If you play Dragon City or Monster Legends, you will know nothing stays the same for long. Every week there’s something new to experience. Whether it’s new dragons, new islands, enhanced battles, or simply shorter load times.
Keeping the game alive and in a state of permanent evolution is a process known as iteration. It’s also at the core of what the team here at Social Point understands by “games as a service.” We caught up with Social Point of View veteran Rick Cevallos, Project Manager for Dragon City Mobile to find out more about iteration. Here’s the lowdown.
What’s up with iteration, Rick?
Iteration is basically the motor of tweaking and improving a social game. Every game at Social Point goes through regular iteration.
Imagine you start with traditional vertical slicing – a first prototype where all the core features are implemented. First, the designers and balancers play the prototype to check how it works. Then the production phase takes you through to focus groups where you identify flaws and areas to improve. Then you launch. Iteration is the process of continuous development, through the end of the production cycle, release and on into post-release.
Rick does his bit to support Social Point branding objectives
Social Point games have been massive hits on Facebook, iOS and Android. Why keep changing something that already works?
It’s not about changing something that works, but continuously improving what we have. I think that what makes our games different from the others is the little details. And this is a key area of focus – continuously evolving, improving and enhancing the small things is what keeps the game alive and fresh.
Rick you head up Dragon City for Android. How often do you and your team push the game through iteration?
We look at players’ feedback, metrics and community reports every week, to determine what we need to do to improve the game, or to fix major bugs. So in practical terms we go through weekly iterations of Dragon City on Android.
How do you decide what needs to be changed?
Once we have processed the data and feedback and assessed the situation, the decision about what needs to be changed, updated, added or removed sits with our Dragon City Product Lead, Pepe Cantos. He is the person charged with driving the game from a business perspective. And it’s a big responsibility. Every change we make, no matter how seemingly small, has a major impact on the game’s active users and metrics. (See our in-depth interview with Pepe Cantos on “How to Monetize your Game“).
You talk about iteration as an “embedded” way of working. Can you explain what you mean by that?
So basically it means that we create a feature, release it directly into the game, and then we see how it is working – and whether players are enjoying it or not. If we detect any bugs, we fix them right away. And if we see that we can improve the player experience, we iterate in-game. So by embedded, I mean that we are working from within the live game to improve it.
Alright, so how about some specifics? What have you done recently to improve Dragon City Mobile?
We’ve just improved connection times. We reduced the amount of bytes of information the player needs to log in. Now when a player wants to spark up Dragon City, the game will load much faster! It is a relatively small tweak that will hugely improve user experience.
The Iteration Cycle – Infographic
Rick, we’ve used the expression “games as a service.” What do you understand by this term?
It’s to do with shifting the focus from creating a static end-product and selling it, to delivering a continuous experience or service – one that keeps improving and modulating to users’ needs, cultures, expectations.
This philosophy implies a major commitment from you and your team. What, in a nutshell, are the benefits to you and to the players in working this way?
Well, it’s part of what makes working in a company like Social Point really rewarding. If you just develop and launch and move on to the next thing, you miss the opportunity to learn, to fine-tune, to evolve – it’s part of the richness of the full experience of games as a service. The game experience continuously evolves to organically meet and exceed players needs and expectations. It’s rewarding for us, and it keeps our players coming back again and again to experience new and exciting features.