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Game Design 103: 3 Biggest Trap in Online Game

This blog post will introduce and explained 3 Biggest Trap in Online Game. These may sound common, but a lot of game studio fell for it. Let's make sure we understand them and find a good way to avoid and win against those problems.

Game Developer, Staff

April 22, 2019

7 Min Read

This week we still playing around with online game topic. I will summarize mistake and lesson from the game studio in the past (and even now) for you. So as a game designer, you will think carefully with your game if you fall for those trap or not.

1. Pay to Win (P2W)

One of the most well-known traps that cause frustration to players is pay to win system. In case you don’t know, it is a game that is not required much skill, Only money is important. If you have a big amount of money to pay for games, you can buy exclusive items, such as weapons, pets, outfits, etc. And those items will give you a lot of power that none-pay players can never have.

This not only frustrated but also destroy the game core and game community.

The player that doesn’t want to pay or don’t have enough money to pay will feel terrible. They play the online game because they want to relax from study or work, but they have to face with money issue in the game.

Also, the player will flee from your game, since non-pay players cannot afford to buy your item, and they almost instant lose against pay-players ( or sometimes in PvE game, non-pays will face with the inconvenience of games which still frustrated), they have no point to stay in the game. Leaving is their final answer.

However, we understand that the game studio is not a non-profit organization, you need money to run business. So here are some suggestion (maybe checklist) to make sure your game will not fall for this ugly trap.

Beware of Overpowered Items

In case your business model still wants players to buy the item in game with real money, check out if that item is overpowered (or maybe underpowered?) or not.

The Item that players buy will give an advantage in gameplay but also have some weak point that non-play player can play against with.


The Item that players buy will give something in the game but does not affect gameplay. Such as, gain more experience point, can custom character clothes colour, have more slot of inventory for players, beautiful outfits, etc.

We have to ensure that those items for sale will not make unpaid players feel terrible or not fun anymore.

Balance is the key. Check out feedback from players and check some statistic report from your game. Maybe discussion with the market department will give you a big picture of how should you do.


One of the most creative and effective cultures of all time, Lootbox system (In Japanese, sometimes call ‘Gacha’)

This will somehow and somewhat balanced game by itself. The player will have a chance to get an item that player wants, but also a chance that player will not get that item as well. What that make it balanced is there is no guarantee that you will get an item that you want. Rare, Legendary, SSR, those words can describe how hard it is to get one. Sometimes, the rate of winning those stuff is less than 0.1 %.

This method sounds great and can make a lot of money. However, I recommended you to work this Lootbox system with the above section as well, make sure that it is hard to get and it will not be overpowered. Just rare item that can show to their friends.

2. Deserted Server

One problem that you may find in an online game, the server is dead. Not enough players to run the game or ‘too lonely’ to play.

Those problems can cause because of these following reason:

Non-mainstream genre

You might be an indie game studio that would like to express a new bright idea to the world, to players and tell that your game is awesome. Nonetheless, in real life, it is not that easy.

First, human mostly loves to follow what is mainstream right now, because human is a social animal, they are more likely to follows whatever around them.

Second, sometimes those genres of the game have a lesson-learned from first ever game that was made. Another game studio saw those weak points and develop a new game which is better than before. This also emphasizes the mainstream genre.

Moreover, the game that you create maybe ‘out-of-date’. What I mean is, you may develop this game for a long time and it’s already no more in the interest of players. When you released, the result will not much different from making a non-mainstream game.

Mainstream genre

This is a little bit tricky, but as I mentioned above, you maybe want to develop a game that is now mainstream. However, your game may not be able to fight with another game that does likely with yours.

Sometimes brand loyalty matters. Players already thought that game they play is already good, and as a game studio, be ready for a lot of comparison and comments.

Good case, your game is better than other game, then keep it going. You come the right way. Bad case, your game maybe unsuccessful and ended up with dead server problem.

Life cycle

Nothing last forever. This phrase is the truth, not only in our lives but in the game industry as well.

Everything that was born in this world will die one day. After 5 years or more (sometimes only 1–2 years), your game will come to point of the dead end. Players

Some suggestion is always updating players with new contents. New maps, new characters, new outfits, new modes, new events and more. Make your game look alive in players eyes.

Imagine you eat steak for the first time, of course, it is delicious.

However, if you have to eat it every meal for 10 years. I bet no one can stand it, right?

Add something new that still make you would love to have steak more. Add new flavours, new sauces, etc.

Adding that I mean must at least significant to your game.

If you add new character clothes, at least make it beautiful enough or give enough interesting stats in gameplay.

If you add a new mode, make sure that mode is fun and sustainable to keep it running in the server.

However, one day you will come to the point that you cannot add more on your plate. What you can do is redesign all of the elements in your game, or plan and start a new game instead. (This should be planned sooner. You have to analyze and plan this with your team carefully if your game reach to it dead end yet)

Make your game a legend and good memory that players will remember your studio name.

3. The Fall of Game Community

One important factor that separates the online game from other kinds of game is a large community of players. You can meet people from all around the world in this place. You can play, you can chat, go for an adventure together.

The social system is one important thing that keeps your online game running.

Nonetheless, some problems may occur with the community and ruin everything. Some of those problems are…


There is always a ton of hack and cheating programs that can make them win a game much easier, or sometimes take advantage of other players in your game.

This not just only ruining gameplay but also make normal player upset. They feel it unfair for them. If we don’t do anything with this. This will end up in disaster.


Something that does not require any kind of programs to cause this problem, but it is all about how bad players behave against other players in the game.

Gameplay sabotages, abusive chat, spamming and much more.

In the long term, this will ruin everything in your game. Don’t forget to take care of those trolls in the game. Penalty or banning is a good way to deal with.


That’s all for now, thank you for reading this long. Any clap and comment will be appreciated.



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