This is not a scientific or comprehensive study. Instead, this is just quick observational research I performed for my own purposes and thought may be of use for someone else.

In every chapter, I will associate the content upgrade method with a particular game. This doesn’t mean that the method originates from that particular game, just that I first encountered it there.

I will also only consider the basic elements of those methods, that are available to the player from get-go, so if those methods evolve 20 days into the game — it’s only natural, but won’t be discussed here.

1. Card Collection (Rage of Bahamut-like)


Photo by jurien huggins on Unsplash

“Why don’t you write anymore?”, — my wife asked me. — “What would inspire you to do it again? A trip to Europe? An evening in a nice restaurant? Your own study?”

For years I struggled with those questions. We took several trips to different amazing countries, dined in the finest restaurants and bought a new flat, I felt incredibly inspired, but still — nothing came out of my pen.

Maybe I just didn’t want to write anymore? Maybe I lost my talent? Maybe somehow I needed to be even more inspired?

Today while taking a long and boring road…


Theory

What’s game balance, anyway?

Balance is just numbers.

In my line of work, balance is traditionally divided into to categories:

1. Battle balance

Blizzard’s World of Warcraft

2. Economy balance


Expect the worst. Assume nothing. — God of War (2018)

I have always tried to watch the competitors. While working on the moderately successful, not-too-notable products, I got used to looking up to them. What’s that update the huge game released? They removed game mechanic A and added game mechanic B? Well, it just looks so obvious now! They did it because this, this and that, and now we urgently need to do the same.

Then as the products I worked on started to get more and more successful, the “overtake the leader” goal started to look more and more feasible, and another goal started to form — “don’t let…


Source: Riot Games (sort of)

You have just embarrassingly lost third time in a row, and you press “find game” once again. You feel emptiness and hatred towards the matchmaking system that seems to get you a team of toxic monsters every time without fault while forming a team of telepathic hive-mind super soldiers to oppose. As you see the game search indicator spin, only one question spins in your brain: “Why am I doing this?..”

The players are used to feel distrust and contempt towards loot boxes. …


When I told people that I’m a game designer the first thing I used to add was “no, I don’t draw anything”. Now I came to realize that I wasn’t being completely honest.

Let’s talk about the role of the game designer in general. It’s a bit different everywhere, but in small companies or teams they are usually some sort of universal soldier who

  • analyzes data
  • designs features (preferably together with the rest of the development team)
  • writes documentation and explains it to colleagues
  • calculated balance
  • configures in-game data

You can notice that no item on that list is “makes…


Do you still follow the idea of “you need to break the player’s session so he doesn’t play too much an get bored of your game”? It got a bit old.

In fact, if the player can get bored of your game in one session and never return, don’t you think there is a problem with your game?

The player will keep playing and returning if these two minimal conditions are met:

1. He is emotionally invested in the game

2. He has something to do in it

The first point is incredibly difficult and deserves its own article, or…


There are several “simple tricks to boost your retention” that go from article to article. They usually vary in complexity from “it’s a good idea to reward player for level-ups” to “create a clan system and shove the player there as soon as possible, maybe he’ll stick to other suckers”, but I want to discuss the “tricks” that have to do with offering in-game resources to the player:

  1. Daily (or calendar) bonus: every day some reward is handed out to the player. …

Once upon a time, a game designer copied a solution from another game, and his butt fell off.

Okay, now let’s talk about Hero Wars — I’m taking part in the production and development of that game as of writing this article.

Andrey Panfilov

Game Producer and ex-Game Designer who’s been to dev hell and back, and then back to dev hell and back again.

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