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Building Games for the Long Term: Pragmatic F2P Guild Design (GDC Europe 2013)

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Every Kongregate talk they're always saying "guilds, guilds, guilds". Sure, but does that even work for my type of game? And what should a guild design for my game look like?

In this design-focused talk, guilds will be deconstructed into their kernel and then built back up feature-by-feature with an eye on implications for retention, monetization, and engagement. Examples from the industry will be used to look at best practices and missed opportunities while it explores traditional and experimental guild elements. It will also walk through the exercise designing a guild system for a popular casual game, challenging the audience to step outside the boundaries of traditional genres when thinking about guilds in games.

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Building Games for the Long Term: Pragmatic F2P Guild Design (GDC Europe 2013)

  1. 1. Building Games for the Long Term: Pragmatic F2P Guild Design Anthony Pecorella Director of Production for browser games Kongregate.com
  2. 2. Who am I? ● At Kongregate for 5 years, directing our browser-based virtual goods business ● Also an indie game designer, cofounder of Level Up Labs
  3. 3. ● Open platform for browser-based games ● Flash, Unity, HTML5, Java, etc. ● 15M monthly unique visitors worldwide ● Core gamers – 85% male, average age of 21 ● MMOs, RPGs, CCGs, TD, shooters, etc. ● Platform level virtual currency, “kreds” ● Mobile publisher of F2P games for core gamers ● Acquired by GameStop July 2010 What is Kongregate?
  4. 4. Some of Kongregate’s Developer Partners
  5. 5. Context for the Talk • Focus will be on free to play games, generally core-gamer in design • Primary experience is in browser, but most lessons carry over to mobile • There is no “ideal” guild, but this talk will try to help guide your design process with the right questions to ask
  6. 6. Social Structures in High School ● Ad hoc teams (dodge ball) ● Social group or friends ● School Team (football, basketball, algebra) ● School Population
  7. 7. Social Structures in Games ● Ad hoc teams (Halo, League of Legends) ● Friend list (Mafia Wars, Candy Crush Saga) ● Guilds / Clans (WoW, Clash of Clans) ● Factions / Races (SW:TOR, Planetside 2)
  8. 8. A Note on Ad Hoc Guilds • Nimblebit has tried “ad hoc” guild designs • Super flexible, but this can be a disadvantage • Decentralized membership • Little to no mutual relationships • Acts better as a fluid leaderboard than a guild
  9. 9. How Important are Guilds?
  10. 10. All That Glitters is Guild • Every one of our top 10 games has some type of guild construct • Guilds are an essential part of high-level monetization in core F2P games
  11. 11. Numerical support for guilds • Dawn of the Dragons, by 5th Planet Games • Of players who reached level 10, 49% joined a guild • Didn’t join a guild: 3.2% buyer rate • Did join a guild: 23% buyer rate
  12. 12. Numerical support for guilds • Tyrant, by Synapse Games • Looking at installs over the past year… • Non-guild members ARPPU is $36.59 • Guild members ARPPU is $91.60
  13. 13. Long Term Retention is Key
  14. 14. What can Guilds do for Me? ● Retention – regularly returning to your game (rolling D7 retention, regular players, etc.) ● Social connections create sense of belonging, and duty ● Players don’t want to let the guild down ● Keep coming back for sake of others (the Draw Something effect)
  15. 15. What can Guilds do for Me? ● Engagement – playing deeply into your game (session time, user level, advancement pace, committed players, etc.) ● Guild members are great teachers for new players ● Share late game strategy and wisdom ● Powerful elder-game content ● Members need to perform at a high level for the guild to be competitive
  16. 16. What can Guilds do for Me? ● Monetization – spending among guild members (% buyers, ARPPU, LTV, etc.) ● Indirect monetization as members upgrade their own status to be able to perform better for the guild ● Direct monetization can be done in the form of guild items and bonuses ● Helps mitigate “pay to win” feelings when you have a big spender on your team ● Some guilds exclusively recruit spenders and require continued spending from members
  17. 17. The MVG • What are the characteristics of a Minimum Viable Guild? • Guild Name: needs to be persistent and visible outside of itself • Controlled Member List: membership persists and is managed • Guild Owner: a leader/organizer that at a minimum controls the member list • [Shared content: Some sort of content, even just a score, to unify the guild members]
  18. 18. Guild Features & Decisions ● Now that we have an MVG, what, if anything, should we add to it? ● What other design questions should I consider for my game? ● We’ll use an example game…
  19. 19. Guild Design Example Game
  20. 20. Guild Attributes
  21. 21. Creating Guilds ● Should I charge money to create a guild? ● Avoid creating too much friction ● Guilds are only a means to an end, a powerful tool ● You want as many legitimate guilds as possible ● Soft currency prices make sense to avoid careless guild creation, add more sense of ownership, or to pace the player lifecycle Swords & Potions Edgebee Studios
  22. 22. ● Call them “Teams” not “Guilds”: appeal better to the demographic ● For consistency, will be referred to as “guilds” in this talk anyway ● Collect 7 tickets from friends to start a guild and become Guild Owner ● Enhances sense of ownership ● Acts as initial seed for guild members Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  23. 23. Joining a Guild ● Introduce guilds at an appropriate time to players. Once they unlock them then they’ll be interested in exploring them. ● Have a good matchmaking algorithm for players who want to find a guild. ● Guild owners will generally want options for open enrollment, approval, or invite-only
  24. 24. Joining a Guild ● Provide incentives for joining a guild. Game of War Machine Zone Dawn of the Dragons 5th Planet Games
  25. 25. ● A player searching for a guild will be matched up based on having similar game progression to the average guild member ● Players are encouraged to join a guild after they finish level 20, incentivized to do so with a free power-up or free progress to next section Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  26. 26. Guild Size ● Not a clear best practice that I’m aware of ● Many games max out guilds in the 40 – 50 range (Tyrant, Clash of Clans, Clash of the Dragons) ● Other games much larger (Wartune: 210, Dawn of the Dragons: 250) ● Some games use alliances, officially or unofficially, to increase guild size ● In many cases guild size increases as it levels up or gets items. Tyrant ranges from 15 – 50, Wartune from 30 – 210.
  27. 27. Guild Size ● Focus on the functionality within your game ● Do you need lots of concurrent players in a guild for live, real time events? Larger may make more sense. ● Is it important for members to know each other well and coordinate strategy and plans? Keep it small and intimate.
  28. 28. ● More casual, social demographic, likely to already know everyone, or want to get to know everyone, in the guild ● Ideal size is probably around 20 ● Keeping with the more simple, casual style we won’t have guilds level up or increase in size Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  29. 29. Guild Identity ● Help your players develop bonds to their guild and guild mates and to express themselves ● Name – often has hobbies, national pride, or puns ● Guild colors/emblem/image to show off ● Many will build their own guild pages, forums, etc. Clash of Clans Supercell
  30. 30. ● Guild emblem creation ● Option of background shapes, textures ● Choose main overlay image ● Choose primary and secondary colors Candy Crush Guild Battles Game of Thrones Ascent Disruptor Beam Diablo III Blizzard • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  31. 31. Guild Features
  32. 32. Guild Communication ● Guilds are a social construct, so let people communicate! ● Focus first on guild-specific, necessary communication ● Asynchronous ● Announcements: one-to-many from the guild leader, useful and important ● Forums: much more flexible, good for persistent discussion of strategy, planning, recruitment, etc. ● Guilds will often do this for you!
  33. 33. Guild Communication ● Synchronous ● Chat: good for larger guilds, real-time games, or long session games ● Semi-persistent gives a “best of both worlds” Clash of Clans Supercell
  34. 34. ● Guilds are likely to contain a lot of real-life friends ● A semi-persistent chat would be a fairly simple and effective communication channel Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  35. 35. The Guild Bank ● A place for players to donate or contribute currency to a shared pool for the guild ● One-way process, typically converted into a guild-specific currency that may or may not be spendable ● A fantastic sink for soft currency out of the economy ● Typically hard currency can be used at a substantial multiplier to soft currency
  36. 36. The Guild Bank ● Leveling up ● Simple implementation, more akin to XP. Players contribute to the guild which adds to the guild XP. Guild levels up at various thresholds. ● Spendable bank currency ● Similar to leveling up, but gives the guild owner the ability to select guild-wide upgrades to buy with the currency. Gives more direct ownership over the guild growth, allows leader to give goals for players to meet.
  37. 37. The Guild Bank ● Membership dues ● An even more effective way to sink soft currency. This is a guild-wide, weekly amount that must be paid to keep the guild from demoting. Scales with size, very useful lever for balancing. ● Contribution credits ● Members get a credit for each donation to spend at a guild shop. ● Opens up possibility of guild-exclusive items. ● Gives top guild members an individual benefit scaled to their own contribution.
  38. 38. ● Lacking a currency there won’t be any way to donate or contribute to a guild bank ● That said, I would strongly consider adding a guild bank to house winnings from competitions so team captains can buy cool stuff for the team Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  39. 39. Guild Items ● Bonuses for the entire guild, acquired either from the bank or by players ● Paid guild items seem be to fairly rare, but a great opportunity ● Caesary had a $100 item that would increase the guild size by 200 people, sold quite well ● Collective purchasing is a possibility too ● Items should travel with the purchaser
  40. 40. ● Guild Store ● Allow captains to spend team points to buy guild banner customization ● Some options in the store would also be locked off by league level ● Purchased Guild Items ● Aesthetic items can be sold to guild members directly to share with the guild ● Potential for high-priced shared items: all guild mates get +1 life permanently for $99.99 • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues Candy Crush Guild Battles
  41. 41. Guild Competition / Cooperation
  42. 42. Intra-guild Cooperation ● Cooperative PvE ● Often not guild-specific, but may offer bonuses for doing it with guild mates ● Guild raids ● Summon guild-exclusive raids to challenge with just your guild mates for rewards Dawn of the Dragons 5th Planet Games
  43. 43. Intra-guild Cooperation ● Event participation ● Guild members work together to achieve goals during events Kings & Legends ChangYou
  44. 44. Intra-guild Cooperation ● Cooperative construction ● Work together toward persistent improvements Swords & Potions 2 Edgebee Studios
  45. 45. ● There really isn’t anything that would make sense for intra-guild co-op, at least not for a first pass Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  46. 46. Intra-guild Competition ● Not necessarily explicit, though sometimes is (Clash of Clans) ● Provide player progress metrics for members to see how they compare to everyone else. Level, trophies, etc. ● Am I pulling my weight? Am I behind everyone else?
  47. 47. Intra-guild Competition ● Provide short term metrics to track recent activity. Last login, weekly contribution, etc. ● Did I do my fair share this week? ● As a guild owner, is there anyone I need to speak to or cut? Wartune R2 Games
  48. 48. ● Provide leaderboard within a guild ● Player name ● Highest level unlocked ● Games contributed this week ● Score contributed this week ● Tapping on a player’s name brings up a second page that shows the specifics of their weekly contribution Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  49. 49. Inter-guild Competition (Passive) ● If you have a metric you can rank all guilds. ● Provide a regular benefit for high-ranked guilds to incentivize performance. ● Clash of Clans does this well…somewhat. Clash of Clans Supercell
  50. 50. ● We need a guild metric to compare ● Requires regular, continued participation ● Rewards skill ● Rewards persistent growth week to week Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  51. 51. ● Weekly contribution from each member to the guild score ● Completing a game generates a guild contribution value ● Top ten contribution scores from each player count toward the guild’s weekly total points Contribution = Level _Score 3_Star_Score ´ Level _ Number Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  52. 52. Inter-guild Competition (Active) ● If it makes sense for your game, active competition can be very powerful ● Can be synch or asynch, scheduled or ad hoc Tryant Synapse Games Watune R2 Games
  53. 53. ● Don’t need any direct, active competition – the ranking system should suffice, especially for a first version ● Could potentially be done through a challenge system on a particular, or randomly-generated level ● Each guild has 24 hours to post scores ● Top 10 scores from each guild count Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  54. 54. A Quick Look at Leagues
  55. 55. Leagues ● In Clash of Clans, the top 3 clans get a reward. Competition is fierce at the top, but what about everywhere else? Weak Strong All Guilds Intense Competition
  56. 56. Leagues ● Leagues are sometimes used in highly-competitive games like League of Legends and StarCraft II. ● Clash of Clans actually has leagues too, but they’re individual rather than clan-based. ● Players move into higher leagues by increasing their core metric, being promoted when they hit various thresholds.
  57. 57. Leagues ● Could we design a better league for free to play? Can it work for Guilds? What would it do? ● Have a relatively short season or cycle ● Provide rewards to promote retention and engagement ● Be directly competitive, zero-sum to promote fierce competition and indirectly engagement/monetization ● Provide sufficient number of tiers to allow for feeling of growth
  58. 58. Relegation/Promotion Leagues ● This is pretty foreign to American sports fans ● Move away from score tiers, instead make it population- based ● Each level has a fixed percentage of population, guilds must fight to move up or down each “season”
  59. 59. Relegation/Promotion Leagues ● Reconcile on a weekly basis ● Each week, process promotions and demotions ● 1/3 jeopardy rate: 33% of each level moves down one level, corresponding guilds from lower level move up ● After the moves, give out weekly rewards for membership Weak Strong All Guilds Intense Competition
  60. 60. ● A 16-tier promotion/relegation league system ● Weekly rewards would include team cash (to buy emblem customization items) ● Special rewards for top 10 teams in each league (small number of boosts) Candy Crush Guild Battles • Creation • Joining • Size • Identity • Communication • Bank • Items • Intra-guild cooperation • Intra-guild competition • Inter-guild passive • Inter-guild active • Leagues
  61. 61. Wrap-up ● Design guilds with a focus on retention, engagement, and monetization ● Think about how decisions affect player behavior and relationships ● Be creative, look for new applications and mechanics that make sense for your game
  62. 62. Thank you! ● For these slides & more talks, visit dev.kongregate.com ● Web games: apps@kongregate.com ● Mobile publishing: mobile@kongregate.com ● Follow us on Twitter: @KongregateDevs

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