Help make my game awesome
May 27, 2016 10:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm developing a 2D mobile game. What are the little details that I need to be sure to think about to make it awesome?

The game I'm developing is a game of skill, not luck. Specifically physical skill, not mental skill. It will have some of the attributes of a game like Flappy Bird in terms of looking easier than it actually is, and getting increasingly, frustratingly, addictively difficult.

So I'm good with the gameplay and overall concept. My concern is that I might overlook some of the little details that make the difference between a game being good and being excellent.

Gamers of MeFi, what are some of the details that I should be sure not to overlook in terms of sound effects, color, scoring, leaderboard, time limits, customizability, multiplayer, etc.? And/or are there any specific examples of shortcomings or oversights you can think of in any games you've used that are of an "if only they had just..." nature?

posted by OCDan to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I love when skill games track your progress over time, whether it's per-game like Proximity 2, long-term like Threes, or even an instant replay like in Dice Wars.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:25 PM on May 27, 2016

Make it very very easy to get back into gameplay after you die/lose. Super Hexagon does this very well; if memory serves, when you lose you just tap the screen once and are immediately playing again.
posted by contraption at 11:27 PM on May 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Get playtesters who will give you blunt, honest feedback.

In a skill game like Flappy Bird, the controls need to be crisp, precise, responsive, and as near to 100% glitch free as you can make them.... or kinda sloppy, deliberately, as I believe flappy bird was.

UI and ease of use is critical. Too much clutter and unnecessary buttonpushing/tapping is annoying. No or very minimal ads is usually a selling point for me.

Get playtesters.

Artificial impediments like time limits are ok for challenges and special modes, but I would dislike one in the 'main game' since if I am doing awesome, I want to win/lose on my own, not due to running out of time.

Colour blindness comes in several forms, and should be relatively easy to design around.

Get playtesters.

Like Rhaomi said, you can track a buncha stats- time played, runs made, average number of runs, average time per run, longest distance, etc.
posted by Jacen at 2:22 AM on May 28, 2016

Make it really easy to toggle sound on and off without losing your place in the game?
posted by Heloise9 at 4:16 AM on May 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Make it so I can turn off the sound (obvious), but still be able to have a podcast playing in some other app (the number of apps where this is not the case even when game audio muted is kind of mind boggling to me) .
posted by juv3nal at 4:52 AM on May 28, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yep on the sound thing - for me it's an annoyance to the point that even if a game is otherwise stellar, if it silences my music, then it gets uninstalled. My best-case-scenario sound situation with a game would be if I already have music playing, the game recognizes that and automatically silences itself, but I'll deal with muting it myself, provided that like juv3nal said once it's muted it doesn't still interfere with my music.

Put commonly-toggled options (like indeed the sound controls) somewhere very easily reachable - it should take one or two taps at most. I've played games where those options were tucked away three or four option screens deep, and that's just obnoxious.

If you have a tutorial, make it so people can refer back to it (or replay it, if it's an interactive one) if they need to. I'd think this should be a no-brainer, but the number of apps that don't do it...

If you're going to have ads, don't go overboard on them. Banner ads along the bottom, okay. Unskippable video ads playing after each level is over whether you fail or win, not so much.
posted by sailoreagle at 5:44 AM on May 28, 2016

  • Ensure all of your interactible elements give more than one type of feedback: Novice game designers often forget to include strong interaction cues in their user interfaces and core gameplay elements. For example, your menu buttons should have at least two visual states (pressed, unpressed) and possibly more if you intend for certain UI to be inaccessible or non-functioning at any point (e.g., greyed-out vs. full color). There should be a button press SFX. Maybe there's even a button press VFX, like a sparkle, if it's an especially important button. After the user presses the button, ensure that there's an immediate reaction from the game. It's easiest to isolate the problem within UI, but it's important to the actual game elements, too. Anything that the player needs to interact with should respond on touch.
  • Have you covered your bases on art?: Professional-looking art and a VFX pass especially will make the game seem much more polished. If your game features characters, then be sure that they are well-animated. You can get miles out of funny little idle animations for the main character or background elements -- the more tiny details and humor that you get in, the more thoughtfully constructed the whole game will seem.
  • Assess the game's 'snackability': There's a stupid industry term for successful mobile titles. Many of them are 'snackable' -- that is, they allow players to jump in and have a complete experience within 30 seconds. At the end of that experience, players can either quit or continue. Like snacking on a bag of chips, you can open the bag, eat one or two, and feel satisfied -- or you can indulge yourself and eat more. Angry Birds is an excellent example of snackability. The game has an almost non-existent load time, making it easy for players to jump straight into a level and begin playing. When players arrive in each level or pick up from where they left off, they aren't required to remember anything about the last time they played because the design of each level clearly shows the player's goal: (1) destroy the unique structure protecting the pigs (2) using a particular set of birds. (It helps, too, that the player's goal is consistent across the entire game. You're always just trying to kill the pigs.) Each level takes only a few moments to complete, and the player receives clear and immediate feedback on their performance. Ask yourself whether your game's goal is this clear, and whether you've minimized the time it takes for players to play or retry a level. Let players abort a level if they realize they're doing poorly.
  • Take a really close look at your controls and the time it takes to learn how to play the game: Looking again at Angry Birds, the game utilizes a one-touch control scheme: to deploy their birds, all the player has to do is tap, drag to draw back their slingshot, and release. Tapping and dragging in this manner are arguably among the most intuitive gestures you can make on a mobile device. And, importantly, the slingshot is the only interactive item on the level stage. The smallest interaction with the slingshot reveals its function; tapping it will weakly lob a bird into the grass. The slingshot metaphor is easy to understand because it relates to a real-world concept, and even very bad launches with the slingshot almost always result in something being destroyed near the pigs, which is where the designers want the player to focus. Unskilled players can still make progress toward the ultimate goal of a level and feel as though they're achieving success or becoming better at lobbing birds across the screen. The controls of the game almost implicitly guarantee that players will interact with the game in a positive way that encourages their desire to continue improving.
  • Be certain that you have actually thought through all aspects of your game design: You don't give enough details about your game concept for me to know whether multiplayer, leaderboards, or time trials are a good fit for your game. They are unequivocally NOT mechanics that you can shoehorn in without a lot of thought. In my experience as a professional developer, social games need to be designed as social games from the start -- and they require a lot of infrastructure to support successfully. Look closely at your competitors and analyze their strategies. Notice which ones include certain game elements, and which don't. Ask yourself why. Look to see which games are getting better engagement, and which you enjoy more as a player. Mimic the elements that you like best.
  • PLAYTEST, PLAYTEST, PLAYTEST: Get the game in front of as many people as you can. Do this at every stage of development -- even when you think it's not ready, even when you think it's totally done. Try to be humble and open-minded about their feedback; try not to be overprotective or closed-down because you've been slaving over the game; press them to be honest; don't ask leading questions. You can get a sense for whether someone's enjoying the game just by watching how they play.
  • Related to the above, BUG FIX BUG FIX BUG FIX: There will always be bugs. Get as many as you can. The fewer bugs that you ship with, the better.

posted by zeee at 8:25 AM on May 28, 2016 [4 favorites]

Thanks for all the great input so far, much appreciated. Please keep it coming.
posted by OCDan at 9:28 AM on May 28, 2016

If you have not watched this talk with Jan Willem Nijman from Vlambeer, you should.
posted by St. Sorryass at 4:56 PM on May 28, 2016

zeee has covered most of the bases here, and in great detail.

A big thing a lot of game devs seem to miss: Good, clear, and appealing menus(both start menus and pause/equip menus). I've played amazing games with great in-game ui but AWFUL menu navigation. Hell, even dark souls 3 messed it up by taking away features like menu toggle via trigger buttons. Menus are something that's usually thought up last or on least priority, but they are so integral.
posted by InkDrinker at 9:19 PM on May 28, 2016

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