GameDev Protips: A Few Pitalls To Avoid When Creating Free-to-Play Games

Free-to-Play games seem to be everywhere these days, and many of them have a poor reputation in the eyes of many. After all, the sentiment is that these games are made just to get you to spend as much as possible, right? Well, that’s certainly one of the ways to go about monetizing F2P games. However, this is shortsighted, and will just sabotage what could’ve been a much better game game. Here are some tips to avoid making poor monetization systems for your F2P games if you choose to go down that path at some point.

The most important thing to understand is that you need to consider how spending money will feel for the player. It sounds simple enough, but many developers blindly monetize their game and hope that it takes off. Developers should come up with an overarching design philosophy for their pay model and stick to it. Most commonly, this is pretty simple: make it enjoyable to spend money. This sounds obvious, but many F2P games are monetized with greed in mind rather than the players’ enjoyment in mind. When it comes to designing for player enjoyment, the most important part is to make sure that spending money is perceived to be an optional way to enjoy the game.

There are two outcomes that usually arise as a result of developers’ ignorance to how spending feels. The first is that spending money turns out to actually ruin the experience, so players are actively discouraged from spending anything. This is usually the result when a game relies heavily on progression; if you just skip to the end using real money, there’s nothing left and the game will slowly decline and players will quit. Secondly, and most commonly, developers monetize their game in such a way as to make players feel forced to spend money. These are commonly known as Pay-to-Win games. You shouldn’t use freemium systems as a paywall to prevent players from progressing. These games, while making large amounts of revenue off whales, will eventually dry up and die due to players quitting in frustration. Unfortunately, these games appear to be incredibly successful early on in their life cycle so this type of F2P model has propagated and became the standard for many games. They’re simply shortsighted cash-grabs that kill off their playerbase because of greedy monetization.

A successful F2P game will make that spending process something you actively want to engage in, rather than either a detriment to your enjoyment or a toll you have to pay to progress. The process should feel something like buying a new game or a toy; it’s something you’re very happy to pay for, even if you would’ve prefered it to be free, and you enjoy seeing your purchased item every day. These often come up in the forms of expansion packs, cosmetics, or social items that are fun to use for all involved. These purchases don’t result in feelings of regret, and have lasting value that legitimately enhances your play experience.

If your monetization system is fair and enjoyable, word of mouth will ensure that you are successful. As a result of the fair monetization system, you’re likely to have an expanding player base too, as players will want to stick around to see what you can do instead of quitting prematurely. Always keep the players’ enjoyment of the system in the forefront when you’re designing your monetization system, and you’ll be on the right track to making fair, successful F2P games.

Important Takeaways: F2P games are becoming extremely common, but many developers don’t understand how to design their monetization systems. You need to have an overarching design philosophy, and usually this boils down to ensuring that your players enjoy spending money. While that sounds simple, many F2P games today make you feel forced to pay, as in P2W games where you vastly underperform unless you spend money for boosters. Make sure your monetization system feels good to go through, as with buying a new game or a toy; it shouldn’t induce feelings of regret or frustration, but rather feelings of happiness from getting something you will enjoy for a while, or something to enhance an already great experience.

GameDev Thoughts: Designing Engaging Boss Fights In Action Games

Good bosses lead to good games. However, some may too easy to kill, others too challenging, and some are just plain horribly designed. Inevitably some bosses will be and just are better than others, but there are just a few components that separate the type of bosses that cause you to stay up all night, and the bosses that just make you flat out uninstall the game.

Firstly, good bosses make the game truly engaging. Sure you usually only encounter a boss right before you progress to the next level and right after you have done something remarkable, but bosses add another level to the game that makes it interesting. They push you to perform at your very best and they are a testament to all the skills you have learned up to that point. If you absolutely cannot defeat a boss perhaps it is a good idea to go back and polish off your skills. Did you miss an item or have not leveled up to gain a secret ability? Well-designed boss fights tease you — if you work at it a little bit more, maybe next time you’ll finally slay the giant dragon. Well-designed bosses drive the plot forward. Did you forget to talk to someone or something in the game that could show you an unknown path or give you gold to purchase gear at a nearby store? In the end, bosses are an amalgamation of the storyline. If you cannot beat a boss it’s probably because you are not at the skill level you need to be at to continue. Practice will not make perfect in this instance but if you can take down a boss you know you have done something right. And if you cannot, it is probably because you missed something along the way.

Because boss levels are an amalgamation of the storyline, they need to be challenging in a way that pushes the user to give their top performance, while not being so hard that a user feels as though they cannot win. Many bosses can be viewed as damage sponges that can take just as much damage as they can wield. These bosses can feel unrelenting and can make them seem impossible to beat, especially if a player has not leveled up enough, or has taken a relatively fast path through the game. In this case, make it so the user feels as though they can get through at least the majority of their health left before the boss finishes them off. This will make it seem like at least the boss is not too daunting, and teases the play a bit more.

Bosses should be intimidating. This is where your graphics come into play. Really hard to beat bosses are what nightmares are made of and that should read across the screen if it is a mega-boss. Bosses that seem scarier will wow your user and let them know that they will have to work extra hard if they would like to advance. Very intimidating bosses can be tall, full of muscles, covered in acid slime, you name it. This is where your imagination can come into play to truly create an ultra-villain that will be unlike something your player has never seen while keeping them entertained and engaged.

Your bosses can be used to throw off the player’s expectations as well. The longer a player can predict what will come next, the less likely they will feel engaged. The unexpected can come with risks, but it is almost always entertaining. Of course, you do not want to throw too many curve balls at the person playing the game as their needs to be some level of predictability. Play with the evolutions and the of your bosses. Have different bosses work on the different weaknesses of your character. That way, the player will never know what skill they will be working on next so they will be working on all of their core strengths instead of just a couple. Make bosses demand more skill out of the player, with attacks that keep the player on their toes.

Important Takeaways: A great boss fight can transform a mediocre game into a truly memorable one. Boss fights are meant to be fun, yet challenging. If you go too far in either direction, you either have bosses that are too easy to beat, making your game way too boring, or you have a boss that feels too hard to beat, making the game seem like a drag. Boss encounters should be rooted in making the player feel more engaged, experiencing a change of pace, and helping them be more drawn into the game. Remember to make the fights feel as imposing as possible while keeping balance tight. Take heavy note of player skill level as well — balance the game using your intended core target demographic. If your game errs on the hardcore side, be sure to scale the bosses up accordingly.