Blog Posts

After writing a whole series of technical articles on how to solve specific programming problems I've decided to write about something more commercial. It's all very well being a wizard with Objective C and producing a beautifully archichetured game that runs at a blistering frame rate, but if your game is boring, no one will buy it and your effort will have been wasted.

The difference between success and failure can be as huge as the difference between a one star rating with no sales and a five star rating with 10 million copies sold. Angry Birds catapulted Rovio to global fame with 500 million copies downloaded. Getting the right ingredients to success is vital if you want to be successful in the business of game design. In this article, I'm going to look at the games that got it right and the game which made fundamental mistakes. Sometimes the mistake can be extremely subtle. Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii is a good game. The presentation is excellent, the level design is absorbing and collecting all the stars hidden around the level is a real challenge. The designers of this game made a very small mistake which had a catastrophic impact.

Mario Galaxy - don't tell you how many stars there are to collect!

The levels for Super Mario Galaxy are actually fairly easy to complete. You can hop your way to the exit in several minutes and in many cases, it's not necessary to explore the whole level. Collecting all the stars however, is a challenge. You need to explore every part of the level killing and avoiding monsters and revealing hidden sections. Unfortunately, the game developers didn't include a counter to say how many stars there were to collect. There was no medal to say "well done" for collecting all the stars. This meant that there was no real reason to collect all the stars - quicker to just plow on to the next level. There wasn't really any reason to re-play a level either - completing the level badly was sufficient. Contrast this with Dark Nebula on the iPhone where you are rated on speed, not losing any lives and collecting items. I've continued replaying each level until I achieve a gold star rating. Super Mario Galaxy isn't a bad game, but it's not addictive. Addictiveness is a quality that is vital for any game. If someone is playing your game every day, it will be running through their mind every day - if this is the case, they'll be far more likely to talk about it to their friends and get you recommendations as well as buy in app content and sequels.