balancing fruit - iapa presentation 26/11/15

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Slicing the stats for a well balanced NinjaIAPA QLD Chapter Event 26 November - An Australian Analytics Story

Roughly 100 million total monthly active users across all Halfbrick games.


Founded in 2001, Halfbrick has developed a range of hugely successful, independently released games on multiple platforms. Our main base is here in Brisbane, but we are a global company

Roughly 100 million total monthly active users across all Halfbrick games.


One of my jobs is as the analyst on Fruit Ninja. Weve had Just over 1 billion downloads across all platforms for Fruit Ninja

Celebrated the 5th anniversary of Fruit Ninja mid this year. We released a huge update for the game adding 7 new game modes to the existing 3. It was a new direction for the game whilst staying true to its roots

6 of the new game modes were Mini Games, the 7th mode was the Tournament. Im going to talk about some of the analysis we did for the mini games.

Mini Games are part of the new game loop

Play Original modes to earn Starfruit

Pay Starfruit to play Mini Games and earn Golden Apples

Pay Golden Apples to play the Tournament

Mini games different to existing game, but contain very familiar elements for players.

The graph shows the total number of games played soon after the launch of the update. The X-axis is in millions. What we predicted was what we were seeing: Players play all the games, and play their favourites a little more often. No cause for concern. Or so we thought.

Graph shows % of total games for each mini game broken down by what reward levels players achieved in each game. 1 being the lightest and 10 being the darkest. Players play mini games to earn golden apples. Depending on their score they can earn either 1, 3, 5 or 10 golden apples. Regardless how low your score you will always get at least 1 golden apple. Players pay 100 starfruit to play a game so we wanted to make sure that they get at least something from the game each time. Even though mini games are all different they were designed to fit a similar difficulty curve. What we saw in these results did not match with what we had expected; and it had us worried. Lets unpack this a bit.

To understand why these results didnt look right to us, let me first explain how we designed the reward levels to work in the game.1s: this is an unlucky game or a player still learning the mini game3s: once youve learnt the mini game this should be what you usually get5s: once youre good at the game, and you dont make many mistakes, youll get more 5s than 3s10s: Players who achieve mastery of a mini game, and have a really good game, can expect to start achieving 10s every now and then

Time Attack: Conforms to the difficulty curve we set for it. Most familiar mini game to Fruit Ninja players. Its basically Arcade with a time extension mechanic in the form of lemon waves. Its also one of the easiest mini games. Players spend some time learning the mode (1s) but once theyve learnt it they are mostly getting 3s. Less games are 5s and then less games again are 10s, and this reflects number of games played and the spread of skill in the player base.Cherry Bomb: This also conforms to the difficulty curve we set. Cherry Bomb is a much less familiar play style to the existing Fruit Ninja. Its also a much harder mini game. We still see the same difficulty curve only its skewed towards more 1s, as players take longer to learn the game and have a higher chance of having an unlucky game. But again we see a good chunk of 3s, then we see a lot less 5s and 10s because its harder to achieve these in this game.

Fortune, Swarm and Quick Draw: All these were way out from our intended design, 80% of games are 1s. Interestingly the 5s and 10s look similar to Cherry Bomb; more on that later.This really surprised us for a few reasons:Swarm & Quick draw have similar play styles and difficulty to Cherry BombFortune is a completely different play style and difficulty to Swarm & Quick Draw. Its supposed to be easier and closer to the difficulty of Time Attack

Juggle: 80% of scores are 5s and 10s. Complete opposite to what we saw in the last slide.Juggle is not any easier than Time Attack and it is probably the least familiar play style out of all the mini games for Fruit Ninja players. Yet we see players killing it pretty much straight away. What was going on?

Theory 1: Players are just really bad at some games, so dont play them much.

Answer: No. The y-axis shows games per player per day. You can see on this where each of the mini games sits on average. Obviously Juggle is highest as you would expect. But we have lots of returning players each day so if player really werent playing the mini games they were bad at, then we would see games with lots of low scores; Fortune, Swarm and Quick Draw would be well below 1. Instead they are well above 1.

Theory 2: Players are grinding for Golden ApplesAnswer: Most likely yes; for a few reasons.

Juggle had a known exploit where players could swipe continuously at the bottom of the screen.

We didnt know if many players would find and abuse this. They did.

This is a lot of work for the player and it requires no skill at all from the player. Its easy to get rewards, but its not a rewarding experience.

Swarm, Fortune and Quick Draw were the only games with kill bombs. These end a game instantly.

You can end a game with a score of 0 and still collect 1 Golden Apple.

Players were choosing to covert 100 Starfruit to 1 Golden Apple this way.

Again this is a lot of work for the player, but no fun. You open the game, die and then repeat over and over again.

Players were working (i.e. grinding) for golden apples.

Grinding is acceptable in games ONLY when its designed to be fun.

Our players had found ways to grind that werent fun.

How we reacted

replaced all kill bombs with score bombs. Score bombs take points off your score and break your momentum but its still possible to recover and have a good game

added time limits to all the games that previously had no time limits (because they had kill bombs)

rebalanced the difficulty settings & reward levels of each mini game

Same chart as before that looks at the percentage of games played in each mini game broken down by reward level achieved. We are looking at the initial data verses the data after we enacted the changes. Before is on the left, after is on the right.

Cherry Bomb & Time Attack: Stayed pretty much the same.

Fortune: Now looks a lot closer to Time Attack in terms of difficulty; as it was originally designed to be.

Juggle: players still get good scores in this mode; but they are getting them for skilful play and so the score distribution reflects this.

Quick Draw & Swarm: These are still two of the hardest mini games. But now they look more like Cherry Bomb in terms how players are able to learn and achieve in them.

Result = More happy, skilful Ninjas


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