Evil Game Design Challenge/Casual Connect 2013


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Dan Rubenfeld, Ethan Levy, and I were each asked to discuss how we would transform Super Mario Bros. 3 into a free-to-play game as part of the "Evil Game Design Challenge." I took the tack of attempting to deeply horrify fans of the original game. The audience voted my presentation as the most evil.

  • it hurts...
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  • As a 'middle aged woman' (who incidentally is a Skyrim addict), why do I feel like I've just been insulted?
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  • WATCH Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Here: - http://goo.gl/mUbTsY
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Evil Game Design Challenge/Casual Connect 2013

  1. Online Greg Costikyan gcostik@rocketmail.com Casual Connect 2013 Evil Game Design Challenge
  2. Target Demographic ● Middle-aged women ● IP appeals to 20-something males ● Obviously need to change to...
  3. Super MarioX a BrosXXXXSISTERS! Image credit: Elzor_sl
  4. Super Mario Bros.... ● Is notable for crisp controls. ● Requires precise timing. ● Fans decry modern games as 'too easy' ● In other words: Way too hard for our demographic!
  5. It's All Gotta be Clicks ● Click to move. ● Click to defeat enemies. You know, like Indiana Jones Adventure World. ● ...swipes to jump in mobile suck. ● Annoying confirm dialog for keyboard use when entering Flash full-screen. ● Charge energy for every click – Ka-Ching!
  6. Content Creation Costs $ ● Need to spin out content for months of play. ● So we want players to grind levels repeatedly. We need: ● Mastery stars! ● Gate content: "You need 2 stars in stage 2-1 to unlock stage 2-2."
  7. ● One of the core appeals of Super Mario Bros. ● But incompatible with grind replay. ● We need: Algorithmically generated traps/enemies. ● Sayonara, careful level design... but necessary to support our business model. Careful Level Design
  8. $ for Energy, Lives, Powerups ● Energy and lives regen on timers, but... ● "You're out of energy! Buy more for 4 gems?" ● "You died! Continue for 5 gems?" ● "A Super Mushroom would help you here. Buy one for 10 gems?" Ka-ching!
  9. Speaking of Powerups... ● Mario can carry/use only one at a time... ● But we want to sell you lots... ● We need an inventory. ● Plus, we can sell you: More inventory slots! Ka-ching!
  10. ...And Other Permanent Stat Increases ● "One more max Life for 20 gems." ● "Triple-jumps for 40 gems." ● "Faster energy regen for 50 gems." Ka-ching!
  11. 'Course, We Need Virals ● Invite Friends (like, 20 seconds into NUF) ● Daily free gifts – Energy & Powerups, inventory caps (buy but not receive above them) ● Brag shares (must uncheck tiny box or shared automatically) ● Staffing...
  12. Staffing? ● "Ask three friends to staff your castle to unlock World 2." ● "...or unlock now for 10 gems." ● Oh, and "Maria is searching the castle for the PrincessXX. Come back in 24 hours to see if she found him!"
  13. 24 Hours? ● Only damn metrics your mgmt is going to care about in geoalpha are 1-day retention and time on site. ● So the FUE gives you 20-30 minutes of gameplay + a hard stop and call to return tomorrow. ● 'Cause we don't even get to launch if we don't massage our metrics. ● Gaming the system is Job One!
  14. New Worlds Gated by... ● Mastery stars. ● Staffing (or pay to bypass). ● Later on, an expansion resource – Rare drop, or pay to buy. ● Timer (or pay to bypass). Ka-ching!
  15. Consumables & Bypasses Good, But... ● We need more Ka-Ching! ● Bonus Worlds for hard currency only. ● Week 2: a stage you NEED powerups to beat. – We don't give you enough. – MUST spam or monetize to progress.
  16. Plus: Timed Quest Sequences ● 12+ quests, most requiring grind. ● New world, available for 2 weeks only. ● Big reward at the end: "Play as Princess Peach! She can Triple Jump!" ● Each play requires a new special resource. ● Players seeded with some, + rare drop, + ask friends for more. ● Daily cap on # you can receive.
  17. Timed Quest Sequence (pt. 2) ● Tuned so you will NOT have enough of the special resource to complete in the available time. ● Unless you pay! Ka-ching! ● Suck the marks in with enough seeded resources... Have them invest time and emotional energy... Hold out a big reward... ● Double Ka-ching!
  18. Plus the Usual Crap ● Hard currency/$ ratio at some weird prime, like 7, so it's harder for the marks to figure out how much they're actually spending. ● Daily reward slot machine with HC cost for more spins. ● "Get gems at 30% off but only if you act now." ● "You've got 2 extra inventory slots for the next week" (but have to pay to keep them afterwards).
  19. Nice Little Game You Got There... ● Ah, nostalgia... ● Get over it! ● There's money to be made, boys. KA-CHING!