Designer Diary: Introduction

Welcome to Loopycube’s Designer Diary. Every week a Loopycubian will be writing about what they tackled this week. Likely most of this series will be from my point of view and I’ll be talking about game design and how we transform games from vague ideas all the way through to the final product.

Since we’re very early into our 3rd project – so early in fact that what I’m working on today might not be the game players will get on their iPhone – it’s the perfect time to write about the project from beginning to end. Since we’re talking about our next game there may be exclusive screenshots, videos or tidbits on the game play that will only be found here. This is the blog for you to follow if you’re interested in our game, or in designing games.

Next Up: Harvesting game ideas and separating the good from the bad

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$100 in Prizes in Go Native! Movie event

Movie buffs everywhere rejoice! Go Native has an event for you!

We’ve opened up a movie island for our latest special event. On the paid version of the app you will see the new movie island on the map. Tap on it to start enjoying the new questions today!

Beginning March 21st and ending April 22nd we’ll begin recording the coconuts each player earned in any game with 8 or more human players playing. At the end of the event the top 4 players will receive $25 Amazon gift certificates. Winners also have to provide their email address (and verify it) to their account so we can send you your prize! See the passport in game to add your email address.

Invite your friends to play with you, the more people you bring the more chance there will be enough players for your score to count. It would be even better if you know them very well, because you’ll know what they answer! Like always, the answers to the questions are all based on what you think the other players will answer, so you do not need to be good at movie trivia to succeed.

If you like these events and have an idea for a topic for the next one, leave a comment and let us know!

Once again, good luck!

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Go Native! Asks about Hockey for a Week

Loopycube is hosting our very first event and giving away $50.00 in iTunes gift cards at the end of it! We will be hosting several events in the future – all with different themes of questions.

Open the map if you have the paid version of the game and tap the new hockey island to participate. If you don’t have the paid version… pick it up! There is a good chance of winning for each player!

The hockey island is available to play on today, and starting Monday January 24th we’ll be keeping track of the number of coconuts you earn on the hockey island, and the percent wins you have in there*! The top player in each of these categories will win an iTunes gift card.

“But Loopycube! I don’t know much about hockey – how am I supposed to win?” I hear you in the back. First of all… how can you not know much about hockey?! Secondly, it doesn’t matter. Like the rest of Go Native! this themed room isn’t about what you know, it’s about what you think others will answer. You do not need to know much about hockey at all to compete in this game.

Fret not, there will be more events like this with different subjects. Perhaps the next one will suit your taste more. It still doesn’t hurt to try and win.

Good luck to all our players out there!

*Please note – you have to have played a minimum of 10 games. Sorry for those of you who wanted to win one game and come away with 100% wins. It doesn’t work like that.

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59 changes to Go Native!

We’ve dug through the comments on the App Store, the comments left on our Facebook fan page, and the comments submitted by us via email. After sorting through it we’ve come up with a huge number of updates which greatly increase the fun to be had in our app.  They are all sitting in review, and once Apple has reviewed them you’ll be able to enjoy your Go Native! experience even more.

The biggest and most important changes are…

No More Waiting!
Each round has had more than 30% of the wait cut out. Remember when you saw ‘Round Start’? Well, that’s been banished from the game.
Every game starts faster. We know you’re busy, and you just want to play now. There’s almost 50% less waiting for a game to start.
Less synchronizing. Actually, no more synchronizing. It’s all done while the rest of the game is happening, you won’t see that forbidden word in our game ever again.

Less Bots!
Bots leave the game as players join. When there’s 8 real people in a game, there is no chance a Bot can beat you.
Bots join the game when players leave. There is no more chance for a game to end because of a lack of remaining players.

More Pixels!
We’ve added Retina graphics to the game for those of you who have the right device. When you load up the 2x version on the iPad, it will load the high res graphics as well.

More Content!
There are 25% more questions then when we first released and there is a hidden mini-game.

The bug!
The only bug we had reported has been savagely squashed. Us Loopycubians have a thing against bugs – especially in our games.

More Updates!
There are even more updates planned for the next version in a few weeks. Making the % wins leaderboard more meaningful, adding special events and making the game easier to share with your friends are all planned updates. Stay tuned – Our fans will be the first to know the details about these.

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3 degrees of separation contest

Every weekday for the little while I will be running a ‘3 degrees of separation’ contest on our Facebook page. I will post 2 words which can be connected by adding 2 more words in between. A example of this contest would be a post in the morning that looks like this:

The correct answer would be:

Because Silicon Valley, Valley High, and High School are all connected in some way. I will be looking for a specific set of words so while you may have an answer that works, if it is not what I was looking for then it won’t be counted as correct. Every hour or so I will be giving a clue for one of the words, and the contest ends at 5:30 EST if no one has guessed it right.

One last thing: only your first answer given for each clue counts, so only one entry per person per clue. The first fan to correctly guess the 2 words will win a Go Native! promo code.

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Promo code contest: Last one to 15,000 is a rotten egg!

We’re offering 4 promo codes to the first player who has both:

a)  Earned 15,000 coconuts in Go Native! – and –
b) Verified their email address and allowed Loopycube to send them email (Edit your settings and check the small checkbox to allow us to email you)

Promo codes are only redeemable in the United States of America (a restriction set by the App Store) so remember that the people you share Go Native! with have to have an American iTunes account.

~Adrian Clermont

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Go Native! has been updated – no download required

Go Native! has been updated – but you don’t have to download an update!

We’ve been hard at work with an update to Go Native! so that you will end up playing less with bots, more with humans, and with more humans at a time. Best of all, you can try these changes in the game right now, without having to download an update. That’s the magic of online games right there!

What has changed exactly?

In the original version of Go Native! launched last week, the Play Now button would always put you onto an island with a game about to start or still in the first couple of rounds. If that was not possible, a new island would be created and you would be placed there to start a new game. This ended up creating too many islands, often filled with few humans and lots of bots. It also made games with more than 8 players in them very rare. The main goal was to never keep you waiting long before starting a game.

As we observed how this system behaved in the real world, and the reaction of the players to it, we found a better way. One that would keep you waiting even less time to start playing, while favouring full games of 30 people, and as few bots needed as possible during quieter times.

We have changed the behaviour to favor fewer, more populated islands with lots of humans rather than many islands.  Now, when you hit the Play Now button, if an island with a game about to start or still in the first couple of rounds is found, you are placed there, as usual. However, if one is not found, you are placed onto the first island that isn’t full (currently we consider 30 players as being full, so that your vote still counts a lot).

You now almost always get to start playing right away, without waiting for bots to come in, and with more humans. If the game has progressed beyond the first few rounds, you are playing, contributing to the game results, winning coconuts, but your % wins score will not be affected since your chances of winning are lower. In such a “half-game”, you are having fun and are already setup to play immediately when the next one starts, and have all the chances of winning and increasing your % wins fair and square.

There’s one more ingredient that will also help create games with the full amount of humans and no bots: more humans that have Go Native! in their hands. We’re working on that very hard, and you can help too: tell your friends about it, Facebook it, review the App in the App Store, and of course, keep coming back, games with lots of humans are very fun and especially rewarding.

~Odi Kosmatos

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Artificial Intelligence – How to make Bots think.

We’ve designed a multiplayer game, make no mistake, the game is fun to play against real live people from all over the world. But what if you need to get your coconut fix at 3am and there is only one other hardcore player online?

Bots are the answer. LoopyBot, BongoBot and a host of other bots will be there to fill in the empty places for any missing players from your game. They will try to play like a real player, but how do they accomplish this? LoopyBot, well all bots in Go Native!, need to be able to intelligently respond to the tasks we give them in our game and need to be almost invisible to the players playing against them. One of our design goals was to make our players not have to adjust their strategy depending on the number of bots in the current game.

So how do you get bots to play like real players? Our solution was to have real players teach the bots what to do. Any simulation, any hypothesis on how real players would react in a given situation, or any assumptions we make would make the bots feel less like an everyday Joe and more like C3PO, a clunky mechanical substitution for a real person.

The way our bots learn is simple but fairly ingenious (if I do say so myself). They are each given a random number from 1 to 10. Then they look at the situation they are in and say to themselves “how did the nth last player react to this?” where n is the random number that was assigned to the bot. Once the logs are checked the bot responds with the same result.

What is cool about the way the bot behaves is in a scenario where all the situations in your game are the same as the previous game; you will be playing against the players in the previous game. You won’t realize it, of course, and you won’t be able to cheat the system by playing a solo game after you played a game against 9 people because you have no control over the situations that are presented to you by the server. You *might* get lucky and have one repeated in your next game (a less than .4% chance) but even if you do, there is no guarantee another game didn’t overwrite your previous games responses to the situation. Plus you have no idea which 7 of the 10 responses were given to the bots to answer since, each game, the bots pick a different number.

So the bots behave like regular players in regular situations. However, Loopycubians being the gluttons for punishment we are, we implemented 1 island per game where you have to do the exact opposite of what you normally do. We could have implemented the same strategy, but because of how rare the number of times each question will appear when someone is on that island we decided to against it. It would take a long time to build a history of 10 answers and it wouldn’t be nearly as dynamic as the regular table. We tried a pair of solutions to this problem; the first had something majorly wrong.

On this particular island, called the ‘Minority’ island, the players are challenged to pick the least popular answer. Our first thought was “we’ll take the least popular answer among the last 10 replies so the bots will smartly choose that answer.” Logical yes, but in reality it just made 7 out of 8 players choose the same answer making it the clear majority. If 2 or more bots were on the Minority island, they would be stuck for an eternity! We had to introduce a bit of randomness, but logically it makes sense. If the answer the bot would normally select would be its vote for most popular that means the bot thinks any of the other choices are ‘Minority’ candidates. So the bot would choose one of the other 3 choices randomly.

Semi-Smart Artificial Intelligence, that’s what I call it.

Too bad Loopybot always beats me. It makes me wonder how intelligent I am now…

~Adrian Clermont

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Tips and Pitfalls that every Social Marketer needs to know.

Social marketing is what all the young kids are doing these days. Nearly everyone has heard of it, and even more people have been exposed to it. You’ve probably been considering doing it yourself for your business. But how do you talk to your audience? What topics do you choose? Do you talk about business alone or do you talk about what you ate for breakfast as well? These were all questions swirling in my head when I first began, and I’m positive other newcomers to the field feel the same way: Lost.

The number one thing for social marketers to remember whenever you want to engage an audience for your company is to be likeable. Social marketers are in the business of making friends. You need to make your page friendly enough that people want to come visit you and still get your business related message through. I’ve found that for Loopycube, a mix of 9 parts fun and 1 part business is the ratio that sees the best reactions to. Less than 2% of Loopycube’s fans have hidden my messages from their news feed and over 40% of them view my posts the same day as I post them. Those are numbers that I like!

People like simple. Or, more accurately since this is based off my experience, Loopycube’s fans like things to be simply put. When presented with a few options to my engagement questions our fans were more likely to respond than when I left them with open ended questions. Some of them came up with very creative replies that weren’t among the options I originally gave or used a combination of options that I never expected. You can see a good example of a multiple choice question here: compared to an open ended one here: .

Post frequently, but don’t spam. Try to find a rhythm that your fans like. Also you need to take a look at your medium. Tweeters expect several short messages in a day whereas Facebook fans would be bothered by that many branded messages cluttering their newsfeeds. What’s the magic number? I’m not sure there is one; it is something you need to feel out yourself. My advice would be to start off making a few posts here and there then ramp it up as you go along. Your fans will let you know when they’ve had enough and when you’re approaching too much.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are many things that don’t work when you are trying to develop and engage an audience. The biggest of these pitfalls would be failing to ask anything from your readers. Without something to do they won’t talk about what you’ve got to say, which means they aren’t getting their friends involved as well. You should always ask their opinion or advice in your posts; a call to action that gets them even more involved with your brand. You don’t see large brands like Skittles only saying “Eat Skittles”. They proclaim, “If you love Skittles than click the like button to show us!”

The other pitfall I’ve fallen into is one that captured me with my “Coconut list” post. You can see it here if you like: .  This post got no comments or interactions of any sort, not even from my wife! Any post that only people who work with you will understand is a post that shouldn’t be made – this is a new rule I’ve imposed on myself. No one normally cares about coconuts, the only people who do are the people who are making the game where instead of points being given out coconuts are! That was a huge oversight on my part but it is a lesson well learned. Social marketers need to be sure their message is interesting to the majority of people outside the company – not inside. No matter how funny you think your office antics are, if the rest of the world won’t understand then you need to keep them inside the office. This may seem like common sense, but I completely missed it that week.

I’m fairly new to the scene and I’m sure there are many other lessons to be learnt for social marketers. Lessons like trendy topics will tend to do very well; or controversial ones may get a lot of hits but is it worth the number of people who you will annoy and ultimately lose as a potential audience member? What are the biggest things that every social marketer should do that you would like to point out?

~Adrian Clermont

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Sharing: Multiplayer game creation

Loopycube is all about creating multiplayer games for your iPhone. We knew when we started that multiplayer games are somewhat more complex than single player games but I don’t believe we realized exactly how big “somewhat” was!

The biggest difference is having the game connect to several different devices and share the same information with each device at the same time. Well, in Go Native!’s case, pseudo same time. Every generation device has different speeds; often my poor little 3G needs to play catch up to everyone else’s 3GS, 4G and iPad. With a multiplayer game, the slight differences of speeds add up over time, so much that after a round or 2 of Go Native! my 3G would be so far behind that Princess Mango would have to be renamed to Queen Mango and my coconuts would all be rotten. So what did we do to solve this?

What we ended up with is a checkpoint system. In Go Native! we set up the server so that a few times each round it asks everyone in the game ‘Are you ready for the next part?’ then waits for a reply. Once everyone’s device has replied ‘My player wants more coconuts, please proceed’ then the server sends the go ahead to continue with the next part of the round.

But this solution introduces more problems. What about the faster devices? What do they see? Do their players think the game has stalled for the potentially few seconds that the other devices need to catch up? We needed to perform these checkpoints while something else was going on to distract their user from the simple fact that we’re making them wait for the tortoises in the group. This is where having a great artist creating some crazy animations come in handy. We couldn’t give the faster players something to read or something related to the game play if we wanted the game to be fair to all players, because my slower device would prevent me from keeping up with the rest.

After figuring out how to keep everyone at the same state in the game, other issues arose. We played around with a few ideas regarding logging into the game and saving your username. “What do we require a player to do to log into Go Native!” we asked each other. The initial thought was just “Sign in with a user name or password”. That’s fine, but what happens if a player forgets either of them. So we added an email field.

Great right? Well hang on. Do we require the email field to be filled in or is it optional? If it’s required then how can we be sure that the email address provided is real and not just; or how about if some player (either on purpose or otherwise)  If it’s not, then how do we get passwords to those who didn’t supply their email address. Our decision was to make our players provide an email, fake or real, and afterwards we will provide them an added incentive to confirm that email address by clicking on a link. That way the player will be happy (Woot! Achievement!) and we won’t be getting as many service emails for lost passwords.

There are plenty of other decisions that need to be made for a multiplayer game that you don’t need to consider for single player games. I could write many pages that would probably put you to sleep, but the end of story is thus: Even with the extra work, a multiplayer game is more entertaining, more dynamic and all-in-all a more rewarding experience for the developers.

Look for Go Native! on the App Store in September to see the solutions we’ve come up with for our multiplayer game. I assure you it will be some of the most casual multiplayer fun you can have on the iPhone, iPod and iPad!

~Adrian Clermont

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