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Analytics Drive Game Design


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A Developer's Guide to Analytics. Essential recommendations when implmenting analytics in F2P games

A Developer's Guide to Analytics. Essential recommendations when implmenting analytics in F2P games

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  • 1. WhitepaperAnalytics driven game design:A developers guide to designing effective F2P games© 2013 GamesAnalytics Limited. All Rights Reserved. Confidential and Not For Distribution
  • 2. contents page© 2013 GamesAnalytics Limited. All Rights Reserved. Confidential and Not For DistributionExecutive SummaryRecommendations for Analytics Driven Game Design1______Build in analytics in from day one2______Effort vs. Pain: Make event data available in the game upfront3______Build a single player view4______Synchronise timestamps5______Create a single session ID6______Always collect outcomes7______Do not forget to collect status data8______Create custom events9______Be clear on game versions and using cohorts10_____Consider data completeness vs. operational investment:Conclusions
  • 3. 1 executive summaryWith Free-2-Play (F2P) games attracting a broader more diverse range of playertypes, it’s never been more important for publishers and developers tounderstand different player behaviours in order to design an experience which isresponsive to varying levels of competency and playing styles.The games industry is starting to embrace analytics and use player data in moresophisticated ways. However, delivering real player insight is notstraightforward. It needs to be integrated into the game design from the start ofdevelopment and executed with clear focus and objectives. In reality, today,analytics is often tagged onto the end of the development cycle as anafterthought. This inevitably results in short-cuts and compromises the ability toreally understand the different types of players that exist in a particular gameand what experiences they are having.GamesAnalytics works with publishers and developers helping them to developrobust Player Relationship Management (PRM) strategies that create solidanalytics environments in-game. Its PredictTMtechnology supports playersegmentation and in-game messaging enabling players to participate in apersonalised gaming experience.GamesAnalytics’ industry review programme BenchmarkTMhas seen hundreds ofhours invested in examining the anatomy of some of the biggest F2P gamesacross different genres. It highlights today’s realities of the games industry’sanalytics deployments and expertise. Key findings include:This Developer’s Guide presents 10 essential design and implementationrecommendations to ensure a game is optimised for analytics beyond the metricsdashboard. It provides best practice advice on how best to make player behavioursintegral to the design decision making and development processes so that theplayer experience can be enhanced with retention and monetisation maximised.© 2013 GamesAnalytics Limited. All Rights Reserved. Confidential and Not For Distribution• The average score for monetisation loops and techniquesimplemented in today’s F2P games is only 46%• Only 22% of games currently deliver a good experience aimed at first time payers; bybuilding in items aimed specifically at encouraging this critical player behaviour• 83% of games make no attempt to communicate with players on an individual basis;they treat players exactly the same no matter if they are new, engaged or whalesData taken from GamesAnalytics’ Benchmarket findings, April 2013
  • 4. The reality is the implementation of data collection to support analytics is often alow priority amongst all the other tasks on a developer’s to-do list. It isinevitable that, as the game moves towards launch, developer time is rightlyfocused on bug fixing and feature enhancement. Data tagging gets squeezedinto schedules, becoming rushed and potentially compromised.And we all know from experience there is never time to catch up.On average, where data collection is integrated at the end of thedevelopment phase, it takes three to five times longer toimplement. Planning data collection into the developmentlifecycle, with milestones set at the Game DesignDocumentation (GDD) stage, ensures analytics is integralto the successful development of the game.By defining the events to be collected in the GDD, thedevelopment team can then make sure the information isavailable at the correct point in the game. For example, atthe end of a mission a key metric to understand would be thenumber of enemies killed during that mission. If this event definedup front it makes implementing the data collection seamless.2 effort vs. pain: make event data availablein the game upfrontWith events and their parameters well defined, a developer can then determinewhat data is required and when. Building this data structure into the code fromthe start ensures that the data is easily available at the right point in the codewhere the data needs to be sent.Events often require a number of pieces of information both specific to thecurrent game action and general information on the status of the player or theoverall game. For example when a revenue event is triggered, the information onthe player’s XP, score and current level are sent to the analytics system alongwith the revenue data.10 recommendations foranalytics driven game design© 2013 GamesAnalytics Limited. All Rights Reserved. Confidential and Not For Distribution1 build analytics in from day onepd of thette thet definedWheredata collectionis integrated atthe end of thedevelopmentphase, it takes3-5 timeslonger
  • 5. © 2013 GamesAnalytics Limited. All Rights Reserved. Confidential and Not For DistributionThis information is vital for the analyst to understand theplayer behaviour at the point of the transaction. In thegame, this data is not required during a transaction,but making sure it is available upfront makescreating the event simple. To send an event isgenerally very easy and requires only a few lines ofcode; what is much more challenging is having allthe data available at the point the event structurehas to be instantiated.On average, games, where event collection is retro-fittedinto the development process, only collect 60% of valuablegame data; which is the equivalent to leaving money on the table.3 build a single player viewAnalytics looks at player behaviours across the whole game. However, as gamesbecome more complex there are often multiple systems involved. For example,the registration system might be different from the payment system or in-gamematch making platform. This means data is often sent from both servers andgame clients.It is therefore imperative to build a single player view by having a consistentconcept of a User ID and session. The session is a unique ID for a user that linksall the events together between the point a player starts and ends the game.This session is extremely useful to understand player behaviour so that theanalyst can derive not only what actions a players has done, but the order ofthose actions.If data is coming from different servers, it is important that they are stillidentified to be part of the same session. Ideally, the timestamp will also besynchronised so the order of events and the single view of the player journey ismaintained. This is often not easy as servers can be separated by time zones.The additional complexity of data being sent from a client as well as the servermeans data will come in with a wide range of timestamps and therefore the UserID and session are vital to tie these events together into a consistent player journey.Building a single player view allows information to be brought together in theanalytics system no matter where the data originates.This inplayghOn aveinto the devOnWhere eventcollection isretro-fitted intothe developmentprocess collect60% of valuablegame data
  • 6. © 2013 GamesAnalytics Limited. All Rights Reserved. Confidential and Not For Distribution4 it’s important to synchronise timestampsSimilarly, with event data coming from multiple sources, it is essential tosynchronise timestamps to ensure a single consistent view of player behaviourcan be maintained. Client data is often sent using a local timestamp, whereasserver data will most likely be time stamped where the data is stored.There are two approaches to achieving synchronisation; either all systems mustsynchronise to a single universal clock and data is sent with the relevant timestamp,or data is sent to the analytics system that timestamps the data on receipt. Aslong as there is no batching of data then time stamping at the point of theanalytics server is often the simplest solution to achieve a consistent view of time.If timestamps are not the same, it makes it very hard to understand the trueorder of events, which is vital in building a player behaviour profile.
  • 7. © 2013 GamesAnalytics Limited. All Rights Reserved. Confidential and Not For Distribution5 create a single session ID for effective analysisHaving a unique Session ID that ties all the events in a single session together isvital in allowing effective analysis. The alternative is to retro-fit data after the factwhich is inevitably inaccurate and introduces errors.A great deal of the initial retention analysis is focused on the first session, sohaving a consistent and accurate way of defining sessions is essential.6 always collect outcomesEvents should aim to collect outcomes rather than changes. In other words, it ismuch better to collect the outcome of a mission rather than each change thathappened during the mission. For example, collecting what the player achievedwhen they complete a mission that is how many points they were rewarded orenemies they killed is much more useful than collecting every shot fired or,player killed.Similarly, when collecting the results of an upgrade, it is better to secure asnapshot of the result rather than each element of the upgrade. Asplayers upgrade their character they may make a number ofchanges, for example trying on different clothes and weapons.Although this is interesting information, the valuable datais the status of the player at the end of the process. Byonly collecting the outcomes of any changes and not eachindividual change, there is both a reduction in the datacollected, which impacts costs, and the analyst gets onlyuseful information rather than having to manually create thestatus from each individual change.It is always possible to collect every piece of information on the view that itmight be useful. However, too much information can be as dangerous as toolittle. It is important that the data collected is useful or it will rapidly becomeunmanageable and more time will be spent wading through huge amounts ofdata to find actual useful nuggets and less time on the important analysis thatdelivers real insight.too muchinformationcan be asdangerousas too little
  • 8. 7 don’t forget to also collect status dataIt is still vital to also collect general information such as player score, XP andcurrency balances.These updates should be collected at the end of each event requiring the data tobe available to send this information. Collecting such status data allows thedeveloper to view the changes in gameplay stats without having to collect everychange which would be far too much information to collect and store.8 create custom events; but use them wiselyStandard event lists ensure that implementation is as easy and quick as possible.However, there will always be some bespoke events in a game that do not fitwith the standard events. It is important to define the custom events that needto be captured up front, but they should only be used when standard events areexhausted. Significantly, standard events allow easy comparison across games,which is critical when considering player behaviours cross-game.9 be clear on game versions and using cohortsUltimately, player insight is delivered by segmenting individual groups of players– not by looking at the player base as a homogenous entity. By strategicallyisolating player cohorts, taking account of game versions and acquisitionstrategy, it is possible to define a meaningful cohort of new players to analysetheir playing experience, specifically looking at key retention and monetisationbehaviours such as defection, time to first payment and lifetime value.By defining cohorts it is possible to create personalised game experiences whichdrive player engagement and on average increases retention by 90% andmonetisation by 23%.© 2013 GamesAnalytics Limited. All Rights Reserved. Confidential and Not For Distributiondrive player engagement andincrease retention by 90%and monetisation by 23%
  • 9. © 2013 GamesAnalytics Limited. All Rights Reserved. Confidential and Not For Distribution10 data completeness vs. operational investment:where’s the balance?If events are implemented during the design and development process, the aimshould be to implement data collection for all the events. For games thatintegrate analytics at a later stage, practical decisions need to be made tobalance data completeness with development overhead and it is often pragmaticto phase the event collection.For all developers, there is always a balance to be struck on the depthof data collection.Retention is often the most important aspect of a F2P game to get right, somaking sure events that support retention analysis are implemented firstensures analytics can start to deliver value quickly and support retentionoptimisation. Monetisation events should be next, with complex gameplayevents left to last as these are used to support segmentation and delivercustomised and personalised messaging.conclusionsThis Developer’s Guide is designed to offer publishers and developers practicaltips and best practice recommendations for analytics driven game design.It is clear that analytics delivers the maximum insight and value when it isplanned and integrated from the start of the development process. There is alsoa balance to be achieved around events to be collected and know-how requiredaround the complexities of today’s F2P games to make the process as efficientas possible to generate robust and appropriate data.collection phasing examplesRetention eventsTransaction & Social eventsCustom – game specificInstall, Game Start/End, Mission Start/EndTransaction, Invite, Message, Gifting, GuildsE.g. Dock spaceship
  • 10. © 2013 GamesAnalytics Limited. All Rights Reserved. Confidential and Not For Distributionabout GamesAnalyticsGamesAnalytics improves player satisfaction and increases game revenues. Ourtechnology platform Predict™ uses advanced data mining and predictive model-ling to identify and segment significant player behaviours. Through this insight,game design can be optimised and players targeted with real-time individualin-game messages to offer personalised experiences that build engagement andincrease retention to drive significant revenue growth.For more information visit www.gamesanalytics.comor follow us on Twitter @gamesanalytics