Game Design - Tips from other games

The one and constant battle (if I may use that word in this context) is to crack the App Store and make that one silver bullet that gets the developers the millions or the billions that they are after. It is not surprising at all since everyone looks at the app store wondering what will make the next top app. When Robert Nay hit the charts with Bubble Ball people were clueless and even now when Flappy Bird has hit the charts, they are still clueless. However there are a lot of things that we can learn from a lot of these games, here's a collection of the same
Before we delve onto the tips/things to learn, it is interesting to note that in the past everyone used to be a critic but these days everyone is an expert. Satya Nadella, the new CEO of Microsoft, he has not even joined that there are agendas and task lits and strategies outlined for him. It is nice to know that people care... :)

Back to our tips, a note to accompany that too, in the past (couple of decades), capitaism was not as strong and people worked and were contented, they were not the generation that wanted Everything and Now, it was the generation that wanted to achieve and felt pride. However things have changed, where people founded companies to last a lifetime and be legends, these days it is all about founding a company and being able to sell it off at the earliest - That is a Legend. So the whole basis of business, etc these days works on the basis of maximizing income, there are no limits to what is enough (what is enough) and there are no rights and wrong in the journey and nothing lasts forever, everything is a flash in the pan.

So down to our Tips that we can learn from other *successful* games are


Plaster the apps with Advertisments, have an ad all over every screen after all the cheap user downloaded your app/game for free and deprived you of an income, so why not compensate it with an AD? Monetization it is called. There are hundreds of options for showing Ads. Earlier there was AdMob and iADs which were available only in certain markets and the prohibitive cost of iADs did not bring many Advertisers into the AD Market with Apple. For simple economics or number crunching, Flappy Bird is a Free app and because there are ADs the developer is making approximately $50,000 a day. Now that in his local currency is about a Billion Dongs a day, How cool it sounds to tell your neighbor that you make a billion a day in your local currency unless you are in Zimbabwe, where that might not be enough to even buy a couple of eggs. On 2 February 2009 1 USD was equivalent of ZWR 300,000,000,000,000 (that's past billion into trillions). Back to the point, place advertisements, who knows if your app/game becomes popular and you regret not charging for it, atleast the ads could pay for it.


If you reach a site of little repute, there are several download buttons, guess which one is the real download, and practically clicking on any link will definitely open a new window before you are given the file. This is not necessarily with NSFW sites, even some sites like if you are looking for subtitles for a video, same story. If I can recollect it was Diner Dash (for sure) and some Icon Quiz type apps that offer free tries, gems, etc if you look at some ads or click on the ads. Hold the user to ransom where they have to view an ad if they wish to play on, so like the earlier generation sat and watched the animation of an hourglass or sometimes things slightly more interesting called the "Loading Screen", the new gen can just be forced to watch a video ad, which could be beneficial, they might learn of a new movie that is due for release soon, or finally see the video of the game they heard so much about. The advantage, you know that every time the cheap user is playing a level, they are paying for it in the form of AD revenue. So ensure that you force an AD before each game starts and one after the level ends (offering gems, etc). You know that since they got your game for free, they might not spend Hard Cash for gems, etc so offer them the virtual trade currency.


As a developer you must have definitely come across words like optimization, modularization, etc. Now those were big words that did not mean much when compared to words like polymorphism, encapsulation, etc. So what's the idea here? Earlier when you purchased a game you got the whole thing on a series of disks, CD's, DVD's (whatever the medium). Today the way it works is you get a portion of the game, say you walk around the city (it is deserted - devoid of people but overrun with aliens, not cross border, but the cross galaxy type) You can offer that the city does not have houses and the user can buy an upgrade that displays houses in the city for a low price of $10.00 or better still buy the houses with stuff in it for $15.00 Then while you can see the houses, get stuff from it, the moment you get it, you cannot carry it as you do not have the capacity to carry the stuff, so the player can buy a backpack upgrade for just $10.00 and for $15.00 they can buy one that does not have a hole (from which stuff disappears at random). I think you are getting the idea. Make the gameplay modular where they can enjoy the game as is, but they can have a premium experience with lots of premium items, etc for a cost. After all those pixels were all charged by the Artist and you need to recover your revenues from that. A good video example is that of a budget Airlines ( Make them pay for every little bit, after all they can enjoy your game and pay for the bits that they want, it is only fair, rather than charge them a large sum at once for bits they will not use or animation/graphics they will never see if they do not get past level X.

Sell them Gems, etc

Everyone reading this must have definitely had a McDonalds experience. There is nothing positive or negative, just the fact that when you order, they ask you "What size" or in some other countries, they give you the option of "Upsizing" the meal/drink. Similarly, when the player is playing your game, why not ask them if they want to buy some of the other stuff you have made and show them a list of the same, if they are not interested in the same, then show them some of the other stuff that they could buy that would enhance their gaming experience. After all Apple and Google or other app stores would not appoint a salesperson to help you with upselling, it has to be you, the developer that has to think pro-actively. The user might eventually thank you for suggesting the bargain of 1000 gems for $100 which is a steal of the century as they cost $20 per 100 gems, so that's nearly at a 50% off and then the 30% cuts that the stores retain. So you are really slashing your profits and offering a real value to the users.

Request for Feedback

You have strived hard to create an app/game and there is a lot of sweat and blood that went in producing the same. It is always nice to get some feedback from the users so that you can share it with others that might think of buying the same and are influenced by reviews. The real trick here is to take a page from EA and offer a custom dialog box that specifically has two buttons, one that says 1-4 stars and the other only 5 stars. When the user clicks on the 1-4 star, take them to the internal webpage that literally says, you cheap user, tell me why are are you so damn ungrateful? If they tap the 5 stars, take them to the respective app store, that way you can have an outstanding rate of 5 star reviews.

App Store Reviews

This is kind of an overlap from the previous tip. While you have ensured that we only have 5 star reviews on the app store, as a developer, you need to create multiple accounts and get your family and friends to leave reviews for you and if by any chance any user did get past and head straight to leave a review, attack the user directly or indirectly so that when a new user is considering purchase, they can be convinced that a large majority comment on the quality of the app as outstanding and excellent.


One more thing that is important is reviews, after all if no one knows about your app/game, then how would your potential users be able to know about this? One option would have been that you might have spend on Advertising so in another game the users might be viewing your AD before they proceed to the next Level. You need to send out press releases and tr to get reviews on popular sites. Specially the ones that charge $99 - $500 to write a review in your favor and also a small video of them playing the game posted on You Tube. This way they will not only say nice things about your app/game, but they will also promote it. If you have funds, you could also approach agencies that further offer monetary incentives to users to like your app and provide 5 star feedback. So when they purchase your app and provide feedback without ever playing it, Apple is fooled and thinks it is a genuine user purchasing the app. In effect the contracted marketing company markets your app i.e. gets normal users to buy your app in exchange of rewards, etc and charges you a 2x-5x cost for upto 1000 numbers. Now this spike in purchase push your app into the top charts and then other users buy your app, after all only the nice apps float to the top of the charts.


The other selling point is awards. If you have a couple of graphics that suggest that your app got the Editors Choice award and has a score of 5/5 then it makes it so much more genuine. After all the users would never know of an obscure website that offered you an award. But you can highlight that as an achievement.

Peer Review Network

Tie up with fellow developers to review your software and leave you a review, almost like donating troops or goblins depending on what the user gave you last (you'd understand this if you follow the Clash Of Clans) So that way you can ensure more 4 and 5 star reviews for your app. This is discreetly done over Facebook or such websites, etc.

Safeguard your brand

The first thing that Nguyen Dong (author of Flappy Birds) must do is trademark the word "Flappy" and "Bird" so that no one can make any further clones of "Flappy xxxxx". After all things like Monster, Dash, Candy, Saga, etc are trademarked. Similarly if you get a hit on your hand, spend some of the money you are earning and trademark the words in the title of your game so that no one else can make clones or ride the wave of your popularity and skim off your market income. Follow that with merchandise, T-Shirts, Comics, Plushies, etc nothing will last forever, so take advantage while it is popular and have revenue streams coming your way.


While the tone of the article is satirical, please note that these are practices that are being employed by many developers with mixed to outstanding results. One of the things to note is that you must not have started your development house based on the fact not to make any revenues and throw yourself at the mercy of the app markets. Agreed that large corporations have larger stakes in terms of dollar value, where the cost of your venture might be a couple of hundereds to thousands, where as the larger corporation budgets could have been easily from hundred thousands to millions. They have a larger dollar value to recover and/or lose. However the truth remains that as an Indie your value at stake is a lot more, the high paying jobs you left for this project, the house and family that you put aside (one on mortgage, the other distanced for long periods) the value to lose is very high for you, the large corporation might downsize, publish a loss, recover it from other ventures. So, you need to do what it takes to survive. Even if it means going against what you feel is wrong.


Please note that the tips are assuming that you have an app/game based on an original idea, if you are one of the few that are creatively challenged, there are a couple of more tips for you. First, check the top charts and see what is it that people are liking at the moment and then make a clone of the same. Even if you will not make millions like the original, you will definitely ride the tailcoats and make a decent sum and worst case scenario, it will serve as a showcase of your work to potential clients who will see that your work is to a quality similar or better than the app that was at the top of the charts. That will definitely provide you more contracts (if you are in the market for contracting) or get you a better job position. Worst case scenario, like a PhD Thesis, if you succeed, the thesis talks about the practices and theories, if you do not succeed, the thesis reads that despite all the attempts, a particular process will never succeed. In that same context, if you make it, you are a successful Indie, if you fail, you are a serial entrepreneur that has attempted multiple ventures. If you actually make money off one of them, then that adds more credibility to you.

These practices are spoken about and discussed quite openly and most of them though they sound wrong are perfectly legal and acceptable. After all, the user has dollars to spend and is ready to throw it at one that can convince them, so whatever it might take to convince them.


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