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This may surprise you, but game design is more than analysis and number crunching. It requires a large element of creativity, and often the best kind of creativity comes from groups rather than individual designers. This means that, often, teams need to engage in some kind of brainstorm activity to generate ideas for new directions, new mechanics, new characters, new pieces of narrative and much more. The question that many studios run into is how to run brainstorms that are productive.

Levels drive the core interaction in most free-to-play puzzle games. The quality of this content, and the pacing of level features, rewards, and difficulty has an enormous impact on both retention and monetization. While the overall visual presentation, simplicity in design, story, setting, a deep and resonant meta game, and the quality of retention features all have their impact – for most players, the levels are the key driver of whether they stay and play or go away. When creating and releasing a regular stream of high-performing free-to-play puzzle levels, four best practices are crucial:

We were recently approached by one of our existing clients about writing some design documents and doing some game balance for upcoming high-priority features in one of their games. Being a design agency owner, I replied “Of course. And what features are those?” Each member of the client’s management team then began to list off different features, meanwhile arguing with the other managers on the phone about why their choices didn’t make sense. As politely as I could, I told the customer that it would be impossible for us to work on their high priority features until we all agreed on which features were actually high priority.

While there are many different ways to go about developing stories for games, in this blog post on narrative design we will focus on a process that has been passed down to multiple generations of game developers over the industry’s relatively short lifespan. This process is simple, extensible, and allows us every opportunity to stay on track and not get “lost in the weeds” during pre-production. Note that not all of these steps are needed with every project, but the process is presented here in its entirety for those who wish to apply it to their current projects or practice it on their own. This simplified approach boils down to 5 steps:

I often speak with partners and colleagues outside the field who want to better understand what User Acquisition (UA) is. UA, which is sometimes referred to also as “performance marketing”. Despite the name, these activities fall under the umbrella of ADVERTISING activities rather than MARKETING activities. Marketing activities focus on the collection and interpretation of customer insights into guidelines about target audiences, value propositions, messaging, and advertising asset production. In short, Marketing is really about turning market/customer knowledge into effective banding, targeting, and messaging. Advertising takes those insights and assets and uses them to actively find new customers, paying money to display those assets to potential customers through a variety of different channels. User Acquisition, then, is a specific type of Advertising tasked with buying digital advertising inventory through online advertising marketplaces like Facebook, Google, Unity, ironSource, and other such digital advertising networks.


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