The Power of Hardcore Social Games at Plarium
By Nicholas Day, Creative Director, Plarium
It’s not easy creating a terrific, free, hard-core social strategy game. Part of the challenge is that the game has to appeal to an audience that knows precisely what it wants. If the game falls short of expectations, players are out of there in a flash. Another issue that needs to be considered is that of consistency: the game needs to be able to reel players in time and again, for months or years on end. This begs the question: how is this done? What is it that will keep players engaged, and coming back, day in, and day out?
Here at Plarium, we've poured a tremendous amount of effort into answering precisely these questions. Our in-house creative geniuses have summed it up in 4 key elements. These include the following: leveraging the games’ social aspects to generate a highly engaged player base; utilising open-ended narratives for all of the game environments; keeping a constant real-time format, and usage of an open-world gaming structure. Let's take a look at the open-world structure.
The Open World Structuring Social Gaming
In social gaming, the open world refers to precisely what it does outside of social gaming: learn the rules and proceed in any direction that you wish. In the context of gaming, this will allow you to navigate the many features available in the game. At Plarium, we focus on a great deal of cooperative gaming, as we feel that the best route to success lies in players collaborating with one another, pushing the limits, testing the boundaries and seeking solutions in the gaming world. Point number two relates to our use of features and tools. Plarium browser games require constant updating to prevent the gaming world from becoming stale. We want our players to engage with one another and the game in many ways, on many levels. When the shackles have been removed, players can actually take ownership of the game and attempt new ways of doing things.
Benefits of Real-Time Gameplay
Our gaming environment is constantly changing, even while players are away. You may be at work, or asleep, but rest assured that the games at Plarium will have new challenges waiting for you. The balance of power is constantly shifting as new clans are being formed. Real-time gameplay and a high amount of social interaction inevitably lead to a greater degree of engagement with players. The game becomes part and parcel of the player’s daily routine; this is what brings players back, time and again. Social gaming relationships formed between players, the sharing of information, and the pursuit of joint objectives keep the fires burning.
Exploring the Narrative Approach
PC titles form the basis of all social real-time strategy games. These types of games typically sport 3 gaming modes: multiplayer, skirmish and campaign. When it comes to MMORTS style games, here at Plarium we combine all three into a unified gaming experience. This has an interesting outcome: games play out in real time, and they are persistent. This means that players will have to face the consequences of the actions they take in the games. Newbies find it easy to immerse themselves in an unending game narrative. The story doesn't have a central focus, or a conclusion – it's ongoing.
Players are placed into a massive set piece and the story provides the backdrop within the context of a broader global conflict. Linear progression does not exist in terms of storyline; some players really love this story, while others are content with understanding how it creates the setting. There are plenty of opportunities to delve further into the gaming world via content and side missions, but not doing so will not cause any problems for players. It's this narrative that holds the game together; beyond that players can do what they please. We also offer fully-voiced mission branches with subplots. As you advance through the game, so you enjoy increasing rewards and plenty of extra points for unique features within the game. This additional narrative to the existing mechanics of the game provides greater gaming options for players.
The Social Gaming Component
At Plarium, it's all about social gaming. This is precisely what draws players to our games, and this is what keeps them coming back time and again. As soon as players join a team, or clan, this is the glue that keeps them with us. We can personally attest to the fact that players have formed all sorts of relationships as a result of the social gaming component of Plarium games. These include well-structured peer groups, multi-year rivalries, long distance friendships and even true love. The social component – the long-term daily engagement – makes all of this possible.
Here at Plarium we have a favourite story about a couple of players; let's call them Steve and Michelle. They were both long-time players in different clans. One of Steve's clan members broke a truce with Michelle's clan and the two of them were required to put together a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Several months went by, and Michelle received a Christmas greeting card. The two of them ended up in the same clan. They moved their game relationship to Facebook, then onto Skype, then finally they met up in real life. Now for the clincher: 6 months ago they got in touch with us to inform us that they are engaged to be married.
It's interesting to note that in the Russian gaming community, players with very large clans typically organise gatherings at restaurants or hotels. Social games are also a great way to stay in touch with family and friends around the world – examples abound.
Summing it up
We do our very best to bring life to our gaming communities. We use all sorts of retention techniques to build a game that is ever-evolving, engaging and highly entertaining. The formula we use allows players to engage with the game in their own way, essentially giving them ownership of the game.
Our games are about real people interacting with one another, and the design is long-term oriented to keep them coming back for more, time and again!