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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 was Ville Vesterinen, CEO & Co-Founder, Grey Area

  • What is a location-based game? It’s a game using a sort of localization technology such as GPS to integrate the player’s real world position into the gameplay. But it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be moving to play the game.

Points for designing for location-based games:

The critical mass challenge

  • Most crucial point to understand
  • If you design a game where your physical location maps to where you are in the game, it becomes a huge challege
  • What if you are a user living in a rural area? Design around this
  • In Shadow Cities, your friends can open a gateway to take part in gameplay in other real world locations which are more heavily populated
  • Critical mass not reached: world seems empty
  • Critical mass reached: clutter becomes a problem
  • “People don’t just connect to each other, they connect through a shared object” (an interest, common neighbourhood etc)
  • In Shadow Cities, you can take over neighborhoods. People fight to retain control of their real world neighbourhoods, a powerful shared object

The open world vs. curated experience

  • Sandbox games have awesome moments but demand much more from their players
  • Very unpredictable
  • Fun spikes higher, but more lows over time
  • Curated game, more even keel in terms of fun over time

Where do people play most often with location based?

  • 40% home and work
  • 34% home
  • 20% on the move
  • 6% other
  • Give people the freedom to play wherever they are

Playing with neighbours

  • Cities and neighborhoods evoke strong emotions
  • Expand your relationship circle in your neighbourhood through game, meet new people, maintaining these new relationships is a strong retention mechanic


  • Before you start implementing, design your game around the tech you have


  • Battery – people mainly play at home, leave iphone plugged in then, don’t worry about battery too much
  • Latency – Shadow Cities designed around it, made it feel natural

Location based social graph is extremely brittle

  • No control over player distribution, especially when it’s changing over time
  • Different player distribution on different spatial levels has unpredictiable effects on player enjoyment

Why is design for location compelling?

  • New category of games
  • Layer of games over real world
  • “We grow to love the objects that connect us to other people, create meaning, and remind us that we’re alive”

Post-Talk Q&A

  • Potential data charges for long play periods and players being scared off by this was a concern initially, but the game actual requires very little data download
  • We were surprised by how many players play stationary (at home or at work), we thought people would think it was cool to go out and explore, but they end up wanting to play where they are most of the time (they don’t alter their daily lives to play the game)