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PGC Digital: Adding "real multiplayer" to hypercasual games

Photon Engine head of growth Mark Val shares hypercasual multiplayer tips and tricks
PGC Digital: Adding

Speaking at Pocket Gamer Connects Digital NEXT, Photon Engine head of growth Mark Val discussed the journey of developing a hypercasual multiplayer game.

Val brought us back to the "origin" of hypercasual games, citing Don Nguyen’s Flappy Bird as the earliest hypercasual game.

Commenting on meeting Nguyen, Val said: "His goal was to create a game that puts a smile on faces and that everyone enjoyed but at the same time its super easy to play”.

Val said that Nguyen’s vision for Flappy Bird was that someone could play on a bus with one hand on the rail and the other hand free to play the game.

Next up, Val discussed the starting point of hypercasual multiplayer games, such as or was the second most searched game of 2015 and was the most search game in 2016.

Val explains that due to the unprecedented success of these two games many '.io' were released. However, the issue with these games is that the majority of the games were "fake" multiplayer games and used bots instead of any real players whatsoever.

“Your goal is to bring the players together, either physically, virtually, or through a metaverse”
Mark Val

Val detailed that often studios find that the process of making a hypercasual multiplayer title is either too expensive to operate, too time consuming or would not work on phones worldwide.

.io madness

Val then reflected on the history of Photon Engine and how within its 15 year history it had never developed a game.

Photon Engine wanted to experiment to see how they could make a visually great hypercasual multiplayer game on mobile, tackling the issues they frequently hear.

Within six weeks, through a collaboration with Kitka Games, Photon Engine created Stumble Guys.

Since its launch, with no spend on user acquisition Stumble Guys has reached 800,000 DAUs and only takes one per cent of revenue to operate.

Val stated that the majority of Stumble Guys users are from areas that have bad latency but the game still plays well in those regions, and that it is entirely possible for others to do the same.


Val then detailed some of the steps developers should take when developing a hypercasual multiplayer title.

Firstly, developers should give the ability to play with friends to players as opposed to random matchmaking. Alongside this option, there should be voice chats and lobbies to facilitate this interaction.

"Your goal is to bring the players together, either physically, virtually, or through a metaverse, but the point is to bring them together," said Val.

"Operations of agglomeration create value as players have an intrinsic value regarding the game that everyone is equal and can talk to each other. Typically, 80 per cent of players are within 20 per cent of the space."

By utilising multiple hubs, multiple modes and creating a community around the game, players will be attracted to it as "groups attract players"

“Typically, 80% of players are within 20% of the space”
Mark Val

However, players must also have the option to report others as players that are "trolling" can ruin the experience for the rest of the players.

Despite the issue of bots mentioned earlier, Val advocated the use of bots as part of the onboarding process. For example, when players start playing a game bots can be used in training or players can play against bots in co-op sessions.

Bots can also be used to replace players that drop out due to a poor connection or help fill rooms that do not get filled.

Developers must also take measures to make sure there is correct in-game balancing, meaning that teams are even or that spawn rates are managed properly.

Val concluded that a crucial stage that is often overlooked is preventing cheaters and hackers. Val offered several techniques against cheating, such as DDoS protection, server side monitoring, full server authority and deterministic simulation; especially if the game is popular.

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