So a few months ago I went to Unity 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand. It’s basically a conference for Unity3D users and everyone who are interested in it to learn more about the tools, best practices, and such. It’s also a good place to network around other South East Asia game studios and shatter your confidence, something like “You’re not as good as you think”.
By the way, I still want to compile all those things I learned into one single open documentation,, but that’s for later discussion.
One lesson that resonates to my mind is a concept called Audience Driven Design. It’s very obvious, true, but somehow that simple concept eludes my mind for so long. Too long.
As the name shows, Audience Driven Design is a concept where you, as a game designer, create a game based on what your specific audience wants/prefers.
If you want to create a game where everybody can play it, scratch that, there is no such things.
If you want to create a game for 40 years old moms in Asia, also scratch that. There is no (or too few) common ground. Country, how they raised, what they buy, income, and whole other things is different.
Be as Specific as Possible with your Audience
Let’s say you want to make a JRPG, choose which kind, and who for. Final Fantasy, Tales, Star Ocean, and Suikoden is different, which for example Tales is more of a niche anime RPG, and people playing it are searching for different things.
Let’s say you want to make a JRPG like Final Fantasy, choose which Final Fantasy. There are more than fourteen iteration of it, every entry have their own strength and weakness.
If you want to make FPS, Halo, Half Life, Unreal, Doom, Prey, Call of Duty, and Battlefield is different. If you want to make a platformer, Braid, Trine, Megaman, Ori, and Shank is different.
Each game have their unique characteristics and audiences. Even when they overlap each other, your game strong suit should appeal to your most specific audience.
Again, Know your Audience
For example, I want to create a murder mystery visual novels that is thrilling, something like Virtue’s Last Reward:
- Some of the audience also play 999 and Ever17. Which elements do they like from each game? Do I want to make it more mystery, or more thriller? Do I want puzzles in it? Do the audience I want to appeal even like puzzles?
- Some of the audience also like Umineko (game), but hate the anime. Why? Do I like to create a thorough descriptions? Do I focus on the character interactions?
- The audience like to hang out on r/visualnovel, who are the ones like mystery the most? Also on NeoGAF? mystery threads on /a/? AnimeSuki Umineko threads? Be specific, and interact with them elegantly.
Another example, I have an imaginary client who wants to make a game for her event:
- She doesn’t really care about technical difficulties and game balance. She wants it fun.
- She wants the game plastered with advertising of the events and the products.
So then screw balance, screw artificial-coolness, create the perfect game for her. Instant gratification rewards, flashy animation, simple gameplay, plastered advertising on everywhere (I mean everywhere). She is after all, your audience who pays you money.
And for those idealist indie developers like me who wants to create a game for himself, do you even know you?
- For last example, I know I recently acknowledged that I like high-level raiding on FFXIV.
- Specifically, I like scripted reaction fight like Titan and Shiva Extreme and Turn 9. On the other side, I don’t like Ramuh, Moggle, and Bismarck Extreme.
- Why? Because I like thrill with upbeat fast music.
- I like Coil of Bahamut but not Alexander. I also usually stop playing when there is no more quest to do.
- Why? Because I care more of the story than shiny gear treadmill.
So when I create a boss fights for myself, in a game I want to play, I’ll take those specific things I know I love, twist it, and make it better. And I know for a serious game I want to make, I’ll make it to always have a great story that I will enjoy.
I believe by knowing your audience, you’re going to make a more personal game to them. It will appeal more, remembered more, and they will have fun more.
Commercial “get rich buy a house on a beach” success? Not likely.
Touched them indirectly, making them your devoted players and fans, spawned conspiracy theorist, youtuber having fun, word-of-mouth niche success? I hopefully believe so.