Monday 24 October 2011

Portable gaming achievements

Mobile gaming in general and app gaming specifically needs new and creative ways to keep their audience enthused. Traditional videogames are for the time rich and so can afford long drawn out story lines and scatter their rewards few and far between. App games because of their relatively short playing time ( there are exceptions of course , such as the brilliant RPG based Zenonia series) need to keep rewards coming thick and fast.
This post will highlight some of the techniques that some of the more succesful smartphone games have used to reward their players.
The first game we're going to talk about is the brilliant platformer   CJ: Strike Back by Droidhen . To even call it a platformer is doing it a disservice though as its actual genre is quite hard to define. The meat of the game takes place as the eponymous character runs up the sides of the screen and single presses of the screen are used to make him leap off the walls and take out enemies in mid air. If jumps are mistimed then he will run into obstacles or collide with enemies and fall to his death.

CJ in his Ironman form gained by killing three fireballs
The games graphics and music are of the high standard that we would expect from  Droidhen but what really got me thinking about how app gaming can draw in its audience is the constant sense of progression in the app and a inculcated desire to make achievements. In this type of game the need to get a high score is of course a driving factor, if you include the ability to compare your score to the rest of the world it is even better. But what really drove me on to keep playing the app was the small micro-rewards. The sense of achievement when the standard character takes out three enemies of a certain type and transforms into an unstoppable rocket for example. Then when I realised that for every type of enemy, of which I can think of at least five straight away , you get a different invunerable character the game attained an even better sense of fun. Finally to make the app even sweeter the developers saw fit to give the player small goals to aim for, such as attain 20,000 points or kill five of the same enemy in the same game. These achievements don't actually unlock anything but always keep you playing, adding to that sense of one more go as you try to get the achievement. A true masterclass in keeping app gaming fresh and unique for the player in a short time span.

Muffin Knight also deserves a very special mention of it's ability to keep the app gamer captivated. I've only played the free version which caps the player limit at level 20 and locks off the later levels. However given the preponderance of free games on the market I seldom pay for my app gaming fix, unless the game really stirs me. Muffin Knight does this, and I will shortly pay for it to unlock those later levels. How the game does this is masterful, aside from once again some very slick graphics and presentation the game throws a constant sense of progression at you. 15 Muffins to unlock a level? Well what gamer worth the title wouldn't make the effort to make sure he got those muffins.
Muffin Knight and its many unlockables
One of Muffin Knights nods to app gaming rewards is the fact that there are so many unlockable characters. You start off with a knight; gnome; archer and mage (all with different weapons and ways of engaging the enemy) and are soon unlocking rainbow pooping unicorns ; cyclops' and more. The need to keep on playing to gain the experience to unlock these beasties is a true nod to the developers skill at keeping an app gamer entertained in a relatively short space of time.

I could mention Angry Bird's Easter eggs and a whole host of other 'trick' developers use to keep their time poor smartphone audience entertained and rewarded enough to keep coming back again and again , but I'll just leave you with those two exposes for now and hope that if you're an app/mobile gamer you'll make the effort of searching out these top titles or other titles that press the risk/reward buttton as rapidly as they do.
I also hope that if you're an app developer reading this you'll make the effort of adding rewards and achievements as good as these into your apps, because us gamers do love them.