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SoulHow to keep the player playing

July 28, 2008 1 comment

Skill Level: N/A

Hey guys. I wanted to report that we’re up over 4000 hits, and I thought it’d be as good a time as ever to write another special SoulHow game design theory article.  This one is about how to keep people playing your game.  Keep people playing? What’s the point of talking about that? After all, a lot of people can write a game with a task, a goal, and a challenge.  Should be enough right?  Wrong.  Well, sometimes.

It’s important to think about ways to keep your target audience interested in the game.  After all, that’s the ultimate task of the game designer; to keep people playing.  Even back in the days of the arcade games, with horrible 2d splotchy graphics, the goal of the designer was to write a game which will keep the player interested so that they played enough to get hooked–which translates to their inserting more quarters to play again and again.  The longer the player is compelled to continue, the more money the arcade makes.

This brings up an interesting point.  It’s obvious the game must be fun or the player will stop midway through, but keeping the player playing does not only mean during one go.  If the player fails miserably and dunks Megaman into the burning lava three times in a row, he still wants to keep going.  That’s what you want.  Even if the player continues to die over and over, he should still want to head back to that title screen and click “new game”.

The last part of your job as a game designer occurs when the player wins; when Megaman finally defeats Sigma, the player should reflect and say, “Hey, this game was so awesome, I’m going to start it again from the beginning.”  This isn’t always entirely possible, but you should definitely try.

Below I’m going to discuss a few ways to achieve success in each of the three times you must keep the player playing (in-game, post-failure, and post-success).

Read more…