Episode 17: Designing Your Audience for Mobile Games with Richard Bartle

Mobile GameDev Playbook podcast by GameRefinery

We are a bit starstruck in this episode of The Mobile GameDev Playbook, with guest Richard Bartle! Listen in to learn more about best practices for audience design, taxonomies of players, and how they can help developers design better, more engaging mobile games.

Richard joins the podcast to discuss his impressive career, including how he created the Multi-User Dungeon – or simply MUDs – the forebearer of the multiplayer online role-playing genre and how he developed the Bartle Taxonomy Player Types.

Head of Analytics at GameRefinery by Vungle, Joel Julkunen, also joins the conversation to discuss the influence Bartle’s player types have had on GameRefinery’s own taxonomy and the subtle differences between mobile and MMORPG players.

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Topics we will cover in this episode:

  1. How GameRefinery’s player archetypes were created
  2. The initial idea behind player archetypes
  3. Comparing mobile game audiences and PC/console audiences
  4. Should game designers focus on just one player archetype at a time?
  5. Experimenting beyond the primary motivation of your key audience
  6. What the future looks like for the player archetypes

Introduction

Jon Jordan: Hello, and welcome to the Mobile GameDev Playbook. Thanks for tuning in for another episode. This podcast provides insights into what makes a great mobile game, what is and is not working for mobile game designers, and all the latest trends. Today’s topic is going to be super interesting, and we’ve titled it Designing Your Audience for Mobile Games. A bit of a spin there, not designing your mobile games for your audience, but designing your audience for your mobile games. It will become clear very soon. I’m your host, Jon Jordan, and very pleased that joining us today is Dr Richard Bartle. How’s it going, Richard?

Richard Bartle: It’s going fine, Yes.

Jon: Good. Pleased to hear it. Many of us know what you’ve been doing over the years, you’re pretty famous in the game space, but can we have a little potted history of what you’ve been up to?

Richard: Okay, so it will have to be potted because it covers a lot of time. 45 or so years ago, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Essex, I co-wrote a game called MUD, a multi-user dungeon, which is the forerunner from which are descended almost all today’s massively multiplayer, online role-playing games. Anything World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy are direct descendants of this game I wrote MUD. After running it for 10, 15 years, somebody asked a question about why people play these games, and we had a big discussion amongst the administrators. I’m going to say the bit lasted about three months.

In the end, I thought, well, I’ll summarise this now it’s petered out. While I was summarizing, I noticed that people played for basically four different reasons, which I thought was quite interesting, so I summarised it and sent it out to the players. Over the next few years, I watched it; it seemed to work. I thought that’s useful, but I didn’t do much with it, and then a journal came out, an academic journal called the Journal of MUD Research,

I think it may have managed, maybe four or five issues before people stop sending in articles, but the very first one, I thought this deserves support. I wrote up my findings, and I call them player types. That’s what I’m generally known for outside the MMO industry, player types, which is– Although it was published in 1996, the original work was in 1991, something like that.

Jon: This is now known as the Bartle types?

Richard: Not by me. I call it player types.

Jon: No, I know not by you. It will be a bit odd if you were calling your–

Richard: It’s like the Higgs boson, he calls it, the boson.

Jon: Yes, but, interestingly, it was that holistic development, that it came out naturally from what was happening there, and it’s become so foundational to a lot of thinking about a player taxonomy, using the professional word, and still being used today. Let’s talk to Joel Julkunen. How’s it going, Joel?

Joel: Great, thanks.

How GameRefinery’s player archetypes were created

Jon: You’re head of analytics at GameRefinery by Vungle, as you’re now officially known. Do you want to talk a bit about how you’ve been using some of these basic foundational thinking about what kind of audiences and what they want in games? You’ve got your GameRefinery motivations and archetypes framework as well. Can you talk a bit about how you took that and used that particularly for mobile? Which is maybe a little bit different to what the people playing MUDs all those years ago.

Joel: Of course. Yes, I have to say that Dr Bartle’s work was one of the foundations that we also researched and checked when trying to do this. It has been a big inspiration for us as well. Of course, as we are working on the mobile game space, we then started to see that because there are so many genres and mashups. While the industry is a bit different, we needed to have a framework for the developer’s needs in working in the mobile game space.

We started by reviewing existing frameworks, both academic and commercial. Then we did a lot of interviews with game developers and the players, so there was a significant amount of quality study involved. Then we learned, I would say, three key things from this initial research. First of all, of course, there were several existing frameworks, like Dr Bartle’s one, but most of them were, I would say, a bit focused on the PC and console work. Really great work and really extensive, but then, when looking at some specific sub-genres in mobile, we thought that there is something that we could maybe do or take a bit further.

“There were several existing frameworks, but most were focused on PC and console. When looking at some specific sub-genres in mobile, we thought this is something that we could maybe do or take a bit further. We needed to have a taxonomy or framework of motivations and player archetypes that we could use in all of these different genres and subgenres.”

Joel on player motivations for mobile games

Second, many of these frameworks in the industry were thorough but when we talked with the developers and the game teams. They were designing game features like individual mechanics in games and especially in mobile games. Sometimes, these existing frameworks were a bit high-level so what we had requested was, “Hey, could you guys, when you are researching the features and doing the surveys, could you dig it a bit more detailed level from a modern mobile game perspective?” That’s where we started.

Then the last or the third point was that we needed to have a taxonomy framework of motivations and player archetypes that we could use in all of these different genres and subgenres. There are casual games in the mobile game space, like word games or puzzle games; on the other hand, there are complex games on the other side of the spectrum, like 4X strategy games or RPGs and those Mid-Core hardcore games. We also need a taxonomy that could explain and match the motivations of all these different types of players.

That’s where we left off, but I would say that Dr Bartle’s and the other academic study has been a great inspiration and also, without that, we wouldn’t be here with the GameRefinery’s taxonomy as well.

Jon: We haven’t said the four that you came up with initially, Richard, which is a bit of a miss for us. We have Achievers, Explorers, Killers, and Socialisers. That was the basic framework you came up with.

Joel: Yes, that’s right.

Jon: I guess the niceness of that is, it’s not too complicated. When people hear those, you have an inherent view of what those people will be doing in that situation. Did you come up with a fixed number of archetypes?

Joel: At the moment, we have eight archetypes. They have pretty much overlapped with Dr Bartle’s archetype as well. Maybe some of them will splice and dice up to add more detailed archetypes, taking into account the mobile games’ nature. Then, of course, with those eight-player archetypes. We also have those 12 individual motivation drivers that then those archetypes where we have like a networker archetype, that archetype is keen on certain types of these 12 motivations. We have both the motivation and then the archetypes.

The initial idea behind player archetypes

Jon: Richard, are you surprised that all these years, 25 years later, that these core things that you came up with are still relevant? They’re being refined over the years, but for games, it’s so dynamic. It’s pretty surprising there; you hit the nail on the head there.

Richard: Yes. When I originally published the article that I published, I didn’t publish it to say, “These are the four-player types.” It was more like, “You people keep designing games for yourselves.” If you design a game for yourself, one person at least will like it, you, but games don’t need to be designed for yourself; you should be designing games for people, and people play for different reasons. Look, here are four reasons, the top four reasons that I have found.

“When I originally published the article that I published, I didn’t publish it to say, “These are the four-player types.” It was more like, “You people keep designing games for yourselves.” If you design a game for yourself, one person at least will like it, you, but games don’t need to be designed for yourself; you should be designing games for people, and people play for different reasons.”

Richard explains original intention with his first player types article

I expected somebody would go away and come back six months later with, “Bah, those are rubbish. These are the real reasons people play.” As it happens, it seems that I was pretty close to massively multiplayer games. There were some flaws with the original specification with four types; mainly, there were different kinds of Killers. Then when you look closely, there are different kinds of others as well. There was no explanation of how players move between types because, for MMOs, people play for a long time, and they change their types as they play. It didn’t actually explain why they played them. It just said they play for these reasons.

I did expand that in 2003 for my book, Designing Virtual Worlds There are eight types now in total, but no one ever uses the eight types because eight’s too big a number. They remember four, and they’re particular because it’s got Killers in there. They like the word “Killers”. It’s accessible, and it’s useful for coming to grips with the idea that there are different reasons that people play games. If you’re designing a game, you probably ought to know why the people you’re designing it for would be playing it.

Yes, I seem to have come across something that seems to have uses, but it’s a tool. You might want a better tool; you can stick a screw into a piece of wood by using a hammer. It’s not as good as using a screwdriver, but it’s better than trying to use your teeth. It’s just a tool, and other people will have particular needs that have got more refined requirements than player types do. The general principle is that there are different people who play for different reasons. If you’re making a game, you should probably know what those reasons are.

If it’s a multiplayer game, then those different reasons will all interact with one another. You do need to service them all, not just your own particular, I’m an achiever there, where everybody must be an achiever or whatever.

“You might want a better tool; you can stick a screw into a piece of wood by using a hammer. It’s not as good as using a screwdriver, but it’s better than trying to use your teeth. It’s just a tool, and other people will have particular needs that have got more refined requirements than my player types do. GameRefinery is a handy tool for making mobile games or disambiguating between different mobile games, then why would you not use that if you were making games? You’d be mad not to if it’s a specialist tool for what you’re doing.”

Richard on why other player types/taxonomies like GameRefinery’s are useful

Jon: I think it’s worth pointing out. Maybe many people don’t know that the games you’re talking about these MUDs were just text-based. These were now seen as incredibly primitive experiences, although, of course, to the people who were in them, they were– Because there was no graphics to get in the way, graphics weren’t couldn’t do graphics on many computers then. They were creating the image in their brains.

Richard: Yes. What we’re doing now is quite primitive. You’re only 2D. I only see you from the chest up. How many years do you want to wait before you’re a 3D hologram standing in front of me? Yes. The thing about text, even when there is an argument that actual text is the end state. If you keep adding more and more and more to the interfaces, eventually, you get to the point where the text does what you want to do better. Still, no one’s going to play text at the moment because it involves reading, and for video games, well, they want video, but we had to have texts because there wasn’t the bandwidth back then.

It’s just as well for me because although I can write very well, I can’t draw for toffee. Yes, text at one point just before the world wide web came out and people could put pictures up, MUDs accounted for about 11% of all the bits sent on the internet. Not a bad boast.

Comparing mobile game audiences and PC/console audiences

Jon: Good. Joel, we were talking about obviously you guys looking at mobile. In terms of those kinds of- let’s keep it basic, those four basic premises that we have: Achiever, Explorer, Killer, and Socializer. Do you think they all are equally relevant for mobile games? I guess it would be called mobile games. At the same time, it can be very hardcore and similar to anything on PC and console; there also is more casual, or now hyper-casual experiences, which we’ve never really seen before on other gaming platforms.

Do you think the gravity has shifted? Are we seeing more games now that are socialising more with the rise of social networks? Is that the archetype that is in Vogue at the moment of mobile?

Joel: Yes, I would say, as I said before, Dr Bartles, the original four archetypes or player types are still very valid when we’re looking at the high-level picture of even the mobile game. Then when we’re looking at the current state of space of mobile game types and genres, I think the biggest differences, in my opinion, that in mobile game space, there are a huge amount of genres and subgenres and genre hybrids and, of course, affect that what players and also the audience is much broader. That, of course, affects the framework over the whole space or at least a great extent of the space.

I would say that when looking at mobile game audiences and then comparing those to PC, for example, MMOs, first mobile gamers nowadays are a much broader group of people in terms of demographics, characteristics, like age and gender. Then many people who actually do play mobile games don’t consider themselves as gamers in the traditional sense of the word. The audience is so much more diverse. Of course, we all are still people, so similar things motivate us even if the decades roll by or whatever.

“I would say that when looking at the mobile game audience and then comparing those to PC, for example, MMOs, mobile gamers nowadays are a much broader group in terms of demographics and characteristics, like age and gender. Then, many people who play mobile games don’t consider themselves gamers in the traditional sense of the word. The audience is so much more diverse.”

Joel on the diversity of mobile gamers

Then I think not as we have in the mobile game space, we have a huge variety of game types, with a growing number of hybrids and matchups, it sets its own requirements for this taxonomy, an actionable taxonomy when looking from designers perfectly. Which of course designers work with the intricate details and feature mechanics and for them to have a really actionable framework we needed to emphasize a couple of the characteristics that are more suitable for mobile game space.

These two, I would say characteristics, aspects of people who are actually engaging with the product. Then meaning that in mobile, they tend to present the broader spectrum of users and this in turn then affects the averages and means of what motivations drive the mobile game audience in general, in comparison to let’s say MMOs and PC consoles they are even, and then like a couple of decades ago.

Should game designers focus on just one player archetype at a time?

Jon: In terms of, it’s interesting what you put out there that you mentioned that as we age– I guess these, the valid reason that these four archetypes have survived is because it’s very simple, but when we start to put on the matrix of, we might as individuals move, I guess off the top of my head, you might think a lot of teenage boys will kill us. Then as you get older, we can think they’re more exploratory teams or something like that. Equally, as you pointed out, I think because people play the same game over a fairly short period of time can change that as well. It’s multi-dimensional, I suppose.

Do you think even in some games, like if you think about first-person shooter games, obviously that’s going to attract more of a killer type of person and that behavior will be dominant. Do you think, Richard, that designers should be thinking more about even in these games where you think there’s a predominance of one type or one type of motivation that you should have good things to do for all four archetypes, or will it be better off honing your design maybe for some titles just to one behaviour?

Richard: Well, the thing is that you need all four for the massively multiplayer games, because these are the things that people play for two to four hours every night for 18 months, two years, 25 years. People will play these things for ages. Then they’re like epic stories, like mythic stories that are like King Arthur, where he starts off in any of the whole things covered. Of course, they’re going to develop as they play.

If you’re going for a mobile game then, first of all, you want to choose a group that’s going to pay you money because if you don’t then, well you’re a charity. You’re going to aim your group at, your game at some people who will at least pay you somehow. Now unless the other player types are part of the content, then why would you address them?

“You want to choose a group that’s going to pay you money because if you don’t, then you’re a charity. You’re going to aim your group at your game at some people who will at least pay you somehow. Now, unless the other player types are part of the content, then why would you address them?

Richard on targeting player types

If you are making a game that you think really appeals to achievers, then, “Okay, will the achievers pay me any money?” Well, some of them might because they’re not very good at achieving and want to give the impression that they are, so they might pay you something to give themselves a boost and tell themselves that they aren’t cheating, but they know deep down they are. Other people, explorers might think, well, this is a really interesting game. I could spend a lot of time playing it in order to gain access to these new and interesting mechanics and the depth and so on. I’d rather just pay.

Now, if you’ve got that thing, then yes, you wouldn’t make a game that would be aimed at both, but there’s no point– If the game is single-player, then there’s not a lot of point aiming it at socializers and also killers.

The sense that it’s used in player types for MMOs is more of your griefer rather than your competitive PVP, player versus player. It’s not really make sense. It’s more like it’s more people who get fun from making other people not have from yes. It really depends on the game. If you’re looking for a game that you want people to play a lot over an extended period, and you’re expecting to get money from dribs and drabs, then go for all-four because each player will act as content for the other players.

If you’re aiming at something quite focused, that’s only going to be interesting to certain people, but it’d be really interesting to them. You wouldn’t go for a broad-strokes like player type You’d choose something that was particularly, say, it was one of these, find the hidden object games. Some people just like it because they like the actual seeking and finding. They get some fun from finding things, whereas others, they’re more like completionists and maybe want to get their fun from having found all of them.

Now you could map those onto player types. You could map them onto probably personality types. If you’re a game designer and you want to know what kind of players are playing that hidden object, then you need to know your audience. Using a broad structure could help, but you probably want a more focused one by people who have made these games and done an analysis that works very well for that one small group. A specialist too likes a goldsmith’s screwdriver which is a tiny little thing, but it’s what makes your watches work.

Jon: It’s interesting to bring in monetization. It is a motivation for people as well. Again, that’s another layer. Maybe these different types monetizing different ways but certainly different experiences particularly for mobile where you’re giving away all the content for free. Obviously, it is slightly different in MMOs. Hopefully, you have a subscription service.

Richard: They do have a subscription. They also sell things which annoys a lot of players.

Experimenting beyond the primary motivation of your key audience

Jon: Do you think there are any great examples of games that you think–? Have you used this framework to its fullest extent? I don’t know which ones you’ve worked on. I know you do consulting stuff as well. If people are interested in what would be a good game that, you think, builds.

Richard: What, with massively multiplayer games? Yes, some of those. Pretty well, everything from Ultima Online onwards has been designed with player types in mind, so it’s influenced them all. When you look at the games, you can see, “Yes, the players do split into these different types.” The counter-argument is, “Of course, they do because they were designed to fit them. There might be all these other player types you haven’t come across.” The theory says that if people are playing for fun, then these are the player types you will see. They will progress through them in a certain way, but that only applies to MMOs.

If you’re using player types outside of MMOs, I can’t explain why it would work, but I can’t say it wouldn’t work. If it works until you find a better tool, go for it. As Joe was saying, there are lots of people who have done work in these areas. When you look at them, you do find some differences. Mainly, they’re all very immersion. They all seem to be coming down to the same motivations, the same categories of things that they find enjoyable. There might be some differences in different places, but really, there’s enough there that’s so similar that you think, “Well, there is something to this now.”

Jon: Yes, after 25 years.

Richard: For example, I don’t have anything in my player types for immersion, which is the sense of the extent to which you identify with your character in a role-playing game. Some of the other ones do have that. Now for me, immersion is a measure of how far you’ve progressed in your journey through the different player types. It’s covered at a meta-level. For others, immersion is a reason that people play games to get immersed.

They come at them from different directions. Really, as a designer, it’s which one is the most useful for you. GameRefinery is a handy tool for making mobile games or disambiguating between different mobile games, then why would you not use that if you were making games? You’d be mad not to if it’s a specialist tool for what you’re doing and free.

Jon: Obviously, we’ve discussed it. People can take different approaches individually and over time. Do you think you are a particular type? If you had to choose.

Richard: No. Again, I’m a gamer designer. I don’t play games for player fun. I play games for designer fun which isn’t the same. People play games for all sorts of reasons. They might play a game because they are an educator, and they’re playing the game to teach somebody or be a journalist. They’re playing it to learn, to write about it. There could be a gold farmer playing a game to make money by collecting game gold that they can then sell to other players for real money.

“I’m a gamer designer. I don’t play games for player fun. I play games for designer fun which isn’t the same. You’re not creating games for those people. You’re creating games for the vast majority of people who are players. If you are in one of those categories, then the player type wouldn’t matter because you’re a meta-gamer.”

Richard on why his player types don’t apply to designers, educators, journalists etc

They could be another designer looking at the game to try and figure out how it works. Those people aren’t playing the games for fun. You’re not creating games for those people. You’re creating games for the vast majority of people who are players. If you are in one of those categories, then the player type wouldn’t matter because you’re a meta-gamer.

For me, I don’t play games for fun. I play them for designer fun, so I might find something a lot more fun than you do because you think the game is boring, but I’m thinking, “Wow. That’s good how they put that together; okay, the game sucks. But this is interesting. If only they’d have done this.” Or, “Oh, I’m going to take that next time.” That’s work. If you were to sit down and watch a movie and you were sitting next to Steven Spielberg, in the end, you both would have seen a different film.

“I don’t play games for player fun. I play them for designer fun, so I might find something a lot more fun than you do because you think the game is boring, but I’m thinking, “Wow. That’s good how they put that together; okay, the game sucks. But this is interesting. If only they’d have done this.” Or, “Oh, I’m going to take that next time.” If you were to sit down and watch a movie and you were sitting next to Steven Spielberg, in the end, you both would have seen a different film.”

Richard on how he plays games as a designer

Jon: Joel did something that jumps out at you. Again, a bit like Richard, you play games for work. Maybe the fun of playing very obscure Chinese mobile RPGs is probably less than Chinese RPG fans. Is it one you think is more you?

Joel: Based on our research and how I see it, I agree with Richard that I also play games for work purposes, so I’m not the best to analyse myself. We notice that players and human beings might have several key motivations and reasons why they play the games and some particular game especially. It’s not always so black and white. Even though in GameRefinery, we have the eight gamer archetypes, player archetypes. One individual player can be a mix of, let’s say, thrill-seeker as we call it or a king of the hill or network or whatever, so it depends.

Based on our research, the same people might play different games to tackle the different motivations. The same player might enjoy strategy games and hardcore games for beating others and being the king of the hill or that kind of stuff, optimising resource production. Then, they might have this other state of mind where they are all about playing sudokus or some puzzle games. It’s not always so black and white.

“Based on our research, the same people might play different games to tackle the different motivations.”

Joel on how players play different games to satisfy their different motivations

I think from designers’ perspective; what we’ve always also noticed, there are a couple of examples from the industry and the market, is that if you can find an artistic experiment beyond the primary motivation or archetypes that you view as your key audiences, you might find something valuable. The example I was going to say is, for instance, the rise of so-called decoration or narrative, mastery puzzle games like Gardenscapes and Homescapes, a couple of years ago that are now a significant part of the whole puzzle genre.

What happened there is that the designers realised that the people who love to play casual match-three games also enjoy the sense of accomplishment and progression towards set milestones. Then, they realise that many casual gamers like the escapism aspect of life, storytelling, and narrative and also being able to express themselves through decoration. Then, games like Homescapes and Gardenscapes and many other titles that follow those two, actually fill and feed those different motivation needs besides the puzzle-solving and, I would say, traditional, single-dimensional match-three games used to keep players.

Then, when they realised that, they implemented the meta-layers of narratives and decorations and building your mansion, which has nothing to do with the actual puzzle-solving or the match-three aspect core gameplay, they were able to increase the retention of their existing user base, but also luring players who are not plain puzzle gamers but require the narrative and decoration aspects to fall in love with the game.

I think they are at least in the mobile game space, as mobile games are so versatile that you can put as many genres together and implement new features that, at first glance, you wouldn’t think that fit a particular genre. Then they can broaden that motivational spectrum of the game and lure in players that otherwise might not enjoy the game like PvP shooters, like Counter-Strike PC back in the day and still, of course, one of the biggest games, when I played them like 15, 20 years ago, they didn’t have any skins or decorations and that aspect to them, but now that’s one of the most significant monetising aspects of those games, like Fortnite. Of course, we choose metaverse features such that you can hang out with other players and bring in the different social aspect, not only beating each other to death in the battle royale setting but also hanging out together and throwing in some music concerts and whatever.

I think that’s my point here is that mobile games are diverse and great in the way that they give you the possibility to find new audiences when you understand what motivates not only your current gamer base, like the secondary motivation drivers, but also new players that wouldn’t otherwise maybe even stick to your game.

There are a lot of options, but also, of course, it opens up many challenges for designers as well.

“Mobile games are diverse and great in the way that they give you the possibility to find new audiences when you understand what motivates not only your current gamer base, like the secondary motivation drivers, but also new players that wouldn’t otherwise maybe even stick to your game”

Joel on how mobile games can attract lots of different types of players.

What the future looks like for the player archetypes

Jon: Good. I’m the only one then who– I’m an explorer — No matter what game I play, I’m afraid to– I’m not professional enough to play games for work because I explore them. Anyway, good. We’re coming to an end now of the podcast. We can discuss this for a long time, but where do we think this, more generally, this motivational archetypal taxonomy thing is going? We have a good foundation, with these four, these different variations and people who are doing different sorts of games might use them.

Do we think over time, and as we get more data around how people play, we can monitor that. These tools just get incredibly complicated and incredibly niche? Going back to your analogy about our gold screwdrivers becoming tinier and tinier. Do you think there will always be innovation in this space and drilling down further and further? Richard?

Richard: Well, you can drill down as long as you want. One hundred years from now, yes. If we haven’t got the AIs already that will identify which games you personally, as an individual, would like, then we’ll have them in the future. You can drill down as much as you’d like, but the trouble is that the further you drill down, the smaller the audience becomes. Yes, you might be able to design the perfect game for one person but is that person nevertheless going to hand over as much money as if you created a game that wasn’t perfect but still pretty good for millions of people.

“The trouble is that the further you drill down, the smaller the audience becomes. Yes, you might be able to design the perfect game for one person, but is that person nevertheless going to hand over as much money as if you created a game that wasn’t perfect but still pretty good for millions of people.”

Richard on the risk of making games too specifically designed for certain player types

Yes, it’s basically the deeper you go, the more it goes. At some point, you’ve got to say, “Well just take an integration, and it’s the area of this.” That’s the optimum point. If you look in too much detail, then you’ve got a narrower audience, but if you’ve got too shallow, you’ve got your appeal to everybody, but not enough that they’re going to give you any money or even that they’ll pay you again for very long. It’s a balancing act. I think that the best games are made by people who are both crafts-oriented and arts-oriented.

If you’re a game designer who’s making a game based on some player types, and you’ve got this hierarchy, we need a game that will appeal to people who like ponies and want hair, so we’ll make a My Little Ponies like game. We just identify what things people like and make a game about it. If you do that, then the game designer who is very good at the craft, a craft game designer, will create such a game with all the mechanics and so on, but there will be no art to the game.

It won’t be saying anything; it won’t be speaking to the players. It’ll just be effectively the game designers acting as puzzle solvers, but the puzzle is how to deal with the systems that have been created. The best games are where the game designer can do that because they need the skills of the craft, but they’re trying to say something to the players because they’ve got a vision. The vision is an attempt to communicate through the game systems.

For that, once more people become accomplished at the craft, we will move more on to the art, and there will be seeing games as the same things for the players that have not been said before in any other medium. Because games have got gameplay, no other medium has gameplay. They’ll still be there. Of course, they’ll still be there, people who just want to play card games on their phone. Everyone’s different.

Jon: On a philosophical note there, that’s good. Joel, how do you see the pick on the mobile side?

Joel: I think I agree with Richard. Of course, when technology goes further, let’s say ten years from now, there will be more options and opportunities for designers to create the kind of games that cater to the different motivations or speak to these different archetypes. Like Richard said, the way you can always go the more niche, the more niche level, but then how actionable that is in the bigger picture? I think when we were designing the taxonomy, and when it comes to genres or features, whatever, you can always go deeper, but at some point, it is not as useful anymore; it gets too granular.

Then, one thing we are also going to find out is that if a designer or a company focuses on a new too narrow-mindedly on some, let’s say, some genre that they are very much into match-three games, let’s say, and they think about only the motive, what motivates match-three players and what features we should implement here?

The great thing about mobile games is that they are versatile. You can think, and you should think outside the box and have the greatest innovations. Many of the best home games resulted from borrowing from genres that you wouldn’t even think about borrowing from and then making it work in your game and making it so that it speaks to your audience.

“The great thing about mobile games is that they are versatile. You can think, and you should think outside the box and have the greatest innovations. Many of the best home games resulted from borrowing from genres that you wouldn’t even think about borrowing from and then making it work in your game and making it so that it speaks to your audience.”

Joel on the versatility of mobile games

If you only go deeper and deeper, in, let’s say, in some motivation or player archetype framework, you might lose the bigger picture and then miss many of the opportunities that come from looking from the higher level. Then as I said, I don’t see people changing that much, or our motivation changing that much as evolving as quickly as the market is growing.

I firmly believe that the core motivations or the player archetypes, yes, there will be some changes and or a variety in the longer term. Still, like Richard pointed out, I would say that as we’ve been researching many of these different taxonomies. Different ways of looking at things they have, yes, have some differences, but the overall similarities are there. I don’t see them changing too much. Then it’s more about developers finding the way, how to cater to the key audience that is the most lucrative audience from their perspective.

Maybe the result is the super AI that we just didn’t care about, and it feeds impulses to our brain that trigger all of our motivations, and we don’t have to do anything in the world anymore. We got to stop here.

Jon: Maybe we will end up there.

Joel: Yes.

Jon: Excellent. Thanks. I think yes, it’s a good thing that we have these tools and the toolsets are getting more refined, and we can do more delicate things with them. Unless we have the spark of the art in the first place, then we potentially just become more derivative. I think it’s always for the game designers who will balance purposely between the spark that drives the passion and then have the best tool to craft that spark of inspiration into something that people are going to love. Thank you very much. Thank you for your time, Richard. That was great. Thank you, Joel.

Richard: I wanted to hear more of Joel.

Jon: Dystopian vision.

Richard: We’ll have to hang around after this is finished.

Jon: You guys should have a personal podcast where you talk about scary AIs and things like that.

For us, thank you very much for listening and viewing our podcast/videocast. I hope you’re enjoying it, and you are sparking some inspiration in your mind about thinking particularly about the mobile game space and how to make great mobile games as we are trying to do. We’re doing the podcast regularly now. Whether you’re listening via podcast or watching us now via video, please do subscribe, and be great to get reviews, particularly on the podcast channels that help other people find the podcast.

Enough from me. Thank you very much for listening, watching, and coming back next time to see what’s going on in the world of the Mobile GameDev Playbook.

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