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GDC 2012: Graeme Devine - 'No more video chat games' on iOS

The Halo Wars developer, who is now focused on mobile titles, has sworn off video chat features, he says, after implementing them in two games and finding out they just don't work for his audience.
Graeme Devine, the lead writer on Ensemble Studios' Halo Wars, who is now focused on mobile titles, has sworn off video chat features after implementing them in two games and finding out they just don't work for his audience. At GDC 2012 on Monday, he explained how two of his games released in 2011, Word Chat -- later renamed Full Deck Word Games -- and Full Deck Poker Hold 'Em both integrated FaceTime video chat features on iOS, and neither was successful, for different reasons. For the presentation "Designing a game your teenage daughter will actually play," Devine co-presented with his 17 year old daughter, Roque Devine. She explained why the FaceTime chat features of Full Deck Word Games don't work for her: "The chat feature is a cool concept, but it's awkward," she says. "When I'm playing a game I'm not going to hold my device right in front of my face." She also prefers the asynchronous play of titles such as Words with Friends, rather than playing a live multiplayer match. "It's on my own schedule," she says. "On mobile, playing peer-to-peer in real time is not something that teenagers, especially, want to do," says Devine. He also pointed out major flaws in the idea of a Texas Hold 'Em game that has video chat. For Full Deck Poker Hold 'Em, it was a misunderstanding of the poker audience's preferences -- which are quite different from his daughter's, but just as important. Though he envisioned the game as a title people would play together with people they know and chat together, "It really turns out that nobody likes to play poker with their friends; they like to play poker with other people who are good at playing poker," he says.
And those players "don't like playing on video, because it gives away their competitive advantage," says Graeme Devine. He put a lot of effort into implementing these features for both games, he reveals, but neither of them helped sales. In fact, his original description for Word Chat mostly upsold its FaceTime support, but de-emphasizing the term "chat" for the word game and re-branding it with his Full Deck name helped it become more successful. "No more video chat games," he says, is his new rule moving forward.

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