The Thirty Second Hook and Double Star

I recently read “The 30-Second Hook” on Gamasutra. It’s a very good article about the experience of the developers of Blowfish Meets Meteor. The author talks about the experience dealing with the problem of making your game appealing to players trying your game.  You have to hook players quickly or, in many cases, you lose them. He writes, “people played only the rather simplistic, tutorial-based first level and put it down because they assumed this was a reflection of the entire game.”

It seems that this might apply to my Double Star Android game. Twenty levels of play are provided in the game, with mysteries, challenges, and rewards along the way. However, it all starts with a training level. If training takes too long, players might never get to the more interesting parts of the game. So that got me thinking that maybe I have to throw players in the deep end. Wait until they flounder and then offer them further assistance. The latest release does just that.

Short / Long Training in Double Star

The latest beta version of Double Star (version 0.980) has a new setting where the player selects either short or long training. Short is the default setting. Players receive minimal training, which includes only the basics of issuing commands and checking ship status. That gets players into battle sooner, but it also means that players are responsible for learning most of the game on their own. To help with that, an extensive list of tutorials is available on the Help screen.

Long training is much more complete. For long training, players learn how to play as they progress through five ranks, from Weapons Officer to Captain. By the time they reach Captain, players know about all of the equipment and have had several longer training missions to practice.

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Training is the first of three phases of game play in Double Star: (1) training at the academy; (2) saving our planet from the alien invasion; (3) searching the galaxy for the alien home world. Throughout the game, you receive suggestions and hints from Star Fleet and your crew, as shown in the figure above.

I hope that a few readers will try the game and let me know what you think about the new training level.

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Revised – Lessons From Angry Birds

Back in February 2014, I wrote an article about how I did tutorials in a space war game app. The article was “Lessons From Angry Birds: My Thoughts on Android Game Tutorials“. The topics covered include game tutorials, engaging users, and gamification. The article has been revised a bit, primarily because the game changed names from “Starship” to “Double Star”.

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I posted the following questions and would love to hear from a few readers:

  1. Does an Angry Birds style tutorial work? Do you really know what to touch to make something happen?
  2. Is it effective to earn ranks while you learn the game?
  3. Or does it make it look like the game is not interesting?
    In other words, does it take too long to get to a game that’s fairly challenging?

Please read the old article, try the Double Star app, and think about the questions. Post comments here or in the Double Star community on Google+.

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Game Difficulty Setting for Double Star

The latest version of Double Star, an Android space war app, allows you to set game difficulty on the Settings screen. In the EASY game, there are fewer alien starships, and the enemy are less aggressive. A few people had commented that the game was perhaps too difficult. The EASY setting should help.

To download the beta version of the app, visit the Double Star community on Google+, here is the link: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/113741436953313178716.

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The full game experience includes:  (1) training at the academy; (2) saving our planet from the alien invasion; (3) searching the galaxy for the enemy home world. Twenty levels are available for play. There are mysteries, challenges, and rewards along the way.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats team prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 180,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 8 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Thinking About Stories

I have been thinking about stories lately and what makes a great story. I hope that learning about good stories will help me as I work on my space war app.

Two good TED videos: (1) The Clues to a Great Story, by Andrew Stanton; (2) The Mystery Box, by J. J. Abrams. Both have funny parts, but are are also very thought-provoking.

I especially like the line, “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.” How would that play out in a game?

Abrams’ talk is about using mystery to drive interest.  As a fan of the old Lost show, I really appreciate it when J. J. Abrams says early on, “What the Hell is that island?”. For my game, I am still searching for the right way to introduce the mystery that lies behind the levels in the game.

 

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A Useful Checklist for Google Play Games Services

If you are building an app that uses Google Play Games Services for leaderboards and achievements, be sure to go through the checklist provided on the Google developers website. Here is the link: Checklist for Google Play Game Services.

I was reworking how my space war app connects to Play Games Services when I found the page. It really helped to have the checklist, and it was good to have the sample TypeANumber demo app to go along with it. From the checklist, I decided to do the following:

  • Provide players with a sign-in option to Play Games services.
  • Provide players with a sign-out option.
  • Remember if players declined signing-in.
  • Follow Google branding guidelines. (And use their icons.)
  • Remind players that they are signed-in. (Example: Your achievements are being saved with Google Play.)

Here are a few screenshots from my space war app. There are two screens that connect to Google Play Games. One is the StartActivity that starts right after the splash screen fades. The other is the LeaderboardsActivity. Both screens do an automatic connection to Google Play unless one of these two conditions hold: (1) the player has clicked a button to sign out; (2) there have been 3 or more failures to connect.

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If you’d like to see how automatic sign-in works in my app, you can get the app by joining the DoubleStar Beta community.

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Latest Double Star Release

The latest Double Star release provides the full game experience: (1) training at the academy; (2) saving our planet from the alien invasion; (3) searching the galaxy for the enemy home world. Twenty levels are available for play. There are mysteries, challenges, and rewards along the way.

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If you have not moved over to the new Double Star community, here is the link: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/113741436953313178716

More on the App

For more about the app, see the earlier blog article on Double Star.

 

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