A quick guide through microtransactions and free-to-play

Although microtransactions and free-to-play look like the flavor of the month, they have been part of the industry for years, garnering enthusiasts and critics alike. Part of the prejudice around this type of monetization comes from many poor implementations and a lot of excessive use.

Microtransactions

However, when the free-to-play approach is well crafted and an inherent part of a game, it can be successful not only for the companies, but also for the players, reaching a broader audience and catering the experience to different needs.

Given that now even Nintendo is experimenting with free-to-play, I thought it was a good moment to bring the Extra Credits team to give a quick guide through the art of microtransactions.

Hearthstone (2014)

Hearthstone (2014)

In this 9-minute video they cover why you should allow non-paying players to earn hard currency, and at the same time, why you should never sell power, but convenience. There other practical tips as well:

  • Make the game more enjoyable.
  • Make paying more palatable.
  • Make the whole experience feel cohesive.
  • Never split your community.
  • Market test your prices.

In summary, always keep your monetization model in mind when building your game.

Here’s the video:

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GameMaker Standard edition for free!

As many of you already know, GameMaker: Studio is a really interesting engine that allows amateur and experienced developers to create their own games without the need of being skilled programmers.

According to its creator YoYo Games, using this software is “80 percent faster than coding for native languages“, enabling people to “create fully functional prototypes in just a few hours, and a full game in just a matter of weeks“.

GameMaker: Studio comes in 4 versions: Free, Standard ($49.99), Professional ($99.99) and Studio Master ($799.99). However, until March 2nd the Standard edition (which includes unlimited resources) is free, and the upgrade to Professional only costs $35. You just need to download the Free version here, and follow the instructions that appear inside.

GameMaker sale

Some people use GameMaker: Studio for creating quick prototypes or trying a rough concept, while others take it one step further and build full-fledged games, ready to be marketed. Either you are curious about game development, need to test a great idea or are ready for start creating your own game, this sale is for you.

If you’re still hesitant, take a look at some of the best games built with GameMaker: Studio:

The illusion of choice

If games have become an insanely popular part of our culture, is in great part due to its interactive possibilities. Unlike movies, games provide the opportunity of choosing … or, better put, the illusion of choosing.

Here’s the great Extra Credits team explaining this key subject as only they can:

A 2014 stealth manifesto

Unlike other genres, stealth games are basically about avoiding alerting enemies. They have been one of my passions since the first time I played Metal Gear on my family’s MSX (around 1990, I think).

Metal Gear (1987)

Technological and game design advances have brought more variety and depth to the genre, adding lights/shadows, lots of tools and greatly improved artificial intelligence. For example, in 2005 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (one of my favorites) incorporated a camouflage system to the franchise, allowing players to adapt their looks to their surroundings.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2005)

Assassin’s Creed II, in turn, let players blend into a group of citizens in order to avoid soldiers.

Assassin’s Creed II (2009)

In 2012, the genre had a solid 2D implementation through Mark of the Ninja, that chose to represent sound alerts visually, emphasizing the need to act quietly.

Mark of the Ninja (2012)

Along the years there have been other remarkable examples, of course, like the Splinter Cell or Deus Ex series, although each game has its own interpretation of the genre.

Probably that’s the reason why the guys behind Sneaky Bastards (a blog about stealth gaming) have tried to go to the core of stealth, writing a manifest “asking whether or not the stealth genre as a standalone concept can even be identified.”. According to their essay, the good things a stealth game should are:

  • Camouflage
  • Hiding
  • Watching
  • Darkness
  • Deception
  • Distraction
  • Voyeurism
  • Subversion
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Reaction

They have an interesting take on the subject, including some interviews and a pretty comprehensive analysis. You can find the full manifesto here.

A good puzzle theory (by Tim Schafer)

On Tuesday, Double Fine launched the first part of Broken Age (its Kickstarter-funded problematic baby), exclusively for its backers, while the rest of the people will have it available on January 28.

Therefore, I thought it was a good moment to remember what Tim Schafer (Double Fine’s honcho and industry rockstar) has to say about what makes an adventure game special.

You don’t have to be physically dexterous to solve an adventure game. You just have to sit there and scratch your head and you can go walk around the block and come back and you know how to solve the puzzle. That’s a different kind of playing experience than other kinds of games.

Tim Schafer explaining his theory to the Cookie Monster

According to Schafer, his “good puzzle theory” includes the following elements:

  • A clear obstacle.
  • A clear motivation.
  • Responses for failed solutions (with hints).
  • Rewards for getting close.
  • An “a-ha” feeling and not a “WTF” feeling after you solve the puzzle.
  • Appreciation of the puzzle in retrospect that makes you want to tell people about it.

On the other hand, the old game interface riddled with verbs has been replaced with inventory items, in order to make the interface more accessible.

You can learn more about his thoughts on puzzles and adventure games (and the pros and cons of Kickstarter) here.