It is 6 o’clock in the morning. I’m sitting in an empty office adjusting attributes of the main game features to make them balanced. And these questions come into my head.
What is the most important thing in balancing a social game?
What’s the special aspect s in social game balance that differs to traditional games?
What should a social game designer consider and how do they start?
1) Game life. Normally, the game life for a social game is 1 to 3 years, the DAU peaks at around 3 months after release, stabilizes then slowly starts to drop over the next half year or so. How many game features use the appointment mechanic? Will it hold the player’s interest over a 6 month period? What’s your plan for future updates?
2) Game pace. When we analyze the XP curve of many successful social games, we find the XP curve is quite mild at first and rises rapidly after a certain level. That’s because we satisfy players by letting them level up quickly at start, and slow down after that player is addicted to this game. It’s a balance - not easy to keep. Every game is different and you’d better find the best time to slow it down.
3) Time gap. A social game is not made to keep people sitting front of computer the entire day, it’s a very casual game for people to play in their free time. It works to match a players’ spare time, and we divide our game into many game sessions on purpose. E.g. the crops are harvested every 4 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours and 24 hours, because players can plant them before starting work and harvest during their lunch break.
4) Consumption. What’s the currency in your game? Coins, gems, hearts or leaves? How do you earn them? And how to spend them? The mistake I and many game designers usually make is: we do not have enough consideration about how players spend the money! Many social games have severe inflation. To solve this issue, I recommend features that can make players spend a little bit of money each day ie a Sink! Features like production, PvP and upgrading always work.
That’s the components I think are the most important for social game balance, thanks for reading~