30 Apr The Best Mobile Game for Families to Play Together
This was the challenge that we set ourselves when we started working on Super Happy Party.
How could we create the best mobile game for families to play? How would we know that we have created a fun game for everyone to enjoy?
We wanted to create a really fun mobile game that families could play together on a single device.
Designing games that all of the family can play is especially challenging, but also very rewarding. Here at Super Happy Games all of our games are designed for all of the family to enjoy. It is a core part of our Parents Promise.
Using our Super Happy Party game I wanted to share with you some of the ideas that helped us create a fun game that all of the family can enjoy.
A useful tip is to always think of the end users in mind when designing the game. Every decision has to put through the test of how will our players interact with this feature or change. In order to do this we used my own daughter Sophie (aged 10 and a half) and my mum (aged a little bit more) as personas. A persona is simply a representation of a user that the team can use to help ensure that we are designing games with our players in mind. We weren’t creating a game for just us to play, but for families everywhere. As we tested prototypes, ideas and concepts we always paused and thought about how Sophie and my mum would play. This resulted in hundreds of different changes and decisions being made through the development process.
Make Sure Its Fun
Games are meant to be a source of entertainment. A distraction from the day’s real world and an opportunity to engage in an experience outside of normal life. They allow you to take on different roles and characters depending on the theme of the game.
The winner (and loser) of the game isn’t (that) important. What is important is that the game is fun and provides happy memories for all of the players. The winners receive a short sense of achievement and the losers hopefully still enjoy the experience, even though they may want to have ‘one more go’ to try and win.
Measuring ‘fun’ for children is not easy however you can get a good indication when asking your children ‘was it fun today at school / sports / club / cinema?’. The response may vary but the real key indicator is whether they want to go and do it again. Subconsciously they are selecting what they view as ‘fun’ and whether they want to spend their most important resource (time} doing that activity again. Our games compete with thousands of other games for player’s attention. The most important ingredient is the level of fun. If we create games that are fun, that make our players smile and laugh together, we are confident that they will want to keep playing our games.
In Super Happy Party the game is made up of lots of mini games. In the multiplayer Party mode we wanted to create a sense of excitement by having the players having to always be ready to play the next game. The game is random so they can’t just watch the previous player. Also the order in which players have to play is random so they have to stay engaged, watching how the other player does in case it is their turn next. We provide a short break between each round of games by showing the players the latest scores and their position on the leaderboard.
One of the key parts of our Parents Promise is that our games are designed to be played together. We want our games to bring family and friends together that they can enjoy playing socially. Rather than playing against the computer or online against people that you will never meet in person. The physical emotions of play help create the memories. The laughter, smiles and even the grumpiness of the bad loser (a label that I continually keep trying to shake off for myself) are what separates social games from individual ones.
So at the core of our game had to be a fun multiplayer game that can be played on the same device. Whether it is a phone or tablet, we wanted to make sure that everyone in the family could play the game at the same time.
So Super Happy Party has a Party mode where up to 8 players can play on the same device, it even works well on phones and not just tablets. The objective being to score the most points across a number of rounds. Points are scored by successfully beating single player games.
Importantly there are also multiplayer games, where players have to either compete or co-operate with the other player. In the competitive mode the player that win gains the points. The co-operative games require the players to work together to successfully beat the game. If successful they both gain the points. If not neither of them do.
This results in a really fun experience, with players having to pass the device to each other and playing together to try and beat the mini-games. The positions on the leaderboard are always changing between rounds and theres always the opportunity to try and win the Party in the last few rounds.
We also wanted to give parents the choice of how long each game would last. If you are playing at home then you may be happy with a really long game together. If you are at a restaurant or out visiting with the family then there is the quick option that helps play with the children for just a few minutes.
Ensure that All of the Content is Suitable
This is probably the most obvious challenge and a good starting point. Games (similar to films and television) have a number of themes and content that is targeted more at an adult audience.
If you have a look at the charts of the most popular games, at any time war, fighting and games with an adult theme will feature prominently. Obviously this isn’t correct for a family game. How do you create content that doesn’t come across as ‘too babyish’ for older children. Disney and Pixar manage to do this very well with their films so we looked to them for guidance. We wanted to create characters that had personalities that could be related to by people of all ages, not just children.
So our characters are fun and happy yet we tested them with players of all different ages. From the youngest children through to grandparents throughout the development of the game we shared different ideas and concepts. Until we came up with a set of characters that everyone enjoyed. Of course people still have their favourite character and this is a nice part of the game, with players being able to choose and customise their favourite character to use during the multiplayer party mode. As well as fun costumes to unlock using gems.
Playable Across All Skill Levels
How do you create a game that can be played and enjoyed by experienced players and also by younger or newer players? We found that a lot of the games that are made ‘for children’ are over simplified and as a result won’t work for elder children or adults. We don’t believe that this approach is always necessary. Actually as children develop they can become very skilled at games, much more skilled than adults in ways.
Think about how easily your own children picked up and started to use your tablet when you first got one. I know many parents that have shared the same astonishment. The easy to use colourful interface, icons and accessibility is very intuitive. Children follow their intuition so aspects such as swiping and tapping which took adults longer to familiarise themselves with were second nature to even young children.
How does this translate to game design? A key term is challenge. We have to make sure that the game provides challenge to different types of players and skill levels.
The game itself has multiple levels of difficulty (easy, medium and hard) which the player can select. The game also progressively gets harder as you beat the mini-games. This ensures that everyone can play as they try and beat their personal best score, as well as their friends and family on the game Leaderboards.
Play Test Broadly
I mentioned above that we involved players throughout the development process of our game. Having children play test your game is especially important, they interact with games in very different ways to which adults do. Often the on-screen instructions are ignored, text is overlooked in favour of icons and other graphical aspects that is more attractive and instinctive for them to use.
Tutorials in particular can easily bore children as they want to play the game as soon as possible. We use in-game analytics to measure how far players are getting through the tutorials. If we see a high level of abandonment then we know that we have to redesign that part of the tutorial.
Use Simple Words, Phrases and Icons
This was a big challenge for Super Happy Party. The game has a large number of mini-games that requires players to quickly understand the goals and follow the simple instructions.
Our games are all designed to be played for players around the World, regardless of their language. So we needed to also ensure that our game could easily be translated and understandable by families in different countries and cultures.
We wanted to create a game that was quick to play and took advantage of some of the features of a device. So each game has a simple task that players can complete using a single finger. The instructions are simple and also include an animated gesture that shows the players what to do.
Make the Game Varied
Everyone has their own favourite type of game. Different players are naturally better and enjoy more different types of challenges. Also, learning from personal experience of playing board games with my family in the past, we wanted to allow players to choose how long they will play for.
We wanted to ensure that our game provided lots of different challenges so we included lots of different mini-games, we also made sure that the mini-games were varied with some requiring timing, memory, reflexes and quick reactions. We also realised that for the single player mode we had to provide different levels of difficulty, so that the game could be enjoyed by all players, regardless of their skill levels.
Ensure that every game wins
What do we mean by this? Well, one of the core concepts in any game is that there is a winner and a loser. This competition is what provides games with their challenge which creates the sense of fun. However, whilst winning can be fun, it can also be not much fun if you lose.
Throughout the game there are lots of rewards so that every player can unlock accessories, costumes and new challenges. There are also achievements to unlock that provide additional levels of challenge for more skilled players.
Were we Successful?
Just before the launch of the game I took a copy of the game to play with my daughter Sophie and my mum. My mum doesn’t play computer games and actually doesn’t even own a smartphone or a tablet. However, she is used to having Sophie show her different games and apps on her phone. So in many ways this would be the ideal test for the game.
With children I find that the simplest measure of the games level of fun is whether they come back and play the game the next day. So would we be playing Super Happy Party throughout the holidays, or would it be forgotten about or even worse, deleted!
I am happy to report that both Sophie and my mum loved the game. We played it every day and it created a lot of fun and happy memories. Which is really what any family game should try and do.
If you would like to play Super Happy Party you can download it for free from the Apple and Google App Stores here:
We are happy with how Super Happy Party turned out. But as we were developing the game there were hundreds of ideas that we had to exclude from the initial release. We hope that players love the game and have a great time playing with their friends and family.