Seven steps to effectiveness: A developers' guide to designing for analytics

Take the guesswork out of your game design decisions

Seven steps to effectiveness: A developers' guide to designing for analytics
COO and co-founder of predictive analytics specialists GamesAnalytics, Mark Robinson is a behavioural analytics expert bringing a wealth of customer relationship know-how and experience to the games industry.

The mobile industry is increasingly orientating itself to position analytics as one of the three main pillars of success in mobile gaming, alongside great creative ideas and high quality design execution.

Analytics often equates with dashboard reporting, but this can be pretty inflexible, giving only a general overview of how well your game is performing.

That's why the industry is moving towards using specific player feedback and actionable analytics to make game design changes based or rich player data.

Delivering real player insight is not straightforward. The diverse range of player types, platforms and devices accessing free-to-play games can make data tagging for analytics a challenge for publishers and developers.

That's why we've recently released a whitepaper, called Analytics Driven Game Design, which aims to make this process more easy and effective.

Here are some highlighted design and implementation recommendations…

1. Build in analytics from day one

The implementation of data tagging to support analytics is often a low priority.

This is a false economy, as on average, where data collection is integrated at the end of the development phase, it takes three to five times longer to implement.

2. Make event data available in the game upfront

With events and their parameters well defined, a developer can then determine what data is required and when.

Building this data structure into the code from the start ensures that the data is easily available at the right point in the code where the data needs to be sent.

On average, games where event collection is retro-fitted into the development process, only 60 percent of that valuable game data is collected, which is the equivalent to leaving money on the table.

3. Build a single player view

As games become more complex there are often multiple systems involved. For example, registration system might be different from the payment system, which means that data is often sent from both servers and game clients.

It is therefore imperative to build a single player view by having a consistent concept of a User ID and session.

Building a single player view allows information to be brought together in the analytics system no matter where the data originates.

4. Synchronise timestamps

Similarly, with event data coming from multiple sources and timezones, as is inevitable with app stores, it is essential to synchronise timestamps to ensure that a single consistent view of player behaviour can be maintained.

Client data is often sent using a local timestamp, whereas server data will most likely be time stamped where the data is stored.

If timestamps are not the same, it makes it very hard to understand the true order of events, which is vital in building a player behaviour profile.

5. Create a single session ID

Having a unique Session ID that ties all the events in a single session together is vital in allowing effective analysis.

The alternative is to retro-fit data after the fact which is inevitably inaccurate and introduces errors.

Given a great deal of the initial player retention analysis is focused on the first session, having a consistent and accurate way of defining your sessions is essential.

6. Always collect outcomes

Events should aim to collect outcomes rather than changes.

In other words, it is much better to collect the outcome of a mission rather than each change that happened during the mission. For example, collecting what the player achieved when they complete a mission e.g. how many points they were rewarded or enemies they killed, is much more useful than collecting every shot fired.

7. Data completeness vs. operational investment

For all developers, there is always a balance to be struck on the depth of data collection.

Retention is often the most important aspect of a F2P game to get right, so consider making sure events that support retention analysis are implemented first to ensure analytics can start to deliver value for your game quickly and support retention optimisation.
To find out more about these issues, check out GamesAnalytics' full whitepaper - A Developer's Guide to Designing Effective F2P Games - here.

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