Using Game Center to tweak gameplay

My game Flap Flap has been out for a month, and despite fairly slow sales I have gotten good feedback from players. When making Flap Flap I set out to make a casual game that had an easy game mechanic that everyone could master. The bird is controlled with just one button – hold to go upwards, release to fall down. A lot of time was spent on programming and tweaking this mechanic so that the player should feel in control, and be able to steer the birds towards the rings and avoid the monsters.

But how hard should a game be? It’s an essential question, and one that has as many answers as there are players. For me, I like games to be on the easy side. Too much of a challenge, and I quit and do something else. I can’t devote hours and hours on gaming anymore. Alas. So I wanted Flap Flap to be easy, with a gradual learning curve to reel players in and get them hooked. For an endless-type game this is good, as beating your own score is one of the main goals. Playtesting with beta testers (girlfriend, friends and collegues) gave me a rough idea of the difficulty level. But did I succeed with Flap Flap? Was the game too hard, or too easy? Was there some point in the game that was especially twarting that could turn off the player?

I’m not sure. But since the game uses Game Center for highscores, I manually entered all the uploaded scores from the players into a spreadsheet. Tedious. I wish Apple could give me the data from Game Center directly (with achievement progression as well, that would be very useful!). I then output the results as a graph:

These are the results in meters from the players that have enabled Game Center. On the x-axis you have the individual players, and meters on the y-axis. Not many have managed to pass the 5000 meter mark (Maybe <5%) which I consider "beating the game", as the game then repeats but with increasingly higher speeds. That last level between 4000 and 5000m is intentionally hard, and earns you an achievement if you pass it. But what about the average player? On average players reached 2460 meters, about "halfway" - if you can talk about that in an endless game. That's decent for a casual game, but maybe a little low.

The way I interpret these results is that the lower the incline, the harder the game is. Most people die in the region of 300-2500m.

This is expected in a casual game – not everyone will be great at it, but the better you play the better the results. There is a fairly large proportion of players that don’t get very far. You need to feel progression to want to play again, so a better curve of results might have looked like this:

This would mean that more players would get farther, and there would still be a nice progression of results, climbing to 5000 where there would be few players that would succeed. I’m happy that there seems to be no particular plateu in the game where every player dies, though there will always be a tendency of lack of progression at some point in your game. But this experiment showed me that I should nudge the difficulty down a bit, especially in the beginning where everything is hard for the player anyhow.

I have tweaked the diffiulty on the beginner level, making the enemies move a bit slower and reduce the energy spent on flapping a tiny amount. It’s a balancing act for sure, but hopefully old and new players will find the game more fun and get a slightly more rapid progression. And I’m very impressed with the dude who got to almost 20.000!

Flap Flap is out on the App Store for iPhone and iPod touch (works well with iPad as well!). Get it now and support an indie developer!

This update will be uploaded as soon as playtesting has been finished and no bugs are found – hopefully this week. The update also includes retina graphics, making Flap Flap looking even better! Wheeee! Also – new music for the intro scene and a new tutorial/help guide.

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2 thoughts on “Using Game Center to tweak gameplay

    1. Thanks! Yes, by comparing units sold vs Game Center highscore entries you’ll find the percentage. For me it’s about 50%, but I’m pretty aggressive in the way I handle Game Center integration :) It would presumably be much lower if you had to activate it in a menu or something.

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