We can call the whole galaxy of serious game developers, who has been crashed recently (THQ, 3DRealms, Kaos Studios, Working Designs, Flagship, Fasa Studio, Perpetual Entertainment, EA Chicago, etc.). While we see examples of novice teams here and there, who became renowned due to successful project, conquering the mass of gamers in a flash, for example, Coffee Stain Studios with their delusional, at first sight, project Goat Simulator; or Dennaton Games with a top down slasher Hotline Miami.
But will it be correct to argue that trash defeated the classical evolution of eminent game developers? Claiming something like that is the exclusive privilege of snobs remote from real life. We try to understand why primitive projects, such as Flappy Bird, collect the cash and gain the market share. The answer to this and other questions about what is the essence of the game interest will be given by an idea of the main sources of fun in the games of the nearest future.
So “freak” games (very small percentage of the total game spam) are so viral – they can turn memes, and large professional projects, due to some critical details, are unable to win the palm of victory from competitors, are doomed not to pay off. However, the seemingly mysterious ups and downs of the games have specific and often predictable reasons. (Like every, even the most sophisticated, focus holds some specific mechanics of execution).
While operating a business scheme, which turned the game companies into billion corporations, continue to work. Even though the drop in efficiency, corporate mechanism will deny the objective conditions of working models change. We in INSENSEARTS think there is one global effect, which is not considered by the industry leaders. However, it is sometimes involuntarily omitted by the indie developers too.
The number of people who has got acquainted with the games for the first time is reducing; and the number of experienced players with the immunity to standard methods of ENGAGEMENT encouragement is growing (content update, skins change, push-notifications). The fact is that a person eventually summarizes and categorizes the generic phenomena and circumstances, and the things, which don’t include something new and inspiring, have no motivation in them.
So it is not enough for the experienced gamer to increase stats and change sword skins in order to extend his motivation of a monotonous pharming or pure grinding in order to obtain this sword. He has realized what the sword will give him in terms of game mechanics long ago, and it will provide him with no new experience, knowledge, education or experiment. But if among the weapons in addition to the sword, ax and bow appeared for example a scythe with a new principle of action, it would briefly detain his interest.
If you like the feeling that you get from a computer game, but your interest in them, in spite of your desire, continues to fall, we can say for sure – it's not because you are growing up and are no longer able to understand stuff which teenagers are going ape over. The fact is that the games, for the most part, got not dull. Don’t give up, the changes are in the offing. But to start let’s characterize several non-obvious causes of this problem.
- GAME DEVELOPMENT BUILT ON THE EXPERIENCE OF OTHERS Almost every town has some kind of office under the leadership of some active “business angels” making their “Farm” for Facebook or tablets and phones. Not the idea or its implementation confuses us, but the response of ordinary developers to the natural question – will YOU play your game, it is interesting to you? As a rule, the answer is honest - NO. Disappointing mal-correlation of ambitious vague expectations and honesty towards themselves.
- GAMES MAKE ALL AND SUNDRY Over 15 years, the archetype of the game designers has fundamentally changed. In the 2000s, most of the people who created games had the technical professions and, in fact, were fans of their ideas. Repeatedly reinterpreted, in terms of budget deficits and technical capabilities, games concepts resulted in the very good old school games which subsequently gave rise to the most popular genres. Over time, a portrait of game designers has gradually changed, to the point that in the posts of game designers were people with secondary education and experience in some casual games, but with the strongest desire to make their own version of some famous game.
- THOSE WHO CAN - NOT WANT TOThe heads of the majority of the large companies lost their own interest in games over several decades of corporate governance. And the separation from the game reality is understandable, given that the development of the company is a much more interesting game.
And that is why we often hear the leaders of large companies sincerely misunderstand fans’ requests to make a sequel of a game, while they are much more interested in the development of trading platforms, services, technology and the gaming industry as a whole.
That, of course, is good too, but only the corporate specifics of decision-making does not allow employees taking responsibility for the potentially interesting project not tested in practice. Innovative game can not be created without leadership mentoring by the company's founders.
But the founders are simply not ready to nurture the idea of a new revolutionary product over the years, under time pressure and simpler ways to maximize profits, but there is no doubt that they are capable of it, as before.
- THE OLD MULE PLOUGHS A STRAIGHT URROW Mass product distribution schemes, despite the steady decline in its effectiveness, continue to work. The willingness of companies to advertise their games in the same way that their offline counterparts advertise toothpaste is very clear. Of course, the trend of modern times is the content and context preceding it. So the value of the product comes out to the top in the world of global communication.
However, the desire to extend the life of the good old methods of single option mass media promotion of high-budget games is still relevant. The budgets of some advertising companies are comparable to the budgets of development of promoted games. And this is one of the main reasons for the slowdown of the natural evolution of games.
- REINCARNATION OF PROVEN APPROACH The desire not to change working, but trembling scheme so much that we will probably see high-budget attempts to galvanize the old beast in a new body. What, in fact, is indicated by the multibillion emotional deals on purchase of companies and technology by the distributors of worldwide Internet audience. Palmer Luckey has successfully sold his invention just before the numerous announcements of technological giants on albeit less successful, but alternative ways to the virtual reality.
But it is unlikely Mark Zuckerberg, who bought the Oculus, and, later, Gabe Newell, with even more advanced spatial tracking device, takes virtual reality as a place free from micro-transactions or Zynga developments.
- NO CHANCE TO LOSEProfit maximization by expanding the potential audience of players has led to the fact that games where you can not lose started to dominate. The fact is that, despite 4 types of players, the majority of players are socialisers. In other words, their goal is communication and interaction with other players.
Skill is not their distinguishing feature, so, to reduce the stress in the emerging audience of players caused by gaming failures associated with a lack of skill, the choice of developers fell on a system in which not skills, but time will be the basis of the game progression.
Not everyone has skill, but everyone has time. Skill has become the prerogative of a few mass games, while most games get rid of it, along with a huge share of the keen interest that it brought to the game.
- AMAZING MAGIC TEMPTATIONGame interest, which is a natural source of fun, the joy of research and learning something new, improvement of skills, social interaction and curiosity were eventually reduced to research and optimization of gameplay addictiveness.
In Indie Game: The Movie, Edmund McMillen talks with inspiration about how he created a simple game, which rewarded every click with a constant addition of new cartoon objects in the room. He was amazed at how many people have made hundreds of meaningless clicks as a result of the features of the human psyche.
It's really amazing, because it will always work stable especially with regard to small percentage of gamers. And, of course, going the way of the use of neuropsychic human reward system is much easier than coming up with the interesting content.
Of course, the problem of game addiction increase to absolutely meaningless games is very serious and will never disappear completely, although reduced over time. Nevertheless, an escape from straining reality to constantly encouraging game is a conscious way out for many people, and game developers use it efficiently.
And this historical inevitability, though impermanence, of such an approach to game development, holds a reason for the return of really interesting games. The first reason is the basic reason for the actualization of all other causes of the revival of interest in the games, so let’s talk about it more widely.
1st reason: SKINNER BOX IS THE MAIN REASON FOR THE LOSS AND REBIRTH OF INTERESTING GAMES
nonsense is just a tribute to time, a consequence of the extensive expansion of the market. When the market will expand to the largest possible audience, games regain sense. Our search for specific studies concerning what do we like most about the games, unfortunately, was doomed to failure. As it turns out, quite a lot of research focus on how to get a person hooked on the game and ensure his frequent returns, in order to limit him to the desired net form of the whale. 5% of a privileged group of fans and Munchkins make 95% of developers’ profit.
The remaining 95% of the players, in principle, can play for free, just to create the crowd and fuel the virality. The Monopoly comes to mind, where the clear winner inclines obvious losers to play a little longer in order to enjoy his monopoly position.
So, to summarize all the above, millions of Zinga and King are spent in order to ask the endlessly rotated reference group what color and shape would they like for the endless saga, to identify the ideal Arkenstone, equally loved by mothers and their children. The structure of the games has been being optimized, but the gameplay has not changed much. Good core loop leads to retention, is backed by social, and is smelted into monetization.
It is possible that the ideal shape of the Grail will be found. Will this lead to the fact that the games will only change skins? No, it is not so simple. Despite the fact that developers are offering players the ideal reality option, where your time can be guaranteedly converted to a game progress, the developers themselves are forced to work in the real world, where they not only have to go forward, but sometimes they have to go back too.
In the end, creating the perfect free-to-play monster, devouring the personalities of retirees and students, and spewing golden mist, is only possible when addressing the key problem - ENGAGEMENT. In fact, monetization in the winning free-to-play is only possible provided the sufficient human involvement in the gameplay. And the competition in price war to attract customers is won on this battlefield.
Over time, the optimization of business model will lead to the fact that the most effective structure of the game will be available to everybody (as it actually happens in any other business area), and developers, as well as in the olden days, will face the task to fill the game with a maximum interest.
But representatives of the old school did so on the basis of their own obsession with the games, and a new generation will face the inevitability of creating interesting games as an immutable condition to break through the thorns of obscurity. So the problem is not so much that free-to-play model contains some primordial evil, it is that thus extensive attempts to capture the market are made.
Dopamine reward is a part of human nature and the necessary mechanisms of building the abstract reasoning and generalizations, which often saves a person in a difficult situation. And developers can speculate with “stimulus-response” causality exactly as long as the quality content will not become a condition of the competition. And it will happen, because the category of players losing their interest in games is constantly growing. And once it would not be compensated by the growth of the new players due to the children and the elderly being involved.
So, it is perfectly normal that the games, which do not contain any graphics and, sometimes, even an aesthetic design, earn hundreds of millions. This does not mean that we are getting duller, but almost no one can resist the elaborate stratagem, which aims to make a perfect attempt to convert the momentary weakness into the call to spend one dollar.
However, the temporary absence of meaning and interest in the vast majority of the popular games does not mean that when all potential players will be involved, we will experience the return of the good old games. Old school is old, because it no longer meets the standards of the time and our perception. Sources and content of interest will be quite different. It is an absolutely correct idea that in order to understand what the future brings, you need to look at the present carefully.
2nd reason: POTENTIAL OF SANDBOX IS NOT YET REVEALED TO THE FULL
The human need for knowledge and experiment is designed to meet the growth of games with the prefix sandbox, for example, Space Engineers, Medieval Engineers, Minecraft, Besiege and so on. Research, inventive need is so great, that fans look for sandbox components in every game, wanting to find some interesting loopholes to create their own rules and personal achievements not meant by the creators of the game.
Often, these eccentric achievements surprise with their absurdness and incredible patience of those who did something incredibly complex and often meaningless in exchange for fleeting fame. The number of game designers is growing and the commercial success of these projects allows us to speak about the development of the whole genre, the essence of which is the creation of a truly diverse and interesting gameplay.
3rd reason: GROWTH OF OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOCIAL INTERACTION
We in INSENSARTS are absolutely convinced that we are only at the beginning of the social game development. The current status of socially oriented games is that they are a more developed form of the most basic features of players’ interaction. Cooperative play, fights and chat – all these elements are relevant now, but very vaguely emulating social reality.
Even despite the fact that free communication, for example, in cyber sport games, is the cause of irritation and leaving the game, we can say for sure that this is a temporary phenomenon. More sophisticated social mechanics will resolve the problem of mutual disrespect and irresponsibility, and more gaming opportunities will form the basis for more variable interaction of players. Ideally, the experience of communication and knowledge of the personalities of other players in the game should be as informative and helpful as experience in the real life.
4th reason: AN ENTIRELY NEW SOURCE OF DIVERSE EXPERIENCE
Indie developers can not compete with the market leaders in graphics and staged scenes with animation and dialogues of real actors and screenwriters. Therefore, the wave of independent game development has to come up with new and exciting mechanics and chips – a successful project easily pays off and brings excess profits letting talented team to build on the success of their idea at a decent level of implementation.
Gameplay wins, and it has been repeatedly demonstrated. Games providing players with a new experience will always be interesting, whether it is a simple platform game with an interesting new mechanics or visual novels like games by Jenova Chen. In addition, this format is essentially based on the decent idea, gives talented newcomer a chance to prove himself and enter the industry.
Games can give people an experience that simply can not be obtained in any other way, so in the conditions of mechanically monotonous lifestyle and resource and opportunities constraints, we can confidently say that these games will become more popular. It is possible that in the nearest future a man sitting on the floor in a dirty untidy micro-apartment with a virtual reality helmet on his head will be a commonplace thing. At the same time, his experience of interaction with reality may be richer than the one of our contemporaries.
5th reason: PRIORITY OF CREATIVE SIMPLICITY
The reason for the popularity of 3D-shooters, probably, has always laid in the ease of controls. Unpretentious movement of the target (point) on the screen is quite a clear and interesting exercise, due to the constant growth of the quality of the image behind this target. Subsequently, the appeal of a simple controls was disclosed in touch mobile devices such as tablets and phones.
Any game having a simple controls takes precedence over the game with a complex controls system. Thus, there is a trend of a continuous optimization of controls in order to simplify it, so we should not be surprised by the fact that typical mobile games have the controls reduced to a single click.
So simplicity itself is a new source of interest in the games, because even children can slide the finger across the screen, and they confuse magazine with a discharged iPad. Simplicity has got the second breath: in platformers and 3D-shooters, ‘cause if you are inspired in relation to any corridor shooter (when a player goes one way with no possibility to leave the path), you can get incredible, spectacular game experience.
Complete lack of freedom can be turned into an indescribable interactive feeling. Level designers can use environment so as to perfectly exploit the potential of the player, just like it's been successfully implemented by the developers of Call of Duty series. When Hollywood is in the game, even those who do not like action games are ready to participate in a cool interactive movie.
6th reason: SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY - KEY TO SUCCESS
Practice of filling a project, having a developed community, with the meaning is a guaranteed recipe for a good monetization. For example, to shoot Batman, they invite Christopher Nolan, who puts his adult dramatic interpretation of a comic book, creates a serious movie with ambiguous characters and a fantastic universe.
(The way Christopher Nolan took on a fantastic assumption concerning the passage of time in the Interstellar movie is a topic of a separate conversation. He placed the most effective charge of a true love in the projectile made of fiction, thereby hitting people who might never come to see the movie about the most important thing with unintended emotions.)
In one word, gaming media duplicate any simple pieces of folk art of various kinds dedicated to popular games in their digests and news reporting with a large participation. Some guy has made some episode from PORTAL 2 of LEGO blocks, the other forged the weapon from League of Legends, the third one has written a rap about GTA 5.
Players’ community built on the basis of a joint love for a certain game is a very appreciative audience willing to take loosely even a very amateur level of creativity. Therefore, the games serving the interests of persistent communities get some discount on their quality, and in return they will give a portion of a genuine interest to their followers.
7th reason: author inspiration backed by message
The last reason is a universal practical advice based on the generalization of a successful game project signs. Game developers have formed their own subculture long time ago, and more and more people take games as creativity, interactivity and narration that excite the person.
A search for solutions to the problem that haunts your mind is the surest way to do something worthwhile. More and more developers become aware of this and are trying to implement simple but necessary things in games. This is the main reason for our growing optimism in the value of new games. Adequacy is one of the most boundless qualities to create a popular game, and a dialogue with the community is a source of inspiration.
The reverse is also true. Approach game development exclusively as a product on the working patterns is the obvious reason for bankruptcy, including major companies. At whatever level the ease appears, supported by self-confidence and pride, the consequences are always the same - the sellers of the Skinner box unwittingly fall into it themselves, hoping to take two steps forward and none steps back.
In a word, we are confident that not business model or form of presentation makes games not fun. The question, as always in the content. Absolutely in any form can be embedded positive meaning, as this article is done as a list of causes of the problem. This is intentional for readability, not because that article was originally written in such a way - just this form required to publish on the famous site.