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基于数据设计游戏编辑本段回目录

作者:Aaron Lee

有利的数据。不利的数据。巨大的数据。在今天这个互联时代里,数据已经成为工程,政治等任何领域间非常重要的专业术语。

知道如何使用它,更重要的是知道能够从中获取什么是当代人需要掌握的一项技能。

在我们现在的文化中,追踪和监控的使用变得更加频繁,但却不一定总是受到欢迎。但是如果你在公交车上穿梭于一个忙碌的城市所需行车时间减少了10%情况会是怎样?这与直接从桌上站起并疯狂冲向能够准时到达连接列车的公交车是完全不同的两回事。这正是IBM研究团队在非洲象牙海岸所做的事,即监控手机数据。

数据可能是繁重的,累人的,也可能是让人上瘾的。

当提到游戏时,我们可以在某种程度上追踪各种内容。近来,开发者便在游戏发行前利用遥测技术去报告设计过程。但是对于许多开发者来说,数据收集和分析需要大量的成本和资源,从而会大大降低他们最后所获得的利益。

不管你是在创造社交游戏,手机游戏还是巨大的主机游戏,数据和分析都成为了开发过程中越来越重要的环节,你需要更好地理解它们。

game design-data(from gamasutra)

game design-data(from gamasutra)

数据洪流

分析公司Setgo的联合创始人Clemens Wangerin说道:“我们所接触过的许多开发者都认为投入技能,资源,事件和金钱而从分析中获得可行的信息是件非常困难的事。”

“许多人也拥有自己的优先顺序,就像有些开发者更重视数字世界中游戏的发现理念,而有些开发者则更加重视对于用户的了解。”

我们是在社交领域最先注意到游戏中的数据。像Zynga和PlayFirst等早期采用者都因为有效利用了自己所收集到的数据,并因此做出相关调整而获得更多玩家,且采取更多方法去吸引新用户的注意。现在人们的专注点主要在于手机领域,尽管该领域的发展速度不如人们预期的那般快速。

综合销售与PR代理Dimoso(专营数字,手机和社交游戏)的总监James Kaye说道:“随着手机游戏大规模朝向免费模式发展,分析的使用变得更加重要。但是VisionMobile最近的研究‘2013年的开发者经济’表明,现在只有28%的手机应用开发者在使用分析,这一数值仍然较低。”

Kaye表示手机游戏产业中的分析可以分成两个部分:应用商店(游戏邦注:包括苹果,谷歌,亚马逊等等)以及数据分析者,如提供给开发者数据服务的第三方公司。

Kaye认为那些需要指导的小型手机开发者还未完全意识到数据的巨大潜能。

他说道:“现在我们所面临的最大缺失并不是‘通过数据进行设计’,而是小型和中等手机游戏开发商在引进新功能或创造主要的设计改变时缺少足够的技能去分析并整合数据。”

“尽管许多大型且资深手机发行商拥有技能和诀窍能够基于Flurry Analytics(游戏邦注:一种面向手机应用的免费分析工具)创造‘漏斗’和‘事件’,并从中汲取更多观点,但是小型开发商却仍处于黑暗中。比起分析者和市场营销者,他们想做的只是创造一款出色的游戏。”

确保数据的有效性

在手机领域或其它领域还存在一些开发者并不同意Kaye关于最先创造出乐趣的观点。

Mark Robinson是GamesAnalytics的首席运营官,该公司致力于提供给游戏开发者更有效的工具去帮助他们理解怎样类型的玩家在玩自己的游戏。它提供了像Engage等服务,即能够基于玩家的得分即时提供相关信息给目标群体。换句话说,这便意味着好斗的玩家将获得弹药包,而缺少耐性的玩家将获得助推器。

Robinson表示,这是关于理解玩家的行为并推动游戏体验的个性化。这一服务能够以仪表板图的形式呈献给用户数据,即包括游戏性能,用户留存和盈利率等。

但是为了理解玩家何时以及为什么离开游戏,甚至是他们的购买原因,我们就需要进行深入分析。GamesAnalytics表示那些使用了他们所提供的技术去了解玩家行为的开发者们已经提高了50%至70%的用户留存率,以及20%至30%的收益。

Robinson解释道:“在最近的合作中,我们会通过分析游戏经济去理解死亡竞赛游戏中的奖励是如何影响用户粘性。”

“我们发现拥有较高死亡率的好斗玩家总是更愿意接受奖励;而能够创造更好的结果的资深玩家总是拥有更高的背叛率,奖励系统对于他们来说便没有多大作用。”

“通过面向不同玩家群体去平衡奖励机制,我们便能够有效地提高资深玩家的用户留存,并更持久地通过好斗玩家获得盈利。确保游戏中的刷任务经济与现金经济的相平衡也是分析时需要注意的一大要点。”

Setgo曾推出一款数据分析工具Pingflux,即能让你基于不同环境看清多种事件。对于那些正在使用分析方法的开发者来说,Wangerin认为他们的优势便在于能够在创造出游戏后“聆听”用户的看法。

他说道:“我们总是将它比作舞台上的表演者,即通过笑声和掌声去衡量自己的表演。我认为,任何游戏开发者都会对玩家如何玩自己的游戏感到好奇,即使他们不想要对游戏进行迭代。但是这么做仍能够帮助他们进一步思考下一款游戏的设计。”

在有些公司专注于核心游戏参数的同时,也有些公司,如GameGenetics则更加看重玩家留存。

该公司的游戏总监David Mohr说道:“如今游戏开发者需要重视的本质内容便是想办法提高市场营销组合的效能,从而保障长期稳定的竞争地位。这要求他们彻底理解自己特定的游戏追踪和转换渠道,而这便是GameGenetics所提供的核心服务。”

麻木的后果

游戏综合质量的完善便是数据分析的相关内容。但是对于Zynga等公司的评论却为他们在社交和手机领域留下了‘基于数字去设计游’的名声,指控他们只会不断从消费者身上榨取利益,即使他们的设计具有创造性。

让我们着眼于之后出现的免费手机游戏,即Kaye所说的具有变成“赚钱工具”的危险。

举个例子来说吧,艺电《真实赛车3》的发行实现了从《真实赛车2》的付费模式到免费模式的转变。游戏最初是面向澳大利亚和新西兰市场而发行,即为了测试付费模式是否可行,并且是受到分析的驱动。

但是当游戏面向全世界发行时却收到了许多咒骂,从而让他们领悟到免费模式才能有效地推动游戏的发展。

Real_Racing_3(from develop-online)

Real_Racing_3(from develop-online)

Mohr说道:“当提到实际的游戏内部指标时,这便是合理的。我们总是需要将一些硬数据与游戏创造者的创造性决策相平衡。然而当提到测量市场营销活动等外部影响的成功时,智能分析将成为你的首选。”

但是Wangerin认为这对于判断分析来说太过简单化,并且不一定能够反应产业前沿公司的情况,他说道:“我们可以基于各种不同的方式去使用分析,而不是所谓的‘基于数字进行开发’的方法。我认为那是一种早旧的想法,并不能反应成功的开发者利用这些工具的复杂性。”

“你的基本理念和游戏设计仍然需要具有创造性和乐趣,足以吸引用户的注意。分析并不能帮助你做到这点—-但是如果你能够做好这些,你便可以轻松地‘根据数字进行挑战’,这便意味着你可以有规划地做出改变,而非盲目应对。”

Kaye同意Wangerin的观点:“我能理解这种看法,像《CSR赛车》,《卡通农场》,《部落战争》和《地铁跑酷》这些赚取了巨大利益的免费手机游戏在一开始便具有极高的质量—-不管是从制作价值还是游戏性和设计上来看。它们是带有未知元素的游戏。”

数据收集

物极必反。而当用户正在分化并能够轻松地穿梭于不同平台间时,数据和分析便能够提供给开发者各种信息。

像Supercell和King等公司如今便因为旗下吸引了数百万玩家的游戏而大获其利。他们的成功部分是源于有效的数据收集方法。

Wangerin说道:“对于那些能够将分析和受数据驱动的思维整合到团体中的人,他们便会继续使用群集分析,用户简介和预测分析等方法而创造商业机遇,并明确其它从用户身上获取利益的方法,甚至是在游戏外部。”

对于分析专家来说,紧跟开发者的需求便等于不断适应他们的产品,就像Setgo所坚持的,Wangerin说道:“我们在不久前发布了Pingflux,并在初期取得了不错的成绩,但在当前来看这是一个非常拥挤的领域。对于许多开发者来说,能够免费使用的内容通常都是默认的选择。你必须在一开始明确自己拥有哪些问题,然后努力寻找这些问题的解决方法。”

fotolia(from develop-online)

fotolia(from develop-online)

GameGenetic的Mohr也认为自己的公司能够基于同样的方法帮助开发者:“我们所面临的挑战便是在追踪并完善客户的用户获取活动时该如何教育并支持他们。我们尝试着与客户的系统紧密维系在一起,从而保证实现最大的效率和优化。”

即使该产业变得更具竞争性,最终它也将引导着我们去探索数据和分析是如何用于游戏完善。

就像Robinson做出的总结:“我们的面前存在着各种机遇能够更好地了解玩家。这是一个吸引人的领域,许多其它产业也在想办法拉近与消费者之间的关系。我们很幸运能够使用分析去传达有趣的游戏体验,而如果我们能够从数据中汲取有用的信息,我们便能够更好地完善自己的游戏。”

本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译

Game design by data

by Aaron Lee

Good data. Bad data. Big data. In today’s connected age, data is the buzzword that’s being bandided around from engineering to politics and everything in between.

Knowing how to actually get at it and, more importantly, what you can take from it, is what’s desired.

Tracking and monitoring is something that is becoming more frequent in our culture, and it’s something that isn’t always welcomed. But, what if your journey time across a busy city on public transport could be reduced by ten per cent? That could be the difference between having to make a mad dash straight from your desk to catch the bus that will arrive in time for your connecting train. This is precisely what a team of IBM researchers did in the Ivory Coast by monitoring mobile phone data.

Recognising tangible benefits can dispel reservations about technology invading privacy. Data can be taxing. Data can be tiring. And data it can be outright addictive.

When it comes to games, pretty much anything can be tracked to some degree. Nowadays, telemetry is being used to inform game design long before a game comes out. But for developers, on the face of it, the cost and resource requirements for data collection and analysis appear too heavy for the benefits they could produce.

Whether you are creating social games, mobile games or full-fat console titles, data and analytics are becoming a bigger part of the development process, and they need to be understood.

DATA DELUGE

“So many of the developers that we speak with are finding it very difficult to skill-up and to invest the resources, time and money into really getting to grips with generating and leveraging actionable insights through analytics,” Clemens Wangerin, co-founder of analytics firm Setgo, tells Develop.

“A lot of that stems from the fact that they have other priorities, as many developers are seriously struggling with the notion of discovery for their titles in the digital world much more than they are with understanding their audience.”

Where data first started to get noticed in the games was in social space. Early adopters such as Zynga and Playfish made huge gains thanks to acting on the information they collect, and making incremental adjustments to retain more players as well as adopting mischievous methods of attracting new users. And now the focus is on mobile, though even in this area things aren’t moving as quickly as some would wish.

“As mobile games move heavily towards the freemium model, the use of analytics is becoming more and more important. VisionMobile’s recent study ‘Developer Economics 2013’ found that user analytics are used only by about 28 per cent of developers in mobile apps, which is still pretty low,” says James Kaye, director of Dimoso, an integrated marketing and PR agency that specialises in digital, mobile and social.

Kaye explains that analytics in the mobile games industry can really be split into two halves: the app stores (Apple, Google, Amazon and so on) and the data analysers, the third-party firms that supply data services to developers.

And Kaye believes that where data’s potential is going unused is with smaller mobile developers, who are in need of guidance.

“The biggest disadvantage now is not ‘design by data’ but the fact that small and medium mobile game developers may not have the skills to properly analyse and interpret the data they have in order to introduce new features or make key design changes” he says.

“Whilst many of the large and sophisticated mobile publishers may have the skills and knowhow to create ‘funnels’ and ‘events’ in Flurry Analytics [a popular free-to-use analytics tools for mobile apps] and extract maximum insight, smaller developers are still in the dark. Rather than be analysts and marketers, all they want to do is make a good game.”

MAKING DATA WORK FOR YOU

There are few developers in the mobile space or elsewhere that would disagree with Kaye’s view about wanting to produce the fun before anything else.

Mark Robinson is COO of GamesAnalytics, which aims to provide games developers with better tools to understand the types of players that are playing their game. It offers services such as Engage, which provides intelligent messaging based on scoring players in real-time into treatment groups for targeted messages to be delivered in the game. In other words, this means the aggressive players get the ammo packs, while impatient players gets boosters.

Robinson says it is all about understanding player behaviour and personalising the experience. Its service displays data to users in the form of dashboard diagrams, which show you game performance, retention and monetisation rates.

But deeper analytics are needed in order to understand why and when players are leaving, or, on the other hand, why they’re buying. Using its technology to gain an insight into players actions, GamesAnalytics claims to have increased retention rates by 50-to-70 per cent and revenues by 20-to-30 per cent for developers its worked with.

“In a recent collaboration we analysed the game economy to understand how the reward structures where affecting engagement in a deathmatch game,” Robinson explains.

“We found that aggressive players who had high death rates were being very well rewarded; whereas more expert players who had better outcomes had high defection rates as the reward system was not orientated towards this behaviour.

“By balancing the rewards mechanic across different player segments we were able to dramatically increase retention in the expert players and also monetise persistent and aggressive players at higher levels. Making sure the grind economy is well balanced against real money economy is one of the most important design features that analytics can fundamentally address.”

Wangerin’s company Setgo released Pingflux, a data analytics tools that enables you to see many events in many different contexts. For developers who use analytics, Wangerin says the advantage is that you are “listening” to what your audience does once they’ve brought the game.

“We always liken it to an entertainer who stands on stage and uses laughter and applause as a way of measuring how their material is going down with the crowd. In my mind, any game developer should be naturally curious about how people are playing their game, even if they do not intend to iterate on this particular title. It would still inform their thinking when they’re designing their next game,” he says.

While some companies focus on core game metrics, other, such as GameGenetics, are involved with player retention.

“The bottom line is that games developers nowadays need to heavily focus on increasing the cost-effectiveness of their marketing mix to survive and secure a competitive position in the long-run. This requires a thorough understanding of their game-specific tracking and conversion funnel, which is a core service offered by GameGenetics,” says the company’s head of games David Mohr.

A NUMBING EFFECT

Improvements to the overall quality of games is, or at least should be, what data analytics is about. However, criticisms levelled at the likes of Zynga and other companies that have made a name for themselves in the social and mobile space is that this is ‘game design by numbers’, readied, rinsed and repeated to unduly squeeze more cash out of the hands of consumers, even if it takes the creativity out of the craft.

We’re seeing this more of late with freemium mobile games, which Kaye says have the danger to become “cynical money machines”.

For instance, the launch of Real Racing 3 from EA saw a shift from Real Racing 2’s premium mode to freemium. The game was initially launched in Australia and New Zealand to test the payment model, which would have been driven by analytics.

However, following the game’s global launch it received damning reviews and caused uproar from it’s the most vocal players, which is a sharp reminder why the freemium model can push things too far.

“This might be true to a certain extent when it comes to actual in-game metrics. There will always be a need to balance cold, hard data with the creative decisions of game makers. However, when it comes to metrics that measure the success of external influences like marketing campaigns, smart analytics should be your top priority,” offers Mohr.

But Setgo’s Wangerin argues that this is an overly simplistic way to judge analytics, and is something that certainly isn’t reflect of the companies at the forefront of the sector: “Analytics can be utilised in so many different ways that I don’t think it’s right to say that anyone who uses them operates in a ‘developing by numbers’ way. I actually think that’s archaic thinking and does not reflect the sophistication of how the most successful developers make use of these tools.

“Your fundamental ideas and game design still need to be attractive, be fun to play and find an audience. Analytics won’t help you with that – but if you get those things right, you certainly put yourself in a good position to ‘tweak by numbers’, which means you are able to make changes with a map and not blind, as you would without the insights data will provide.”

Kaye agrees with Wangerin: “I can understand the sentiment, but would argue strongly that top earning freemium mobile games such as CSR Racing, Hay Day, Clash of Clans and Subway Surfers are very high quality titles to begin with – both in terms of their production values and their playability and design. These are games that have the X factor.”

GOD IS IN THE DATA

Too much of anything can be a bad thing. But data and analytics have much to offer developers at a time when audiences are fragmenting and flitting between platforms so readily.

Names such as Supercell and King are currently riding high on their titles that have attracted the attention of millions of players. Part of their success comes from a judicious approach to data collection.

“For those who have been able to integrate analytics and data-driven thinking into their organisations, I think we’ll continue to see a trend of utilising cluster analysis, user profiling and predictive analytics to drive commercial opportunities via direct-messaging and to help identify other ways to monetise the audience, perhaps outside the game,” says Wangerin.

“On the other end of the scale, where the more lightweight, casual users sit, I think it won’t be long before we’ll see a really simple, hosted analytics solution out there that will cover 95 per cent of the most common KPIs to developers at the click of a button, which delivers an almost instant health check of your game.”

For the analytics specialists themselves, keeping up with developers needs means adapting their offerings, as Wangerin’s Setgo has had to endure: “We launched Pingflux a while ago, which has seen some good initial uptake, but it’s a pretty crowded space now. For many developers, the ones that are free to use are almost the default choice. The important thing is to start with identifying what questions you have and then looking at which solution will help you get those answers.”

GameGenetic’s Mohr is similarly resolute about how his firm can aid developers: “Our challenge is to educate and support our clients when it comes to tracking and improving their user acquisition campaigns. We try to integrate as closely as possible with our client’s system, to ensure maximum efficiency and optimisation.”

Even as the sector itself is become more competative, ultimately, it should lead to better exploration of how data and analytics can be used to improve games.

As Robinson concludes: “There are only opportunities to understand players better. This is a great position to be in and many other sectors would love to have this close relationship with their consumers. We are in a great place to use analytics to help deliver entertaining gaming experiences, but let’s extract knowledge from the data that changes the game.”(source:develop-online)


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