You’re going to pour hours and hours into building your first game. You want people to enjoy their time with it. You want people to talk about it with their friends, and have them experience what you’ve built as well. One of the easiest ways to make sure that happens is to make sure that your game is engaging. You need to maximize the time players spend playing your game.
There’s no one magic bullet to make sure that happens. Often times the most unexpected games end up trending for weeks – looking at your Flappy Bird. Games need to be fun, but that isn’t enough to ensure long term engagement. Games also need to give the player a reason to come back. To play again.
Variability Expands the Horizons of Your Game
One way that games use to get players to go for another round is to have each round play out a little bit differently. This can be a single-player game where each round has different enemies to face, and different paths to take.
This can be a multiplayer game where the collective choices the players make have a drastic impact as to how the game is going to play out. There are certainly many methods that developers use to increase immersion and engagement.
The more choice that a player has, and the more impactful those choices are on gameplay, the more likely it is that the player will be willing to go for another stroll in your world. Sure the illusion of choice helps players feel more connected to the world initially, but being able to change the colour of your hair doesn’t get players lining up for round two.
Choices that determine the outcome of the game, allow you to skip over, or discover new areas, or watch an entirely new arc play out are the kinds of gameplay mechanics that will have players come back again and again. You will maximize the time players spend playing your game because each time you are giving them a novel experience.
Unrestricted Worlds Lead to Unrestricted Imagination
If you think about the top ten most popular games over the last decade, you’ll probably include one of the Elder Scrolls games. These games are massive, but at their core, not all that complex… you know, Morrowind aside. You can customize your character, follow a short tutorial and then, you make Tamriel yours. You decide which quests to do and when to do them. You are the boss, and that is the allure that keeps people coming back.
Open worlds aren’t possible for every genre of game, but keeping in mind that you need to restrict the player the bare minimum required while still telling your story will help keep players engaged. People line up to buy the new Call of Duty every year, and let’s face it it’s basically one long cut scene at this point, but that doesn’t mean everyone can be that successful.
The sheer amount of money that the big studio’s put into marketing starts you at a disadvantage, don’t allow them to continue in the lead, there is plenty you can do to have people talking about your game rather than theirs.
To maximize the time players spend playing your game make them feel awe at the scope of the choices put in front of them.
The Impact can Maximize the Time Players Spend Playing Your Game
Rather than simply telling the story, let the player tell part of the story. Sure it may mean that you have to write two, three, or eleven endings, but when you get someone talking about Fallout 2, and how they struggled with which ends to pursue, you know you’ve created a masterpiece.
By limiting the player in a box, no matter how many choices they have in the middle, if they have no impact, in the end, they may be left disillusioned, as if their choices didn’t matter. Why bother playing a game a second time, making different choices, if the end result is the same.
To maximize the time players spend playing your game you need to provide them with a reason to keep coming back. You could do this by creating an exceptionally long game, that requires hundreds of hours to complete. You could add a bajillion side quests that fulfill the needs of the completionist. Or, you can give them a living breathing world that responds to their actions and can surprise them along the way.
With all of that in mind, if you’re ready to get started making a game then good luck, and happy coding!