This guide is intended to help creators improve their games by showing different ways to evaluate and improve game design. The best change for a particular game will depend entirely on the creator's vision and their audience. It is possible to make a great game that players love that does not follow any of the suggestions here.
This document should be a useful tool, not a set of unbreakable rules.
There are many ways to measure the success of games, and the most easily accessible one is the number of Daily Active Users (DAU), or the number of individuals who connect to your game in a single day. You can easily find out the DAU of your game from your Creator Dashboard.
Retention measures how many players come back to your game after the first time you try it. The Creator Analytics page allows creators to download data about how many players return in the month after they try your game for the first time.
Currently, Creator Analytics is only available to creators who can monetize their games, but there are more features coming for all creators in the future.
The Elevator Pitch is a test of whether you can explain your game in 1-2 sentences. If you can quickly communicate what your game is about, and what it feels like to play it, it will make your design easier for players to understand.
Having a clear and concise summary of your game also helps others spread the word about your game.
Iteration is the process of testing your game, deciding on some changes, implementing those changes, and testing again. It is a powerful way to make the kinds of games that people actually want to play, and one of the clearest ways to ensure the success of your game.
One of Core's greatest strengths is how fast it is to change a game and republish those changes for multiplayer testing. The process is often so simple that even one person can host a playtest, write down a few notes, and make changes right away. Take advantage of this power and keep growing your game into the fun experience that will keep players coming back.
In the beginning stages, the best group to playtest with are other creators who understand the challenges of implementing things in Core. They will best understand why you designed things a certain way based on the platform, and will often have useful solutions to problems you are working on.
The Core Community Discord is the best way to find fellow creators that you can invite to take a look at your game. The voice chat feature of Discord will allow you to jump in a call, and talk to your testers as they play.
In the same way that the Elevator Pitch helps you decide on a clear way to present your game, you can strengthen a game by making sure all of the important information and key moments are clear to players.
Once you have iterated through your design enough to feel confident about the basic structure of the game, you can begin looking at the individual steps in a player's experience to make sure they are fully understanding and enjoying your game.
As a playtest group, players who are not creators are extremely useful at finding any point where you are losing players. This could be as simple as a place where they can get stuck or fall of the map, and as complex as player's not being able to decide what action to take next.
Players are magnificent bug finders, but they will not be as good as other creators at explaining exactly what happened or understanding why.
The best thing to keep in mind with player feedback is to focus on the problem that they are experiencing. Your solution may be different from ones they suggest, but the problem you are solving will remain the same.
The New User Experience (NUX) is a way of looking at the first few moments of play and how players react and feel about your space. You can ask players about their first impressions, and gain valuable knowledge just from the first action they take in your game.
Some questions you might consider about the New User Experience:
- How do players learn the controls of your game?
- How do players learn the goals of your game?
- Where do players go first? What do they try first?
- Is the game very hard or very easy in the first moments?
- Do players have time to adapt to the challenge of the game?
Once players are playing your game, the question that you will want to consider is whether or not they notice and understand important features of the game.
Visual effects, audio, animations, and lighting can all be used to help players find essential information in your game, and using more than one way of calling out important aspects can ensure that different types of players are all able to play your game.
Some questions you might consider about Essential Information Call-Outs:
- Are there features that players are frequently missing?
- Does your game's feedback to the player rely heavily on a particular type of communication, like just audio or just text?
- Do areas where the player is supposed to go look and feel different from the areas that are not part of the game?
- Are there tutorials for complex or unique game mechanics that need more explanation?
Besides making sure players get essential information, it can improve your game to focus on the emotional experience as well. Celebrating wins can take the form of big announcements or visual effects, and all help to show players that they have accomplished something important.
Creating feedback that is sad or funny when players lose or fail a challenge is equally important. It helps communicate that this is an expected part of the experience of the game, and makes the wins all the more valuable.
Some questions you might consider about Celebrating Wins and Showing Losses:
- What happens when players, or finish a challenge?
- What happens when players die or run out of time?
- If a player tries something and it doesn't work, how will they know?
- If a player discovers a secret, like an easter egg, or something new or challenging, how do they know that they found something cool?
Depth can be one of the most challenging parts of game design, and focuses on what the gameplay experience will be like for a player who plays for a long time.
Some depth can take the form of a well-developed game world, with background stories that are conveyed throughout, with dialogs or environment clues. However, the aspect that keeps players likely to return is the ability to set goals in your game.
Possible goals are important information to communicate, and many games succeed by having different types of goals that attract different types of players.
There is no limit to the number of goals that you can create for a game, and players may think of ones that you have not considered. Your goals are likely to be different from the list below, but you can use this list as a starting point to define goals that fit the style of game that you are creating.
Potential game goals:
- High Score
- Completing a difficult puzzle
- Gathering a certain amount of a resource
- Reaching the top level
- Unlocking Cosmetics
- Finding something rare
- Being an MVP or winning a round
As long as you have goals both for your brand new players and the seasoned veterans, everyone will have reason to come back and play your game again and again.