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Browser game devs, take care of the basics

Online Games Bay

Right now browser online games have to compete not only with each other, but also mobile games and (even if they are mostly crappy) tons of games available on platforms like Steam. And there is one thing some of the online browser games developers forget - the basics.

Browser game devs, take care of the basics

No, I’m not gonna bore everyone senseless with the theory behind game development (and believe me, I could), what I must mention is something even more basic than that, yet something that some developers overlook - the website.

I know, I know, every online browser game has a website, most of them are just websites themselves, but still, you can stumble upon some bizarre concepts or perhaps lack of common sense on the game websites and there are some things that just have to be said. I have about 20 years of experience in website development, I have created 8 different online games, so some things for me, and perhaps most of you, are just obvious, but for people starting their browser games they might not be, so, dear reader, try not to be offended by the patronizing nature of this article.

Shopping window
For you, as a browser game developer, your website is your shopping window - it is the first thing your potential clients will see, it is the place they will make up their minds if they want to join your game. That is why your website should contain all the things they need to make their decision. Remember that your potential clients can view hundreds of such websites within a single hour, so the first impression is very important.

Write something
I know it is obvious, yet I still stumble upon browser game front pages that contain game title, sign-up form and... nothing else. Perhaps some graphics in the background and that is it. I get it, it is artistic, it is minimalistic, but at the same time you are leaving your visitors wondering. What do they wonder? Hmm, they want my e-mail address, they want my age, etc. and I don’t even know what I’m signing up for... Just imagine how you would feel in such a situation.

Simple message
Most of the visitors of your website will spend there less than 30 seconds. No, it is not the result of years-long studies or psychological experiment, it is a simple assumption you should make while creating the front page. Imagine that you have only 15 seconds to summarize your whole game to someone, who never heard of it, and put together text that can be read within that time limit. And when I say text, I really mean very short text or, even better, bullet points.

What is that?
When you write a summary of your game, start with answer to the simplest questions, like what your game is - it is single or multiplayer, what genre it is, what motifs does it contain or what inspired you to develop that game. Answers to those questions will give your visitor all the info he / she needs to get the general idea of what they are dealing with here.

I can’t even count the number of games that lack that basic element - you can spend dozens of lines of text describing what your game is about, but few in-game screenshots will show visitors much more. They do not need to be beautiful, they do not need to be graphically impressive, all they should do is show potential users what they can expect inside.

If possible, give your users access to some small part of the game before they commit to register. It does not have to be representative of the whole game, but the chance to view the game world has much more impact than anything else you can show potential clients, even if that will be video showing how someone else is playing.

Read more
There are some things that just have to be available on the website, like game rules, background story, characters descriptions, privacy policy, etc. and it is always a good idea to split them into smaller parts. You can display the first 2–3 lines of the content and add ’read more’ link, where those interested can learn more.

Stand out
Like I mentioned before, your potential users will most likely visit many websites before and after viewing yours, and it is important that your website will stick in their mind. If, for example, you build a fantasy game, you could use fancy pictures of castles, dragons, knights, etc. but keep in mind that every single of your competitors will do the same. Most of them will have a dark background, medieval-looking fonts and a logo that contains a sword, shield or something like that. Find an angle that will make your game stand out among all of your competitors, and people might be intrigued by seeing something unexpected or something fresh.

I know most of those points are absolute basics of online browser game website, but still, you can stumble upon developers that did not take care of those basics. And now, after a few things you should do, let’s concentrate on the do-nots of game websites.

Universum background story
It is quite often encountered mistake - the front page contains the universum background story that introduces visitors to the game lore. I’m sure your game universum background story is unique, I’m sure everyone that will read it will be amazed, but keep in mind the 30 seconds rule described before, and do not over-expose that. You can put 2–3 lines of text with a link to further reading, and this will keep the text short and will give those interested the chance to learn the whole depth of the story on a separate page.

Fancy graphics
If you use high-quality graphics to indicate what your game is about, it might have a very good impact on viewers. If you put a nicely done knight in shiny armour with a castle in the background, it shows a potential genre and type of game. But, and I can’t stress this enough, show also the in-game screenshots because fancy graphics are great, but they tend to build the expectations higher than the game itself will ever be able to deliver.

Forum, in most cases, is one of the most important parts of the browser game because it lets the users share their thoughts and communicate. At the same time, there are numerous examples, where developers overuse forums and put there the game rules, news, updates, guides, everything mixed with messages from users, which makes the forum look chaotic and useless.

Separate the forum from other elements of the interface; otherwise, new users will struggle to find information that they need. Also, do not link your help page or FAQ to the forum, it just is the lazy thing to do and does not help anyone.

User counters
Lots and lots of browser online games exhibit their user counters on the front page as an element of herd mentality gimmick - people are more likely to join games that have more users because they assume a game must be good if it has a lot of users. Those developers, who merely started their adventure, can’t boast about the number of users, so they often lie and show higher numbers than they actually have. Or in some cases, show not the number of users, but the number of accounts, some of which are not active or even never were. It is cute, but at the same time it is a road to nowhere - once a user joins the game he can clearly see you were lying about the number of users, and after that, the trust is gone.

Everybody knows
Quite often you can see this, just like in given above example - a website with just a logo, a form to register and nothing more. Why? Because everybody knows who we are and what the game is about. Or in some cases, the genre of the game is given as an abbreviation or even not described at all. Why? Because everybody knows what SFFMD or PBBG means. Because everybody knows what to expect if the game has prison or mafia in the title.

And this attitude might cost the developers dearly because it is always the best practice to assume visitors are idiots. Not literally idiots, I mean, who would want to attract actual idiots to join their game? Just assume that your potential clients are ignorant and know nothing about anything, and you make sure that none of them is left behind.

User rotation
There are a few tricks, like the displaying of user counters, that can influence visitors and make them register to your game, but keep in mind that the number of players is not as important as having active players. You can trick someone to register, but you can’t trick someone to like your game and keep playing it. High user rotation (meaning people join a game and most of them, after a short period of time, stop playing it) is nothing to be proud of, you can’t build a community on people who are just short-time guests.

Those are the dos and do-nots for online browser game developers on how to put together your website and your front page. They are the real basics of what you can do to attract more users to your title - remember that before they will join your game, your website is all they will know about it. Most of them will not join your game, others will love it, but you have to create conditions, in which your website will put off those who are not really interested and will hook those, who are.


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