JoyPac, a hyper-casual mobile game publisher, recently hosted a webinar: Design Strategies for Hyper-Casual Game Development—along with fellow hyper-casual specialists Umami Games and SuperPlus Games.
Based on that webinar, JoyPac’s Senior Publishing Manager, Falko Boecker has shared with us five major things to consider when you’re designing hyper-casual games at hyper-fast speed.
Step one: Brainstorm new ideas
Take all the game ideas you have and decide which one has the most potential. Which one will have the broadest appeal? Which one will be the simplest to develop? Which is the most unique?
Look for universal themes
At this early stage, it’s important to remember that themes that are universal to most cultures and age groups usually have the broadest appeal.
Don’t try to reinvent the entire genre
For your game to stand out, you only need one or two aspects of it to be unique. That might be the visual style, the story or one particular mechanic. For all other parts of the game, you can stick with what you know works.
Riley Andersen, CEO at Umami Games recommends: "Base about 70% of your idea on existing games that you know are successful. And then use the other 30% of your game to do something unique. This helps to ease players into the experience and then offers something new."
Step two: Plan out your entire development cycle
There are three main stages you should always have in your development plan:
- Take no more than three days to go from brainstorming to having a playable prototype and after that, doing an early click-through rate (CTR) test.
- Running game mechanic tests with your prototype can take anything from three weeks to two months.
- Afterwards, only if you get promising results after prototype tests, you should develop the game in full. You shouldn’t be spending more than a few months to develop and launch your game.
Step three: Choose the right tools
There are various tools available to help you with planning, designing, testing and improving your game. Here are a few shared by the panelists at the webinar that you might want to try.
- SmartLook — records all the sessions so you can see how people are playing your game.
- GameAnalytics — gives you a full range of player data
- Firebase — gives you functionality like analytics, databases, etc.
- AppAnnie — tracking downloads, checking other games, tracking revenue.
- Build Box — a no code mobile game development tool.
- The Free to Play Game Design Bible — rules, guidelines and models that can help you get the best out of your game.
Step four: Expanding on your idea
We often meet developers who are already working on a game, but still don’t know what type of game it’ll be, or even what platform they’re developing for.
When you’re developing at hyper-fast speed, you can’t afford to move onto development without making these fundamental decisions first.
Gameplay first, story and themes later
The core gameplay is what really matters for mobile games—it’s the ‘make it or break it’.
Once you have a strong, engaging core gameplay loop, you can think about building a theme, story and visual style around it.
Choose the right gameplay mechanics
There are plenty of effective game mechanics (like puzzle, stacking and swerving) that are well suited to hyper-casual games. GameAnalytics has a good advice piece to help you choose the right mechanics.
Step five: Prototyping and testing
To save as much time as possible, it’s important to test your game’s appeal as soon as possible.
Your first prototype doesn’t even need to be a playable version of the game
A simple video that shows a fun core gameplay loop is usually enough to test a game’s appeal.
Riley says: “We first start with mock-ups in video and image formats and test them on platforms like Facebook to check the CTR. Afterwards, we pick the winner and do an expanded prototype based on that. And that goes forward with doing several shed-off prototypes, testing, picking a winner and then doing a soft launch.”
Running your early prototype as an ad can get you a lot of data
If you can, it’s a good idea to run tests with ad creatives. This will get you a really solid understanding of your concept’s appeal before you’ve even written a line of code.
Running your prototype as a video ad can get you:
- CTR data
- Store conversion percentage
- Number of likely purchases
Use the results to decide which concepts to develop and which to abandon
If the results from your tests are good, you know the game has potential and you can continue developing it with confidence and take it to a soft launch.
If the results don’t justify developing the game further, at least you know at an early stage—and you can switch to a new concept, rather than wasting time and money on a game that doesn’t have the potential for success.