Adding Value to your game

One of the questions that a lot of browsergame developers frequently come up against when they are ready to release their game to the world is “what sort of extras should my site have?”.

The extras I’m talking about are small, “value-added” additions to your game – things like wikis, forums, and a development blog. A lot of the games that I have seen typically include one or all of these options. But what should you do, when you’re about to release your game?

Wikis

When deciding whether or not your game needs a wiki, you need to think about a few things:

  • Playerbase – how many players does your game have? The actual ‘contribution’ rate on wikis is dismally low – in the region of 2-5%. That means that if you’ve only got 100 players, you’d have a maximum(statistically speaking) of 5 users who actually kept your wiki up to date.
  • Game Depth – how ‘deep’ is your game? If all users do is encounter 1 of 5 monsters, and gather 1 of 5 items, there isn’t much content to your game – and a wiki will only become a sparse reminder to players of how little content your game actually has.
  • Initial Content - who will write the content that initially goes into your wiki? While most of the developers I’ve met write fairly good code, the same can’t necessarily be said for their written language skills.

Forums

Forums are a great way for your players to communicate – both with you, and with each other. One thing you need to consider when investigating a forum is authentication; will it integrate nicely with your game? Or will you just build the forums yourself?

Building the forums yourself will let you make sure that everything works the way you want it to – and authentication integration won’t be an issue. However, most of the pre-built forum packages out there are popular for a reason – they have features that would take a single programmer months to implement, and in their entirety they represent hundreds(if not thousands) of programmer-hours. Are you willing to put that much time into building a forum, when you also need to work on your game?

If you go the route of a pre-built forum package(like phpBB), you need to make sure of one of two things:

  • Integration – if your authentication system isn’t integrated with your forum’s authentication system, users will be less motivated to sign up for another system on the same site. If both systems are integrated well together, users can contribute easily – because they only need one account for either system. This significantly lowers the barrier to entry for most players.
  • Rewards – Assuming that you aren’t going to be integrating your game’s authentication system with your forum’s, are you planning on offering some sort of incentive, to encourage players to sign up? While some players will sign up of their own accord, most won’t – you need to dangle some sort of carrot in front of them.

Development Blog

Development blogs are one of the best things that you can ‘add’ to your game, without actually having to add that much. All you do is have yourself(or a member of your development team) write something – how frequently you post is entirely up to you. Having a development blog will allow you to communicate information on game updates to your players – and the players who are really interested can easily subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed, and keep updated that way.

In addition to helping you communicate your thoughts with players, you can also post things related to your game on your development blog – like post-mortems, tutorials, and “this is how we did <feature x>” articles. Your development blog could turn into a valuable resource for people who are just starting to build their own browsergame – and if it gets linked to by any site other than your own, that’s free marketing! Your development blog can easily help you both get the word out on new features, and advertise your game – just by having a steady posting schedule with content relevant to your game.

At the end of the day, which ‘extra bits’ you add (or don’t add) are entirely up to you. But before you make a decision on any of them, I encourage you to weigh the pros and cons of each addition you are considering: will it add value to your game, or not?

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Luke is the primary editor of Building Browsergames, and has written a large portion of the articles that you read here. He generally has no idea what to say when asked to write about himself in the third person.

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Thursday, October 30th, 2008 design
  • Awesome blog! I just stumped upon it.

  • JohnMunsch

    Another point to consider on the forums is that of exploitation. Even the forum software that is very popular has often gone through periods where it has been heavily exploited by spammers, cross-site scripting, SQL injection, etc., etc. Given the complexity of a good forum, it's easy to leave it vulnerable to one attack or another.

    By going with a proven forum package you can avoid making those same mistakes yourself and get something robust enough to stand up to some abuse by the pathetic script-kiddies on the net.

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Building Browsergames is a blog about browsergames(also known as PBBG's). It's geared towards the beginner to intermediate developer who has an interest in building their own browsergame.

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