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Feature: Learning The Free-To-Play Design Mentality

Feature: Learning The Free-To-Play Design Mentality Exclusive

September 16, 2011 | By Staff

September 16, 2011 | By Staff
More: Social/Online, Exclusive, Design, Business/Marketing

In a new Gamasutra feature interview, Wooga studio head Henric Suuronen talks about how console game designers need to adjust some of their design philosophies when moving to free-to-play social titles.

"When it comes to what to think about when designing for social games, I think you have to almost throw everything from your console brain, or your hardcore things, into the garbage," Suuronen suggests. "That will get you on the wrong track."

The pay-first-play-second mentality that suffuses traditional console titles can lead to a lot of design decisions that don't quite up in the very different free-to-play marketplace, Suuronen says.

"The free-to-play [market] is a mindset that a lot of console guys don't get. They're used to getting 60 bucks first, then they kind of have a lousy menu, but the guy has already invested 60 bucks, so he will browse through the menu and try to learn the game, because otherwise he would feel stupid."

In free-to-play social games, however, players haven't made that financial investment starting out, meaning they have no drive to spend time learning confusing interfaces.

"So how do I get him through the menu -- if there's a menu -- how do I get him through the tutorial, and how do I get him hooked to the game -- as quickly as possible? And this is the game design [element] which is, I think, the most difficult part."

Suuronen goes on to discuss how social games have to actually be social, and that the idea of being "BWF: better with friends" informs Wooga's design process.

"What is the BWF of your game?" he asks his designers. "So is it just visits, or can you upgrade something, can you help, can you ask for parts, can you staff something, can you play together asynchronously, can you play synchronously? Different stuff like that."

The full interview includes discussions of Facebook's role in the social game marketplace and the importance of constant updates in social games.

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