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: victormanriqueyus@gmail.com

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.

...to be continued...

Victor Manrique

domingo, 16 de marzo de 2014

The Engagement Circle: How Game Designers Create Engaging Experiences (I)

The 12 Key Stages of Engagement in Games: Exploring how games make us lose track of time (Part 1)

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 that to Gamification Design to make this type of experiences way more engaging?

This is a serie of 4 posts where we're going to explore the key 12 stages of engagement in online games to discover how to create, define and design better gameful experiences. Let's Go!

Learning from the best: Online Games 

Good games are all about engagement and we could even say (without being wrong) that nowadays, games are the kings of engagement. It's just a fact that in a world where the average attention span is critically decreasing every single year, people keep on spending more and more hours playing games. But there's something even more impressive: the massive amounts of engagement and hours played that MMORPGs rack up. If we compare the number of hours that gamers spent in 2013 on playing LoL, Wow, Dota 2 or any other successful MMORPGs to the average amount of hours that any other daily leisure activities got, there's quite a difference. But there's something else to be added to these statements: the average player is no longer a clear stereotype as it happened in the past days but anyone of us. 

From all of those facts, it's quite clear that there's something "magical" in the way that successful online games (and MMORPGs in special) are designed that makes them so engaging. This is our main starting point: exploring the reasons why online games have those high engagement ratios to see if we can find any common design patterns in them, to later on apply those with gamification. 

The Engagement Circle

The Engagement Circle is a 12-stages circle which aesthetics are inspired by Joseph Campbell's Monomyth and comes from Huizinga's idea of The Magic Circle. It basically is an approach to unravel the mystery that lies within Huizinga's magic circle to discover the common design patterns that make online games, -and MMORPGs in special-, engaging.

To create and develop this circle, some of the most successful online (and some offline best sellers) games from the past and present that I have played along these years have been analysed. Some of the titles included in this list are: Mu Online, Travian, Goal United, Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII, Kingdom Hearts, World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons' Temple of Evil, Baldur's Gate, Diablo II, Celtic Tribes, Order & Chaos, Midgard Raising, Team Fortress 2, OceanHorn, etc.

Let's see which are the 12 stages of a truly engaging experience.

Stage 1: An Epic Journey

"This is where it all starts. The Player's introduced to an Epic Journey through an unknown and mysterious world where his heroic destiny awaits."

The beginning of every game is one of the most important and critical parts of it. Many games fail to engage the player in the very first minutes to never be played again. That's why those first minutes of a gameful experience must be pure awesome. Here are some defining traits of a truly successful start:

A) Catch the user's eye: Use cool samples, great sneak peeks or brilliant intro screens to get the user's initial attention. 

B) An Epic Story: No one wants to go through dull and boring events. Great games start with awesome stories that take place in epic worlds the user never thought of. Besides, all of the analysed games had a truly interesting mission for the player to achieve and encouraged the user to quickly start off with powerful call-to-action mechanics. 

C) Romance: Many of the explored games started showing strong family bounds among characters to the player since the beginning, and mostly of all those were connected to the main questline. Never forget that Romance is one of the main key 16 motivators of humans (for further information on this check this out) and it's a fantastic way to get the player started.

D) Choosing your way: In many of the analysed games, the last step of this very first stage was choosing a race, class, main skill, or taking some kind of meaningful decision/way in overall. This customization process increases the initial autonomy feeling, empowering the user to start playing while strengthening bonds between the player and his own avatar. 

Stage 2: The Apprentice

"The Player's still an apprentice and needs to learn his way to become a more powerful hero. New friends will take him through simple quests to improve his skills within a controlled environment."

Once the player's interested in the game, it's time to teach him how to play. This is where tutorials take place and depending on how well that's designed, the user's experience will be better or worse throughout the game. Always remember that a dull start will lead to boredom and a really difficult one will cause anxiety in the player. These are some of the defining traits of a well designed "Apprentice Stage":

A) Keep it "nice and easy": Every new player needs to go through a simple learning process to develop his game skills. Don't create a complicated and demanding tutorial.

B) Action, Reward (x2-3), Action, Action, Reward (x2-3), etc: One of the best ways that the analysed games got players started and motivated them to keep on playing was by letting them succeed as much as possible. This is what's called the action-reward model. First of all, ask the players to perform a very simple action and reward him when done. Keep on repeating this while increasing the number of actions required for a reward. 

C) Reduced Emergence (Small possibility space): None of the analysed games gave too many options to the player in the beginning because, except for very skilled and hardcore gamers, many choices would get your players confused and anxious. As we said before, keep it simple and reduce the options available to the player in the very first minutes of the tutorial.

D) First quest type: Many of the researched games had several types of quests, and in the beginning, they kept on repeating the same basic type for the user to get used to it. In fact, tutorials were usually linked to this type of quest so the user would learn how to complete them without even realising it. The most common quest was the "normal quest". Other quests included "group quests", "daily quests", "PvP quests", etc. 

Stage 3: The Beginning

"The Hero's completed his training and sets up the way to meet his own fate with new skills. It's the start of the game's main questline."

It's time for the player to move out. Up until now we've been inside a comfortable sandbox but the world is awaiting for us! Once the tutorial is completed, and some small side quests have been done to reinforce the player's overall game skills at that moment (letting him to master some very few moves), it's time to get bigger. These were some of the key factors to keep the player enagaged in The beginning stage:

A) The Mentor & The traits: As many of the researched games showed, this is the time when a mentor will appear and encourage you to go, bu before you depart, this kind of "mentor" will have one last gift for you: a new special skill or trait that you'll keep on improving until you get a new one.

- B) A mysterious event: Something mysterious and unknown usually happened in many of the analysed games. Some of them had some cutsceens to show you something that's happening far from where you are, some others had you watch an event from the past or future and some others made you encounter some kind of weird item. In any case, mystery was one of the key motivators that kept users on playing at this point (see this study for further information).

- C) An evil character appears: There's almost no game without a powerful and evil enemy. The player has set up his way to meet his fate but it's not going to be easy. Almost all analysed games had a terrific evil character that appeared just before you start your epic journey, and in some of those cases, it was that event what made the player change his way in some kind of unfortunate way.

D) Life Jackets and Looting: Before departing to a new world, many of the games showed the player how to loot mobs, teaching him the main item's types, uses, levels and some other important points to remember about his equipment. This was usually done by small side quests where the player was fully protected against being killed or losing all his lifes thanks to any kind of life jackets. 

...to be continued...

Victor Manrique