I have been playing Kabam’s new street fighting game, Marvel, Contest of Champions on mobiles and I am interested in viewing the game from a bigger picture, how players as various groups react to the systems and interact with the interfaces. So I did this mock player data analysis. By saying “mock”, it means that all the scenarios are my prediction and I didn’t bother to fake some statistics and to delve into design changes/decisions.
There are two aspects that the player data can help us to understand our games: what they like best and what is problematic for them. It is not very meaningful to make assumptions on what they like, so I will focus on the later one. Also, I am very interested in the systems and UI/UX design. So I will talk about the intersection of them and below are the areas that I tackled with:
I. System design
1. PvP system
a) To fake or not to fake?
The game has been pushing a PvP system and I think this mode is fake. Because I feel that instead of fighting against a real player real time, the players are just fighting against AI (which is understandable), although the game is pulling out champions owned by real players.
We all know that players generate infinite content for a game, so I think it would be super cool if they can actually fight against real humans, or at least the experience could feel like more fun and different than fighting AI in the quest mode.
So I wonder how the players will rate the experience (AI in PvP mode) without implying anything such as that they were not fighting against real players. If many out of the testers are pretty sure that they were fighting against AI and didn’t feel satisfying and dominating after defeating a champion owned by another player, they might want to improve the AI and overall experience in PvP mode.
b) The intensity and reward system
I didn’t play through many PvP seasons (and honestly, it was because I felt frustrated by the system). But I know that each mobile game (actually all the games on all platforms) have a life cycle. If the game asked you to spend too much time, you probably don’t want to touch it again when the reward system is not good enough. And even though it is pretty decent, it is dangerous to over-motivate the player and break the curve.
So I really want to know the experience curve of players’ PvP experience in this game (like how many hours do they invest in PvP, and time allocation between PvP and PvE; do they get bored after overplaying PvP in a short period; if they keep playing very constantly, what drive them to do so; do the reward system feel satisfying for them; do the reward grow as they expected; etc).
2. Champion system
The game monetizes by selling crystals (that can open champions), in-game currency and other stuff. Since the champions have tremendous impact on the player’s performance and result of every single fight, I think the crystals are the biggest selling point.
I just wonder which on-sale champions are more popular than which, how many out of how many people paid for crystals after which champion is released. And bring them back to analysis the champion design, such as the appearance, the abilities, fight style, the specs, etc.
3. Balancing in difficulty (PvE mode)
The strongest feeling I had when progressing in the game was, when I finished the first chapter in PvE mode, the quests suddenly felt super hard to beat. I think the game tuned the difficulty on purpose. Because the players who already went through the first chapter seem to like the game a lot and it is just reasonable that they pay to get better. I simply wonder how many among all the players who finished the first chapter paid right after the game became harder for them, and what they bought (champions or other stuff). In this case, we can learn about how to tune the balance to increase in-game purchase.
II. UX design
1. Game flow
The game already has a pretty smooth game flow. However, when I played through the game, I was still confused by some designs. To be more specific, there is chance that the player uses the “back” button on top left corner to reach an interface that they have never been to during the current play session.
I want to know if the players would get confused by the flow and whether they want buttons to make their life easier.
2. Items on upgrade interface
There are two systems to upgrade a champion, “level up” and “rank up”. The two systems require totally different types of items and they already designed a distinguish interface for “rank up” than the “level up” upgrade. I have been confused why they also make “rank up” items available for the player in “level up” upgrade. And when the player selects the “rank up” items (the catalysts), a warning message will pop up, asking whether the player wants to “deselect” or “continue”. If the player hits “continue”, the item will be consumed and it grants 0 XP for the champion.
This feels like a trap and it is very unfriendly. The game actually allows the player to sell the catalysts for money and the player can purchase in-game currency with real money. I understand that inflation has always been a problem for video games. It is so easy to tell that the item has no effect on the champion that I don’t think any player will keep pushing the “continue” button. So I wonder how the players think/react to this design. I disliked the design a lot, because games should always provide possibilities for the player to win in all cases. Since there is no way to trade money between two players in the game, and the in-game currency is not a big selling point. It is totally fine that even everything gets convert to money eventually. And by doing this, the player also gains satisfaction and a sense of ownership.
So I am really curious that how players react to this design and what if they just not show the catalysts on “level up” interface.
3. Other design changes I noticed
I have been constantly checking this games since it came out, so I noticed a couple of design changes they made so far.
For example, they previously just added that, after completing a daily quest, the player may purchase the awarded catalyst with a discount. I think this is a pretty good design change. But I wonder how impactful this offer is. Thinking from a player’s stand point, if I already earned this catalyst, how much chance that I would like to buy another one (exactly the same catalyst)? Since there are two conditions to get the specific catalyst without buying from vault, completing the daily quest and opening the chest and getting it. So who will encounter the scenario that they went through the quest but didn’t get the specific catalyst? The ones who want/need the catalyst and didn’t get it.
So I would suggest that they try offering the discount for those groups of players, as a compensation for the fact that they were just not lucky so that they failed to get the catalyst. Because they are more likely to pay for the catalyst than the ones who already get one after doing the quest. Simply distributing two versions of this part can tell the effect of this change.
Above are some thoughts on how to use player data from a big picture to make design changes/decisions. There are more things I wanted to address but couldn’t delve into. I hope video games can effectively use players’ actions and feedback to refine their design and to craft better gaming experience. Games should be better than life and they can be perfect.