Magical moments: What the Everyplay acquisition means for developers
As a veteran of online, mobile and console games services I’ve become used to the idea of change; mostly from sitting on the sometimes uncomfortable bleeding edge. My latest experience of change was when Applifier was acquired by Unity Technologies in March this year. It may sound like a simple acquisition but for me it heralds a profound change to the business of making games; and I’m genuinely excited about it!
Why so excited? Well, we all know about the revolution which has already arisen since the arrival of the AppStore and in particular the concept of FreeToPlay. There has been an explosion of games and different approaches to generating revenue. This wasn’t just about the changing market but the combination of that plus the availability of tools like Unity; and the idea of democratizing game development.
Of course this opened the creative gates for a new breed of indie developers to bring to market their own vision of what games could be. Games which could create magical moments for the player. If you love games then you know the moments I mean and they are not always planned. I remember the joy when I managed to get more than 7 of those creatures through one of the levels of the beautiful Badland. I remember how it felt to pick-up all the letters for the first time in Skyline Skaters and the rush that followed. I remember when I fell through the ‘world’ in Fat Cat Rush (it was a glitch but I found it funny).
These are the moment we crave and knowing they are possible keeps our attention. But there is latent power in those experiences; a power which can only be truly released by sharing them. Sharing is part of the very fabric of what it means to be playful. Having some rules or experience which we share with people who understand; who share our interests. It’s part of how we define ourselves as human and even how we separate ourselves from others – who don’t play the games we do.
Everyplay came out of the idea that when a friend shows us a game they love, we are much more likely to want to play it ourselves. Gameplay recording lets us unlock the power of the Internet to allow players to share their magical moments with the widest audience. It becomes a kind of user generated content experience for any game. Look what I did! Watch me play. Players get to show off their associations with the games they love. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t have to be profound or even particularly spectacular; indeed they are often the opposite. The important thing is that they are our personal moments.
Of course the last thing most developers want is to put in another SDK, we have tried to make this as easy as possible. All it takes is to get the plugin from the Asset Store and decide where to start and stop recording. We have focused hard to make sure that there is virtually no performance loss: no impact on GPU and nearly zero impact on CPU. To do this the video is streamed directly to the file storage to avoid memory issues. In addition, we are using the H.264 codec which means that videos only take around 4mb per minute; we even have a continuous recording system allowing you to keep just the last few minutes of play if you prefer to keep the videos short.
However, the point of this blog post isn’t just to tell you about the SDK. I want to share some of the things we have learnt that mean that developers can make the most of the experience.
1. Always Record: Whilst we don’t mandate this, we strongly recommend you always record play. Otherwise players will miss those crazy times which just ‘happen’.
2. Use a Thumbnail: We capture a screengrab as part of the video recording and have found a big increase in use (and hence effectiveness) when this is used to create a personal thumbnail of what you just did.
3. Metadata: Everyplay has the ability to embed metadata into the video file to reflect both Private and Public data. This information can be used in all kinds of ways to pull the most relevant videos back into your game. Why not use it to add videos to your high-score table. That way players can prove how they beat their friends. Alternatively, why not add a ‘Fame score’ showing a player how popular they are based on Everyplay shares and Likes for their videos.
4. Community: Its worth taking the time out to create an identity for your game on the Everyplay platform and use that to create a conversation with your audience. We have a rich a diverse community of games players who explore new games as well as share their moments together. Join in with the experience and see how you can share, like and comment on posted videos as well as follow other players or games.
5. Incentives: It can be useful to offer incentives to players for sharing however, you need to be careful about how you do it. Its sometimes better to make more of the intrinsic social benefits rather than to use extrinsic game levers, for example if you trigger the sharing process when meaningful gameplay moments happen like gaining achievements or defeating boss levels. However, some games have seen value from using ‘Opt-in’ incentives to upload videos.
6. Capture Players Faces: It can be powerful to record the faces of your players using the front facing camera (currently only on iOS devices); especially where your games trigger real emotions such as fear or frustration. However, of course it’s very important to be careful (especially if your game is targeted to young children) so you will want to clearly communicate that this is happening. We show the live-feed from the camera input in a box on the screen – which can be turned off by the player both during and post recording. We must of course remember that the video is only uploaded by the player’s choice (and they can remove it off before uploading). We also moderate these videos at Everyplay to avoid the most problematic risks such as profanity or abusive imagery, but this can mean some delays to when those videos will be available.
There are around 600 games at the time of writing, but that number keeps rising so fast that it’s nearly impossible to keep track. As we learn more about the best practice we will bring that to the blog and please feel free to ask us any questions.