解析社交游戏设计之用户留存率

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社交游戏开发商和发行商经常会讨论社交游戏的三大特性,即病毒性,盈利性和留存率。本篇文章将针对用户留存问题展开研究。

用户留存率,也被称为用户粘性,可以说是游戏设计的基本要素。我敢保证,那些前社交游戏设计者(包括我在内)常常会因为自己精心制作的游戏变成了发行商任务清单中的一小部分内容而感到愤恨和委屈。

甚至,他们也因为在第一波社交游戏浪潮里,游戏除了作为一种病毒式传播“机器”,并未能体现任何用户留存功能而感到极端郁闷。其实在第一波游戏设计浪潮中也不乏好游戏,例如《Dungeons & Dragons: Tiny Adventures》,而且,正是从那时起,社交游戏开始慢慢步入正轨,并取得了很大的进展。从其它游戏类型转变成社交游戏的过程中,最大且最好的变化即是,当别人问你什么是用户留存功能时,你已经能够应对自如了。首先你可以告诉他们,你的游戏设计中最棒且最有趣的部分是什么。

随之你还应该思考一些更为具体的问题。因为一些“较机灵”的人就会继续追问你,到底采用了何种特定的游戏设计元素才能够挽留更多用户。一款有趣的对抗小游戏将吸引玩家花费15分钟于游戏,但是它的用户留存率问题即是:这些用户明天是否还会继续玩游戏呢?也许你玩过《Farmville》,对游戏中的庄稼种植任务也是再熟悉不过了。在游戏中你需要种植一些庄稼,并隔一段时间回到游戏中收获它们。一些庄稼需要两天的时间才会成熟。可以说,这是社交游戏中最普遍的用户留存机制。玩家在游戏初期进行点击,并随后回到游戏中查看结果。这也正是很多非游戏设计者所关心的用户留存机制问题。

现在,我们将种植庄稼任务与《Farmville》中整体的用户留存机制作比较:从仅有的几块农田发展成为一大片广阔的土地,并形成一座稳定的农场。你也许会觉得它们之间的联系并不大,但是事实上,用户留存机制已经把它们牢牢紧扣在一起了。

farmville(from kotaku.com)

farmville(from kotaku.com)

以下是提高用户留存率的几大方法:

故事情节和游戏角色:让玩家愿意回到游戏中观看游戏情节的发展。美剧《Lost》就是个典例。它能让观众心系着故事情节,想打开电视观看他们喜欢的角色和情节的发展。如果玩家能在游戏中操纵主要的游戏角色,并自行选择故事情节的发展,那么他们定会想要重新回到游戏中,观看游戏角色和情节的发展。

制定“超额”的任务清单:不论玩家的游戏时间是一小时,一周还是一个月,都为他们安排更多的游戏任务。在这种“超额”的任务清单中,玩家可能会产生一种“不完整感”,而因此想要尽可能地回到游戏中,继续挑战并完成游戏任务。

所有权和收集:人们总是喜欢收集一些“战利品”。同时这种方法也能帮助开发者盈利。

愧疚感:让玩家因为没能重新回到游戏中而产生愧疚感。这种方法只能称得上是短期战略,如果长期使用将会适得其反。因为一旦玩家发现他们因为游戏而错失了更多东西时,他们将不会再回到游戏中了。

错失的机遇:在游戏中添加一些活动以“诱惑”那些离开了游戏的玩家,即他们如果能够及时回到游戏中,便能体验这些活动。玩家如果不愿意回到游戏也不会有所损失,但是这些活动却可以有效地吸引他们每天回来看看。如此,玩家还能感受到游戏世界的蓬勃生气,并因此提高他们对游戏的兴趣度。

每日活动:一天一次的游戏任务或者竞赛项目。

每周活动:你应该考虑所有玩家所具有的不同游戏模式,并思考如何做才能以不同的频率吸引不同的玩家。我建议现代社交网络必须同时具备每天活动和每周活动机制。

“冷却计时器”(Cooldown timers):这个机制也可用于上述几大方法中,但是我想要在这里对其进行详细说明。你可以通过它控制游戏的节奏和玩家在每一个关卡中的能量。可以说这是社交游戏中非常有效的一种机制。它的维持时间一般是5分钟至1小时。

让玩家能够积极愉快地与好友进行交流:不应该将病毒式传播与用户留存机制完全分离开来。它们也存在一定的交互性(游戏邦注:在一些优秀的社交游戏中尤其如此)。玩家可能会因为想和好友一起游戏而重新回到游戏中,所以提供玩家与好友一起游戏的机会可以说是一种有效的用户留存方法。

我曾经玩过《Magic: The Gathering》(可以说这是我玩过的游戏中最好的一款)。在游戏中我被很多熊一般大的“松鼠”袭击着,而唯一能够帮我存活的卡片却超出了我能够支付的范围。所以我便使用了“Jace, the Mind Sculptor”这张牌逃出了危机。我发现“Time Walk”这张牌能让我获得一个额外的回合。如果我在下一回合中再次使用“Jace”,我将能够找到“Channel”和“Farost Titan”这两张牌。我可以使用“Channel”对“Emrakul,Aeons Torn”发动攻击。除非出现了更大的对手,要不我便可以获得一个额外的回合。对“Emrakul”的袭击使我消灭了对手一半的卡片。而我也能够确信“Farost Titan”有能力打败“Gaea’s Cradle”。这时候我的对手已不再握有能够与我相抗衡的厉害角色了,除了“Banefire”,这真的是一张极其厉害的卡片,有可能对我的所有卡片造成致命的威胁。

我说了这么多,但是这与社交游戏有何关系呢?如果你经常玩《Magic》,那么你便能体会到我所描述的是一个多么有趣,愉快的故事。因为被这个游戏故事深深吸引了,所以我也希望那些没有玩过《Magic》的人能够和我一起体验这种乐趣,并进一步了解这款游戏。好的游戏都能够提供给玩家好的故事情节体验。而如果一款社交游戏缺乏好的故事情节,那么这可以说是它的一大败笔,将阻碍它的进一步发展。当你的好友告诉你他花费了15分钟在《Farmville》中等待收割番茄时,你是否还会觉得这个游戏情节有意思呢?

一个有趣的故事情节必须让玩家之间能够进行有趣的互动,或者让玩家能够真正融入游戏,体验游戏的乐趣。角色扮演游戏在这一方面就表现得很出色(我经常与好友一起玩《Dungeons & Dragons》)。纸牌角色扮演游戏使玩家能够融入史诗般复杂的游戏世界,深切地体验到游戏的乐趣。玩家可以结合自己丰富的想象力,在游戏中尝试任何挑战。而视频角色扮演游戏虽然带有较多局限性,但是它所展现的画面感和视觉震撼都推动玩家进一步与游戏角色相融合。好的游戏作品将能为玩家呈现好的故事情节,而身临其境的“战争”体验也将带给玩家难忘的情感冲击。

但是社交游戏却做不到这几点。社交游戏中并没有角色扮演类游戏(游戏邦注:作者认为《Mafia Wars》和其它类似的游戏都不属于角色扮演游戏)。这些游戏中并未提供给玩家更深层次的互动,玩家也很少会在游戏中遇到让人激动的转折点。但是社交游戏却可以抓住这些机会,因为它们能帮社交游戏真正地提高用户留存率。而且如果玩家能告诉好友自己在游戏中的体验,那么这无疑也是一种很有效的病毒式传播。

在《Mafia Wars》等社交游戏中,你必须操纵着游戏中的黑手党等角色,而且除了一些派对游戏(如《Pictionary》,《Time’s Up》)以及文字游戏(如《Boggle》,《Scrabble》)等,甚少有游戏不需要玩家操纵任何角色。

Social Game Design: Retention part 1

Social game creation and distribution companies often discuss three important qualities of a game on a social network. Virality, Monetization, and Retention. Today’s topic is retention (but you already knew that, didn’t you?

Retention, also known as engagement, also known as BASIC GAME DESIGN. I’m sure some pre-social games designers (like me) feel offended and traumatized that the main thing we work so hard at can be relegated to just one of three bullet points on a distributor’s to-do list.

Many are even more offended that most “games” in the first wave of social network games didn’t really have any “retention” features at all, they were just viral spam machines. Take a deep breath. Maybe two. The first wave wasn’t completely awful (Dungeons & Dragons: Tiny Adventures, for example) and social games have come a long way since then. The best news for those transitioning from other game types to social games is that when someone asks you about retention features you already know what to do. Start by telling them about all the coolest and funnest parts of your design.

Soon you’ll find you need to get more specific. The smart ones will come back to you asking for specific game design elements that get a player to come back to your game later. A fun minigame will keep a player’s attention for 15 minutes, but the retention question is: will they come back tomorrow? You are probably familiar with growing crops in Farmville. You plant crops and then must come back later to harvest them. Some crops take 2 days to grow. This is one of the more common forms that retention mechanics are taking in social games. Start something with a click, come back later to see the results. This is what most non-designers think of when they talk about retention mechanics.

Now contrast that with the overall retention mechanic in Farmville: a persistent farm that you grow from a few fields to great big huge tracts of land. You can see there’s a lot of room between those two things, but anything on the straight line the connects them will be a retention mechanic.

Here’s a spewing of ideas that increase retention:

Story & Characters- players come back to see what happens in the plot. TV shows like Lost do a great job with this – people want to come back to see what happens to the characters they love and how the story develops. In some games you play the main character and make choices about how your story develops, but just because the player is in control it doesn’t mean they don’t want to return to see what happens next.

To Do lists – give the player more than they can accomplish in a single session, in a single week, in a single month. Everything from a list of missions to achievements can create the feeling of incompleteness and striving toward goals that bring players back.

Ownership & collection – people love amassing loot. Note that this can overlap with monetization.

Guilt – something bad will happen if you don’t return. While effective in the short term, it can be counterproductive long-term. Once a player feels they have lost too much they will never return.

Missed opportunities – add events to your game that trigger while the player is away, but that can be taken advantage of if the player returns in time. Nothing is lost if the player doesn’t return, but they can enjoy monitoring the game in the background or checking at least once a day. This also increases the feeling that the game world is a living thing, increasing player interest overall.

Daily Events – once-a-day quests & contests.

Weekly Events – think about the overall play pattern of your users and how to engage different users at different frequencies. I recommend having both daily and weekly events for modern social networks.

Cooldown timers – okay this is more of a mechanic that can be applied to several other things on this list, but it deserves mention on its own. You can control both the pace of play and the power level of abilities you give to players through cooldown timers. They are super effective in social network games. These timers can last from 5 minutes to several hours.

Interacting with your friends in fun and positive ways – don’t separate viral and retention mechanics too much. They have some overlap, especially in well-designed social games. Players will come back to your game just to play it with their friends, and mechanics that allow them to work together are usually the strongest for retention. (source:designsideout

Social Game Design: Retention part 2

This past Saturday I was playing Magic: The Gathering (possibly the best game ever made). In one game I was getting attacked by many squirrels (bear-sized squirrels) and the only card I had that could get me back into the game cost more than I could pay. I used Jace, the Mind Sculptor to dig for a way out. I found Time Walk, buying me an extra turn (this was a vintage rotisserie draft). On that next turn I used Jace again, this time finding Channel and Frost Titan. I used Channel (taking me down to 1 life) to cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. In addition to a huge guy, that bought me another turn. Emrakul’s attack took away half of my opponent’s board. Just to be sure, I cast the Frost Titan to lock down his Gaea’s Cradle. He didn’t have enough guys to get through, but he did have a Banefire, which he cast for the last 1 damage to kill me.

So what does this have to do with Social Games? If you play enough Magic, you know I just told you a cool and somewhat hilarious story. The story is so interesting to me that I was willing to tell it to you even if you don’t play Magic, putting in almost enough information for you to be able to understand it. Great games give players great stories to tell. I believe the lack of great stories is a problem for social games. When’s the last time someone told you a thrilling tale of how they waited 15 minutes to harvest tomatoes?

To get a great story you need interesting interactions between players, or between the game and the players. Role-playing games do this best. (I have been regaled countless times with a friend’s previous night’s Dungeons & Dragons adventure.) Paper RPGs combine complex interactions between people with a fantasy world that has epic storytelling possibilities. Players can do anything and the results are as awesome as their combined imaginations. Video game RPGs are more limited, but the graphics and well-composed worlds give players a lot of fuel to imagine the lives of their characters. Good writing will deliver great stories, and close-fought battles give the player emotional moments they won’t soon forget.

All of this is absent from social games. There are no RPGs (Mafia Wars and its myriad of clones are NOT RPGs. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that*). There aren’t any complex player interactions. There are no close encounters with surprising turnarounds. Social games could really use some of these things. These are the kinds of things that can dramatically increase player retention in a game. Also, if players are telling their friends what happened over lunch, you’ll get some real-life viral spreading.

* Technically they are games in which you play the role of a mafia boss or similar. But there are very few games where you don’t play the role of something. I guess you don’t do it in party games (Pictionary, Time’s Up) and word games (Boggle, Scrabble).

(本文作者是Gregory,为游戏邦编译)

source:designsideout

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