I HATE YOUR GAME with Bob Heubel


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Ten things mobile game designers get wrong and how to fix them: Ever play a game that could be awesome if it were not for one little thing? Or worse, you play a game that causes you to verbally curse it, uninstall it and leave you wondering why millions of people play that game? You are not alone. Come to this session to learn the top ten mistakes mobile game designers make and best practices to help you avoid making those mistakes, all while vastly improving user experience. Don’t make a game others hate.

Attendee takeaway: Without referencing specific game titles (we don’t want to upset anyone), attendees will learn about game design elements that detract or ruin a perfectly good gaming experience and how you can fix or improve the user experience by following some core game design best practices.

Intended audience: Any mobile game developers/designers/testers

Presented at FITC Toronto 2014 on April 27-29, 2014
More info at www.FITC.ca

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I HATE YOUR GAME with Bob Heubel

  1. 1. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential NASDAQ: IMMR I Hate Your Game Bob Heubel, Developer Evangelist Ten things mobile game developers! get wrong and how to fix them Hello everyone. I’m happy to see you all. Welcome to my “I Hate Your Game” talk. ! Okay, let’s look at this image. Hmmm, it might seem like a strange image to use given the title of this talk. This guy looks happy playing his game, right? Well that’s the way we all want to feel when we play a game. ! We want to feel happy, challenged, satisfied and even surprised, but surprised in good ways. We want to have what we call “Wow” moments when we play our games. And this applies to all games, not just mobile games. ! And, I realize the word “hate” in my title is a strong word. But it caught your attention, didn’t it. And it should because as a gamer that started playing way back in the days of PONG and Asteroids, I’m passionate about the gaming experience and hate to see a potentially great game do something fundamentally wrong. So, when this session is over, I hope I will have demonstrated methods you can use to keep your mobile gamers happy and keep me from hating your game. ! This is going to be fun!
  2. 2. • First,  let  me  introduce  myself  and  the  company  I  work  for.    After  all,  why  should  you  take  me  seriously  unless  you  know  my  background.   • I’m  Bob  Heubel  and  I  work  for  a  company  called  Immersion.    We  got  our  start  over  20  yrs.  ago  developing  the  first  commercial  force  feedback  gaming  joystick,  steering  wheel  &  rumble  pad  designs  that  we  license  to  partners   like  Logitech,  Microsoft,  Sony  &  many  others.    When  you  feel  a  game  like  Forza  racing,  Assassins  Creed  or  Call  of  Duty,  it’s  because  of  Immersion-­‐enabled  gaming  controllers.    Basically  we  create  recipes  for  haptic  feedback  that   our  hardware  partners  follow  when  creating  their  controller  products.  of  these  devices  have  vibration  motors  in  them  that  allow  developers  to  give  touch  feedback  feeling  to  their  users.   • In  2003  Immersion  partnered  with  our  first  mobile  partner,  a  little  company  called  Samsung  to  bring  feeling  to  their  mobile  games  &  since  then  we’ve  licensed  our  tech  to  most  mobile  manufacturers  including  LG,  Toshiba,   Fujitsu,  Motorola,  Sharp,  Xiamai  in  China,  and  many  others  worldwide.
  3. 3. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Who is Immersion? Company highlights Immersion: The Haptics Company Worldwide Support ! Offices in EU, Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, US & Canada World Class Customer Base! ! Samsung, LG, Toshiba, Motorola, Sony, Microsoft, Logitech, Lexus, BMW, CAE and many many more Established in Large, Rapidly ! Growing Markets!
 ! Immersion tech in over 1 billion devices Mobile phones, game controllers, auto, 
 industrial, casino, other portable devices Strong Intellectual Property! ! Portfolio of 1,500+ granted and pending patents specifically in the field of Haptics related to both hardware and software Technology Leader! ! Developing tactile touch tech also known as “Haptics” for over 20 years NASDAQ: IMMR ▪ Today Immersion enables over a billion gaming and mobile devices and offers a free library of pre-made vibration effects that many mobile developers like Rockstar Games, Sega, Handy Games and over 7000 apps use. We want that same great feel that gamers love in console games to be easily implemented on mobile devices too. So, if you get a chance, checkout the free library I helped design on the tablets I’m going to pass around the room. You can find this free Immersion effect preview app on Google Play, or ask me about it after this talk and I’ll hook you up with awesome feeling demos and games. ▪ But feeling your mobile games is not why I’m here today. I’m here to give you some insight into ways you can improve your user experience and keep gamers, like me, happy. So, let’s start with some ground rules…
  4. 4. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential 3 This is not a fight I hate your game – ground rules: Ouch! 1. First, all my comments are meant to be constructive. I’m not going to single out games that do things that I think are wrong. This is not a fight after all. 2. Second, all my comments are one gamer’s point of view, mine. And you may not agree with all of my points. Furthermore, if you are a game developer yourself, you may have your own reasons for doing things that I feel, as a gamer, detract from the overall gaming experience. I find these reasons usually have to do with making money, but hopefully I’ll be able to convince you that you can design games that both satisfy any revenue targets while also maximizing the gaming experience for your gamers. 3. We will touch on topics of: Premium vs freemium, In-game ads & In-game purchases, Online vs offline modes, Control layouts, Social media connections, User options, Beta/play testing, Analytics & game updates & localization IN NO SPECIFIC ORDER. 4. But I realize you came here to hear about the 10 things mobile developers get wrong, so I will number them, just so you know how close we are to the end of the talk. This helps me too, by the way. 5. And lastly, if there is time and I missed something YOU hate about certain games, bringing it up during Q&A. But again, let’s stay away from discussing specific titles if at all possible. Okay, let us begin.
  5. 5. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Premium vs freemium PAY NOW PAY LATER PAY NEVER 1. This is a huge topic, right? Premium vs Freemium. But let’s break it down from a gamer’s perspective and also understand the developer’s perspective. 2. As a mobile gamer, I enjoy both premium & freemium games. I understand why a major game studio that ports a major brand to mobile feels they’ll never recoup their investment if they don’t charge a premium. Because, as a straight port, you can destroy the feel of the game by integrating things like in-app purchases or ads when the original game never had these elements. 3. For example, it would be weird to port the original Sonic or Grand Theft Auto titles to mobile with adds or in-app purchases. So, how else are you going to make back your development investment? I get that. And I’m totally happy they didn’t try to add those mobile elements. 4. But as a gamer, I’m always uncomfortable paying for a game I’ve never played before and always prefer trying a game before I buy. So, I’m always happy when a developer offers a free demo version or a freemium version I can checkout. Then if I like the game a lot, I’ll generally pay for a premium version that includes the full game or drops any ads or other upgrade nag screens. 5. For non-ported games, games made from scratch, I’m of the opinion that there should alway be a freemium version of the game. But at the same time, if I love that game I will always want an option to drop ads or be able to unlock additional content. And I applaud developers, like Handy Games (from Germany, by the way) that always seem to offer versions of their games for free. 6. The more options you have for your gamers to consume your products, the better you cater to their individual needs. And we will talk more about this later too. So, don’t hesitate to have more than one version of your game if it means you’ll gain more customers.
  6. 6. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential In-game ads ▪ Okay, so this brings us to the topic of ads. Boo! Hiss! Gamers hate ads, right? Okay, I agree to an extent. An ad taking up space on your screen like this while you play a game is a horrible experience. And it is generally meant to be a horrible experience. This type of ad is supposed to be a huge motivator for a gamer to upgrade to the premium version of the game to get rid of the ad showing up in the gameplay. ▪ But this is typical of the first-generation in-game ads and the worst possible ad experience for a gamer. ▪ BTW, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto games do not have on-screen ads like this, thank god. ▪ I play a lot of free mobile games. And if the game was free for me to download, then this type of ad is fair game, so to speak. The developer needs to make money after all. But this type of ad can distract so much from the game play that you run the risk of alienating the game player before they really have a chance to fall in love with your game. And that’s a pity, right? ▪ For the games I download that have ads, I prefer when a developer keeps those ads out of the game play and place them either in-between levels or at the beginning of the game or respawning. ▪ Even better is when a developer uses ads as an element to increase your in-game energy, currency or other game-related reward. In this way, I’m opting-in for the ads and feel like I’m gaining something in return rather than feeling forced to watch an ad. This turns the ad experience into positive experience rather than a dreaded experience. ▪ In some games, I’ve actually enjoyed spending time looking at video ads knowing that I was getting a reward in a game I already liked. ▪ So, if you are going to have ads in your game, I implore you to be more creative than just throwing the ad on the game-play area and to also think about how you might make the ad experience more enjoyable to the user. The more your audience enjoys the ad experience, the more money you are going to make from those ads, after all.
  7. 7. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential In-game purchases There is no reason NOT to have in-app purchases from your game. And if you DON’T have some sort of mechanism for selling more content to your loyal users from within your game, then you are loosing your greatest revenue generation opportunity from a captive audience. ! And I don’t mind if between levels or at start up that you are offered additional games from the developer. If I like their game I’m currently playing, I might very well like one of their other games. And if in the options menu I see a way to purchase items for the game like more energy, tokens, character skins, etc. I actually like to check out what’s available, whether or not I actually decide to buy something. ! And as I mentioned in my last slide about ads, if I can get some in-game free purchases by watching an ad, I’m fine with that option too. So, think about tying in the ads and in-game purchase elements, if for no other reason, you may start to make first time users comfortable watching ads and interacting with your in-game purchase mechanism. ! But what really makes me mad is when a game: ! • Prompts you throughout the game for purchases, like “Oh, I see you’re having trouble here. Want to pay to unlock this level?” Imagine if this happened in a console game like Dead Rising or Call of Duty. “Oh, I see you got killed again. Want to pay to unlock move past this challenge?” You’d be just incensed. Sometimes a player just wants to explore a level and is not “having trouble,” so stop asking for their wallet. • Or the other thing that makes me angry, and it happens much more rarely, is when I find a game that is made in such a way that you MUST spend money to reach the end of the levels. No matter how hard you try, if you don’t make an in-game purchase, you will not get to the end of the game. That’s just asking a gamer to hate your game. And that is NOT what you want. ! So, again, this goes back to the idea that you don’t want to annoy the user. You want to delight them while leveraging potential in-game purchases.
  8. 8. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Online vs offline Okay, so let’s talk about Online vs Offline game play. ! Ever play a new game that can only be played when you have a network connection? But then you didn’t discover that you needed a connection until you found yourself offline and couldn’t play the game? How infuriating, especially if you love playing that game. It’s like you just lost a good friend when you’re traveling or otherwise disconnected. ! I swear, the first time this happen to me and I couldn’t play my game… I cursed a blue streak and uninstalled the game immediately. I never played it again. Emotions were involved, I can tell you. ! Why alienate a gamer by designing a game like this? I understand that if you’ve built a game with leaderboards, multiplayer experiences and the like, as a developer your main motivation is the connected experience that you’ve worked so hard to create. But the best game designs should always offer an offline mode too. Try to keep your players delighted with your game at all times, connected or not. ! This is probably my biggest pet peeve and if I can convince game developers to fix one thing about your game design, it’s giving gamers the ability to play online or off. Do not limit your game play. The more a gamer plays your game online or off, the more loyal they become to your brand or company.
  9. 9. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Control layouts Ever play a game with lousy play control? You know what I mean. You find yourself muttering, “That’s not what I meant to do.” Or, why did that happen? Or, I meant to jump, I pressed the button but why didn’t I jump! Or I meant to turn, why didn’t I turn? !These are symptoms of poorly designed control layouts. And this often results in players taking damage, losing a life or having to restart a level. Poor controls frustrate players. And if it happens often enough, you’ll drive players away from your game and have generally poor user reviews from gamers like me. !To keep from frustrating your users, follow a few general rules that some of the best developers use: • First, for touch screens, define large button input areas, or even floating input areas. For example, Rockstar’s Max Payne Mobile uses a default left thumb movement control that is invisible until the user places his thumb practically anywhere on the left side of the screen and then allows for easy virtual thumbstick control. This method is much better than defining a thumb control with a smaller and more specifically located traditional input buttons that are hard to target. • Player input actions should be intuitive, like you find in games like …
  10. 10. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Control layouts !• Clouds & Sheep, Limbo, Orbital, Hextacy or any air hockey game. The best game controls are actually invisible, without visual buttons, arrows or UI indicators. And, sorry about the low-res images, especially for Hextacy. • But within these control considerations. Also think about offering your users more than one control method. For example consider using the accelerometer for tilting movement controls, especially for racing/driving/flight controls. Then you can use screen touch inputs or for other actions like firing controls, power-ups or other actions. • Also, consider wrist-based wearables for game control too. This is a growing control option. If your game is more for the serious gamer, consider including mobile gamepad support. You’ll be surprised how much these controllers can improve the game control experience. Also, if you do allow for gamepad or wearables support, you will often find additional promotional opportunities for your game from the hardware manufacturers, like Samsung, etc. if you look contact them about your game. • Last, it never hurts to have a tutorial of your game controls as 1st-time users play the 1st level w/overlaid animation. Checkout games like Clouds & Sheep from Handy Games or Jellyflop from Concrete Software and you’ll see good examples of tutorials.
  11. 11. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential CONNECT BRAG SHARE RECOMMEND ENDORSE JOIN Social connection Having in-game social connection elements are less of a problem today than it used to be. Many games now allow you to send notes, achievements or invitations on social networks or simply compete against others. But I still run across wonderful games that do not have enough social connection or sharing capabilities. The most viral, addictive and profitable games tend to be those you play with others in multiplayer mode or share with others in some way. We are all social creatures. ! I tend to prefer single-player games myself, but I don’t mind bragging about an achievement in a game once in a while. Or if a friend sees me playing a new game, it’s nice to be able to show off the game to them in a multiplayer mode. ! By adding such elements social sharing capabilities, multiplayer support, leaderboards or achievements you allow a much richer experience for gamers while enabling those gamers to promote your game for you. ! If you have a good single-player, unsharable game you are really doing yourself and your gamers a disservice. Make it easy for them to shout out the virtues of all your hard work, brag about their achievements and invite their friends to discover the great game that you made.
  12. 12. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Play testing Bug Wow moment Unbalanced level Bug Little Bug Bug Bug Play testing is critical. Do not build your game in a vacuum. By this I mean, do not test your game all by yourself or just within your team. You KNOW how your game is supposed to be played. You KNOW all the ends and outs of the levels and gameplay and how to win. You may find programming bugs by testing the game over and over again yourself, but you are unlikely to find all the usability bugs because of your intimate understanding of the game. !To discover possible gameplay roadblocks, user frustration points or even positive “wow” moments that you may have been unaware of and should try to recreate in other areas of your game, you need players that are unfamiliar with your game to spend time playing it and providing you feedback. That valuable feedback may be in the form of user studies or gameplay analytics that show you how users are playing your game. !Ever play a fun game and get to an intermediate level that you just could not get past no matter what you tried? Unless this is the point of your game, you may have just lost a loyal player because they cannot continue the game. !This very thing has happened to me. I played a game into level 23, out of 100 levels and I just could not complete the level of this bubble shooter-type game. I really liked this new game so I emailed this indie developer. They acknowledged the lopsided difficulty of the level and within a week the level had been tweaked slightly and I continued on my merry way to discovering all the progressively more difficult remaining levels. Success. I finished the game! I was happy. !It turns out that this developer only tested their levels among team members, and they all knew how to beat level 23, so the difficulty level to them was very simple, but not for those outside their team, like me or you. !So, as you can see play testing is critical not only to finding problems like this but for creating a game that satisfies the greatest number players.
  13. 13. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Analytics & updates Now I mentioned that gameplay analytics are a big part of Play Testing before you officially launch your game. But reviewing in-game analytics once your game has launched is what will really determine whether your game is a longterm success or not. !Good analytic reports will tell you things like: ▪ Any crashing bugs that users are experiencing ▪ Which model of devices your game is being played on ▪ Which of your levels your users are spending the most or least time on ▪ Which of your in-app purchases are most popular ▪ Which game options your users use the most, or least ▪ Which ad services are the most or least effective !And from these analytic reports you’ll be able to see how to best update your game to maximize profits and increase player satisfaction while minimizing player frustration points. It’s important to get rid of bugs. But if the developer doesn’t go beyond finding bus and really make the most of game analytics, they are doing themselves and me, their loyal fan, a disservice. Because eventually your loyal gamers will simply get bored with your game. !And this brings me to game updates that go hand-in-hand with analytics. Game updates based on analytics is most important. But also, as a faithful gamer, I want a game I particularly love to evolve over time, to get better, offer me more options and generally keep me delighted. The changes might be as subtle as giving me more in-game purchase possibilities or new levels Or the changes might be more substantial like re-skinning the game graphics for the holidays with snowflakes, pumpkins, easter eggs, fireworks or whatever. !If you are a hobbyist game developer unconcerned with revenue, that’s one thing. But if you are trying to make a business out of your game, you need to use analytics, listen to your audience and provide regular updates to benefit them, your game play and ultimately your game revenues.
  14. 14. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Localization I find it sad when I find a treasure of a game that is only available in one language, especially when Google and Apple and other game services make it easier than ever to translate your in game text and extend the reach of your game into international markets. ! More than once I’ve heard of developers that were totally surprised that their game was successful in a market they were not targeting, just by localizing the text. Then, after discovering these new successful regions, they could direct a little more marketing effort in them to maximize downloads of their game. More downloads generally equal more profits, after all. ! And while text translation is helpful. You might try to take a step back and see what you can do in your game design to use as little text as possible, hence needing as little translation work as possible. ! As I mentioned in my slides for Control Layouts, if you use more intuitive/descriptive looking icons or even invisible intuitive controls, it is easier for gamers from any country to universally understand and enjoy your game. And instead of text in menus again try using universally understood icons or use animated tutorials instead of text-heavy game instructions. ! Concrete Software’s game Jellyflop game does a great job instructing users how to play the game with no text, they just animated tutorials at the start of the first few levels. This helps to make the game much more accessible to international markets.
  15. 15. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential User options ▪ User configurable options for mobile games are generally limited to turning your audio and vibration functions on or off. Or in some cases, you may see options for accelerometer or gamepad-based controls. ▪ This is all fine, but what if your game is laid out vertically in portrait mode and your user has the game connected to their widescreen TV? Have you provided a landscape mode option for them to take full advantage of that use case? ▪ Or what if your user happens to be color-blind? Have you take this into consideration in your options offering a cooler color palette of greens and blues instead of reds and yellows? Or what about your vibration settings? If you are using Immersion’s library of tactile game effects, did you chose strong effects or subtle feeling effects, or did you give the user an option to choose from either? ▪ Take Magnus Lorentzon’s Hextacy puzzle game, for example. (CLICK FOR HEXTACY IMAGES) This simple game offers both options for color-blind users and users that want to tailor the feel of interacting with the game tiles; offering both a subtle and distinct vibration touch confirmation themes when the gamer drags his fingers over the game tiles. Nice. ▪ Thinking ahead about what your users may want and taking the time to design in a few options many developers typically forget will only help delight your users and set your game apart from the rest for better user-ratings and possibly for a greater number of downloads of your game.
  16. 16. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential I hate your game - summary ▪ Premium vs freemium! ▪ In-game ads! ▪ In-game purchases! ▪ Online vs offline! ▪ Game controls ▪ Premium vs freemium! ▪ In-game ads! ▪ In-game purchases! ▪ Online vs offline! ▪ Game controls ▪ Social connections! ▪ Play testing! ▪ Analytics & updates! ▪ Localization! ▪ User options ▪ Social connections! ▪ Play testing! ▪ Analytics & updates! ▪ Localization! ▪ User options So, there you have it. From Monetization models to control layouts, analytics, user options and more. !I’ve told you what turns me off when I play a mobile game. But more than this, I hope you’ve learned what excites me about the mobile games I play and how you might improve your games. !Back in 1999, I left a perfectly good, stable and boring job in the clean energy industry to pursue a career that put me closer to game developers. I joined a little start-up company called Immersion that invented some cool new game control technology called Force-Feedback for PCs and consoles. Today everyone knows what force feedback means. In 2005 we introduced gamers to the term “Haptics” for mobile gaming and today most people know this terms means adding tactile feeling to mobile games. !So for 15 years, I’ve worked with game developers to help them make their experiences the best it can be. But more than this, I am a gamer. And I look forward to the years ahead as we combine mobile and console gaming with wearables, AR, VR and new tech not even envisioned yet. !And you get this cool picture from my plane landing in New York.
  17. 17. ©2014 Immersion Corporation–Confidential Contact Us: HapticsDev@immersion.com   Like Us: http://www.facebook.com/ImmersionDeveloper   Follow Us: @HapticsDev  &  @BobHeubel   Read Our Blog: http://blog.immersion.com   Direct Access: Bob Heubel! RHEUBEL@IMMERSION.COM * Thank you! * For all the elements that can annoy me about games, there are just so many great games out there. I am so lucky to have a job that lets me work with so many fantastically talented game developers, play their games and actually get paid for it. !And on this note, if any of you ever need advice about your games or help adding tactile effects to your projects, like I've done for Rockstar Games, Handy Games, War Drum Studios, Sega and so many others, please do reach out to me. !Thank you for your time and this that I’d like to answer any questions you might have. !Time for Q&A.