"Any game you are going to spend time in that is not totally linear … there’s this idea of home that is super important for the player."
- Nick Popovich argues that, even if they’re not aware of it, a “homey” space can keep players engaged in the long term.
When Slime Rancher lead developer Nick Popovich suggests that games should try and capture the feeling of “home”, he’s not talking about a literal home like an in-game house or a hub world. Rather, Popovich says that non-linear games benefit from giving players a cozy, comfortable gameplay space that lets them feel productive without imposing major demands.
During an insightful livestreamed interview last week, Popovich elaborated on how nailing that homey essence can be the key to keeping players coming back even after they’ve already invested a significant amount of time into a game.
“Is there a part of a game that you send a certain amount of time in that feels cozy? It might be suboptimal, compared to what you should be doing in the game right now, but it feels good to be there,” explains Popovich.
“A great example, in Destiny, is the Tower, the home base. That’s not home. Home is the patrol missions where you’re just wandering around and getting [experience], getting quest rewards, all of those things, and you’re waiting for your friends to come online. You’re going through the motions.”
Popovich says that, in his personal experience, games that manage to capture that homey feeling help to alleviate the choice paralysis that hits players when they sit down and try to find something to play since there’s always that comfortable gameplay space waiting for them to jump right back in.
“It's like eating mac and cheese in video game form. If your game can have some part of it that feels that way, that’s a really great path to, when someone sits down on their couch or in-front of their computer, to get them to play your game that night.”
Be sure to check out the full interview with Popovich for prototyping advice, development lessons, and design tips gathered from his time working on the recently released Slime Rancher. While you're there, be sure to subscribe to Gamasutra's Twitch channel for more developer interviews, editor roundtables, and gameplay videos.