Best Practices for Visualizing and Communicating In-Game Events
And How We Improved Ours
By Gavin Lammin, Game Lead, Flaregames
For any modern free-to-play mobile game, in-game events play a vital role in the continued engagement – and in many cases monetization – of players.
But while most mobile developers and publishers now appreciate their importance, the implementation of these events can provide its own challenges.
In this blog we will provide some practical advice for mobile game developers who want to effectively communicate their in-game events to players.
The best in-game event messaging instantly informs and engages, ensuring the player understands the event’s mechanics while being compelled to participate.
And we at Flaregames see that this works. By changing the way in which in-game events are surfaced in our own Royal Revolt II, the game experienced an average increase of 20% in event participation.
Here are some of the best ways to achieve this effect.
Just a tap away
First things first, you should include an events area that’s accessible from the home screen with a single tap.
Don’t hide it away in menus within menus; one tap should be enough to get there.
Just look at the way Supercell evolved their approach to this between Clash of Clans and Clash Royale. Reaching the events area in the former isn’t quite frictionless, requiring the player first tap on the notification indicator on the home screen, and then into the events tab.
But in Clash Royale, simply tapping one of five tabs on the home screen brings you to the dedicated events screen. For maximum visibility, there is also additional signaling when a new event is available.
The most obvious example of this is a speech bubble tooltip with the phrase “New Event!” shown above the events tab, while the events tab itself is highlighted and animated.
In Royal Revolt II, we added an event ribbon to the main UI. Each features its own icon to represent the theme of the event and includes a countdown to its start/end point. Tapping this ribbon brings up a more detailed screen, breaking down exactly what’s on offer while the event’s active.
If you want to make this even more explicit, you can simply present your players with the currently active events upon entry to the game – the approach taken by Seriously in Best Fiends.
Another approach is to have a popup notify the player when an event begins, as in ZeptoLab’s C.A.T.S. – Crash Arena Turbo Stars. Combined with push notifications keeping players abreast of new events, this makes it as easy as possible for players to find out information about events.
Build an events hub
In order to effectively conduct live ops for all players – not just those familiar with your game and actively reading the forums – it is fundamental that there is a dedicated location within the game that communicates the different components within each event.
In-app messages are not sufficient when it comes to communicating everything the player needs to know, thanks in part to their limited space which means they often resort to redirecting players to external sources for necessary information.
Mailbox notifications suffer similar issues as IAMs, the result being a text-heavy information piece that is not dynamic or connected to the main game.
In Royal Revolt II, we faced this problem. Our previous implementation involved a single-screen information burst for each event, which became inaccessible once dismissed.
These messages communicated to players that an event was live, but neither the date nor the time that it would conclude. We also experimented with stripping these messages back to communicate only the key points, as a concession to readability, but this meant providing less important information.
Instead, your game should feature a dedicated events area that shows the following:
- Both live and upcoming events, with countdown timers to their start/end points.
- Progress tracking to show the milestones hit – and rewards earned – on the road to completing the event. Adding event-specific friend leaderboards also brings a social component and an added reason to compete: for bragging rights amongst peers.
- A direct call to action – in Royal Revolt II, the events page features deep links to specific areas of the game that correspond to the ongoing event.
Much of this can be expressed quite simply, and an info button (i) can be a way of ensuring that only players who need it are exposed to more explicit instruction. This is how Royal Revolt II now balances a clean and readable events screen with one that also offers more detailed explanation upon request.
Events with identity
It should go without saying that giving each event its own name is the bare minimum.
But while it’s the rewards that will provide the ultimate incentive for players to participate in your events, it’s also important to construct some unique identity around them.
This can be done to differing extents. Some event-specific art to create a visual identity is nigh-on essential, but you can go further.
In Seriously’s Best Fiends, artwork very simply visualizes and contextualizes the story behind each event within the game world. The (very) light narrative behind each event centers the rewards up for grabs, creating immediate recognition.
We take a similar approach in Royal Revolt II, with events themed around recognizable characters (and benefits coherent with this theming) ensuring that even the smaller event ribbon icons tell the player something important about the event.
But for more story-rich games, you may even consider fleshing out the narrative justification for events. Space Ape, for example, has identified that experiencing the adventures of iconic characters firsthand is one of the key motivations of Transformers fans to play Transformers: Earth Wars.
Thus, they provide more detailed story background for their events. As the pictured example shows, the game’s events draw added value from the Transformers canon with scenarios that appeal directly to series fans.
This means players are not merely participating in a timed event for some bonus rewards but being made to feel part of an unfolding story in the Transformers universe.
This will of course not work for every game, but if narrative is one of your game’s strengths, events are an ideal way to surface it.
Make it flexible
In terms of making all this possible, the ultimate objective is to build a format that can be automated and is very flexible for different event types – dependent on your live ops strategy.
The selected format should be built with the backend tools in mind – specifically, so that content, rewards and art can be modified server-side with no client dependencies.
As the team size scales down over the course of the product’s life, having such a structure makes it possible to achieve full automation.
All that is needed, then, is that one person at least configures the events calendar in terms of what should run and when. This also enables a team to configure events on the fly, which is vital in live ops.
Do all this, and you will be equipped to continue serving your audience with engaging events for years to come.