martes, 14 de enero de 2014

The LevelUP Gamification Design Process

7 steps to design gamified experiences

Designing new stuff is difficult. Making it fun and engaging, is even harder. Creating a gamified experience out of the blue is always a (fantastic) challenge, and I cannot even imagine how hard it is to produce a full game.

Just think of how difficult is to catch someone's attention and getting him to voluntarily play a game (Goes to the App Store. Downloads a new game. Deletes it in less than a minute cause it's boring. Big drama. Sounds familiar?). That's why probably, the most difficult thing is not to design a game but a good one; something that really takes you into the magic circle, Gamification design is not that different. We want people to do something they usually wouldn't do while having fun doing so, which is also quite challenging at some extent!

I've designed several full gamified experiences so far, and used/combined many methods and theories while doing so, and what I can say so far, is that Scott Rogers is absolutely right; Game Design is haaaaard! And so it is Gamification Design.That's why I'm totally sure that in game design, there's no magic formula that allows us to easily solve the engagement equation. Everyone has their own design method to create gameful experiences, and as soon as it works out good, that's all fine!

But! All of that said, if like me, you are the kind of person that would rather follow some kind of steps in the process of creating (or trying to) fun, here's how I do it. I'm not saying this is the right and only way to follow but rather the design process that works good for me, so feel free to use it, combine it with any other methods!

Before we start, this is what some months ago (see link on gamasutra) I called the SMA method because of what it involved (storytelling, mechanics and aesthetics), and after using it for a while, here is the LevelUP design process, a simpler and improved approach to make it simpler for people to use it.

By the way, I've used Jesse Schell's AGD Lenses to make it more visual and easier to understand. I hope that helps! Let's go!

The LevelUP Gamification Design Process

Step 1 - Love 

Oscar García Pañella (aka @kokopus_dark), one of the #GDMooc Instructors, has a really wise sentence that we should never forget when designing any kind of game or gameful experience: "Love game design, or design nothing".

So ask yourself this only but key question:

- Am I pure loving what I'm doing?

Step 2 - Elaborate your strategy and get ready

The very first step of the design process is getting ready for it. Gamification design is something that requires many things before we really start designing and if one of them fails at first, you'd probably have to go back again and again until you get it right. So get your team ready, gain some knowledge about several essential documents and think of the clients main problem. 

Ask yourself some of these questions:

- Do I have the right people in my team?

- Is there a balance between creative and technical skills?

- Am I able to develop the required technology?

- Do we have someone who fully understands what business terms like ROI, Value Proposition, Blue Oceans, or KPIs mean?

- How can I solve the client's problem? 

Step 3 - Visualize WHY, WHAT, WHO

When we apply gamification, there are mainly 3 things that we can achieve: more users, more eficiency or better financial results. If what you're wanting to achieve doens't have to do with those, maybe gamification is nor right for you, so keep that in mind. Besides that, always remember that we are designing experiences for people, and all of them are different. Understand your target players and what you want them to do, and it will all be way easier.

Ask yourself some of these questions:

- What do we want to achieve?

- What do I want my players to do?

- Who is my target?

- How can you motivate him?

- Is Gamification right for me?

- What kind of experience are we delivering to the player?

Step 4 - Explore a new world

Every experience has a story in it. Stories make everything more interesting, and if possible, it's always great to have a unique theme and an epic story going on. Just as a side note, take into account that it usually is a big mistake to define the whole story in detail before designing any mechanics, mainly because it'll lead you to many design constraints. So basically, just make a small draft of the theme+story that will let you keep on working and once all the rest is done, polish it up.

Ask yourself some of these questions:

- What kind of theme do you have?

- How does the storyline develop in time?

- Is it interesting enough?

- What kind of characters do we have?

- Are players getting into their roles?

- Does everything make sense in my story?

Step 5 - Level UP your mechanics

Gamification is built upon its own "special" mechanics (basically game chunks) and they one of the most important (or critical) steps of the whole design process.
For this step, I use my own 35 gamification mechanics toolkit (more info here) but feel free to design with whatever method/toolkit you are comfortable with. If you finally decide to use my mechanics, see that they'll also help you to easily design game stages thanks to the levels on them, so just follow all the way from level 1 to level 6 and you'll have the onboarding, midgame and endgame "kind of" sorted.

Ask yourself some of these questions:

- Is my system collaborative or competitive?

- Is it a solo or social experience?

- What types of rewards are we going to offer?

- What are the main stages of your system?

- What's the core mechanic of the system?

- Would you play your own experience?

Step 6 - Upgrade your graphics

Games and gamification are more than a bunch of mechanics. In order to create something that players actually want to try out (and eventually get engaged with) it has to be eye-catching, jaw-dropping and juicy! So take into account what kind of aesthetics and graphics you want to design and implement. 
Just as a side note about those two terms, I usually focus on graphics rather than pure aesthetics (the same way we use game components instead of normal game mechanics), but it's also possible to use the 8 types of aesthetics with gamification (more info here).

Ask yourself some of these questions:

- How can players interact with the system?

- Does the player have total control on the system?

- Are game interactions quick enough?

- Is it all looking beautiful, juicy and elegant?

- Can your players understand the meaning of those graphics?

- Are my graphics 100% smooth?

Step 7 - Playtest, Playtest, Playtest

"This alpha version of the game is ready to be played", said  no one ever. 
Game design and gamification design are both really hard. Don't expect to get things right at first because that's something that just doesn't happen, so always keep an eye on the game's balance. This is probably the most difficult part of the whole process and there's only one possible way: playtest, playtest, playtest.

Ask yourself some of these questions:

- How is the game's interest curve designed? 

- Is the game difficulty feeling right?

- Is the game too simple/complex?

- Is the game fair for all players (free/freemium)?

- Did you playtest enough?

- Does the system pass the 8 filters? 

Some final words on it...

Gamification is a really powerful tool and designing fun and engaging systems is not easy at all. With this model I just wanted to make it easier for anyone who would like to design a gamified system. However, there are many other methods and theories out there, so always use the one that works best for you!

Last but not least, if you want to know more about Jesse Schell's AGD Lenses, they're free on the App Store. And if you are interested in the 35 gamification mechanics toolkit, they'll be on Amazon before January 2014 is over.

And just as a small "Ps", if you want to know more about gamification design, check this out:

Victor Manrique
+Victor Manrique 

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