Joel Breton has been working in the video game industry since the mid 1990’s. He began shortly after leaving college in San Francisco, and has been working as a developer and producer since, always focusing on the design side of games. Among the games he has most enjoyed working on, Breton lists Sea Dogs and Bomber Man Live. Recently, he relocated to London to work with game publisher 505 Games, setting up a free-to-play (F2P) games business unit.
It All Comes Down to Fun
When Joel Breton describes the creative process involved in his work, he says, “For me, everything just comes down to fun.” As a producer he is “non-stop checking it to make sure the fun factor is in there.” And as a developer, he is equally focused on making sure the game flow is constant and to avoid elements that make the game a chore.
Breton plays games constantly; as a result he can identify what those core fun factors are. For him, multi-player games are much more enjoyable than any single player experience or playing against the artificial intelligence. He particularly enjoys games when players from diverse areas of the world can play together.
Fun in F2P
In the free-to-play games model, it is essential to offer immediate enjoyment for the player. As Breton says, “The beauty of the free-to-play model, the casual online games model, is that you can try it out and see how well you can engage with it.” Then, if the player is enjoying the game, there are ways to become more deeply engaged with the game by monetizing. For the consumer, Breton believes it to be a great business model that will most likely grow.
But free to play requires us to look at game design in a completely different and often challenging way. “In the free-to-play world, the first time user experience is absolutely critical; if you don’t get that right, the game is not going to work.” Breton emphasizes, “If they’re giving away the game for free and hoping to monetize you later, then they just have to make sure you get really engaged in that first session that you play and get you to where you really love the game.” In the free-to-play space, it is more important than ever to get the tutorial and the first experience right.
Breton maintains that it is up to the game designer to figure out what’s fun and how to put it into their game no matter what the mechanic is. Avoid elements that make the game seem like work; instead, surprise them with unexpected fun features to allow them to really enjoy the experience. Breton states that the developer’s job is to create a fun and compelling game. The publisher then should focus on getting that game to the widest audience possible. When he is analyzing a game to decide whether this game is one to distribute and market, he looks at it first as a consumer and considers if he would enjoy playing it. He asks himself if there will be an audience for the game and if it is on the right platform. However, he emphasizes that “The absolute first question you gotta answer is, is it fun? And if no, then cancel.”
505 Games is focusing on building a portfolio of entertaining cross-platform games. Keep an eye out for more announcements.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.