Product Teardown 08 — Same Core Loop, Different Game Play

— How Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, Empires and Allies, and Dominations create different gameplay experience based on the same core loop.

Clash of Clans(CoC), Boom Beach(BB), Empires and Allies(E&A), and Dominations(DM) are all great strategy mobile games, and they are doing pretty well. If you just start playing these games, you might feel they are kind of same games, though stroy lines and graphics are different. Indeed, these games are built around the same game core loop. However, the longer you play them, the more you feel they are different.

In this article, I will analyze different aspects and mechanics that make these games different, and fun.

Same Core Loop

All these games are build upon the same core loop. A building loop that allows users to upgrad and progress; a battle loop that allows uses to do battles and feed loot into the building loop; and a collecting loop that connects other other two loops.

In CoC, BB, E&A and DM, users are doing kind of same things: collecting either gold or coin, oil or fruit, then battling against other players, and upgrading their base.

Different Gameplay

The gameplay expereince for these games, however, are very different, especially for mid-to-last stages of games. In my opinion, CoC offers the most competitive experience among all games, followed by E&A, BB and DM. People who play CoC usually have great incentives to upgrade their defense to maintain competitiveness. E&A offers a similar experience, but less competitive. BB are more casual combat experience and doesn’t require players to keep invest time and money. DM focuses on expansion and upgrading, not so much on competing.

The Main Reasons

The main reasons that create different gameplay experience are battle mechanic, game economy, social element, and visual transformation effects.

Battle Mechanic

From the comparison, we can clearly see that CoC offers a more advanced battle mechanic and rewarding PvP experience. These features drive users to study the troop, base design, offense and defense strategies and engage in PvP deeply. BB, for example, has a very harsh win condition ,which basically punish PvP and drives users back to fight NPCs.

Game Economy

Game economy in CoC is more balanced and encourages player to do mirror attack, which increases competitiveness. DM, however, has a very steep upgrading curvey and quick runrate for resources. This causes, most of time, players don’t have enough resource to upgrade. Since the game is not rewarding very much in PvP, this will leave players one option — pay to upgrade. Well, we know in F2P games, 98% users don’t pay.

Social Elements

social is about competition and collaboration. CoC implemented this principle very well. A clan memeber benefits a lot from inteacting with other players. If you don’t donate, you might be kick off from the clan; if you don’t reach a donate/receive ration, you might be kick off; If you don’t engage in clan wars, you might be kick off. Everything CoC does is to promote a colloration and also competing environment within the clan. So members have incentives and pressure to grow and help each other grow.

The other three games have clans, too, but not reinforce the competition and collaboration.

Visual Transformation Effects

All 4 games give users great visual transformation as they upgrade their defense/offense units, buildings and THs. But CoC does the best job. every building, every troop at every level are almost different from the lower level. This create great needs for users to get the advanced troops. When you see a level 9 TH or level 7 motars, you immediate response is “WoW, I will upgrade to get that”. Needles to say, to get that beautiful TH, you need to battle.

Put Things Together

With same core loop but very different combat mechanics, game economy, social features and graphic designs, these four games all create unique gameplay experience. There is no bad or wrong design. But CoC obviously offers more competitive, more depth of, and more meaningful choices within, gameplay. Competitiveness arguably is the most poweful way to drive play progress. So CoC monetizes very well among these games.

One more thing: based on the analysis, I believe E&A still has potential to climb the top chart, and DM will be more likely to decline.

PS: Added in Sept-2015. When I said DM has a very steep upgrade curve so that its very hard to do farming, I was thinking that this mechanism keep players from leveling up. I wasn’t clear at the time. What hurts the players in DM is lack of achievable goals, therefore lack of meaningful progression. Steep upgrade curve does drive monetization, but it also makes upgrading very very hard, which frustrated users a lot. After looting and farming for some time, players will find that they’ll never be able to upgrade a defense or offense building. As a result, they will not experience a meaningful progression in the game. This is the root cause of DM loosing players.

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