It’s the new year and traditionally a time for looking ahead and, in that vein, we are going to talk a little about the new features that we have been working on over recent months with several of our customers and that we will be rolling out for general release over the coming weeks.
For several months, we have been focusing on a set of features that enable developers to optimize and tune their games ‘in-flight’ (or while they are running). In an increasingly competitive environment, developers are forced to optimize the engagement and retention characteristics of their games in advance of spending money on player acquisition. Customer acquisition costs can be high (typically $2 – $10 per player) and the money can be wasted if the game has not been optimized. The optimization process is based on being able to alter game variables, put the changes into the game for a subset of players, gather data on the impact of the changes and then roll the changes out permanently if the data indicates your goals have been met. The more your game is data driven the easier this will be to do and the new GameSparks features allow you to do all of this in real-time while your game is live.
Segmentation – Segment Everything
Developers on the platform may have noticed the addition of some key functionality back in December – Segmentation. At a high level, Segmentation, allows you to create your own segment types and apply them to players so that you can create cohorts and other groups with which to carry out analysis. However, we have gone much further. With GameSparks, you can create as many segments as you like and you can then use them to Segment Everything.You could, for example, have different currency groups and apply them to different geo’s or you could use segments to localise server-side data structures. Of course, you can also use them to create player groups for experimentation or ongoing campaigns. Practically everything on the GameSparks platform can be segmented.
Dynamic Forms Builder
In the second half of last year, more and more developers approached us to ask if we could provide more functionality for community managers and game operators once the game has launched. As we dug into this in detail, it was clear that one solution would not fit all and so we took a step back to consider what is really required here. The result is our new Dynamic Forms Builder which will enable developers themselves to create any number of ‘Operator Ready’ screens and forms to carry out specific functions for a game once it has launched. An example might be to set up and launch a Push Notification campaign offering players free currency if they come back and play the game. The Forms support all of the main UI Controls and can contain multiple sub-parts which you can relate to each other with parameters so that you can implement parent-child relationships etc. Controls in the Forms can be linked to underlying GameSparks objects as well as your own user-defined objects. Once a game is live, the Forms functionality will also enable you to set up in-game campaigns of many types and schedule live events.
On launch (expected at the end of January) we will provide a library of pre-built Forms that can be modified as required and we will continue to add to this over the course of the year.
The new Query Builder, provides a simple graphical interface to enable developers to build up their own queries based on the the underlying GameSparks data collections and their own game specific collections. These queries can then be embedded into the Dynamic Forms (as one of the sub-parts) and the result set can be graphed inline using a range of common chart types. This feature will allow you to build very game-specific charts based on on player behaviour and can incorporate the Segmentation feature. It will be rolled out alongside Dynamic Forms at the end of January.
GameSparks has always offered out of the box analytics that are linked closely to the other features of the platform. To date, you have been able to define your own in-game events and track them in our custom dashboards. Analytics has been extended to incorporate Segmentation and using a combination of the above features, you can now build your own reports on pretty much any in-game event.
If you have a preferred analytics solution from one of our partners, such as deltaDNA, or if you have an internal analytics solution, don’t worry, we can easily integrate with it either on a transactional basis or in batch mode. On GameSparks, you can always get access to your data and export it as required for use in 3rd party solutions.
Experimentation is one of the fundamental concepts in game optimization and allows you to make a change to an underlying game variable or mechanic and surface it only to a subset of the player base. GameSparks new Experimentation feature will enable you to define experiments and schedule them. An experiment will be aimed at a group of players (defined by you) and allow you to create one or more variants of the variable or mechanic to be delivered to this player group. Experiments can be given end dates or be allowed run indefinitely. You will also be able to stop an experiment at any time. A combination of the above features (Forms, Query Builder and Advanced Analytics) will then enable you to view the results of the Experiments in real-time and plot them in graph format against your goals. This functionality will be released in mid-February.
GameSparks is the leading backend as a service platform for games developers and gives you more flexibility than any other to modify and use the features we have created or build your own server-side components. Last year was a great year for the platform as thousands of studios adopted it for their games. As we come into 2015, you can rest assured we are even more committed to extending the platform further to meet your needs and we are always happy to hear from you on changes or additions we need to make. You can either mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your idea in the forums: https://support.gamesparks.net/discussions/forums/1000077206