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Now playing: Rovio's Will Luton on Clash Royale

What games are keeping the industry busy after hours?
Now playing: Rovio's Will Luton on Clash Royale
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Great games aren't created in a vacuum. 

Being successful in the games industry requires a strong understanding of the medium and the market, and playing lots of games is inevitably a part of this.

Given how crucial this can be for insight and inspiration, and just how passionate this industry is, it's about time more people started openly talking about the games they play.

So will be regularly reaching out to key figures in the mobile games industry to ask them what game (other than their own) is currently keeping them busy after hours. You can view all entries here.

This time, it's Rovio Stockholm's newly-appointed Senior Product Manager Will Luton with his playing habits in the spotlight. What mobile game (other than your own) are you currently playing the most?

I just went back to Clash Royale again. I had played it pretty intensively for a month or so at soft launch.

Outside of mobile, I also just picked up Overwatch, which is fantastic - but I'll talk about Clash here.

How long have you been playing it, and do you see yourself continuing?

The reason that I churned in the first place, the harshness of the rating system, still isn't fixed.

“The biggest innovation for me is the energy system, or rather the lack of energy system.”
Will Luton

So I shot through a bunch of arenas destroying opponents, due to balance changes, then hit a brick wall which was pretty disheartening.

What do you enjoy most about it?

I'm a competitive Magic: The Gathering player, so I really like one-on-one zero sum games - especially when those games have elements of chance and skill.

Beating (or losing to) a real human being, rather than an AI or level, is more emotionally evocative than almost any other game experience.

What does this game do that makes it especially unique and innovative?

There's so much and it's often very subtle. However, the biggest innovation for me is the energy system, or rather the lack of energy system.

I've long seen energy systems as rather awkward design and Clash Royale's slots and timed unlocks is very elegant.

The game never stops you from playing, but it does tell if you do continue you'll not see benefit.

That change makes the stop feel less artificial: you aren't paying to break an artificial barrier, you're paying to continue getting the rewards you earned. This is a groundbreaking innovation.

If you could change one thing about the game, what would it be?

Easily the Elo-esque trophies system. Going on a losing streak and dropping trophies feels doubly punishing, especially as the skill and deck power range in the match making at later arenas feels so wide.

“Going on a losing streak and dropping trophies feels doubly punishing.”
Will Luton

However, this trophy system is so deeply woven in to the wider meta system I don't think it could easily be removed, so I'm unsure of a solution.

Perhaps not allowing drops below a certain threshold (i.e. for new players) or freezing the trophy score after a loss makes sense.

Have you learned anything from this game that could impact your own work?

Certainly. I think the mechanics of Clash Royale are the most discussed in any mobile F2P studio across the globe.

I've already applied learnings from the chest mechanics.

More generally, how important is it for those in the industry to actively and regularly play other people's games?

It's essential, although I must confess to not being as active as I'd like.

I have a "to play" folder on my iPhone home screen which has 20+ games, some of which went in about three months ago.

I think this is true of almost every product person in the industry. As a general trend I think it's getting harder and harder to pull players out of their current roster of games and in to something new.

The game has to have a hook.