Kelso’s Quest Review – Important Gamecenter Tip

well designed free to play game that gives us an opportunity to teach many best practices about game designKelso’s Quest is a cocos2d based game developed by a promising studio called Avocoder. In the last Casual Connect in San Francisco, the game was nominated for the best free to play game award. It’s a lot of fun to play and the art work is really cool too.

Brain teasing gameplay with adventure and puzzle elements

This gameplay will remind some of you of the game Sokoban that was popular in the 80’s. Similarly, the action that the hero can perform is to push stones around. There are quite a few differences here however. First of all, the goal is not to put the boxes in place but to actually reach the exit point in the screen while avoiding the enemies and dangers. Second, the game narrative is an adventure which is far more exciting than the repetitive work of the guy pushing the boxes in Sokoban. Third, the visual side is much more compelling as the game takes place in a forest themed 2.5d grid and the characters is a resourceful Koala bear named Kelso that is hard not to like.

Achieving glory through levels and worlds

The main way to make progress in Kelso’s Quest is to complete levels. Users’ path through the level is visualized through a world map with a clear progress path which includes 78 levels in 6 different worlds. Moving between worlds requires users to pass through a challenging gate that includes a 3 headed dragon (I’m pretty sure this creature has a name but I’m not sure what it is). In addition, every level has 3 excellence metrics: score, stars and coin collection. The scores are also presented in a “friends leaderboard” for every level that is powered by Facebook.

Friends leaderboard is better with friends

The social leaderboard is a great tool when you can compare scores with your friends and compete with them. However, it feels rather lonely when you are the only one there. In other words, if your game didn’t reach the critical mass and you don’t have huge marketing budgets to promote it it’s unlikely that this will be an effective tool for you. One solution is to only show it if there are enough friends and show something else if there aren’t enough friends. Another solution is to only introduce this component once the critical mass has been reached.

Gamecenter leaderboard in a level based game

This game has Gamecenter integrated. As a user, I’m not a fan of Gamecenter! The design never matches the game design and it mostly feels like the scores and the achievements are not related to the real progress in the game. The last point is especially true for level based games and specifically in this game it makes no sense. Level based games are perfect for giving users a sense of progress – I completed 12 out of 78 levels and tomorrow I’ll complete another 5 so I made progress. When I’m comparing with my friends the most interesting question is “how many levels you completed?”. I know there is value in Gamecenter integration to increase rating and discovery but there is really no reason to create an entirely new progress scheme just for that. Simply use the levels as the score in Gamecenter and every level completion is an achievement.
In level based games the scores are secondary to the level progress and so leaderboard should be implemented around levels rather than meaningless scores

Diverse and rich virtual economy

The first visit to the store shows 3 elements that I find interesting:
  1. The coin screen is not sorted low to high but instead has an “earn coins” in the middle and the rest of the options appear almost random.
  2. Some categories indicate that products are currently locked and the user should come back later as he or she make progress
  3. There are many options for visual customization that are priced within reach
A deeper look into the game exposes quite a few other free 2 play best practices that we can learn from:
  1. The game has an energy mechanic implemented in the form of 5 lives
  2. At the beginning of the level, users have the opportunity to equip 3 items – they have to choose carefully
  3. Users that get stuck on a level are offered a skip opportunity for a price of $1.99
What’s really nice about this game is that all these options are integrated into the game so well and use nice artwork that they don’t feel like a squeeze but rather an attempt to give users a large number of options.


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