domingo, 22 de febrero de 2015

The Gamification Aesthetics Color Wheel

A Gamification Design toolkit by @victormanriquey & @isidrorodrigo

(Download it for free. Now and always.)

A brief story on The Gamification Aesthetics Toolkit

2 years ago Isidro Rodrigo and I released The 35 Gamification Mechanics Toolkit to help Gamifiers design better experiences. It was one of our more ambitious projects because it involved creating a whole new framework that would really be useful for the people doing gamification at that time. 

The 35 Gamification Mechanics toolkit has helped thousands of gamifiers from all over the world up until now, but along these months, we've kept on thinking that it is not possible to design a full gamified experience just by using the toolkit itself.

Gamification is not only built out of mechanics. We need design, art and technology to create an everlasting gamified experience, and we strongly believe that gamification aesthetics have not received the importance they truly deserve yet. 

So this has been our main reason to create this new toolkit, and after almost a year working on it, refining its content and testing that everything kind of made sense, here it is, all yours designers! 

We really hope that it keeps on helping you all the same way our first one did, and please take into account that it is still in beta version, we're looking forward to hearing your thoughts and insights to keep on improving it!

How to use this toolkit?

As you might have realised, this toolkit is designed as "a color wheel", meaning that all of its elements are related to each other and that there is some kind of logic behind them. 

There are 12 key elements to take into account when defining any experience's aesthetics, and we usually have to follow certain steps to get the best out of it. 

Here's how we use it: 

Step 1 - The Theme

Start by choosing the dominant and unifying idea or topic that lies in your experience’s aesthetics. Examples might include themes such as: Pirates, Medieval, Cartoon, Real Life, Creatures, etc. 

Step 2 - The Dimension

Once you've chosen your theme, see about the length, width and height that you want your experience to have, or in other words, choose if you'd rather go for a 2D or a 3D experience. 

Step 3 - The Perspective

You've got a theme and the perspective, now see about the position from which players will interact within the experience. You'll usually end up with a First Person Perspective or a Third Person one.

Step 4 - The Scenario 

It's now time to see where gameplay will take place. Whether it is a real world experience or a digital one, you'll have to define those areas to later on apply an interface layer on them, 

Step 5 - The Camera 

Once you know your main "game screens", you'll have to choose a camera type, or in other words, where and how is the experience's point of view.

Step 6 - The Dashboard

You've defined the first part of your aesthetics, something that we could call the macro environment. It's time to design the overall flow of your dashboard, how your interface will work. 

Step 7 - The Positioning

Once the interface navigation flow (what I call the dashboard) is defined, you'll need to see where those interface elements are going to be located. 

Step 8 - The Shape

Elements are usually perceived by their shapes, so think carefully how the elements of your dashboard will be.

Step 9 - The Iconography

One of the most important things when defining your aesthetics is the iconography. Make sure your players understand what those icons mean and try to make things as easy and clear as possible. 

Step 10 - The FXs

No experience is complete without interaction FXs! Let your players know that the system recognises their actions or those may have no impact at all.

Step 11 - The Color Scheme

This is a critical step. Your whole experience will change depending on its color scheme, so make sure you choose the right one. 

Step 12 - The Font Styles

Last but not least, fonts are omnipresent, and your task is to make them "invisible" to the player. If any user realises that there is something wrong with your fonts, it might be the end of the magic circle!

Some final words on The Gamification Aesthetics Color Wheel

Now that you know how this toolkit works, I'd like to say some final words on it: 

- This toolkit is intended to be used by Gamification professionals. It is meant to be a set of guidelines or "best practices" to follow when designing the aesthetics of gamified experiences, transformational games, ARGs, Advergames, and so forth. It might be of good help for game designers, but it lacks of many things that pure games need. 

- We follow the formerly explained steps to use this toolkit, but it does not mean that you cannot use it in any other way that is useful for you!

- All images  used are not of our own, and they're not used with any commercial purposes. This is a free toolkit and it will keep on being so. 

- This toolkit is the final result of quite some months working on it, testing how it works in real life and refining its structure. This means that even though we might think it will be of help for you all, it's still in beta version. Keep in mind that we may change it along the upcoming months to really become the definitive aesthetics toolkit for gamification designers. 

- This is not something that I could have done all by myself. There are many people who have collaborated and helped me along the way, so thanks all for that!


Victor Manrique & Isidro Rodrigo

Ps. We're already working on the toolkit's pro version, something more color wheel like! Stay tuned!

sábado, 1 de noviembre de 2014

The 35 Gamification Mechanics Official Videos: Season 1

Watch the First Season of The 35 Gamification Mechanics Official Videos in English & Spanish!

Learn how to design your own gamified experiences with @Isidrorodrigo and this epic toolkit! And guess what, it's free!

1. Game Constraints

2. Tutorials

3. Quests

4. Avatars

5. Levels

6. Worlds

Do you want to learn more about The 35 Gamification Mechanics toolkit? Click on the image for more information on how to design awesome experiences!

Feel like getting your own toolkit? Worldwide shipping available! See our options or email me at:

Victor Manrique
+Victor Manrique 

sábado, 2 de agosto de 2014

Collaboration & Competition in Gamification

7 Social Strategies to Create Engaging Experiences

"An individual ant is a simple creature that is capable of very little by itself and lives its life accord- ing to a simple set of rules. However, when many ants interact together in a colony, each following these simple rules, a spontaneous intelligence emerges."

-Fullerton, T.

Are social games more engaging than solo ones? What are the most common player interaction patterns in games? Can we extract the best of those for Gamification Design?

One of the things that keeps on surprising me over time is how much a game changes when it goes social. It's just amazing to see one single game you think you mastered long time ago turning into a completely new experience when another person comes in and play with or against you.

During 2013, I spent quite some hours on a game called Celtic Tribes, a Catan like mobile experience available for iOS and Android. It was so much fun and even when the game itself could have been better (I'd rather recommend you Travian) I basically kept on playing due to the people I met there.

Some days ago, one of the students from the IEBS' Gamification & Transmedia Master's Programme where I teach at (standing for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Business School) told me: "I played World of Warcraft for 8 years and the reason that made me return to Azeroth again and again was people".

Furthermore, and after several months analysing the games that built more engagement along the past few years, something was clear to me: social games are way more engaging than solo games. (See my #GWC14 slides for more on this topic)

This is nothing new, and if you think about it for a moment it quite logical; even the ancient greek knew about this fact! No wonder that Aristotle said "Man is by nature a social animal".

So at this point you might be wondering: Why are we talking about this topic and what is this all having to do with Gamification?

Well, as it turns out, gamification as games is a discipline that works best when it creates a social experience. But do not get me wrong on this, it is not about implementing leaderboards and guilds all over to make things more social, but rather about designing the right mechanic for every phase of your gamified system.

Let's have a closer look to it!

The Player's Journey: Collaboration & Competition

Every single game has several stages and different challenges that players have to overcome in time. I'm not going to delve into this topic that much on this blogpost but if you want to know more about the player's journey or have never heard of it, it might be recommendable to check it out.  

We're going to follow this theoretical model because splitting games into different phases allows us to more accurately analyse some of the most common social strategies that designers create in games and gamified experiences. In order to do so, we'll follow Tracy Fullerton's competition and collaboration types that can be found in her book "Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Create Innovative Games". For those of you who are not familiar with those, it is always good to have a closer look at it before starting.

Let's get started with the three main questions of this blogpost:

  • What kind of social strategies can we design in gamified experiences?
  • Which one to choose for each player's journey stage and why?
  • Are there any epic examples out there?

1. Solo PvE

  • WHAT: Fullerton defines it as "This is a game structure in which a single player competes against a game system. Examples include solitaire, Pac-Man, and other single player digital games." It is pretty much about you trying to defeat game designers and their AI's system.

  • WHEN & WHY: Solo PvE is a great strategy for your onboarding and midgame because it allows us to avoid some of the most common social problems such as the lack of a critical mass at the beginning of your experience. It also engages our players more since they can just keep on advancing and getting into the game without any social constraints. However, solo playing is not as engaging during the endgame and many people never play some games again once they've completed them.

  • AN EPIC EXAMPLE: There are tons of games out there that combine solo and social strategies during its game stages but Candy Crush is one of the best. When people start playing, they can keep on advancing through its chapters without any social contact or barrier. Once they are fully engaged, many people voluntarily link their accounts to Facebook to beat their friends or help each other to overcome bottlenecks.

2. Multiplayer PvE

  • WHAT: In Fullerton's book, Multiplayer PvE is defined as "The game structure in which multiple players compete against a game system in the company of each other. Action is not directed toward each other, and no interaction between participants is required or necessary. Examples include bingo, roulette, and Slingo. To sum it all up, it is about many players going against the system without any human enemy.

  • WHEN & WHY: Multiplayer PvE is rarely seen in games and neither it is in gamification. It is not the best way to start off a gamified experience but can be great during the midgame, when players are more experienced and need some help to defeat the system. However, and as with Solo PvE, it is not recommended in the endgame by itself because it doesn't allow further social interaction.

  • AN EPIC EXAMPLE: This might not sound like the most legendary example but Blackjack is always a nice and easy way to see how this model works. It is definitely not the best strategy for gamification but can work fine if we have any sort of gambling mechanics.

3. Cooperative PvE

  • WHAT: Cooperative PvE is defined by Fullerton as "This is a game structure in which two or more players cooperate against the game system. Examples include Harvest Time, the Lord of the Rings board game, and cooperative quests in World of Warcraft". This is a very simple but engaging strategy in which players gather together against the AI of the game.

  • WHEN & WHY: This kind of social strategy is most likely your best friend for the midgame, a game stage where your players already are experienced enough to start collaborating together against the system but not all of them are fully up for a PvP. It really enhances that game stage by allowing a new way of playing together while all the negative effects of competition are avoided. However, it is neither the best option for an onboarding due to the reduced critical mass that many experiences have at the beginning, nor for the endgame, a phase that calls for some competition.

  • AN EPIC EXAMPLE: One of the best Cooperative PvE strategies that I have seen is Team Fortress 2, a game that features a fantastic Co-Op mode against the always challenging game's AI, while offering the classical Team PvP mode where to test your skills against other human players.

4. Solo PvP

  • WHAT: Solo PvP appears in Fullerton's book as: "The game structure in which two players directly compete. Examples include checkers, chess, and tennis. This is a classic structure for strategy games and works well for competitive players." This is all about head-to-head gameplay and it can both feature random or defined player matching.

  • WHEN & WHY: Solo PvP might seem like a really good way to engage your players due to the generated competition but be careful, it can lead to cheating and some other non-desired behaviours! Furthermore, never use Solo PvP in the beginning of your experience (lack of critical mass and massive losses of players due to dire competition) and when implementing it at the end of your gamified system, do allow alternative gameplay modes for non-competitive players.

  • AN EPIC EXAMPLE: One of the best examples of Solo PvP nowadays is Hearthstone, a fantastic game developed by Blizzard. Featuring both a competitive mode (with kind of a random player matching) and the recently launched PvE adventures, it implements an epic way to avoid non-competitive players from leaving the game.

5. Social PvP

  • WHAT: This social strategy is described by Fullerton as "The game structure in which three or more players directly compete. Examples include poker, Monopoly, multiplayer games likes Quake, WarCraft III, Age of Mythology, etc." The main difference with the previous pattern is that Social PvP allows multiplayer competition whereas Solo PvP only involves 2 players at a time.

  • WHEN & WHY: As with Solo PvP, Social PvP is usually not recommend for your onboarding since it has the same setbacks as the former one: lack of a critical mass and decreasing player  numbers (mainly beginners) due to the pure competitive gameplay. However, and as players get stronger and used to the game's structure, it might be a good way to further engage competitive players towards the endgame of your experience. Just as something remarkable, special events work pretty good together with Social PvP (see more gamification mechanics here)

  • AN EPIC EXAMPLE: There are many examples of Social PvP out there, but WoW's Player vs Player zones are a really good example of how to really engage pure competitive players. And always remember that Social PvP works best when it is combined together with Team PvP!

6. Team PvP

  • WHAT: Team Pvp is one of the best way to engage your players towards the endgame of your experience and it is defined by Fullerton as: "This is a game structure in which two or more groups compete. Examples include soccer, basketball, charades, Battlefield 1942, and Tribes.

  • WHEN & WHY: This type of social strategy is by far my favourite one to create everlasting experiences. I definitely not recommend it for the onboarding since players might easily anxious with it but once they become total Pros, it really is an epic way to add tons of fun emergence and complexity to almost any gamified project. Remember that guilds, parties, or alliances are some of the best ways to implement a great Team PvP and always take into account that players will progresively ask for more social mechanics, so chats, forums, DMs and guild channels are also a good idea!

  • AN EPIC EXAMPLE: This player interaction pattern is one of the most popular nowadays and some legendary examples are Dota 2, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, or CoD's multiplayer servers.

7. One vs All

  • One vs All is not really a good choice for gamification and I do think that it would be difficult to find any gamified experience that features this kind of social strategy. Anyway, and if you want to know more about it, you can always give it a check at Fullerton's book!

Victor Manrique
+Victor Manrique 

domingo, 25 de mayo de 2014

Gamification World Congress 2014: Epic Win!

Legendary times and people at the Gamification World Congress 2014

The third edition of the Gamificatation World Congress was one of a kind.

You know it's going to be an epic one when people such as Nick Pelling, Mario Herger (@mherger), Kevin Werbach (@kwerb), Jaume Juan (@jaumejuan), Andrzej Marczewski (@daverage), An Coppens (@GamificationNat) Alberto Tornero, Bart Briers (@BartBriers), Thijs de Vries (@thijsdevries), Joaquín Perez (@Joaquin_perez), Juan Valera Mariscal (@valeramariscal), Isidro Rodrigo (@isidrorodrigo), Oscar García (@kokopus_dark), Emiliano Labrador (@emil_lab), Esther Hierro (@esthima), Iosu Recalde Iñaki Huarte (@ouiplay) and so many more good friends (you know who you are guys) are "in da house".

And if all of that is organised by Jose Carlos Cortizo (@josek_net) and Sergio Jiménez (@gamkt), both of them true experts in creating amazing events, there's almost nothing that can go wrong. And it didn't. 

Chapter 1. The Onboarding

It all started with our own "selfie" moment.

We had just entered the main congress room and it was already about time to take a pic with some of the awesome people that we've come across along these past months. People that all have different backgrounds but a goal in common: to make the world more fun and engaging.

Without even realizing that the #GWC14 had already begun, we quickly started to dive into Mario Herger's (Enterprise Gamification Consultancy) Enterprise Gamification Workshop. Flying Angry Birds, eye-catching videos and quite some great jokes for a nice session.

Next workshop was Sergio's one, a really practical session where we came to know more about the Gamification Canvas Model and how to use it for gamification design.

Andrzej Marczewski (Capgemini) was in charge of the day's third workshop, mostly focused on how to deliver great experiences to different player types. Andrzej's and Sergio's (Game on! Lab) sessions were pretty much complementary and I could even adapt my 35 Gamification Mechanics Toolkit to both their frameworks in a way that I didn't thought of before. So that was quite an epic one. Thanks guys!

And as they usually say, last but not least, we had a fantastic chance to enjoy and learn by doing with Alberto Tornero's (PriceWaterhouse Coopers) workshop about the legal issues of gamification. As a person that has studied law for +5 years it was such a great and unexpected thing to gain some legal knowledge on the world of gaming withouth even mentioning one single law. Epic Win!

And if one might think that it was enough for the very first day, there was more coming! The organisers' team had prepared a Candy Crush like dinner (sweet and delicious) for all the speakers that I truly enjoyed. So many interesting people in a nice and easy spot at one of the hotel's lounge terraces. Spanish tapas and a non gamified wine for a relaxed dinner. Good fun!

Chapter 2. The Midgame

The second day of the Gamification World Congress started as the former day had ended: gamification on stage! But there was more...

All of sudden the lights went off and a fancy retro astronaut appeared shouting: Houston we have a problem! People are not engaged! One of the most epic kick-offs I've ever seen.

After our favourite astroman had faded away into the smoke, it was about time to start listening to all the great people that had come to speak at the #GWC14. We started off with Nick Pelling's keynote on the present and future of gamification to move forward to Panzer Chocolate, a gamified transmedia horror movie that looked pretty interesting. I'm not a true fan of horror movies but what came next made up for it: Isidro Rodrigo and Jaume Juan came up on stage to talk about gamification and human resources. A really funny, full of content and truly enjoyable, low-cost approach to gamification was presented by Isidro Rodrigo (Dummymedia & GSM labs) while Jaume Juan (Compettia) focused on a gamified experience called "Retame" based on a quizz like mechanic that seems to deliver great results! Both Isidro and Jaume were fantastic and Mario Herger's talk was the icing on the cake. The first round of talks ended up with an interesting gamified case by Royal Canin.

After a short but quite "networked" coffee break we went back to our seats with Carlos Guardiola (Medianet) and his "Who gamifies the gamificators". An amusing keynote on gamification and human resources that led to Bastian Kneissl's (MaptoSnow) talk on their startup's SaaS platforms: MaptoSnow, MaptoBike & MaptoHike. Really interesting apps and time to listen to one of the #GWC14 organisers: Jose Carlos Cortizo (BrainSins) and his always fantastic lessons on eCommerce. Truly inspiring!

We moved forward with Michiel van Eunen whose keynote about "The Hunt" experience seemed "super leuk" and really interesting as a human resources best case, Miguel Ángel Gómez on The Travel Club (Travel Club) case, and Daniel González (Redbility) that came up on stage with a cool toolkit that measured his brain activity to talk about Neuro-gamification. Quite an intense ending to finish off the seconf part of the event's great talks. Time for lunch and back for more!

.....3:30 pm.......

Most people would say this is definitely not the best time for a talk but rather a short siesta. So anyway, I thought: Oh well, if my talk is pure crap, at least they won't really realize! (Ok, enough jokes for this blogpost)

What I really thought before getting on stage was: let's come up there with all my energy and see if it works out! Finally, and as people told me afterwards, it was quite a useful talk for many of them, so +1 Life!

After The Engagement Circle (see keynote slides below or here), turn for Brian Burke's (Gartner) digital gamification, Toby Beresford (Leaderboarded) and his interesting talk about the Zoopla's case, Fran Gago (Gamifik) on Tommy Mel's case and Thijs de Vries (Creative Seeds) and his cool talk on students' motivation!

And last but not least An's keynote! I could say a lot about An Coppens' talk (Gamification Nation) at #GWC14, but I'd rather let you see this video. Thank you An for such a wonderful one!


That was quite an epic one! But the congress was not over yet (there was way more coming!). Turn for Andrzej Marczewski's talk on his user types, and that was as great as it always is! We then had the chance to listen to Bernardo Crespo (BBVA) on the BBVA game, Juan Valera Mariscal (Humana Mente Posible) and his interesting talk on gamification and psychology and Javier Molina & Antonio Agromayor that presented the new variables of loyalty. 

Finally, and as a fantastic way to close the event's second day, we had Kevin Werbach on how games can teach us a lot about learning. It was a pleasure to meet Kevin (good person, better professional) and share some thoughts on gamification. Truly epic!


We could not finish off this blogpost without mentioning Bart Briers and his WONDERFUL talk. It was inspiring, jaw-dropping, eye-catching and brilliant. We were all waiting for his guitar, his fancy orange wig and his unique Annie's Song. Nothing of that happened, but guess what: It was way better!

So that was all about the event's second day talks... Time to get changed and enjoy the GWC14 evening!

3. The Everlasting Endgame

After a really intense day, we all thought it was kind of over. Such a good thing we were wrong!

The #GWC14 organisers had prepared a fantastic networking party at the event's venue!. Lots of great people, the first Gamification World Awards presented by the great Iñaki Huarte & Iosu Recalde and way more!

Yu-kai Chou was chosen the #1 Gamification Guru followed by Mario Herger and Andrzej Marczewski. I got the #8th position worldwide, which it honestly felt like a first place for me considering who was on top!

Unfortunately, I could not attend the event's last day (Gamification, Health & Educacation) but so much looking forward to hearing all the insights from the people that could make it!

So that was all about the legendary experience at the Gamification World Congress, the biggest event of Gamification worldwide with more than 600 people! Thanks to everyone that made it possible and a BIG THANK YOU to all the epic people and good friends that we met (and got to know) there. 

4. The Engagement Circle: Exploring how successful gamified experiences are designed 

domingo, 6 de abril de 2014

The Engagement Circle: How Game Designers Create An Engaging Midgame (II)

The 12 Key Stages of Engagement in Games: Exploring how games make us lose track of time (Part 2)

Did you ever wonder how game designers create engaging experiences? Why do online games. -and MMORPGs in special-, have way higher engagement ratios than any other game genres?

Can we find any common design patterns in those games? 

And, can we apply all of this to Gamification Design to make it way more engaging?

This is the 2nd part of a series of 4 posts where we're going to explore the key 12 stages of engagement of best-selling video games to discover how to design better gameful experiences. Let's Go!

And if you missed out on the first part of these blogposts' series, check this out: "The Engagement Circle: How Game Designers Create Engaging Experiences (Part 1)"

Stage 4: A New World

"The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. It began with the forging of the Great Rings. Three were given to the Elves, immortal, wisest and fairest of all beings. Seven to the Dwarf lords, great miners and craftsmen of the mountain halls. And nine, nine rings were gifted to the race of men, who, above all else, desire power. But they were, all of them, deceived, for another Ring was made."

We've completed the onboarding of the game, and everything seems to be under control but... There's a whole new world waiting for us, and it's about time to get started with the midgame! The inital quests are over, and something will put us on our way to meet the "real world", a place full of new possibilities. These were some of the defining traits of this stage:

A) Limited access: Not everyone can enter this new world. Just the "bravest heroes" have access to the midgame, which basically is a way to grant that no low-lever players or noobs will start the midgame before mastering the required onboarding. This was usually done through access items, "closed borders", impossible to reach locations (with your initial skills), NPCs not allowing you to pass unless you completed a certain quest, or very high level mobs.

B) Time to Explore: Entering the midgame means that the game's space of possibility is dramatically increased. There are tons of new things to do, new main and side quests, brand new puzzles to solve, a new part of the story that you didn't know before and new stuff to discover. It's probably the first time that the player will get a new skill type, or will start a trait or similar. To sum it all up, it's time to explore all those new possibilities!

C) A faster way to do things:  After entering the midgame, the player discovers a new way to faster move himself or to easily do something that it took a while before. It can be a teleporter (as many MMORPG's do), a mount, a buff/item that increases your speed, or some other similar things that will make your journey easier so you can focus on the real thing: exploring, learning and mastering new skills.

D) Meeting "the others": Almost every single researched game made you meet new people. It could be new NPCs, enemies, or just the people that played the game from all over the world. It's a really good way to increase the player's engagement because most humans crave for social contact. So whether it's just some new and friendly NPC or a whole bunch of strangers, meeting new people is necessary to make the adventure more epic. Besides, meeting new players leads to this kind of "I want to be like those super cool pro players" incredibly poweful feeling.

Stage 5: Training Day

"Today's a training day, Officer Hoyt. Show you around, give you a taste of the business. I got 38 cases pending trial, 63 in active investigations, another 250 on the log I can't clear. I supervise five officers. That's five different personalities. Five sets of problems. You can be number six if you act now. But I ain't holding no hands, okay? I ain't baby-sitting. You got today and today only to show me who and what you're made of."

Games are all about learning and every time we start a new game, it keeps on teaching us new and very complex things until it is over. They have this kind of magical effect that makes learning simple. And it even seems easy to get used to those complicated controls, mechanics and in-game systems. So before we face our first real challenge, we need to get ready for it. These were some of the defining traits of the Training Day stage:

A) Improving your skills: The player's got very few skills up until now but they are most likely important for the rest of the game, so you have to master them through a short/long series of quests. Those missions will finally lead you to the first big boss in the end of this stage, but meanwhile, the player will discover how to use the basics while gaining XP, knowledge of the game story and a bit more of the "winning strategy" of it. This stage was basically a "beta testing" phase to get the player ready for his first big thing. 

B) Getting used to "the map": The player just discovered a whole new world and it seems that it's going to be impossible for him to fully remember where everything is. That's why some scaffolding is needed. Through small main and side quests that are related to each other, the player will start knowing by heart some small spots of the "game's map". This was usually done by dividing the map into small zones/levels/phases that are easily remembered while repeating different types of quest in the same zone ("Go and return quests"). Please note that when we say "map", it needn't be a proper map but it refers to "game zones", or in other words, the different places/levels where gameplay takes place. 

C) Grinding + Gifting: Before facing the game's first real challenge you have to get ready for it, so most games will take you through a whole set of side quests until you reach a certain "mastery level" or gain some "skills". Some of the researched games also offered a "grinding" option (levelling on your own) and others had this fantastic way to get its players ready and constantly motivated by giving them random gifts that they could only open at a certain level. Once the gift was opened, it contained some items that could only be equipped if you had 1-2 more levels, creating a very smart VIP goal loop (valuable, interesting and possible in the short term). 

D) First Final Boss + call to action: The time has come. The player's been training for some hours (shorther or longer depending on the game) and a real challenge is here to test his skills. It can be a final boss, a very complicated level, a super difficult puzzle, or everything together. There can be a  small "getting ready stage" or nothing at all, but in order to keep on moving, we need to "defeat" this boss. Whenever we're done, we'll most likely receive a new skill, item, trait, profession (etc) that will alow us to enter a new level. And last but not least, it's quite likely that we have some kind of "call to action" moment where the mentor, a NPC, or something will motivate us to keep on moving. Besides, from now onwards, you'll be facing mini bosses or(and) final bosses depending on the game's lenght and levels.

E) First Party / Team (only for online games): This is the usually the first time that solo games are going to be different from online (multiplayer) games because you'll probably have to team up with a group of people for the first big challenge, discovering a new way to play the game. As we're going to see ahead, solo games will only reach the circle's 9th stage while online games will move up to the 12th one, creating a way more engaging experience. 

Stage 6: Birth of a Hero

"Once having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials. Dragons have now to be slain and surprising barriers passed — again, again, and again. Meanwhile there will be a multitude of preliminary victories, unretainable ecstasies and momentary glimpses of the wonderful land."

Once the first "final boss" was defeated, the player will enter a new game's stage. The real hero's journey has started and our hero is born. It's time for some more skills, stories and mysteries. These were some of the defining traits of this stage:

A) A mysterious place: New stage and new level/zone, but this time it's not going to be looking that good since the beginning. There's evil's in the air and you can feel it (mainly because the game will tell you so in some kind of way). A short story about the place where you are now is usually told, and the player will discover what happened to that level/world and why it looks like it does.

B) Alone in the dark: Up until now, the game has protected you in some kind of way. Whether it was by giving you better items, buffs, constraining the power of you enemies or by any other given type of aid, it's time for you to keep on advancing all by yourself because the hero's got enough power. In many of the researched games, the mentor couldn't help you anymore, or there was an evil barrier that blocked former aid, or the game's difficulty increased a bit more than before, etc.

C) New (hidden) powers + first time going back: Along this stage, the player will discover new skills, traits, equipment or items in general, that will make his journey easier and more interesting. It might be that they were hidden for the player before, or that they were locked / unknown. In order to gain them, many of the researched games made you go back to a certain point that was unaccesible before, coming then back to zone you were. This proved to be a good scaffolding technique in order to give some rest to the player after a great challenge and it also taught him that whenever he might be stuck, it's never bad to look behind to see if there's something that might be of help. be continued...

Victor Manrique