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  1. #1
    Senior Member ShrapnelFox's Avatar
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    Post Business Analysis Case - A Rewarding Campaign Design

    In frequenting the forums I have seen many individuals devoted to supporting Shadow Era and the community. After enjoying the Shadow Era product for years and supporting it via KickStarter, I thought I’d give a little back to Wulven via my skill set. As a software application business analyst, I’ve written (during my commuting) a business analysis case on the proposed campaign feature and the gaming industry methodology behind the key components of such development.
    I provide examples not as suggestions, but to illustrate how the methods would be reflected within the Shadow Era product.

    Any feedback from Wulven and team, in regards to this analysis is very much encouraged.
    If Wulven & team would like to further discuss an area of the product in confidence, you’re welcome to PM me.

    Constructive ideas and input are welcome from everyone.


    Business Analysis Case - A Rewarding Campaign Design


    There are key aspects to a well-designed ‘campaign’ in the gaming industry. Failing in these crucial areas will result in a product that is not well received by the end users. These components are:
    - Difficulty
    - Variable gameplay
    - Duration
    - Reward
    - *Story Line



    Difficulty
    The difficulty of a game is vital to the end users enjoyment and can be a difficult balance to achieve. The game needs to be able to cater to a range of audiences from first time players to long playing veterans. Starting too difficult will likely discourage new players. They may perceive the game as too difficult and that it’s a ‘pay to play’ model. At the other end of the spectrum being too easy will have the experienced players bored and the lack of challenge will be unsatisfying. A common solution to this in the gaming industry is a ‘difficulty setting’, enabling players to determine how challenging the campaign will be.

    SE Application:

    The Shadow Era TCG is an incredibly easy model to incorporate a varying difficulty system.
    Example of incorporating difficulty levels into the SE campaign:
    Normal: Standard campaign
    Hard:
    - Opponent Hero starts with additional health (E.g. +10)
    - Player Hero starts with reduced health (E.g. -10)
    - Opponent starts with additional resources (E.g. 2+)
    - Opponent starts with additional shadow energy (E.g. 4+)
    - Opponent starts with a specific card already in play
    - Opponent starts with a 'pre-defined' initial hand
    - Opponent allies have +1 health \ +1 Attack
    - Opponent has access to better cards/ better constructed deck
    - Opponent has “special campaign only cards” (I.e. 3 cost, generate an additional +1 SE at the end of your turn)
    - Your Hero starts Ablaze or Poisoned
    - Smarter AI

    Of course this allows for many levels of difficulty, including easier levels which would be the inverse to the Hard examples above. The varying difficulties also extend the duration of the campaign as many players will complete the campaign at the different difficulty settings. This can be further encouraged by providing a unique reward, at the completion of each difficulty setting. (Ideal examples of this would be an alternate art, or sleeve that’s exclusive to completing each particular difficulty level)

    Variable gameplay

    Essential to any game is variables within gameplay to break up the repetitive nature and keep the player interested. This is frequently achieved by adding new variables which pose a challenge to the player. An example of this would be the very popular, yet highly repetitive game of “Candy Crush Saga”. It adds the variable in the form of new “bricks” that require specific circumstances to remove, and thus adds a further layer of complexity and a new challenge to the player.

    SE Application

    Shadow Era is a reasonably complex game with many factors and variables to consider, particularly when playing quick matches and meltdowns. The campaign model however will be reliant on the AI which is currently predictable and “stupid”, providing limited challenge with matches that can be “repetitive” in nature. (There is current development towards a smarter and more robust AI which will be an excellent component of the campaign)

    A hypothetical example of ‘absolute minimal variation’ in a SE campaign would be a linear flow of versing each opposing hero in a standard match. Much like versing the AI now, only having no choice of who your opponent is, or what hero you play.

    Variation in gameplay within the SE campaign could be achieved by:
    - Introduction of NEW ‘campaign specific cards’ throughout the campaign (Already announced by Wulven as an inclusion)
    - Unique Scenarios rather than a standard match up (I.e. opponent starts with allies on the board, or that your Hero is ablaze, with a corresponding explanation in the campaign story – you’ve been ambushed etc.)
    - Introduction of new card concepts (I.e. Single use card campaign only cards – as already announced by Wulven for inclusion)
    - Varying AI “personalities’ for the same hero. (The same hero will behave differently in the different ‘levels/missions/stages’. I.e. May play aggressive, board control, mill, etc.) This will avoid ‘predictable’ AI and the player must learn the behaviour of his opponent for the particular level.

    Duration

    The duration is how many hours it takes to complete the campaign in its entirety. A surprising portion of new players will have no interest in playing “player versus player” gaming (Quick Match and Meltdown) and will instinctively gravitate towards ‘single player’ activity. (Especially those who have stumbled upon the game and are not familiar with TCG’s) Currently the game doesn’t accommodate such players, with the very limited single player options available. A portion of ‘casual gamers’ will play a game until they’ve completed the ‘single player’ mode and move onto the next game.

    In regards to a new player first experiencing the product; the campaign needs to initially impress, tutor and then challenge the player. They should be thinking “just one more level” when they need to be going to bed and have them coming back the next day. Humans are habitual and establishing a daily visit to the product is a proven method of establishing a long term player. Long term players are more likely to invest financially (via Shadow Crystals) then an individual who downloads and (in their views) completes the game in a week.

    You can spend months of developers time, creating the most amazing campaign, however if it can be completed in 6 hours by a player – it will likely have a poor return rate to the company and thus hasn’t been a feasible investment.
    For this reason many games incorporate tactics for extending the gameplay duration. The business approach is to ‘build layers upon the base product’ which is substantially less ‘resource intensive’ then extending the base product. To illustrate this in a basic example: it’s more feasible to be able to play with 3 different characters/heroes through 10 levels, in comparison to building 30 different levels to produce the same duration of entertainment.

    Gameplay duration is vital, to keep the customers active with your product and strategies to maximize entertainment value with little programming has been seen throughout the history of the gaming industry from:
    - The early “Space Invader” games utilizing different difficulties
    - “Open world games” such as “Grand Theft Auto” that are non-linear and allow exploring
    - Different playable characters/heroes which alter your gameplay as used in “WOW”, “Diablo”, “Borderlands”, etc.
    - High volume of playable levels with slight variations based on the game foundations as seen in many mobile apps such as “Angry Birds” and “Candy Crush Saga”.

    SE Application:
    Shadow era is a perfect candidate for many of the standard methods for extending gameplay entertainment, without compromising the product quality or over extending on the developer resources required:

    - Option of completing the campaigns at different levels of difficulty.

    See Difficulty section for a detailed breakdown

    - Ability to play each campaign using every hero.

    I understand LORE and story line is a commodity of Shadow Era. So you have a golden opportunity to effectively combine LORE, extended gameplay duration and reward.

    For Example: You must complete the “Rise of Rain campaign” initially with Amber Rain.
    On completion of the campaign using Amber Rain it unlocks all Human Heroes.
    On completion of the campaign using every Human Hero, it unlocks all Shadow Heroes.
    This way the LORE based story can be unveiled with the initial hero, and replay value utilizing the other heroes is considered a bonus.
    NOTE: The key is to encourage the behaviour of completing the campaign with all heroes - is with rewards. (Unlocking is also a reward in itself)


    - A substantial amount of levels before the campaign in completed.

    For example: A 10 level campaign would be unsatisfying. (Players who have waited for this feature will feel cheated at the apparent lack of effort invested) Worsening the situation would be the unfortunate perception that it would be another 12 months wait for just another ’10 levels’.
    In contrast 150 level campaign would overwhelm a player, potentially having them question if there is actually an end!

    The quantity of levels is a double edged sword and you must find your own balance. The key ingredient is maintaining the entertainment value and not having the player feel they are ‘doing the motions’ when they start each new level.
    Last edited by ShrapnelFox; 05-31-2014 at 05:22 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member ShrapnelFox's Avatar
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    Reward

    Why does anyone play and continue playing games? The answer = Dopamine. It’s a neurotransmitter released in the brain which says ‘this has been a positive experience and we need to do this again!’ It’s the same chemical that’s released in the brain that gamblers and addicts all crave. When you enjoy yourself, your brain is actively rewiring your decision making so it gets its next dopamine hit.
    A game MUST be psychologically rewarding to the player or they will cease playing.

    People feed billions of dollars into “gaming machines” every year. The game of a few reels spinning isn’t very imaginative, and it’s highly repetitive so why would people keep coming back? It’s all because of the dopamine reward they get with every little ‘win’ and the hope of a ‘big win’.

    A proven method of keeping people “addicted”, to computer games are the embedded reward systems. A player will be psychologically rewarded when they complete a difficult level, which they’ve had to work for. So designing a game with the right amount of difficulty is the base reward system used by all games. The next step seen more frequently in modern games is “Achievements”, (I.e. Shoot 2 squirrels in a single hunt – *reward*) which add another layer of player reward. This is also an effective tool at extending gameplay duration, as player attempts to complete the ‘achievements’ after finishing the base product of the game. Taking advantage of humans nature for getting into repetitive habits, and the availability of gaming on mobile platforms, has also introduced the rise of ‘daily rewards’ systems. A brilliant tactic that achieves 3 things in 1, with minimal development required:
    - Reinforces the habit of accessing the game every day and this establishes a daily ritual.
    - Psychologically rewards the player
    - As the player regularly launches the game, they are more likely to remain an active player
    So effectively the end user subconsciously links logging into game with a release of ‘happy’ chemicals in the brain.


    SE Application

    Reward systems are a basic fundamental in every game, with providing the player satisfaction and enjoyment. As Shadow Era is effectively supported across multiple platforms, they’ve made themselves available to the millions of casual gamers around the world using mobile platforms. As such they have the opportunity to ‘hook’ these casual players ‘trying’ the game and this is done utilizing reward systems.

    Examples of potential reward systems that could be implemented into the Shadow Era product:

    Daily Rewards – Reward the player for logging in each (I.e. with day with a card)
    {This has been implemented in the last update by Wulven}

    Achievements – Player receives a reward (gold, Shadow crystals, card etc) when completing an “achievement” throughout the accumulated duration of their gameplay. It’s important that this ‘reward’ doesn’t just sneak in (this defeats the purpose), but the player is made clearly aware they’ve accomplished an achievement. The art of utilizing achievements well is that they must be received by the player throughout the duration of gameplay. The standard model is:

    Targeting brand new player’s: As with a puppy or child, you reward good behaviours, such as playing Shadow Era, and get their dopamine pumping!
    Examples:
    - Win your first QM = Reward!
    - Purchase your first card = Reward!
    - Complete the first level of a campaign = Reward!

    Long term achievements: Will be received by playing the game for an extended duration. These are typically received from day 1 to potentially years down the track.
    Examples:
    - Log in 14 days consecutively = Reward!
    - Have earned 30,000 gold in quick matches = Reward!
    - Victory in 400 QM battles = Reward!
    - 10 match win streak in QM = Reward!
    - Defeat in 2000 QM battles = Reward!
    - Killed 500 opposing allies = Reward!
    - Inflicted 50,000 points of damage to heroes and allies = Reward!
    - Completed campaign #1 with all heroes = Reward!

    Challenging achievements: These are tasks that players will deliberately set out to accomplish and may not typically accomplish through standard game play.
    Examples: (Only for in non-custom QM’s and meltdowns)
    - Get 4 of the same card into play at once = Reward!
    - Reduce a hero’s life to 0 using Bad Santa = Reward!
    - Control an ally with 15+ attack = Reward!
    - 10 victory streak with a Hunter hero = Reward!
    - Kill 10 allies in a single turn = Reward!
    - Win a match in which you’ve played 10 weapons = Reward
    - Empty your deck when starting with 80 cards or more = Reward!
    - Win a match without your hero losing any hit points = Reward!
    - Win a match while your hero has 1 life remaining = Reward!
    - Win a match with 7 cards in your hand = Reward!
    - Win a match without playing a single ally = Reward!
    - Win a match with a deck that has no 3 cost or 4 cost cards = Reward!
    - Reduce opponent heroes health to 0 using “Frying Pan” = Reward!

    Re-occurring Achievements: These are very similar to “Challenging achievements” however can be completed more than once after a time interval. Each player receives a different ‘re-occurring Achievements’ sourced from a predefined pool.
    Examples of such setups of this include:

    “Time duration” – Achievement is available for a limited time frame (I.e. 3 days) before being replaced by a different achievement. The achievement can only be completed once within this duration; however the same achievement may be made available again in the future.
    “Perpetual” - A player has access to set number (I.e. 3) of ‘re-occurring accomplishments’. When one of these accomplishments is achieved, it is replaced by another.

    Examples of Re-occuring achievements: (Only for in non-custom QM’s and meltdowns)
    - Win 3 matches with Logan Stonebreaker or Raikka Spellseeker = Reward!
    - Win 5 matches using any Priest Hero = Reward!
    - Win a meltdown match = Reward! (If “perpetual” method is used this form of funnelling may result in criticism)
    - Win 2 matches in which you’ve played the card “Darkened Heart” twice in = Reward!
    - Win 2 matches in which you’ve activated the card “Scythe of Fate” at least 3 times = Reward!
    - Win 2 matches using Amber Rain, without having “Jewellers Dream” or “Blood frenzy” in your deck = Reward!
    - Complete 3 levels of campaign #1.

    You can see this would be a particularly advantageous strategy to Shadow Era, in promoting diversified use of heroes and decks within Quick Matches and funnelling players into particular areas of the game. It also becomes a powerful development tool, by utilizing the players to balance-test Hero’s and particular cards that are infrequently used.


    Remembering that Shadow Era is a product and Wulven in a business, reward systems are essential but need to be delicately balanced.
    - Plentiful small rewards are idyllic at ‘hooking’ new players and maintaining active long term players.
    - Excessive rewarding (especially with Shadow Crystals) will detract from the profitability.
    (Great to hand out enough at the start, so new players can experience buying a “booster” or 2, but there is need to quickly be conservative)


    *Story Line

    Although this may seem odd, a great story line is not an essential factor to all games. The story line from the original “Super Mario Brother 1, 2 & 3” was not ‘award winning’ yet the game as a whole was. On the other hand it was the story line of ‘Portal’ which is responsible for its cult following. The key to a successful story line is to be creative yet keep the concepts simple and NEVER expect the player to read paragraphs of story… because 90% won’t and thus 90% won’t be engaged with the associated story. Summarizing the story in a few lines of text (especially if there’s loading) greatly increases the chances of the end user reading it and following the story line throughout the campaign.

    SE Application

    The LORE of Shadow Era is extensive and there should be no issue in tailoring a great story to coincide with a campaign. Remembering to keep in mind that slabs of text will be unread by the majority and if such occurs, will disconnect the player from the storyline when they skip it. The method of delivering the story to the end user is as limitless as the visual designing of tracking the movement through the campaign itself:

    A few unimaginative examples:
    - Short concise blurb before each battle
    - A visual comic style approach before battle
    - “Slide show” style of images and corresponding text






    I hope you’ve found this analysis insightful and potentially sparked new manners of thinking.

    A great product is built on solid fundamentals and brought to life with imagination.
    Last edited by ShrapnelFox; 05-31-2014 at 05:23 AM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member udy's Avatar
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    man.. what a great wall of text
    ill bookmark it for now
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  4. #4
    DP Visionary Geckt's Avatar
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    noted, will have to make time to read it.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member Pat Jay's Avatar
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    Wow awesome work.

    I like the idea of achievements

    Especially, if they encourage players to buy new cards ... a win for wulven and a win for the player

  6. #6
    Senior Member indastria's Avatar
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    +1
    IGN: 17 indastria
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Veles's Avatar
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    Excellent work fox

    Design Team Leader

    Check out this thread for some awesome articles and guides.

    “Let the future tell the truth, and evaluate each one according to his work and accomplishments. The present is theirs; the future, for which I have really worked, is mine”
    ― Nikola Tesla




  8. #8
    Senior Member gamerhellborn's Avatar
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    nice post liked storyline, campaign and reward views

  9. #9
    Member Syphon's Avatar
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    Great post Fox! A lot of solid concepts.

    A campaign (when finally implemented) needs to be robust and engaging and hold enough challenges for both Novice and Veteran players alike. It also needs longevity and replayability to maintain the interest of the player base. Especially for those players who hold no interest in engaging in the PvP elements of Shadow Era and whose only interaction with the game may be through its Campaign and Story modes.

    An achievement system is something I would particularly love to see implemented by the developers. Achievements are psychologically powerful additives and rewards (of any type) are a strong way to build overall user experience and involvement.

    Let's hope we get to see some of this find it's way into the game in the not too distant future.
    "When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of its momentum.
    When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing."

    - Sun Tzu

    Proud Member of ETC

  10. #10
    Senior Member Lightning Fury's Avatar
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    Cool article! Definitely a +1
    “Let the wilds temper you, and if you weather it, in time the prodigal will return, a viper to his master’s bosom. Pawn takes king.”

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