Lucent Heart is a social, massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG). Developed by Taiwan's PlayCoo (PCC) and published by Gamania Digital Entertainment, it originated and flourished in Japan, utilizing innovative social features and a dynamic development cycle to continually serve and adapt to its player base.
Lucent Heart was attracting casual and social gamers years before the worldwide Facebook phenomenon began, providing insight into how to successfully merge the casual social gaming space with the free to play (F2P) MMORPG genre.
PCC attracted an audience by integrating social features into Lucent Heart's basic game design. The goal was to ensure players can connect quickly and intuitively while rewarding social behavior at all levels of interaction.
PCC found that building powerful rewards into a variety of social systems resulted in a number of key benefits: an environment is created which fosters positive interaction and loyalty, the barrier to entry for new players is lowered due to an inherently helpful community, and systems that actively connect people together increase player retention.
Because social systems are more successful when there are a large number of people using them, PCC had to be reactive to its community during development. Rather than building a game and hoping it was what players wanted, PCC capitalized on the freedom that comes with a F2P model.
The developers realized that they didn't have to provide everything in the beginning of the development cycle, and could continually adapt to their growing player base, only focusing on features that players desired.
For example, player versus player (PvP), a staple in the U.S. F2P market, was hardly being used weeks after its release. However, a number of new social features that were introduced at the same time exploded in popularity. PCC saw this and immediately shifted development resources away from PvP to generate other social content. This idea of dynamic development dramatically increased player retention because PCC remained in tune with its community and were willing to integrate requests within a very short timeframe.
The Cupid System
The "Cupid System" is social design at its best. It's an extensive matchmaking system that was implemented with the goal of building new relationships within the community. Players in the game are able to be randomly paired based on level, zodiac sign, and other interests, and once they're matched they can play together as a "couple".
While there are matchmaking systems in other titles, these are usually sideline features that have little to no effect on the rest of the game. What PCC did is integrate this social feature throughout Lucent Heart and its RPG gameplay. Couples can use romantic emotes that allow them to interact through kissing, hugging, or even dancing.
There are huge incentives such as double experience while questing together. Special "lovers emotes" grant stat buffs for battle. Unique items can be created using accumulated "match points". And a couple can even get married, complete with a large wedding event with hand delivered invitations.
These rewards keep players engaged in the social system and lead to many additional benefits for the game. In this case, players that used the "Cupid System" were more active, the retention rate was much higher, and it even helped grow the player base due to the community inviting their real life friends or significant others into the game.