Through trial and error, failure and success, we know a thing or two about making HTML5 games, and we strive to pass that knowledge on to other game developers. Here we have compiled a list of best practices that we have found to work in getting more people to play a game, make the experience better for players, and make your game more successful. So take a gander, and let’s polish your game to a fine sheen.
Surrounded by other games, what makes your game stand out from the crowd? A good first impression can go a long way and your game’s icon is the first thing a user will see. Here are a few tips for designing the perfect icon for your awesome game.
Capture the Game’s Essence
The first function of a great icon is to let people know what your game is all about and what they can expect. Focus on what the action of the game is and give people a sneak peak. If your game is a fast-paced racer, show what that race car looks like and convey that sense of speed. If it’s a puzzle game, show a concrete example of the kind of puzzles players will be solving.
Image > Words
Image is what matters most. All of the icons for our in-house games are in the process of becoming language agnostic, meaning they contain no words or letters. No matter what language a player speaks, they should be able to look at your icon and know instantly what your game is about. Keep the level of graphical detail similar to the actual gameplay. Nobody likes being promised a juicy steak and then getting handed fast food.
Keep it Simple
When it comes to icons, simple is best. Don’t overload your graphic with too much visual information and ideas, or a barrage of different styles and color schemes. We’ve found that the best icons have a single point of focus in the foreground (the main character/ main gameplay action) and a simple yet attractive background. Also keep in mind color contrast, and choose a background that will make your focus point stand out!
Be Wise On Size
Be sure to design a few different sizes of Icon. But remember, when an icon gets shrunk down to fit in a smaller slot on a bigger menu, a lot of the detail can get lost in the process. If you choose to have your game’s title in the icon, be sure it is still legible even when compressed into a smaller box.
Icon 2: Electric Boogaloo
If your game is the 2nd installment, or even the 1st in what you are planning to turn into a series, keep that in mind when designing your logo. Give your icon a unique style and layout that players can identify as part of the collection, while making it clear where the game fits in the larger sequence.
Your icon rocks and it's getting players into the game. The next hurdle a game must clear is making sure the player’s first experience with your game is awesome. Is your game easy to understand and play? Does it teach the player everything they need to know to play and enjoy the game? The first few minutes can make or break a player’s interest, so we’ve noted some rules of thumb you can use to make sure that once the player picks up the game, they don’t put it down.
Teach Through Play
People have short attention spans these days. Recognize this and get the player straight into the game with as few steps in between as possible. If players can learn the mechanics while playing the game, it’s all for the better. If your game involves more complicated moves and mechanics that take a bit of time to get used to, we’ve found it is best to introduce them in a tutorial, or slowly across the span of multiple levels. In short, get the player playing as quickly as possible.
As mentioned above, the best tutorials are ones that teach the player how to play the game while they are playing it. It is, of course, acceptable to have a handy cheat sheet of controls that the player can refer to, but as a general rule of thumb, keep it action focused and keep the text to a minimum. This can be accomplished in a few basic ways.
- The basic tutorial. The most basic type, this is a safe environment where players are shown the controls, before they begin the actual game. Ideally, there should be an option to skip the tutorial to accommodate returning players who have played the game before.
- The “tutorial as level” approach. This is where the different actions or moves required to play are introduced over the course of the first few levels. To take a platforming game as an example: the 1st level only requires basic jumping to clear, the 2nd level requires both jumping and double-jumping, the 3rd level introduces dashing or wall jumping, etc.
There’s nothing worse than a long loading screen. To keep them to an absolute minimum, we recommend implementing a technique called progressive loading. Progressive loading is a method where only the necessary elements are loaded at first, (the menu, tutorial, first level, etc.) just to get the player off and going immediately. Then, with the player already playing, the next elements are loaded silently in the background. In HTML5 gaming, it is absolutely critical to NOT keep the player waiting!
Appeal, Engagement, Fun
Attracting a Wide Audience
The HTML5 game-scape is a cornucopia of various genres, styles and types of play. However, through years of experience in making and publishing hyper-casual games, we have discovered a few simple tests you can use to make sure your game has the widest possible player appeal. Remember, these are not fixed rules and may not apply to every game, but we have found them to be helpful when aiming for the largest possible audience.
The Mom Test: Ask yourself, is this game simple enough for my mom to play and enjoy? If the answer is yes, then you’ve hit the sweet spot for hyper-casual gaming.
The One Finger Factor: Can your game be played using only one hand, or one finger? If the answer is yes, then your game is in prime position to attract a mobile audience.
The 30 Second Rule: Can you beat each round or level in 30 seconds or less? If the answer is yes, then your game has fast paced play that will keep players coming back for more.
Visuals and animations
Players like pretty games. This doesn’t mean your game must have top of the line graphics, but it does mean it should have its own distinct visual style and coherent design elements. Little touches can make all the difference. We recommend adding animations to as many interactive elements in your game as possible. Implementing simple animations like bouncing, sliding, or easing help to make your game more visually appealing for the player, and give your game a more polished feel.
Reward The Player
You know the feeling when you finally beat that level you’ve been struggling with for hours? It’s a great feeling, right? Our next tip to engage players and keep them coming back is to make sure your game gives players that feeling of accomplishment all along the way. Here are a few ways to give your players that extra pat on the back:
- Watch the difficulty. Don’t make your game too difficult too fast. While increasing the difficulty is essential to keeping a game challenging and engaging, if the learning curve is too steep, new players tend to abandon ship pretty quickly.
- Dish out regular rewards. Give the player a little extra motivation every step of the way. At each level or chapter, give your players a reason to keep coming back. This can be done in any number of ways; points and a leaderboard, coins they can save up to buy cool new stuff, unlocking new items or new abilities, etc. As a player progresses through your awesome game, they are getting better and better so let them know they are doing an awesome job!
The more languages your game supports, the more the potential audience of your game increases. Adding multiple languages to your game will increase player understanding and accessibility and ultimately lead to more people playing your game!
For hyper-casual games, we believe in keeping it simple and as language-agnostic as possible. This means that the act of playing itself becomes a language that shows the player what to do and how to play. However, many genres of games rely on language and character building, and these are the games where we can’t recommend localization enough.
Ideal Genres For Localization
- Text based games - quizzes, text adventures, or any game that has features that require text to introduce or explain
- Story games - Games with story and dialogue that is text-driven
- Idle games
As one of our requirements, your game must support English, (and Japanese, if applying for release on Rakuten Link), but to put it simply, the more languages your games supports, the larger the potential reach. These are the main language groups you should consider localizing for to reach the widest population of players possible. They are listed in order of largest potential audience, so when weighing the time and resources spent on localization, keep this in mind. The more groups you can hit, the better.
- Western Audience - English, French, Italian, German, Spanish
- Asia - Chinese, Japanese, Korean
- South America/ Eastern Europe - Brazilian-Portuguese, Russian, Turkish
Our network of Game Portal publishers spans all across the globe, so be sure to check as many language boxes as you possibly can!
In this section we will break down a few ways to use ads and rewarded videos in a way that does not obstruct gameplay, but enhances the player’s experience.
Rewarded Ads Basics
Rewarded ads are a video or ad a player chooses to watch voluntarily in exchange for a reward, perk, or benefit in the game. In order to not bombard the player with ads, (and increase the likelihood of quitting the game), rewarded ads should reset the interstitial ads timer, so that if a player chooses to watch an ad, they are not immediately forced to watch another one.
Rewarded ads should:
- Be optional and never block the main gameplay
- Be clear and well marked, never misleading
- Be unavailable for players using an ad blocker
With this in mind, let’s look at a few ways rewarded ads can be used to make the game more enjoyable for the player. These are just a few common examples. We encourage you to explore and test out new ways that they can be used for your unique game!
An Extra Boost
Rewarded ads can be very useful in helping to flatten the difficulty curve of a game and give less experienced players an extra boost to get through an especially tough level.
Continues: When a player hits ‘game over’, offer a rewarded ad that will give them a 1-up and a chance to continue without losing any progress.
Skip a Level: For particularly tricky levels, offer the player a chance to skip past the level in exchange for watching an ad.
Hints: Especially useful for puzzlers, hints can be given as a reward for watching an ad.
Stat boost: For games where players upgrade their stats, increasing defense, attack or magic is a great incentive for rewarded ads.
Speed boost: Useful for idle games or mining games, you can offer up a 2x or 3x speed boost for a certain amount of time.
New Moves: For games that grant new abilities or powers over time, you can let the player choose to get a new move a little early in exchange for a quick ad.
If your game has an in-game currency system (coins, points, etc.) then this can be used in conjunction with rewarded ads in a variety of ways to speed up progress and motivate the player.
Double points: A common method is after a player has cleared a level, give them the option to watch a rewarded add to double the amount of hard earned points or coins they collected while playing.
Direct reward: A bit more flexible, offer a certain amount of currency or points in exchange for watching an ad.
Roulette wheel: Some games incorporate a roulette wheel with a few different rewards on it (extra lives, extra coins, upgrades, etc). If the player watches an ad, they can get a spin on the wheel and a chance at a number of different rewards.
Adding a variety of skins, clothing, backgrounds, characters and more that players can choose from gives them the chance to craft a unique identity in the game and make it their own. Collecting all the customizable elements in a game also gives the player an additional goal and therefore greater motivation.
New Features: Watch an ad to unlock new skins, backgrounds, themes, background music.
Style: Watch a rewarded ad to give your character or weapon a new look. (Clothing, armor, accessories, weapon coloration, skins and more). Implement this in a straightforward way, (1 video watch = 1 item) or in a more progressive way, (watching a few videos over time = 1 item).
Here are a few general rules of thumb to watch out for when considering how best to implement rewarded ads into your game.
- Make sure the button to press and watch a rewarded ad is clearly labeled and stays in a fixed, and unobtrusive position. Don’t move it around constantly so the player accidentally clicks.
- Don’t overdo it. If rewarded ads feel invasive it is a big turn off to players and can lead to the opposite effect - decreased engagement.
- Let the player know they got the reward through a consistent animation, text or sound.
- Limit the number of rewarded ads a player can watch. While there is no rule against it, a player simply just opting to watch rewarded ads over and over again can hamper the overall progression and experience. While rewards can help enhance a game, remember that gameplay is #1.
- Try using rewarded ads with temporary or seasonal content. Weekly, monthly or unlocks for holidays or special events are a great way to boost engagement while not overwhelming the player.