How to attract more players

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Well, the title sums it up pretty well. What can I do as a game maker to get more plays?

I’m asking about http://www.kongregate.com/games/MagiMaster/sokokong specifically, but I don’t mind discussing the problem more generally too.

To start with, I know that I’m going to get some comments on the graphics. There are people out there than don’t like Retreaux-style games, but I don’t have the skills or money to make or buy significantly better graphics. Honestly though, I’m of the opinion that graphics aren’t exactly important. I know that they do attract more initial attention though.

 
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Think of the process of finding games to play.

How do you appeal to new players?
How do you make players return?

I think people look at the icon first, if it says what they’re looking for, they’ll give it a try.
I personally look for boobs. but everybody’s different.

Then there’s the ratings…

Now about that game of yours, It’s nice and actually well made, the problem is i’ve played a bit and then stopped and i have no reason to play it again. I didn’t know how many levels there are (no sense of how far i am from completing it) there’s nothing for me to unlock, i don’t really feel i’ve learned skills and techniques, and I am barely acknowledged for my actions.

Now, if you wish to sell your soul for the devil, I suggest you look up some gaming psychology that makes games addictive, but not fun. some methods there are completely evil.

 
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Unlockables sounds like a good idea, but there doesn’t seem to be much to unlock except the levels themselves. To do that though, I’d need the levels to be in a reasonably ascending order of difficulty, which I’m not exactly sure how to do.

I was hoping the level a day would help here, but no one seems to be playing those.

For the levels left, there are 25 levels in each set. Would it be more appealing if it said 3/25 instead of 2-3? (I just realized that the set number is shown wrong anyway. It shows 1 for the easy set and 2 for set 1.)

 
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When I played it, the sets were also out of order. Part of the problem is that, all things considered, the old Sokoban is not a very compelling game. For originality, you’re 30 years late; for execution, it’s even worse. If you want players to keep playing your game for more than two minutes, you need to provide feedback. It is critical that you give the player a sense of how much they are accomplishing, how much remains, and how it all fits in the grand scheme of things. The way the levels are presented, each level is on a different page. That’s bad, because it prevents the player from having an overview of the current set, it makes it hard to survey the set, and it gives the impression that every time the player completes a level the slate is wiped clean. This last one is the worst: Every time the player accomplishes something, their achievement is immediately discarded.

Short of redoing the game with better graphics, or making an entirely new game altogether, what you might do to fix this problem is reverse the display for sets and levels: Each set on a different screen, you move from the intro set to set 1, set 2, and so on by pressing the right arrow key. This layout gives a sense of progression. It implicitly informs the player that further sets are harder. Further sets should be harder! Inside a set, show all the levels on the same screen. Completed levels should be highlighted somehow, starred levels should definitely be highlighted. Something like outline/black and white/color/gold glow for locked/unlocked/completed/starred, or something like that. Once again, you want to give the player obvious visual feedback about how well they’re doing and highlight their accomplishments. That screen is not just about level selection, it’s about telling the player: “Wow, look how much you’ve done! Aren’t you amazing? But look, level 17 is still not solved, that doesn’t look pretty, we should do something about it. And maybe after that we’ll get back to levels 4, 7, and 11 so they can get their stars and glow like the others.”

Another way to reward the player: Always start the level selection on the lowest set that is not entirely starred. Which means, once the player has fully completed and starred a set, they don’t have to go through it every time they go through the level selection screen. That shortcut is an implicit acknowledgment that they’ve outgrowned that set. They can still go back to it if they wish to see it but it’s complete, and therefore obsolete.

Achievements: The game doesn’t lend itself to achievements, you’re right about that. But one simple thing you can do is lock sets and require that the player gathers a certain number of stars to unlock the next one. I suggest, for each set, 10 stars from the previous set, 20 from the one before that, and 25 for all previous ones, so the cutoffs would be 10, 30, 55, 80, 105, 130 for sets 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, respectively. It’s lenient enough that the player can fairly easily unlock a couple of sets, but it gets hard enough at the end that they need to pretty much perfect several sets to unlock the hardest ones. Easy at first then progressively harder is a good way to hook the player. Inside each set, do not unlock all levels at once, but do not force the player to complete every level either. Always have the first N levels unlocked, where N is the number of levels already solved, plus the number of levels starred divided by four, plus three, or something like that. So you allow the player to skip a few levels (3), and to skip even more (one for every fourth level starred) if they’re putting the effort of perfecting solved levels. If you add one for every fully perfected level set, and tell the player about it when they perfect a full set, you give the player another incentive to try harder.

 
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Thanks for the good advice. In this particular case, I can’t actually do some of that though. As you might guess from the notice at the beginning of the game, this is part of a research project, so I can’t lock, order or otherwise single out any of the different sets other than the easy set. (That’s also why the sets are randomly ordered.) I suppose I could lock everything but the easy set until the player completed at least a few of the easy levels.

Also, I know very well that Sokoban is not an original game. I say so in the second sentence of the description.

I’ll look in to changing around the level selection screens though. I don’t think all 25 minimaps will fit on one screen, so I’ll have to change something to make that work.

Edit: Is that more like what yall are talking about? I haven’t locked anything yet, but I think I do like that level select screen better. I’m still debating whether or not to use the same layout on the daily levels or not. There are a whole lot of them, so I’d need to page them either way.

 
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The modifications make it a lot easier to see what’s been done and what remains. I’m glad I could help. Best of luck with the research project, please post a link to the article when you publish.

 
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That’s probably about a year away, and my memory’s not that long. :) But I’ll try and remember to post a link on the game’s page at least.

 
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Are you looking to get more players to your game?

or to keep more players involved?

Have you go / researched a general marketing / promotion plan. I know it can sound daunting but theres so so much you can do for free.

 
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Some of both. If you look at the high score boards, almost no one is making it past the easy set.