How mobile game developers think about player experience from a technical perspective
Presented by Embrace
Building a mobile game that keeps players engaged and store rankings high is tough. When issues arise, engineers are faced with a multitude of variables: “Was it my code? Was it an ad SDK? Was it a third party?” This VB Spotlight brings together mobile game leaders who share best practices for delivering flawless experiences that players love.
Expectations for mobile games have changed significantly in the past few years, particularly after the big bump in both the number of games and the number of players triggered by the pandemic. The boom in mobile games has had a profound impact on what players want in their games and how mobile game developers approach the gameplay experience, while the influx of new game companies means competition is more fierce than ever. In this market, how do you build a game that has players always coming back for more? It boils down to player expectations.
In this VB Spotlight, Pavlo Prokopov, client software architect at SuperPlay, and Eric Futoran, CEO and co-founder of Embrace and a co-founder of Scopely, dive into all the elements that make or break a player experience, and how engineering teams monitor and address them.
“For us, player experience is a combination of business metrics, technical metrics and player expectations,” Prokopov says. “It’s a question of tradeoffs. We can’t rely only on monetization metrics, because that won’t lead to a good player experience. We can’t create a game that only meets the expectations of players, because it won’t be successful and profitable as a business. We struggle sometimes in this fight between business, technical engineering and player expectations. It’s about finding those tradeoffs between the requirements and technical possibilities.”
The complexity of mobile games makes understanding users difficult
Technical problems not only turn users off, but they can act as a canary in the coal mine, Prokopov adds, highlighting the places where the game needs to be improved, and that takes staying in touch with the business, the market, and the players, decoding that intel, and finding ways to apply it to the development process.
It also means engineers need a way to identify and prioritize which of those issues are the most urgent, Futoran adds.
“When you want to get to the best player experiences and drive the key metrics, how do you get all that information in one place so an engineer can answer the question?” he says. “The most frustrating thing is when you have a problem and you don’t know the priority. You can’t tell what the real impact is on the metrics.”
And when engineers without guidance find themselves working on issues that turn out to be significantly less important, it can create this negative feedback loop between teams.
“[Engineers] work on features endlessly, but they never work on things like technical debt, the platform and the real metrics that drive the game’s performance and make it successful,” Prokopov says. “You don’t focus on what drives impact — which is players paying for things, watching ads, coming back to the game, socializing and inviting their friends.”
The tools that give developers more context about player experience
Once upon a time, developers had to rely primarily on logging to keep track of issues with their application. But logging everything in a mobile game would not only blow up the user experience, it also requires too much instrumentation and time — and then actually solving the issue becomes a journey as well.
“The more time it takes, the less momentum you have, and then engineers get frustrated,” Futoran says. “Often you start living with these errors that kill your most important metrics — LTV and retention.”
None of these legacy tools had a user in mind, he adds.
“You want to have a tool set that thinks of every device as a user,” he says. “What you want is the play-by-play. You want something that sources every session, aggregates the data into the metrics you’re talking about for engineers, and then lets an engineer identify the issue proactively, as opposed to reactively, like logs. You want to be proactive and dig back in.”
For instance, if you see an ANR (app not responding) signal, whether it comes from the Google Play Store or a user complaint, you want to be able to dive directly into that session and examine all the events that led up to the issue in question. Unfortunately, most of the tools available still have a server-side logging mentality. “The app stores like to tell you all of your problems, but they never show you how to solve them,” says Futoran.
“That’s why people grow out of basic dev tools, or they end up with a ton of tools and need to consolidate,” he says. “You can’t have that many. You end up hopscotching between them, without context and without a concept of the user. Then you end up wasting time and not solving your problems in the first place. We all want to solve problems fast, and more importantly, know which problems are actually impacting the user.”
To learn more about defining what a good user experience looks like, the metrics that matter, app platform problems, mobile game tooling recommendations and more, don’t miss this VB Spotlight!
- The latest trends in mobile game tooling, including “experience engineering”
- How user expectations have changed when it comes to mobile games
- What metrics really matter to game devs
- How to go from a reactive to a proactive approach to issue remediation
- Where do existing tools like Firebase fall short in helping engineers know which issues (like ANRs) to address before they affect store rankings
- Eric Futoran, CEO & Co-founder, Embrace
- Pavlo Prokopov, Client Software Architect, SuperPlay
- Jordan Fragen, Writer, GamesBeat
The post How mobile game developers think about player experience from a technical perspective appeared first on Venture Beat.