Easy game development: a peek at the GameAnalytics PlayMaker integration
Simon Millard is responsible for designing and implementing the GameAnalytics SDK for Unity. He’s also a passionate independent game developer.
Tumblehead is an award winning animation studio from Viborg, Denmark. After having worked on successful games such as The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, they decided to start making games of their own. Now they are on the brink of releasing their first title.
How did you make the transition from animation to game development?
Well, as we’re all graphical artists we needed to start from scratch in terms of programming. So, we found ourselves faced with having to learn Unity… At this point we found the PlayMaker plugin, which allows you to visually script game logic using nodes, transition events, and gives you access to almost the entire Unity API in a finite state machine. Having worked with 3D animation, it came very natural to me to connect the nodes in PlayMaker. It’s very similar to Maya. Also, Jean Fabre from PlayMaker helped me a lot, so over the course of six months I got to learn the plugin really well.
Moving into making our own games was a challenge, especially when it came to getting started with development and structuring the process. But Unity and PlayMaker together provided a solution for that problem. It’s all there, if you want to start making a game now you can, the barrier has lowered considerably, nowadays.
What is your upcoming iOS and Android puzzle game Bottleneck about?
It’s a physics based puzzle game, the likes of Cut the Rope, in which you’re helping Buddy to get all his diamonds back in his bottle. For that you need to solve some puzzles, and collect stars in the process.
Where are you now in your development process?
We’re very close to finishing a vertical slice, as we’re going to the Nordic Game Conference, looking for publishers. It’ll be the first time doing that — it’s a big deal, and the pressure is showing. The vertical slice needs to be pitch perfect. It’s very important for us right now to be able to track how players are experiencing the different levels. A few weeks ago we reached the stage where we felt confident to bring in more testers. As we needed to collect gameplay data from all devices it was going to be tested for, we enabled GameAnalytics in Playmaker.
Why did you choose GameAnalytics?
We knew it had a slick and straightforward interface, plus since it’s integrated in PlayMaker, it was extremely easy to setup, and the two plugins work great together. And if that weren’t enough, it’s free.
What metrics are you tracking?
At this point it’s all about balancing the experience, and getting to the point where it’s challenging, but not frustrating enough for players to drop off. So, we’re tracking if and where players get stuck, how many times they hit retry, how much time they spent on each level, how much stars they get on the second and the third attempt, etc.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered when using GameAnalytics to track playtesting?
I designed the levels myself and it was surprising to see that the ones I thought were going to be hard are not by far the most difficult; whereas the ones that were supposed to be really easy they are in fact the ones that are hard, and problematic. And we got that by looking at the graphs — the conclusion was strikingly obvious then.
What would you say is most useful about analytics to a game designer?
At least at the stage where I’m at now, I feel I can’t trust myself anymore. I’m in too deep, since I’ve been working on this for so long. Seeing all the people playing as a clear graph, or a bar, helps to have a good overview on the whole game without getting stressed out about keeping track of everything, because it’s all there. You can always look it up. So, at least at this stage in production, that’s what I find most valuable.
Do you have any advice for developers who are new to game analytics?
A common pitfall when playtesting is to track too many metrics. You should try thinking about what are the most important ones for what you want to achieve with that data. Also, I find it very useful to cross-reference two metrics to see if there’s consistency between them.
What are the advantages of using Playmaker & GameAnalytics together?
Playmaker allows anyone to make a game. GameAnalytics is providing a way of having a great overview on it, both in terms of game design, and monetisation, later on. For me at least, a selling point is the fact that they are both so easy to setup, use and debug. It allows me to spend time on tweaking the things that matter, like creating an engaging experience for the player.
What are your plans for the future? Will you continue making games?
Of course! We love it! We’re gonna look for a publisher for Bottleneck, and we’ve also set up a pitch session for a board of different investors. We hope to get funding to finalise production and polish the game. Otherwise, we have two other games lined up — so yes, we’re hooked.
There you have it: the killer combo that allows anyone to create games and concentrate on tweaking the important things that make up the gaming experience. Unity and the Asset Store have been amazing in facilitating development. This drives innovation, and plug-ins like PlayMaker give a new meaning to lowering entry barriers and giving way to all sorts of creative minds to participate in the industry. While data cannot replace creativity, it can provide the perspective, the overview one needs to keep the balance in check and figure out what doesn’t work. GameAnalytics closes the loop, providing developers with all the metrics they need to improve gameplay and ease game design, profitably tweak monetisation and increase retention and engagement rate.
You can find out all about what is new (and old, for that matter) with the PlayMaker GameAnalytics integration on the GameAnalytics support page. Make sure you check out the Breakout game example the newest GameAnalytics package comes with, which is also available as a complete PlayMaker solution exemplifying both the GameAnalytics and Playmaker integration. You can see for yourself how easy it is, on the Playmaker website.
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