I played a game: Bit Coin Millionaire part 2 – Meet the family

I wanted to write only one post about Bit Coin Millionaire but when I started writing I got sidetracked when I discovered the connection between Game Design and behavioral psychology. We barely scratched the surface but  It’s not a subject that can be analyzed in a blog spot anyway. Well, it’s not like we have a few things to talk about in this post. Idle games, incremental games, appointment mechanics, retention, growth curves…. *sighs* we have a lot to talk about.

Games like Bit Coin Millionaire belong to a broad category of games called Idle Games. Adam Clare, in his blog post names them,  “idle game is one that runs in real time in which the player advances by upgrading/building things. It’s called idle because the browser-based games usually need to run in the background to work.”.

As you can see all these concepts are relative new, there is no bibliography and definitions control phrases like “you build things” :P. To be honest, I prefer that from the neurochemical nonsense, they tried added with the Compulsion loop. Adam Clare went a step further ahead and calls them Incremental Games since “core game mechanic is literally incremental growth.”

You will be surprised by how many games are under the Idle Games category. Clash of Clans, FarmVille are all employing principles of Idle Games. The core-loop usually is:

  • Log in
  • Spend all your money
  • Log out, return in a few hours.

farmville_large_verge_medium_landscape

Yeap, believe it or not this had idle-game principles embedded in it.

The thing with idle games is that most of the times they are not in the spotlight. Anthony Pecorella from Kongragate in his presentation about idle games had to dedicate a couple of power point pages to explain why he bothered making a 50 minute presentation about them. You can find the presentation itself here ( a very interesting read). Simon Perking when writing about them named his article “The rise of games you mostly don’t play”.

Both pure-idle games like BitCoin Millionaire and game with idle-like elements like FarmVille share some elements.  Low pressure experience, constant positive growth and feedback. These elements are probably what makes these games appealing to the femail audience but… I am getting side-tracked again. Both games also have a rapid growth in costs and power/rewards which gives a sense of progress which can be psychologically fun and exciting.

Furthermore frequent check-ins can help shift up the progression curve. In both genres you get rewards when you are not logged in, but the grow linearly while the costs grow exponentially. An example of that is in clash of clans where the resource production follow an arithmetic progress of \boxed{a+(n-1)d} where , while the cost follows a geometric progress of \boxed{ar^{n-1}}.  In order for the player to keep up, he must either login to raid other players or wait for longer periods of time.  Same happens with bitcoin millionaire where you have some limited amount of profit while you are not playing, there are various mechanics that ensure that your main income comes during your game sessions.

diagram

You have to login constantly if you want to keep up!

Of course there are a few distinct differences. For example in pure idle games we have Presting. Essentially the player may decide to reset his game to gain a boost on his next play through. However, the most important difference I think is the lack of appointment mechanics. These are mechanics that reward the player when, for example, he logins once per day ( in a way he doesn’t miss the appointment). Since the pure-idle games are more based on progress without interaction, a forced appointment mechanic, simply doesn’t rhyme well. Perhaps this casual nature is also the reason why they have minimal social elements. They are there just to be open in other tab, not to bother us, until we want to. It is a game genre, that contrary to its close relatives, allows you to set your own pace. They are supposed to be something insignificant you do while working, studying or just chilling. As Extra Credit put it

“They scratch our multitasking itch. Idle games play to the need to use our minutes optimally. They are basically big Skinner Boxes, who play to our modern need for constant progress”

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