Key learnings from building a blockchain game: test, test, test…
Chain Clash is a new, free-to-play, mobile-first collectible and battle game, powered by blockchain. In case you’re new to Chain Clash, start with this introductory post, to learn about the game.
Recently we’ve started a series on our blog to share some of the key learnings we’re making along the way of building Chain Clash, a blockchain game. In the last post, we’ve been talking about the importance of building a community early. One of the core arguments was the need for letting actual players test the game, even at a very early stage.
In today’s post, we want to pick up on the topic of playtesting in the context of blockchain games. We’ll briefly outline four major reasons, for why it might be even more important in our industry than it is for traditional game developers.
“Playtesting” thereby means the process of testing aspects of a game, or the game as a whole, by letting actual people play it. For game developers, that’s especially useful to learn about the aspects of your game, that can hardly be expressed by specific metrics or even code, like how fun it actually is.
The importance of playtesting
There’s no doubt, playtesting is important for any game in development. Now, blockchain games are different from traditional centralized games in many aspects. Not only are different technologies used to build such games, but also game designs as a whole, specific mechanics and even player expectations can differ majorly. In our experience, exactly those specific characteristics and requirements that blockchain introduces to designing and building games, make playtesting an even more important, inevitable task in the development process. In our eyes, there are four major reasons:
1. Game mechanics are different.
Let’s start with the most obvious one. At this point, blockchain gaming is uncharted territory for everyone who’s in the space. Since there are hardly any established concepts and examples for how and what value blockchain can sustainably contribute to games, we’ll have to experiment to find out. However, experimenting with new game concepts and mechanics shouldn’t necessarily be done with live products in the first instance, where there’s a lot (of value) at stake for players and the game developer.
2. Player expectations are different.
Players’ expectations and reasons for playing a blockchain game can differ majorly from traditional games. Of course, a good part of players is looking for fun and entertainment. However, the value layer that blockchain adds to a game will potentially lead to players becoming more aware of what they get out of a game in terms of real value. Even more so, the player base itself can look different. If there’s real (monetary) value to be made, people who are just looking for financial gain will join. Making sure that a game design and balancing can cover such diverse intentions for playing, is not an easy task. How exactly potential future players will behave and interact, can only be learned through observing them. It’s therefore key to find testers within all potential user groups and enable them to test your game.
3. Games become economies.
Most games incorporating blockchain, through in-game currencies or game NFTs, will become some sort of economy. Once assets in a system become transferable and have value, eventually economic principles will apply. Just as with games, designing economies is difficult because of the complexity and the vast number of variables to consider. Assessing the interplay between the economic layer and a game concept in every detail, therefore, is almost impossible to do at the drawing board. Although testing environments may differ from the actual economy, it’s still helpful to have an indication of how players interact with the system.
4. Game designs need to be stable and future-proof.
If you’re gamer, you might know the situation, where your favorite game finally gets treated with an anticipated update. However, instead of improving gameplay, the update introduces some kind of “balance fix” that, as a result, renders your favorite in-game character or item useless. Even in a traditional game that’s annoying and can significantly impact the players’ experience. Now, imagine this update doesn’t only impact your entertainment, but also an actual asset you own, an asset of real value. Not only will players be infuriated, but they’ll also lose trust in the game developer’s capabilities to make sure their in-game assets are stable in value.
Real-world conditions when testing
The more a game deals with value, the more is at stake for the players as well as the game developer. And since we’re dealing with blockchain, once a game economy has been brought into being, it can hardly be stopped again. Thus, as a game developer, you’ll want to make sure to be as confident as possible in your game design and economy, before opening the gates to the outside world.
Across all aspects mentioned in the previous section, there’s one aspect of blockchain as the root cause. Game designs themselves, especially in the context of greater game economies, become more complex due to the value layer that blockchain adds. Those economic aspects and their consequences in a game, however, can hardly be designed reliably and in full detail in a “lab” or at the drawing board. It’s crucial to thoroughly test those aspects in real-world conditions. “Real-world conditions” thereby doesn’t only mean to let people test isolated mechanics, but to let your future players dive into the game economy as a whole.
If we’d have to summarize all of what’s been said in this article into one sentence, it’d be: let your future players test your game as early and as extensive as possible. Although it’s not a guarantee to overcome the obstacles mentioned above, it’s the best way to reduce the risk of having to change major game aspects at a later point in time. Ultimately, that not only benefits the game developer but more importantly the players.
To learn more about our journey of building a blockchain game, make sure to check out our blog, subscribe to our newsletter and join our Discord to talk to us! We’re currently in private beta, testing the ins and outs of our game. Now that you’ve learned how important testing is to us, let us know in case you’d like to join our beta!