Key Considerations in Developing Free Fun Online Kid Games
Little Space Heroes Development Team Lead (Client Side) Anthony Tambrin shares the key considerations in developing free fun online kid games and virtual world games for kids.
1. Let the players have fun
The most important thing is to always focus creating an game that lets players have fun. When developing the multiplayer ordering and serving activity in Astro’s Pizza, we were clear from the start that we want this experience to be truly fun, engaging and without rules. The last one is very important for us as we realised the more rules we impose on the activity the more limited the experience can be.
Let’s say if we set rules where players order dishes only while seated, the experience would immediately be limited to players having to find chairs to sit. Without imposing any rules we are actually letting the players make up their own rules and be creative and imaginative with the activity. This allows players, for example, to participate in a role-playing scenario where a player is having a birthday party with everyone else standing around the table wishing and singing happy birthday.
2. Don’t punish your players
When working on a game with countless testing sessions, it can become a habit for us to think that our game is not challenging enough. It’s tempting to keep upping the ante and make games even tougher. We recognise however that the best free fun online kid games are easy to learn but hard to master.
As an avid gamer, I enjoy a challenge and love the reward at the completion of that challenge. What frustrates me most is when I feel I’m getting punished for performing badly. The key is to present it as challenges and rewards, rather than punishment. Let’s discuss some examples.
In Starjet Racing for example, we make sure that all players earn points through collecting gems as they race. While the winner gets bonus points for the best performance in game, all other players get a sense of accomplishment too.
One point to remember is that if we create hard-and-fast winners vs. losers scenarios, we end up having only winners play our games. Of course, no one can win all the time so what ends up happening is no one wins and the experience isn’t great. There are many ways to keep a game challenging and rewarding without punishing the players.
3. Stop trying to make everyone happy
One observation from our group testing sessions on what players want from our game revealed that everyone may want similar things, but their degrees of excitement can be different.
The key is to understand what the average target audience think. It doesn’t mean that we should just forget about the extreme ends of the spectrum, but more so that we pay 90% of our attention to what 90% of our average audience think, and 10% of our attention to what 10% of our special audience think.
It’s easy to fall victim to the desire to develop the ultimate perfect game that is loved by everyone. The all-age-friendly games like Little Big Planet and Super Mario Brothers got the love from the general mass, but even these smash hits aren’t for everyone.
When developing control schemes for our game, we thought about how older players would prefer keyboard shortcuts and how younger ones would prefer tapping only the largest button on the keyboard, the space bar. We develop our games to be accessible to all, but we work hard to provide different gaming experiences for different kids.
4. Know what the player wants, don’t assume
If a control scheme or game play mechanics don’t make sense to us they are unlikely to make sense to players. Now here’s the twist, even if it makes perfect sense to you, it won’t necessarily make sense to them.
Throughout our entire development process we have sought feedback from players through focus groups and game testing. The comments, questions and suggestions that kids give us are invaluable for us as we continue development.
5. Go for simplest first, then build from there
As a developer, we feel that we can develop any features imaginable. Coupled with our great enthusiasm and ambition in making our game the best game of all time, we want to add fantastic features that no one else has ever done before.
On those lucky times, we hit bullseye with some of the features. Everyone loved them they expressed disbelief on how anyone else never thought about them before. Unfortunately these sometimes contribute more risks than add value to the project. To prevent unnecessary risks, we preferred to start simple, get the most basic features out of the door at acceptable level (read: meeting requirements) and add or improve on aesthetics, fancy effects, and so on at later stage when the feature is proven to be loveable by the players.
By keeping these five considerations in mind as we develop, we hope to create the best free fun online kid games that we can. Make sure you register for our upcoming beta at http://www.littlespaceheroes.com.