Rely on data, not anecdotes, to build the games your players want
OK, maybe those screams are only in my head (I should have that checked out), but I know the sounds that emanate from players. They’re usually one of two things:
“This game sucks and I hate it.”
“I love this game so much and because of what you’ve provided to me, I will be beholden to you like a dog in a butcher shop.”
As game devs, we all want players who are like the latter example, but how do you get there? How do you determine what your players want, and when you’ve figured that out, what do you do with it?
The first step is the heart of the issue — what do your players want? Most devs I talk to use one of these channels to find out:
- Discord comments: they get a general sense of what players like and don’t like based on comments.
- Playtime trends: more playtime generally equates to popularity, or so the reasoning goes. When devs see playtime drop off, they get a sense that maybe the game isn’t what people really want.
- Direct feedback: comments from friends, DMs in social media, or feedback in forums are used as well.
There’s certainly some semblance of feedback developers are getting from these channels, but it’s player-specific and much of it isn’t useful. “Your game blows,” or, “your game rocks” generate an emotional response, but they don’t provide a framework for creating something better.
Yet, players are telling you, continuously, what they want, and that information is a gold mine from which you can improve existing games and build better games in your development pipeline. That feedback can be found in the form of actual data about how players use your game, and this is at the heart of what we’re doing at GamerGraph.
Then GamerGraph platform collects standard metrics for things like playtime, churn, popular/unpopular features, and it allows developers to build their own custom actions to monitor game features they want to know more about. We display this data in a real-time dashboard, and also through heat maps that show precisely where players are engaging within your game.
Armed with this kind of information, developers don’t need to rely on anecdotal feedback that needs to be interpreted. This information tells you specifically what players like. It shows you where, in-game, you can deliver features that will enhance the player experience and increase playtime.
Your players aren’t just leaving clues; they’re actually screaming at you about what they want to see when they sit down to play a game. If 90% of the activity in your game occurs among five different features, then maybe more features like those will keep players interested. If 80% of players drop out of the game at level 4, maybe level 4 needs to be improved. When most of your players stay on a screen when there’s an action happening in the upper right quadrant of the screen, well, maybe there’s something about that part of the screen that keeps them focused.
This is a crowded market for developers, but it’s also crowded for players. They have so many choices but only limited time and attention span. Players are handing you all kind of information about their preferences. Those who use data to understand what their players want will be able to turn that into better games, happier players, and greater success as game builders.
The world needs better games. It’s up to you to build them.