Great Moments in F2P: Improving Game Design

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Kevin Ford

May 7th, 2013

I love medieval and renaissance themed entertainment so when I came across Knight Storm for iOS, you bet I downloaded the game! I’ve been playing for a few weeks now and think some aspects, such as the game design, are really well done. However, like all games, I think there’s some room for improvement as well.

In this edition of Great Moments in F2P, I will break down what the developers did right and what they did wrong.

What they did right:

Graphics

Knight Storm looks amazing. At first launch, my character rode his horse out of the castle, the title appeared, and then the horse stood up in front of an amazing castle. I was ready for an epic adventure! The horses look realistic and they were animated beautifully. I was pretty amazed but remembered that MunkyFun is also the developer of My Horse so it made sense, but it doesn’t discredit their ability to make beautiful graphics.

free-to-play-design

Also unhorsing my opponent feels very satisfying due to the visuals. I love the slow motion camera, his lance exploding into splinters and watching your opponent flip end-over-end off his horse.

Blending game mechanics

I’m a big fan of breaking up tedious tasks and single style game mechanics with various other mechanics. In Knight Storm, players not only joust and battle but they also have a Castle that acts like a home base that generates coins, experience, and potions for the player. One can also upgrade their equipment to get more sigils from the castle.

Game-Mechanics

Humorous dialog

I am the minority of players that actually read the in game text. With that said, I enjoyed the bits of humor that the developers Knight Storm threw in. Instead of using “next” or “ok” buttons, they used humorous options that are specific to the game.

Humorous-dialog-F2P

They also wrote the dialog options as if they were the character’s thoughts.

Game-Characters

Game-Character-Thoughts

There were even a couple parts where I actually laughed out loud! Unfortunately I didn’t to grab screenshots during those moments so you’ll have to try out the game.

Upgrading makes you feel badass

When I upgrade a piece of armor or weaponry it really changes! You might not think this is a big deal but so many games just change the color or give the equipment a better stat. I want to SEE the different item as well as the upgraded stats. Players need visual changes in order for them to feel like anything has changed. Some games can get away with minor changes on smaller upgrades but if you’re asking someone to pay premium currency then the item, equipment, or weapon better look visually stunning.

Look at the starter gear on the left hand side. It’s standard, middle-of-the-road equipment, just as you would expect. When you upgrade your equipment, you start to look like the images in the middle and on the right.

Game-Character-Progression

Adding a chance mechanic to battles

I like their addition of sigils to combat. It’s basically a game of rock, paper, scissors for bonus damage. This adds an element of chance to the battle without completely screwing the player if they don’t make the right decision.
rock-paper-scissors1

I always advise developers to have an element of chance in their games if it’s going to be a more casual game or if they want mass market appeal. Some people love strategy, but even more love an element of chance. Take board games for example, Settlers of Catan has been one of the best selling modern board games. My wife doesn’t like to play me in competitive strategy games and doesn’t even enjoy medieval or renaissance themed games, but she will play Catan with me because no matter how well I strategize, the dice can make or break the game. It is one of the most brilliant chance/strategy combinations.

Multiplayer

Almost all games should have some multiplayer aspect and Knight Storm does too. Players can joust against each other for glory points which determines your leaderboard ranking. In addition to glory points, players can also earn fragments which are used to forge sigils at your castle. This gives players an additional benefit to the single player game for taking up your lance against other players.

What could be improved:

Balancing potions

As you can see from the screenshot below, I have over 300 units of each potion. I could play for hours with that much potion. Now I realize why there are potions and I think it’s great to allow players to create potions so they can continue playing but I wouldn’t allow players to stockpile so much. There needs to be a better balance between potion creation and consumption.

Balancing-Virtual-Goods
Also, having this many health or stamina potions makes their “Potion of Revival” pointless. Why would I ever drop 5 gems on the “Potion of Revival” when I can just forfeit back to the map screen, drink a bunch of health/stamina potions and try again?
F2P-Currency

Lack of customization

I love that I have a castle, I love the armor and weapon models but I wish I could customize them! Having a little more control over what is happening and where in my castle is would make me feel more attached to it. Same goes with my jouster. I would like to customize his armor, banner, color, something! I can upgrade the character which is nice, but it would be awesome if I could design a crest for him or choose armor customization options from a predesigned list.

Repetitive and a little time consuming

I mentioned earlier that unhorsing your opponent feels satisfying but after 10 jousting battles, the slow motion and body flailing becomes a little tedious and time consuming to watch. I would appreciate a fast forward button, at the very least.

Also during every joust battle, players need to move their lance to the left and down. It’s always to the left and down. It would’ve been nice to make the lance harder to aim to give battles more of a challenge. I have never missed or been outside of the red + sign during a joust. Perhaps the lance would bob up and down with your horse’s strides, maybe don’t have the game go into slow motion or perhaps your character’s aim gets better as you level?

Awards for glory points

I like the addition of multiplayer but I wish there was something more I could earn with the glory points. Perhaps after X amount of glory points players would get a gem, could earn aesthetic items like banners or streamers to hang from their lance? It would give players more incentive to battle online beyond leaderboard position. Players’ interest in global leaderboards will diminish over time as the leaders further distance themselves from the rest of the pack and other players churn.
It would also be cool if MunkyFun hosted some sort of tournament as a reward. Jousting was almost always a tournament event back then, so the context fits perfectly.

Better sense of damage

You can knock off shields and helmets, and I’m sure it technically gives that player/opponent a disadvantage but it’s not as drastic as one might think. If one lost a helmet during a real jousting battle they would be pretty much dead by the next round. If you lost your shield then you’d most likely be unhorsed the next round. However in Knight Storm, when losing a shield or helmet it just places a broken armor icon at the bottom of your stats and doesn’t appear to decrease them.

Game-Design

Sigils with multiple attributes

I talked about the rock, paper, scissors aspect to battles as a nice addition, but players can also get sigils with two attributes. Then it gets confusing which is considered the primary and secondary. Is there a primary and secondary attribute? I’m not even sure. If sigils with multiple attributes are used in battle then I just have to wait for the game to tell me which wins and I don’t have a concrete answer as to why. Players can also aim at two or three areas on an opponent with these sigils, but I don’t think it matters which target they choose. Does the head deal more damage than the shield or left arm? It would also be nice if certain areas took damage so players would try to target the same area repeatedly.

Knight Storm certainly piqued my interest when I saw it. Both in context and developer. It’s a great example of how games can look, and worth a play. I don’t know if the game has the ability for mass market penetration because of the theme, but a successful game doesn’t always need that. If they just tweak some of the monetization mechanics and increase the difficulty then I think they’d could really boost their metrics. I look forward to seeing how they update this one!

If you’d like to talk more about game design, let the NativeX Games Task Force know. We work with game developers to turn great mobile apps into successful businesses. You can also reach out to me on Twitter.

Kevin Ford

For all resources have them written by Kevin Ford, Marketing Manager

2013-05-07

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