Game flow has several forms, but in this article we will be going over two of the most obvious ones, namely Game User Flow and Game Play Flow
Game Flow, it's a fancy statement but basically it is ultimately how our users experience our games. Now game flow can be broken down into several types of flows, the two most common ones being User Flow and Play Flow.
Game User Flow comprises of the actual location in your game that a player is, from the starting loading screen where they may see a company logo to a main menu to the actual game itself. How we move users through these various menu screens and game play is what I like to call the Game User Flow so hopefully you understand that part for now.
The second type of flow we will go over in this article is play flow. Game Play Flow or Play Flow is specific to the actual playing portion of your game. Basically it deals with the delicate balance between how challenging your game is to play versus how easy your game is to do the actions required to overcome those challenges. If game actions are easy to do but not challenging enough, users get into a state of BOREDOM. If on the other hand the game is too challenging and not easy enough then users get into a state of FRUSTRATION. The sweet spot is RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of these, and that there is GAME PLAY FLOW. Trying to keep the player in that zone (In the "FLOW") can be a challenge and you have to try and balance many variables to do so.
Lets break down each area and go over some tools and tips to help you as you implement both into your games.
So in this part of flow, we are specifically taking users through menus and overlays and then back and forth between game play screens. It is very important that you plan this out in a flow chart style tool that will allow you to see where specifically your user is at any given time in the overall hierarchy.
Before you start working on your game, you should definitely define the game user flow using flow chart software. One of the ones that I use specifically is draw.io diagrams in Google Drive. Not only does it work quite well, it also allows you to collaborate with your entire team! Simply create a shared google drive folder and invite your team in and then have several team members work together to create the user flow.
What screen do we show the user first when they open the game? Do we go straight to a menu or is there a main menu screen? What are the buttons on that menu and where do they lead to? How many clicks before a player gets right into game play? What about when game play ends, where do we send the user on a victory? What happens if the user gets defeated, where would we send them then?
A full user flow flow chart will help you understand how your user will be moved thorughout the game and is a very important part of the overall experience. For games like Starcraft II or other eSports styles of games where the number of mouse clicks can literally determine victory or defeat, it would be extremely important to make sure that less mouse clicks are required to get right back to game play. Every game is different but keep these things in mind when you are designing your game.
Other games such as casual play mobile games may have a more simplistic menu system and user flow and thus may have smaller flow charts to make. Whatever you do, always make sure you have a flow chart to view what is going on and test out each user flow to make sure things happen as per your design. There have been many times that developers assumed that a screen takes a user to a certain part only to have users come back with bugs where they get held up on a certain screen they weren't supposed to go to or get stopped in a location without a certain menu screen loading. This can be quite frustrating for users and thus could lead to uninstall rates and user attrition rates increasing.
Here are a few other tools I've used in the past in regards to building out my own game user flows:
(You can easily google any of those above)
GAME PLAY FLOW TIPS
Game play flow is even more important than user flow (yes I know both are important, but this one is even more important if you want players to say your game is a great game). If you have very complex mechanics and require a lot of skill for players to achieve success in your game, you may have a game that loses players early.
If on the other hand you have a game that is so easy to play and no real challenge to it, it becomes boring. You really need to figure out a good set of mechanics and challenges to throw in to make your game both easy to play and challenging as well.
Take for example Hearthstone (Made with Unity 3D by the way *WINK WINK*) which has simple actions to pick up and place cards and for players to battle. It is well balanced in terms of game play flow and the use of Mana Crystals helps to increase the challenge over time (So that the player does not get bored).
Several other mechanics exist in the game to add just the right amount of challenge to keep the player interested and thus build a delicate balance between easy to play and challenging events.
In your games I want you to think about how easy it is for a player to play your game. Do they have to move around an environment? How many button options do they have to hit (Ex. Fire a Weapon, Block an Attack, Jump, etc.)? How advanced are the puzzles?
Sometimes the answers are not always clear and in those cases I recommend doing A/B testing to see how many users actually accomplish the tasks and also how many of them enjoyed the process. Remember, when a user is in a state of flow, they are actually enjoying the game a lot and would easily play your game again. Those who do not get into that state will end up deleting your game for another game that has a better game flow.
In Overwatch their game flow increases over time but then gets adjusted via save points or checkpoints. Many games use the concept of checkpoints to help keep the player challenged enough but not get too frustrated having to start over from the beginning of the level.
Most games start off in a state of low energy (meaning the players are resting or learning their environment or waiting for something) for around 30 seconds to a few minutes. After that players are generally taken into a more intense battle sequence only to repeat the process in greater and greater increments each time.
Take for example League of Legends that takes players through simple battles that get more and more flamboyant each time and thus keeps the players state of flow going along with the game. Players go from states of high battles to low power ups while waiting to regenerate. We see a similar situation in Overwatch where players battle with guns and then are regenerated in their home bases after being killed.
Think about this when creating your own games and when you do find that sweet spot between easy actions/mechanics with enough of a challenge to make things interesting, you will have a game that players will want to play over and over again and in my opinion is a sure HIT!
So now you know more about Game User Flow and Game Play Flow when it comes to video games. I hope the tips and information laid out here will help you in your games and please do click on the reference links above to continue your research even more.
Feel free to come watch me live on twitch where I teach game development and these same training's using the top games such as League of Legends, Starcraft II, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Fortnite and many other top games! https://www.twitch.tv/academyofgames0
Until next time, keep on grinding at the code :) You're a super star!! Keep up the great work and NEVER GIVE UP! You Got This!! BE A CHAMPION!
Nav is a Unity Live Expert and Mobile Game and App Developer
LEARN TO MAKE GAMES FOR FREE! => Watch Me Live On Twitch => https://www.twitch.tv/academyofgames0
"I'm a game dev making fun awesome RPG and Fantasy Games. Check out my games on Steam and all major mobile platforms today => Game Scorpion Inc.!"