[Translation] Hyper-kazualki and what game designers can learn from them

[Translation] Hyper-kazualki and what game designers can learn from them




Hyper-casual genre captures mobile stor. Someone thinks that he will die soon, but in the near future this will definitely not come true. Only from October 2018 to March 2019 hyper-kazualki loaded more than 771 million times.

What makes a genre so successful and is it possible to borrow something from it? Under the cut translation of the analysis of the features of game design, which make the genre addictive and popular.

Hyper what?


Hyper-casual is the simplest game with addictive gameplay and minimal art, which is usually played only with the help of “tapov” on the screen. They have simple and clear goals - to score more points, clear the levels and so on. Consider that this is a project developed on game jam, but with the best quality of production and meta.

If you (like me) keep up with the weekly App Store updates, then you know that hyper-casual vendors are taking over the store. Due to minimalism and simplicity, developers can spend several months, if not weeks, on development. This is part of a strategy that makes hyper-kazualki successful. The main publishers of hyper-casual games (Ketchapp, Voodoo, Appsolute Games) release at least one game per week. And people love them - hyper kazualki downloaded more than 100 million times in 2018.

Let me already play this thing!


For simplicity, I will use some of the popular games as examples in exploring different areas of the genre.

Let's start with the opening.

Bored, I was flipping through Instagram and discovered Ball Blast - a short 30-second video with the main features made me download the game. The video showed how easy it is to play and win. I started almost instantly - the small size of the game is very important for a hypermarket-kazualok.


An example of a commercial from social networks

Now about how most users discover these games. Hyper-kazualki strongly depend on the campaigns to attract users (User Acquisition) in social networks. If someone is browsing social networks, then he probably just bored. The user is looking for ways to entertain themselves, and it is here that these hyper-kazualki act as a “knight in shining armor”.

The idea is to quickly explain to a potential player that the game is fun and can be started instantly. It is also likely that they are sitting on a smartphone, and no one likes to download gigabytes (even through good Wi-Fi). From here - you need a small file size.

Well, the player has loaded the game and is ready to start. Now what? This brings us to the next topic - onboarding.

The player takes about 7 seconds to decide how fun the game is and whether to leave it. Such a short period of time means that a long tutorial and a multi-screen UI are not needed.

Ball Blast follows these rules. As soon as you start the game, you will see a screen with the inscription swipe to shoot - and this is the only tutorial that you will see. Touching the screen, the gun starts to shoot.



You start to shoot and realize that you can move the gun horizontally. When your brain gets used to the mechanics of “shoot and move,” several numbered balls will appear on the screen. You blow them, they give coins, and large balls break up into smaller ones. Just, huh?

The same applies to the Ketchapp Stack game, which is immediately loaded on the game screen - you just need to touch.You will immediately see how the square moves, and that when pressed, it falls on a pile of squares below, and any protruding part is cut off. Because of simple mechanics, tutorials are not needed - the player learns from failures and improves his results. The gameplay is easy to learn - just look.



Login and Logout


You know how easy and fast you can start playing a hyper-casual game. Take out your smartphone, unlock, click on the game icon, and after a couple of seconds you are playing.

This is what the brain wants when it is deadly bored. I play a session, a couple of times I fey, set a record and collect awards. This is a short feedback loop. Successful or unsuccessful actions are reported instantly. In combination with upgrades (which we will talk about later), you will have a positive feedback - fascinating and at the same time short.


Short feedback loop - the player improves his skills if he loses

If you made a game with catchy gameplay and players liked it, know that this is probably the only thing they care about. Ball Blast lets me into the game immediately, as soon as I start the game, because she understands my needs - instant pleasure. No user interface transitions, cut scenes and texts. Even if I enter the game in a week, I know how to interact with it, thanks to the simplest mechanics. Logging in and out of a game session is another important aspect that helps to achieve success. During breaks, I play hyper-kazualki - they do not require much time and deep immersion.

Give me all the power


Core-gameplay is what keeps the player. It is simple, addictive and a desire to return to the game. What fun in multiple shooting at Ball Blast? When I first saw the advertisement, I thought: “Okay, this is fun, but will it be fun in a couple of days?”. Answer: "Yes, it will, and still fun." We are approaching another key point - upgrades.

In Ball Blast from destroyed balls you get gems and coins - a kind of "soft". The first are needed to buy cosmetics and do not greatly affect the gameplay, but the latter are used to upgrade the gun. There are four types of improvements:

  1. Fire Speed: increases shooting speed.
  2. Fire Power: increases damage.
  3. Coins Drop: increases the value and number of falling coins.
  4. Offline Earnings: increases the number of coins earned in the background.

They all work in synergy to increase your power in the game. For example, the update Coins Drop allows you to collect more coins in one session, which makes it easier to level the cannon - a weapon upgrade is something that makes you feel powerful. This is what makes the feedback special - the player feels strong after each game session. And since the player always wants more, he plays more often, feeds coins and buys upgrades.



The levels are well balanced to maintain this cycle: there are those where you can fully demonstrate your strength, and there are others where the current power is not enough and you have to be pumped.

Another game that is made on the same principle - Mr. Gun from Ketchapp. You destroy opponents, get coins, and use them to buy new, more powerful weapons. You will quickly be given a premium-class pistol - this is how the game will explain the upgrades in the form of new weapons and their benefits.

I will take the opportunity to compare this type of hyper-kazualok with danz-kroulerami. If you played Diablo or any other dungeon, you will understand. You have the first equipment and weak enemies of the first level, who die from several blows.As you progress through the loot becomes steeper, and the enemies are already dying from a single blow - you feel the power. But then you get to a new location and get acquainted with opponents of the second level. Immediately you realize that your powerful equipment is not so powerful. You want to dominate again - and the cycle repeats.

Ball Blast works in the same way, but instead of pumping weapons instead of new equipment. And the balance and pace of the levels constantly support the need for improvements.

What if there is no improvement?


Upgrades are cool, but what about games that don't have them? This is a good question.

You know about the game, where you need to set records among friends - these games rely on a special kind of improvements. Take Stack as an example, which was mentioned above. The player has nothing to upgrade, but the more he plays, the better he gets - he improves his skills. It motivates to play further. And if you make him compete with friends, then everything will become more personal and competitive - another reason to return to the game.

These implicit upgrades allow the player to feel smart or strong and give a sense of progress. The same applies to hyper-casual puzzles, where the player feels smart, solving more and more puzzles that become more difficult over time.



Now there are a lot of hyper-kazualok that rely on separate levels, and not on the endless gameplay. Each level has something unique with new challenges for the player that generate curiosity and a desire to continue. This is also a great way to convey the progression.

The Secret Ingredient


So far, we have been talking about how hyper-casuals attract players with the help of advertising on social networks, retain, attract with simple, but addictive mechanics. It's all? No.

Magic and invisible to the naked eye element - satisfaction (Gratification).

To better understand the term in terms of game design, it can be defined as a form of visual/audio/emotional feedback that a player receives after performing any action in the game. And this connection makes the action joyful and meaningful.

Here are some examples:

Noticed how responsive the Super Meat Boy character is? When you press the jump button, the character smoothly goes into an arc, taking into account the inertia (if any), and is accompanied by a perfectly synchronized animation. Making this perfect jump over an obstacle or a cliff, you feel satisfaction. Since the game requires fast and precise movements from the player, the whole game system was designed to please the user.



Housemarque's Nex Machina - when a bullet hits the enemy, you get confirmation of a successful hit through a thin white flash over an enemy who dies with a big bang of cubes and accompanied by suitable sound effects. Killing one opponent already gives a feeling of satisfaction and euphoria, and now imagine the destruction of the boss. Various weapons, enemies and levels please the player in every moment of the game.



Remember Ball Blast? Movement of the gun, which clearly follows the finger, feedback about the shot on the balls and their collapse into smaller ones, the effects of temporary bonuses and upgrades - all these elements work together to provide pleasant feedback throughout the game.

Another great example is Stack Fall (from Voodoo). You control a bouncing ball: it falls and breaks blocks in its path when you touch and hold your finger on the screen. Spray paint, tactile feedback, the destruction of the blocks - these are some of the elements that bring pleasure and enhance the impression.



Regardless of the actions, the player must feel satisfied. Imagine a platformer where the character doesn’t have a touchdown animation after a jump to convey state changes or dust effects on the ground — it would be strange and boring. And this is not limited only to game actions, you can please the user through the UI, using contextual effects and animation. One example is homescapes. After completing their level, a whole multitude appears to underline the victory. Even more pleasant when the level is heavy, and finally it is possible to pass.



A fascinating game cycle in combination with elements to enhance the fun is the majority of factors that are needed to create a fun hyper-casual game.

Conclusion


There was a time when I didn’t approve of hyper-casual games; there were some reasons for that: non-existent art, poor originality, aggressive use of advertising, and so on. He believed that innovative games every week in the App Store are hidden behind a huge stream of hyper-casual games. I am the guy who believes that games are an art form, a new experience, created with polishing and care. Perhaps that is why it will take me years to finish work on my games.

We, as game designers, are proud to develop complex and deep games, but often neglect the simplest ones. Through hyper-kazualki, I paid attention to small details and opened new perspectives when developing games. To sum up the key aspects of the genre:

  • Mechanics that don’t need a tutorial.
  • Player's pleasure derived from his actions.
  • Short feedback loops.
  • Easy entry and exit.
  • A feeling of power/intelligence in the form of a progression.
  • Simple meta to support basic gameplay.

Who knows what awaits us in the future. I don’t know if hyper-casual games will remain, but now you can take a few things from them that will be useful when developing games of other genres.

Source text: [Translation] Hyper-kazualki and what game designers can learn from them