Monday, 9 February 2015

The First Time User Experience (FTUE)

The abbreviation FTUE is a modern industry term most commonly used in mobile gaming (particularly free to play games), but the concept isn't anything new. It's pretty self-explanatory that the first ten minutes of a game is the first thing that a new player will interact with. Yes, some players will have played sections of it elsewhere (a friend's copy, maybe) but as a new player, you're going to have to really be sold on the first ten minutes of gameplay or you'll not persevere with the game. About 50% of players who try a free to play game on their tablet will not come back to it the next day. They're done with it or aren't hooked enough to feel compelled to return to it. This refusal to persevere with a game, I conjecture, decreases exponentially in the amount of money that the player spent to install or access the content in the first place. That being said, I'm fairly ruthless when it comes to returning packaged goods from a real world game shop if I've just bought something disappointing.

I might be missing out on the Best Series Ever, but I wasn't hooked after three hours so I canned it.

But it's fair to say that free to play games and low consumer cost indie games need to really make an impression on their players in order to convert them into fans, evangelists and especially people who fork over money for more content or IAPs. If your free to play title is lucky enough to get noticed by people (it's savage out there) then you want to give those people every reason possible not to relegate your app to the app page of their tablet device reserved for crApps. Put it this way, if a game isn't on the same screen as Facebook after one week, that app is officially Shit Out of Luck.

It could have been so good!
So I've got a few FTUE essentials that I have found tend to keep me engaged in free/cheap games. It's not complete and it's designed for me. This is what Marshall likes and that's all.

  • Promise me that a sprawling time sink is in order: I want to know that there is some depth and complexity coming my way in a timely fashion. I'm sorry Candy Crush, but a long ass map just isn't enough, nor are the three level types (score attack, get X gubbins to the bottom and clear the special tiles), ultimately, I know I'm just going to be switching tiles for 300 hours. No thanks. A big sprawling map full of promising new ideas though... I like that. Thank you very much, Asphalt 8: Airborne!
  • Lay of the IAP greed for a bit. Free means free!: I do actually put some real money behind certain free to play games. But I'm not the only person who is totally On To You if you try and get some seriously exploitative shit past me. You know how Clickhole was created after the general public started cottoning on to clickbait articles? Well the 'total bullshit' side of Free to Play gaming is headed that way too. Let me progress on my own terms. I'll decide whether I want to pay for extras.
  • Let me skip tutorials: I don't care what effort you've put into creating a Mentor Character to explain to me what all the features of the game but some of us do not want to wait for the gameplay proper to start so that The Kindly Old Man can tell us how to explore menus and press buttons. Let me brave the game without a guide if I so desire!
  • No Ads in the core game loop: I actually appreciate ads being incentivised and optional a great deal and understand that they need to appear in menus/loading screens for the business model to be more viable, but please keep it out of the main action. If you think that it's clever to have a persistent ad bar at the bottom of the screen that I accidentally click from time to time, then you are on a one way trip to the Relegation Screen, along with Dungeon Keeper on mobile. 
There's more besides, but I gotta have some trade secrets, right? See you next week!


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