Success of the game is a dream of all gaming studios. But when that dream comes true, it is only the beginning of hard work.
In 2020, Fishing Clash, the flagship title of Ten Square Games, set a new record of popularity, and with this success came the challenge of keeping the game engaging for all the players, even the most demanding ones. How does our game team do that? By enriching the content and adding new features, such as the latest one – Skill Tree.
There is no doubt Fishing Clash is Ten Square Games' most recognisable title. In 2020, its third year on the market, the game set a range of new records – through the entire year, over 40 million players installed it and over 12 billion fish were caught, while on its record day – April 12, around 1 million anglers went fishing with Fishing Clash.
However, as the interest in the game grows, so do the demands and needs of players. Last year, the Fishing Clash team produced 200 new fish, seven new locations, and as many as 306 events to keep them ‘hooked’. The game has become really content-heavy, but still, especially for VIP players, simply offering new content wouldn't address all their needs.
As with most of its decisions, Ten Square Games approached this issue by taking on board players' requirements while staying focused on the product's business vision. In the exit polls, players who dropped the game pointed to the lack of progression. Moreover, by tracking players' lifecycle, the team could also gain an insight into what kept them engaged and when they lost their interest in the game.
Eliza Chyży, Game Designer, says: “What we noticed was that at some point, the most dedicated players reached the level in which their ability to make new records became very limited. As a result, they started to lack the feeling of progression during gameplay. Our answer to address this issue was a new feature, Skill Tree.”
“Many Fishing Clash users are motivated by completing the tasks 100%. Skill Tree was chosen from among other ideas because it allows anglers to master new skills and gives ‘completionist’ yet another challenge. With the new 13th star to reach, and tokens to gain, it allows them to unlock new skill upgrades, collect bonuses, and score more points than before on the fish they catch,” Eliza Chyży continues.
As with most of the company’s processes, Skill Tree's development started with game designers and UI/UX specialists envisioning it in mockups. To picture it with a well-known example, almost all RPGs allow ongoing development of the character throughout the gameplay. Players can evolve selected skills of their character, which is usually presented in the form of a tree because the skill set is branching, giving players the possibility to select a certain path. In Fishing Clash's Skill Tree, such a mechanism was designed with all the additional content – skill badges, icons, and tokens.
But that's just the surface. On the deeper level, the team also had to decide what experience they wanted to deliver to players, focusing on the emotions evoked by the feature and its fun aspects. At this stage, they could determine what assets would be required. Once they had reached that high level, macro design could progress to more specifics, like creating the right balance.
“Balance is essential as we can determine how fast players will progress through the feature – this boils down to game designer using a spreadsheet. We plan player's progression, cost of each item, as well as freemium and premium distribution of goods connected to the feature,” Eliza Chyży explains.
Wojciech Słoma, Fishing Clash LiveOps Leader, adds: “It worked to our advantage that we could use the cross-team knowledge. Hunting Clash was first to introduce a feature similar to Skill Tree. When we started working on Fishing Clash Skill Tree, the new feature of Hunting Clash was already in production, so we knew how it was working, and we could rely on the experience of the Hunting Clash team.”
The first Skill Tree was launched in the Hawaii fishery at the beginning of February, and in the first weeks of March it was implemented in all locations. Each of these Skill Trees is different and will have unique Skill Tokens and goals for LiveOps.
So how does it work for the players? Skill Tree contains boosts such as additional % to weight for fish, boosters (e.g., a radar), additional % to combo bonus, or increased chance of filling the combo bar instantly. The additional percentage allows players to catch bigger fish and gain the 13th star. All in all, Skill Tree increases the potential of points collected for all fish (lures) and leads to fishing with greater success, perhaps even collecting one of game’s legendary fish
Many Fishing Clash players are very committed to the game, building quite a strong community, and they aren't shy about giving the company feedback about the game. TSG often asks them for comments on its social media channels, but with Skill Tree the company wanted to reach out to them on a deeper level.
That is why a special Player's Diary was created. It is a survey that was conducted among selected players through the week in which Skill Tree was first released. Also, one-to-one video calls were scheduled with them to ask about their experience, impressions, and suggestions.
And what was the feedback? At first, Fishing Clash players approached the new feature with distance, but after a while, the team started receiving information that they miss it on other fisheries.
Eliza Chyży concludes: “In-depth qualitative research for Skill Tree was a new way of gathering feedback for us. Trying out new solutions and ‘daring to explore’ is an important element of our company's culture, and going a step further from our usual data analysis was done to deliver best value to players.”
The way ahead
The feature was released in February 2021. Skill Tree was conceived as something fresh and new – a new layer in the game and a solution for player retention. It gives players the possibility of breaking their records, which in Fishing Clash would be catching the fish with the highest score.
Skill Tree's future development lies in adding dedicated Skill Trees to each fishery, which will bring the players many happy catches. Another hook, line and sinker success for Ten Square Games? Only time will tell.