lease some of these implemented and I doubt that these games would be half the fun without a great store experience.
  12. So you have a great concept for a mobile game and you've heard that free 2 play games with in app purchase is the way to go but you are not sure where to start. Guess what? You are not alone. Designing a good in-game store is very different than designing the core of the game and many game developers are unsure about how to do it right. Let me take you through some of the keys to designing a store that users will enter frequently and hangout in for long periods: Put the store where users can find it and make it a natural part of the game loop Create items that players use in your game every day Make the store experience an interesting one Limit continuous game play If you implement these elements in your game you are significantly increasing your chances to succeed. Adding a few of these is good but if you want 3 stars try to get them all. Here is more specific advice about each one of these: Put the Store Entrance Where Users Are Getting users to naturally enter the store as part of the game flow is very important. Let's check a few methods for achieving this. If your game has levels, it should be easy enough for you to add a button to the store from the screen that notifies the user about a successful level completion. Is your game is a 'survival mode' type game or an 'endless runner'? No problem. These games have limited sessions that usually end with a summary screen. This will be the right place to put your store button. Designing other types of games? If you implement the 4th tip you would actually break the game to sessions and would be able to use the session end screen. Alternatively, you can add the store button to screens that notify the user about achievements. You can also use virtual goods that require users to activate or equip them and use the store as the interface for picking the active character/vehicle/weapon. This will help you get users to the store more frequently. Add Items that Players Need Regularly Ok, so the store is now accessible from every screen in the game but why would a user want to enter it? Let's think about the real world. The store that we enter the most is the one that sells the product we use and consume every day. Let's create some goods like that and make them easy to buy with game coins. How easy? The user should be able to collect enough coins in 1-3 levels or a few minutes of game play. The good itself should be regularly consumed and should make it easier for the user to collect more coins. If you do this correctly you end up with a consumption loop that brings the users to the store almost every time they user plays the game. Here is how to make a effective regular use good: Make it complement the game store (bananas for a monkey, fuel for a car, ...) Price it so that users can earn enough to buy it within a few minutes of game play Create an item that is fun to use and makes the game more engaging with it Give the item powers that will make earning coins easier Design an Engaging Store You should also give the user reasons to spend time in your In-App Purchase store. Think of ways to make the store engaging and interesting for a long time - extend the variety, add some mystery and try to keep it fresh. If you want to look at a good example of store variety - look at CSR racing. That store has over 2 million items you can buy. You can also add mystery by using silhouettes to hide an item until the right time has come. This helps in keeping the user engaged and curious about what the store has to offer. The last bit is to keep your store fresh by adding items, unlocking items and even featuring seasonal items and limited editions. Add Limits and Breaks to The Gameplay If you want to really play it like the pros, you need to limit the user ability to play endlessly. This is a bit tricky so you will need to approach this carefully and be careful not to annoy your users. The best way to do it is by experimenting with different levels of limitations and measuring the impact on users until you reach the sweet spot. If you do choose to explore this direction, you should design a resource that is consumed naturally in gameplay and automatically adds up as time goes by. Candy Crush Saga, has 'lifes' and in other games you can see fuel or energy. When the user runs out, she can choose to do one of three things: buy more, stop playing and come back later or wait inside the game. If you followed the rest of the advice, the option of staying inside the game and visiting the store should be a likely choice for a user who wants to kill some time. Will be happy to discuss more about this or any other game economy design topic. You can reach me on twitter at [twitter]y_nizan[/twitter].
  13. My company SOOMLA is investigating a rather interesting concept today. We all know that Free 2 Play is the way to go with mobile games and every game these days either have an in-game store or is looking to add one. The SOOMLA platform is about saving time on the development side, reducing the programming work and code maintenance work associated with the store by over a month during the game creation and completely eliminating work related to keeping the store fresh and up to date with the game. Today we are exploring a different concept. We are allowing game developers to save not just the programming work but also the design work. Our designers will create a store design in our platform to match the look and feel of the game and the store will function with just minutes of work. You can learn more here We are interested to see the market reaction to something like this. If we see that this is indeed required by mobile game devs we will invest more effort into offering a marketplace of design services along with our platform. Otherwise, we will focus more effort on the self-serve product and enhance functionality. Either way , the current promotion is a great opportunity for anyone who has a free game and is looking to add a store. Just sit back and relax while everything is done for you.
  14. Announcing my Mailing List - News for Mobile Game Developers

    Glad I could help. I also got curious and checked your company. Are you really from Honolulu. That's literally on the other side of the world from where I am :-). It's a beautiful place - I have been only once sadly. 
  15. Announcing my Mailing List - News for Mobile Game Developers

    @Navyman, the short answer is NO. All my writing is unique and self made.   I'm constantly researching how developers are utilizing virtual economies in mobile games to make them more fun and engaging, I cover industry news related to this topic and try to bring fresh ideas. I write about one article per week and try to share it with others so they can benefit from my learning. From this reason I'm actually writing my blog in 3 different places, blog.soom.la, Gamedev.net and Gamasutra.com.   Specifically this post is announcing my mailing list which I believe is a great way for mobile game developers to discover content about free 2 play game design and other related topics. The list is built by carefully picking the best articles I wrote, the most interesting discussions and really good resources I discovered online. The resources I discovered are under the 'links we liked' section and are not my writing. However, everything else (80% of the list) is content that I wrote and people find it unique and insightful.   Some comments I received from list readers: "Your mailing news sound interesting! Lets keep in touch!" "I would love to receive your newsletter once a week." "Please do add me to your mailing list and I will also circulate to others here. Looks like you have some great content to share!" Hope this helps