Screw the 'social viral design by analytics' approach, says Quark Games

Mobile deserves better

Screw the 'social viral design by analytics' approach, says Quark Games
Shawn Foust is a VP at Quark Games, handling a mix of business development, lore writing, and game design.

Once upon a time, there was a company called PlayMesh.

Small, beautiful and – most importantly – bootstrapped, PlayMesh focused on the things that would result in survival: simple casual games.

We made many – iFarm, Fishies, Zombie Fishies – and PlayMesh grew from four people (sadly I didn't join until a bit later).

One day, our toiling in the salt mines of casualdom paid off with enough cash to pursue a deeper experience – Valor.

For the core
Valor allowed us to experiment with a lot of the things we wanted to see in games. We were able to focus on player-versus-player mechanics over the gating grind typically associated with our more casual fare.

We could add risk into equation, allowing players to experience real consequences to their actions. All in all, we got to create the type of competitive environment not typically seen in mobile games.

And we feel pretty good about how things turned out. Valor ended up as one of the top monetising apps for 2012 and it's given us the chance to pull out all of the stops for our next game.

But we needed to make one more change.

From PlayMesh to Quark Games

A few months ago, we made the decision to rebrand the company. While we were proud of what we had accomplished under the PlayMesh banner, we wanted to distance ourselves from those casual roots.

I should also add that I hated the name with the fury of a thousand suns, but that wasn't really a compelling reason in itself. For us, the transition from PlayMesh to Quark Games represents a rebirth of sorts.

Moving to Quark was a promise to ourselves. We want to make the type of games we can be proud of. The type of games we want to play as hardcore gamers.

This is no longer about keeping the lights on. Our next game needs to deliver an experience that will have people stop at "This is good," rather than adding the obligatory "for a mobile game". Screw the social viral design by analytics approach. Mobile deserves a better gaming experience.

Lofty aspirations, but we're the dreaming sort.

Where tradition meets tomorrow

I'll admit I overstate my vexation at the 'new' breed of games that have come as part of the social/mobile revolution.

These articles are just a bit interesting with some ranting in them.

I'll further admit that I do believe there is a high value to the service driven approach to games, and that rapid iteration driven by analytics has value as well. I suppose my objection comes when the creative process is subordinated and even removed as a driver of game design.

When put in the driver's seat, analytics will typically lead to the lowest common denominator of design – the safest, least objectionable option (maximum retention, maximum monetisation).

Breakout successes in games have generally been on the back of quality execution around an innovation. I'm not saying you need to create a new genre (like Minecraft), but it's not a bad idea to introduce a new mechanic and execute on it well.
Call of Duty's execution on kill streaks in Modern Warfare come to mind as a good example. Angry Bird's solid leverage of tactility is another example.

Very much mistaken

Too often the new school of design has created 'innovation' around pay mechanics or social virality as opposed to game mechanics. I think this is mistake.

I believe there is ample room for experimentation on the mobile and social platforms. There is no reason why games need to be derivative of other experiences.

Pushing Valor in an increasing competitive direction has been a great opportunity for us to learn more about what can be done on the mobile phone. But it isn't enough.

We're gearing up for something special (and we'll be releasing more information soon). We're making a big bet on an evolution in certain mechanics. Let's see if we can earn our name.

Or go down in a flaming ruin. You know, either way.
To find out more about Quark Games and Valor, take a look at the company's website. For moment-to-moment updates on everything Shawn Foust, you can follow him on Twitter.

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