Achievements are a staple of gaming these days. Since Microsoft popularized the concept with the XBox 360, most gaming platforms have a centralized achievement bank. Even mobile games – Apple’s GameCenter launched with achievements in 2010 (though not the first achievement platform on iOS), and Google announced Google Play Games in May 2013.
Achievements can bring a whole different angle of entertainment to a game, and add to its longevity. But only if your achievements aren’t terrible. Steve Bromley’s Games User Research blog lists 5 achievement sins, though I’m only going to talk about one type – when achievements are so epic, they jump the shark. I have three examples of iOS-translated board games that have achievements geared toward serious players only.
Madden NFL 13 Social is a freemium title for iOS and Facebook that is some combination of the offensive side of the Madden NFL series and a collectible card game. But to be honest, I never really got far enough into the game to find out because of how ridiculous it begins.
Being a Madden game from EA that is free, there’s a certain expectation that advertisements and in-app-purchases will be plentiful, which is definitely true. True story, here’s the first thing that greeted me when I opened Madden NFL 13 Social for the very first time:
The draw of portable gaming is simple – life doesn’t always make it easy to be tied down to a TV (or your computer) for a full-on gaming experience. Sometimes, you get stuck in the car for four hours and need to play a little Pokemon to relax. Mobile gaming makes it even easier with no lack of quality time-fillers that are already in your pocket.
For many situations, portable gaming means a need either for headphones or for an experience without sound at all. It would, after all, be irritating if everybody in the line at Subway was playing Angry Birds with the sound cranked up on their phone. So most respectful people (that don’t have headphones handy) will switch their phone to silent mode. The problem comes in when disrespectful games choose to ignore this, and play sounds anyway. Like Madden 11 HD for iPad.
Asynchronous (or online turn-based) multiplayer games let gamers play at their own pace. Maybe the classic example of this is Words With Friends – you play a word, send it to your friend, and wait for their response. These games take advantage of mobile users’ ability to play anywhere, for filling in those tiny slices of time that might otherwise be wasted. Not to mention, a group of people can play together despite never being in the same room or even the same time zone.
Tutorials for mobile games have a difficult problem to solve. With console games, it’s likely that gamers will be in front of a TV, can hear the game’s audio, and be generally attentive. But mobile games could be played nearly anywhere, while the device is muted, maybe for just 60 seconds at a time, and maybe only occupying 50% of the users’ attention span.
So, tutorials in mobile games must be as flexible as mobile phones are. While games like Quento are simple enough to barely need a tutorial, not all games can get away with that. Lost Cities for iOS (iTunes link) offers the most flexible tutorial I’ve ever seen in a mobile game – there are no less than four different ways for players to get the rules of this game when they fire it up for the first time.