Aug 022012

It’s hard to keep a sustained interest in many things. I think, often there is a tendency to take a plunge, dive in, drink one’s fill and be happy to say, “Been there, done that.”

There have been a bunch of casual games that became a temporary obsession and once over, not revisited. That’s normal. The trick is to find a casual game that has a sustained ability to engage over a long period of time. I don’t think it is possible to have constant obsessive engagement. One burns out. Again — normal.

So my thinking in terms of designing this experience – this Just Press Play thing, is that when we launch in the Fall, I expect there to be a good amount of activity the first week. Then it will taper off significantly after the third. There will be things going on the remaining seven weeks of the Fall quarter, but only the hard core will play.

Our mistake last year was that we didn’t have anything in our back pocket to make the game shiny and new in the successive quarters. I was responsible for organizing “Flash mobs” – essentially, large group ephemeral experiences, which were great. Those were bright and shiny moments, but as I said, ephemeral. Not quite enough a kick in the eyeballs to get people into the game who weren’t already actively engaged.

This is a design problem.

We have a population that do have a sustained interest in playing games. What comes to mind are things like League of Legends, and World of Warcraft. Multiplayer games where they work cooperatively or competitively have an entirely different dynamic. The only reason I dipped my head into WoW last year was because of the people involved. (Granted, even that was not enough to keep me in the grind.)

I am proposing a solution to this. So we roll out Just Press Play in the Fall. Players get collectible cards for every achievement. When Winter rolls around, we provide an expansion pack of achievements, but also a card game that uses the collectible cards. So we have an added game that uses resources from Just Press Play. My thesis is that we snag a different kind of player with this card game, and reenergize those already invested in the game.

When Spring comes, we switch focus a bit and make room for players to design experiences. Some Quests will have an associated card. (Every achievement has a card, Quests – not yet). Perhaps every JPP created quest will have a card. This is me still thinking this through. But the kicker is this — users should be able to group achievements to create their own quest lines. (Some of those may be vetted and earn the ability to have an attached card). Additionally, depending on the success of the card game, perhaps users suggest cards for that as well.

So the long thinking is that we design the game to be pushed in spurts, understanding that a sustained interest is not possible.

 Posted by at 8:55 am

  4 Responses to “Ebb and Flow”

  1. “Our mistake last year was that we didn’t have anything in our back pocket to make the game shiny and new in the successive quarters.”
    Not true. The problem was that the JPP people never got the scanners working. Staff stopped showing up to the events they were supposed to, so there was no way to get some achievements. It took forever for the achievements that required photos to go through. The website was always breaking. My friends and I had fun with the game until it felt like the people who created it couldn’t care less.

  2. I love the card meta-game idea. It’s very similar to what Kongregate does with Kongai. Earning certain achievements in other games unlocks cards that you can use to play Kongai. It’s a pretty compelling mechanic, and it certainly kept me engaged for a while back in the day.

  3. Disappoint, thanks for the valuable feedback. Kyler you too. Hopefully we won’t disappoint this time around. There were definite flaws with the technology and managing staffing was problematic. We’re scoping down and simplifying the system of validation…I promise another post dedicated to that. disappoint, if those problems are resolved, would you have sustained interest in playing? any suggestions to make the player experience better is gladly accepted.

  4. Yes, Disappoint, thanks for weighing in. We’re definitely trying to address the issues you raise. The validation/scanner topic is actually addressed in the post I wrote last week: — I’d love to know what people think about the changes I outlined there.

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