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Learning How To Design For Free-to-Play

In the first installment of a multi-part series on Gamasutra, freelance game designer Pascal Luban outlines design philosophies designers may have to adopt when m
In the first installment of a multi-part series on Gamasutra, freelance game designer Pascal Luban outlines some of the new design philosophies designers may have to adopt when moving from traditional games to a free-to-play model. While the only goal in a traditional game is to "entertain the player," Luban points out that a free-to-play designer also has to focus on continued monetization to make the game work as a business. This means providing immediate satisfaction, but also planning for a longer-than-normal play duration. "The [single-player] design trend during the last few years has been to provide players with intense but brief game experiences," Luban said. "Therefore, we must learn once again to develop long-lasting games." Luban also stresses that it's essential for free-to-play games to have an easy-to-use interface that leads the played by the hand to start, to avoid any early frustration that might cause them to move on to another game. The features goes on to detail the "open loop" mechanic that keeps players coming back for short play sessions day after day, helping attract advertisers and encouraging players to purchase in-game items. Finally, Luban gives advice for building player-to-player marketing right into the game, and planning for the metrics analysis that will be key to refining the game in the future. The full Gamasutra feature goes into much more detail on all of these topics and more tips for developers making their way into the free-to-play market.

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