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Want retention? Don't make user rewards confusing

In Gamasutra's latest feature, a postmortem of Appy Entertainment's iOS game SpellCraft, co-founder Paul O'Connor explains how the daily reward feature of th
In Gamasutra's latest feature, a postmortem of Appy Entertainment's iOS game SpellCraft, co-founder Paul O'Connor explains how the daily reward feature of the game confused and irritated fans at first. "We had the right idea," writes O'Connor. The plan was to "encourage players to engage with SpellCraft every day, to get them hooked on the game." The problem? "We made the requirements of our 'Daily Gold Reward' too stringent, and wound up with a pack of unhappy players writing in to complain about not getting their gold." Problems arose not just because of stringent requirements -- which required "that players open SpellCraft and perform 10 game actions," which was not a very mobile-friendly play pattern, writes O'Connor. "Players were also confused by our clock, not understanding that they needed to perform their required actions within a specific twenty-four hour block of time -- a distinction lost on a player who opens SpellCraft at 2:00 PM on Tuesday, and returns to it at 1:00 PM on Wednesday, and really has every right to expect that he's fulfilled the requirement of 'daily play.'" The bottom line? "If you are going to give something away... just give it away. Furthermore, don't be concerned if players try to game the system. These are retention tools, not a final exam." "We've since patched the system to give an increasing bit of gold each day for 10 days basically for just entering the game, but we are still receiving complaints that the reward isn't arriving, or that it should extend beyond 10 days. We've learned that if you promise players a gift, you must not merely deliver -- you have to over-deliver. Even then, expect a few squeaky wheels. Don't make your job harder with Byzantine redemption requirements!" The full feature, which hits on four more things that went wrong as well as five that went right -- and also includes a discussion of how managing scope affected the project -- is live now on Gamasutra.

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