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23Jul/095

Finding Fatal Flaws: Lessons from Kongregate – CC09

Here are raw notes from a discussion of lessons learned from Flash games on Kongregate, presented at Casual Connect 2009 by Jim Greer (CEO) and Greg McClanahan of Kongregate.

Kongregate hosts 16,000 Flash games, 1,000 are added monthly. It's oriented towards core gamers and includes achievements, friends list, chat, comments and ratings.

  • 85% of Kongregate gamers are male, majority are teenagers & college kids.
  • 8 million unique users per month

Game plays are not as long-tail as expected:

  • 1st game - 12m plays a month
  • 2nd game - 10m
  • 20th game - 2m
  • 60th game - 1m
  • Top 10% of games - 90% of playtime
  • Top 1% - 50% of playtime

Regular players vs addicts

  • Epic War 3 - deep single player game - 33% converts to regular players (5x plays), 10% converts to addicts (20x plays). Conversion is low because players already finished the game by that time.
  • Dolphic Olympics 2 - Tony Hawk style game - 24% to reg players, 13% converts to addicts - Did well for a single player game. It's not IMMEDIATELY obvious how great/fun the game it is, players need to get good at it first. When put badges into this game, ratings skyrocketed since people were pushed by achievements to try out other areas of the game.
  • Platform¬† Racing 2 - 38% to regular players, 27% to addicts. Simple platformer mario-style that won user's choice award. Has UGC and long legs.
  • Starfighter: Disputed Galaxy - 32%, 22%
  • Free Rider 2 - 17%, 18% - Once you get over hump of creating levels, it is more likely to convert you.
  • Desktop Tower Defense - 7%, 15% - Have to build lots of towers before getting the value.

When putting in achivements, more often ratings go down. When people really care about your game because they like the achievements, problems (such as with controls) become more obvious. Or people play games they don't like just to get the achievements.

Newgrounds vs Kongregate ratings
In many cases similar, in some cases not. Suggested rationale for difference included.

  • Desktop TD Pro - 3.9 vs 4.4 (NG vs KO) - KO: gameplay is awesome, so it's ok we already saw the game before
  • Protector 3 - 4 vs 4.3 - NG: we've already seen this
  • Post it Draw it - 3.7 vs 4.3 - NG: wtf
  • Epic Battle Fantasy - Parodies of Final Fantasy fights - KO: ripping off FF, and is not so fun
  • Nuclear Eagle - 4.1 vs 3.7 - KO got frustrated by not being able to finish (too hard)
  • Xenotactic - 4.4 vs 3.9 - NG, someone reskinned DTD
  • Thing Thing 4 - 4.4 vs 3.7 - KO about 5,000 people who uploaded stuff to the site (8 m)
  • NG has higher % of people who consider themselves developers. So when they see something technically impressive, they react well.

Flaws in Flash Games

  • Need a mute button
  • Have save files, and pause buttons (users really want all of that)

Build fun first
Lots of new devs think it's like doing a homework; that putting in enough 'good enough' work in each area gets your game to be  fun.

Button Hunt 2 - 3.83 rating, 760k gameplays
Shopping Cart Hero - 4.07 rating, 2.2m plays
Don't Shit Your Pants - 4.01 rating, 835k plays

New devs - The product counts. You are NOT paid by the hour!

Players don't read instructions

  • It is developers responsibility to teach, not the players
  • This is something that friends/family won't critique you on
  • Have a dialogue that pops up when you learn a new mechanic, don't assume that people are going to remember instructions from the title screen
  • Allow flexibility with controls - say use WASD but also use the arrows

Super Energy Apocalypse Recycled - 4.11, 650k gameplays

  • Two thirds of the game is a tutorial. A great way of doing it as opposed to 'We hope you read the instructions on the title screen'

Challenge does not equal frustration

  • It's a virtue to have a good difficulty curve
  • Bad: POD, hidden timer
  • Good: N+, high skill component, reward players on regular basis, then game can be brutally hard

Art games work without much gameplay - Sprout, Anika's Odyssey - Beautiful, bizarre, text-free, remain intuitive and enjoyable

Good strategies need to be the fun ones
Players will play the game to complete the objectives, not to have the most fun

Ether Cannon 3.27, 184k
Ether War: 4.11, 838k

Closing

  • Style, aesthetics, relatability are more important than impressive tech
  • 3D graphics do not impress, since players already play console games
  • The final 10% is the most important - Tweaking, and getting reliable feedback from non-friends