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Designing Core Loops

Designing Core Loops

Casual Connect, July 24, 2012.

Please excuse spelling mistakes and the rough nature of this post as our updates during the IGDA Summit and Casual Connect this week are pretty much liveblogged. This session just ended.

Speaker is Suleman Ali, Co-Founder and CEO, TinyCo

What makes a great core loop?

  • Clear progression (what is the goal?)
  • Easy to learn (learn in seconds, not minutes)
  • Replayable (need to be able to play it thousands of times over)
  • Deep (Appetite for complexity is increasing as players get more experiened)
  • Physical (physical inputs, progress visual on-screen, output is physical)
  • Retains (get the player coming back)
  • Monetizes (50% of monetization comes from “instant finish,” paying to speed up a process)
  • Social (Needs to be integrated into the loop, not tacked on later)

Mistakes we’ve made

Continuous currency sources

  • Incredible inflation, not enough sinks
  • Makes your game boring, and choices uninteresting
  • Your coin ARPDAU drop after the first 5-10 levels

Spoilage

  • Gives reason to stop playing
  • Not great from a monetization perspective
  • Doesn’t delight users!

Not enough choices

  • Add different paths that are can go down
  • Add elements of chance – allows designer to create very different paths through the game
  • Makes your choices matter -> fun game!
  • Drives retention (more to discover)
  • Drives monetization (I want everything NOW!)

Using poor fiction

  • When the fiction makes sense, metrics go up! (now if it doesnt make sense, we start over)
  • Should be like the real world
  • Lame example: wait for a delivery truck
  • Good example: being reunited with wife and dog after killing zombies

Too much focus on early user experience

  • Must retain and monetize over the long run
  • Mobile ARPU growth coming from second half of user lifecycle, the elder game
  • Hard to measure, understand and design for

Focusing on supporting elements of the core loop, instead of the core

  • Mastery
  • AOE
  • Daily login bonus
  • Limited edition content
  • Goals

  • We believe 25% of a social game’s success is notifications and messaging

Iterating on your loop post launch

  • Test before launch
  • Canada and Australia as test markets, 30-60 days
  • After you launch, you’re limited in what you can change

Use data to Iterate on the Core loop

DAU interacting

  • What are people interacting with?
  • 50% of DAU should complete core loop
  • DAU Interacting by level – does player activity change by level as expected
  • Spend by category 2-3 items that drive 80% of monetization (know what you expect, optimize around it)

Days to level

  • Early on users should be able to do 1-2 level ups in each of the first five sessions, after that 1-3 days per level

ARPDAU by level

  • Unintentional ARPDAU spike by level = bad. It means we did something wrong in the economy or game design

How to avoid the content treadmill?

  • Figure out in core loop design, where monetization points are. avoid content additions as a substitute for poor core loop design, otherwise you’ll get on the content treadmill