I’ve never been a big mobile game player, but I ended up working in a mobile games company (opinions are my own etc), so I’ve been trying to expose myself to more games in this market and attempt to gain an ever-better understanding of them. One of the ways I’ve been doing that is in trying out new games, seeing what they do wrong and right, and try to draw conclusions from them that I can use in the future to make our games better. One of the resources I’ve been using for this is TouchArcade (not sponsored), and their columns listing the new iOS games of the week.
This resulted in me playing a lot more new games during my daily bus rides, but I also feel the need to discuss them somewhere and keep a log of my thoughts instead of just internalising them. So, Commuting Cognition. These will be brief, bus-ride-long thoughts on these games, and should be seen less as reviews and more as first-impression brain dumps. They also may not be daily, depending on how much i have to say and how full the bus is that day, but i may still post bite-sized thoughts on twitter.
Spin a Zoo is an interesting concept that combines mechanics of idle games with the instant gratification of a prize wheel.
The core gameplay is very simple: press a button to spin the wheel and claim its rewards. As befits the modern trends, you can watch video ads to multiply those rewards. They are usually currency, materials, or animals, the latter of which become the second core mechanic. By using materials to build housing for the animals you acquire, they then reward you currency at regular intervals.
Unlike regular idle games the reward isn’t constant; you must feed the animals so that they produce currency for you for a few minutes, after which you need to feed them again. Multiple animals of the same type increase the currency reward, but not the interval. The process takes no longer than tapping a button so you’re encouraged to return every so often to do so, handily helped by notifications if you choose to enable them; i would argue that every few minutes is heavily overkill and is likely to make the user just start ignoring the notifications.
Gaining animals when you have no materials to build housing for them starts a 12-hour countdown, at the end of which the animal is lost. This encourages you to lengthen your sessions until you acquire the materials and the animal is safely in your possession, but could lead to fatigue if done too often.
Another system that could easily lead to fatigue is the energy system; each spin consumes one energy but you start off with 50 of them, with extra energy being one of the possible prizes. For a game that is nothing but instant gratification, short sessions are key; you want your players to get a short but sweet round of prizes and leave wanting for more — which, if timed right, should be when the animal notifications come in. By giving the player so much energy to begin with you’re all but ensuring they’ll get sick of spinning before they run out; and when they leave, they won’t be coming back.