Interview with the main strategy of AFK: After 6 years of playing countless cards, I know what is good

Lilith’s category evolution may be its biggest threshold.

What is the strength of “Sword and Expedition” (AFK Arena, hereinafter referred to as AFK), so that its dividend can reach 190 million?

Some people have been thinking about this question. For example, a Japanese producer once gave 4Gamer an answer: AFK is his most impressive game in 2020. “Its paid design has given me great Impact”.

Producer of games such as “Three Kingdoms”

How did the project team members explain this issue? Is the success function of AFK replicated? If Lilith does it by herself, can they succeed again? Recently, Mr. Grape chatted with the game’s chief planner Jiang ○. The following is a collated interview record:

I want to copy AFKHow difficult is it?

Grapeman: Over the past year, many products similar to AFK have appeared, but it seems that few have succeeded.

Jiang ○: Actually, some people make money by changing their skins. I heard that one product has a monthly turnover of over 10 million. But so far I have not seen a particularly good copy. Of course, it may only be a matter of time.

Mr. Grape: What do you think is the reason?

Jiang ○: The key to changing skins is to quickly reverse the numerical structure and enter the market. But now players have a relatively strong sense of quality, it is difficult to accept shoddy things, and it is difficult for you to maintain quality while racing against time.

If you want to “copy” your own things, it is even more difficult: if you want to add new gameplay to the original structure, the plan must be very painful to improve. If you move over directly, your game may crash.

Mr. Grape: Where do you think this threshold lies?

Jiang ○: Accumulation is the biggest threshold. Nowadays, some of our designs may not be understood even if they are told to others, because they have not experienced such a problem and cannot feel how serious the problem is and how difficult the design is.

After all, we have been making cards since 2014, and we have gone through many pits in the past 6 years. For example, everyone knows that there are some pitfalls in the core battle of “Legend of Little Ice Bing”. Only if you have done it from scratch, can you deeply understand its pain points. As mentioned before, the problem of Samsung character hanging and playing five-star characters, with accumulation, we can quickly solve it.

There are still many details. For example, when the AFK project was established, we discussed the synthesis formula of the characters for several months, just to give players more feedback on the rhythm of growth. So it is not a simple two-in-one or four-in-one exponential growth, but an alternating between easy and difficult.

There are many similar problems. For example, some early heroes can’t be used after being raised. Can they be used as dog food for more advanced heroes? There is also a vertical growth line. When skills are unlocked, skill upgrades, card points…all must be constantly adjusted.

Grapeman: So other teams think too little about these aspects?

Jiang ○: At least we will infer what we should do from the player experience we imagine, instead of looking at how other games do. Our values ​​are all designed by ourselves, and we have not borrowed from other games.

Grapeman: We heard that many big IP products, even MOBA is also doing AFK-like gameplay, do you think they have a chance?

Jiang ○: With the blessing of big IP, at least it will not be particularly bad. But now the tastes of players are also very rough, many players play other games after playing AFK, it feels wrong. So it depends on whether you can copy it intact or add your own ideas.

I have also seen a big IP AFK like, the overall copy is very similar, but many details are still not satisfactory. Some designs might be changed when we redo them, but they didn’t know our thoughts, and they copied them all…

Mr. Grape: What do you think is the biggest difficulty in AFK design?

Jiang ○: In summary, there are two points.The first is horizontal collection and vertical cultivation. Back then, “Legend of Little Ice Bing” was more horizontal collection. Numerical games did vertical development, while AFK needed both, which changed the design difficulty from two-dimensional to three-dimensional.

The second is that in the general server environment, the one server and the ten thousand server are together, and the zero krypton of the one server may have a higher progress than the 10,000 krypton leader. It is also difficult to get them to get along well in one gameplay.

The third is at the operational level. Since our players are diverse, we have been learning how to please some players while not offending others.

Do 4 things this year for long-term operation

Mr. Grape: How did you feel when the national service was launched this year? Did the results meet your expectations?

Jiang ○: We did market research in the national server before and asked players to come to the company to play. Their evaluations were not particularly high. They felt that the style of play was relatively old-fashioned, so I didn’t think it would become a hit in China. But maybe our pre-experience was relatively comfortable, and the concentrated purchase was very powerful, and the final results exceeded our expectations.

However, the consumption rate of national server players is relatively fast, which disrupted our rhythm. We have been adjusting and adapting, and gradually worked out a set of methodology.

Grapeman: I remember that the TapTap score collapsed very badly when it first launched.

Jiang ○: It really broke a lot when it first went online, and the minimum dropped to more than 2 points. Later, the producer wrote a letter to comfort the players, and slowly worked out some of the promised things later, only to rise to 6 points or more.

Mr. Grape: What have you mainly done this year?

Jiang ○: Several things are more important. One is the rhythm of activities. Overseas players are very Buddhist, just hang up and push the level. However, players in the national service have a strong desire to become stronger, and they will feel bored once the activity stops. So now we will open a free replay event in the first ten days of each month, purely active, with multiple rewards; open a paid event in the second ten days, but free players can also get things;

The second is version planning. Previously, our version update was not stable. Now we are gradually figuring out how many heroes in each version, how often to update levels and gameplay, so that players can always have some freshness.

The third is the growth feedback in the later period. The national service was launched late, there were more growth lines, and players were more able to play, knowing how to consume resources most cost-effectively. To be fair, we made the difficulty of the following levels relatively steep, and as a result, many players felt that there was nothing to play.

To solve this problem, we must first adjust the value in each version. For example, we have made a system of the Curtain of Stars, and the later we push it, the more output it will be. This will allow players to establish a sense of goal in the later stage, but also reconcile the output in the later stage. Secondly, we will try to add as many later chapters as possible, and every time During the update, the difficulty of the previous levels becomes smooth, so that the early players will not be stuck for a long time.

The fourth is innovation in gameplay. In order to let the players in the level have something to play, we have tried many bold methods. But the problem is that the main fun of many players revolves around the most basic core battle, and other innovative gameplays cannot have too strong a sense of fragmentation.

Mr. Grape: I think you have some open and honest strategies in operations, such as collecting feedback on Weibo and communicating with players.

Jiang ○: We now have a public opinion meeting every week, we will collect some more intense public opinions, and then find the corresponding colleagues to reply, or have a meeting to discuss. If the design is clearer, we will try to make the players understand the purpose of the design; if it is not done well, then admit the mistakes and talk about what you thought at the time, why you didn’t do it well, and how to adjust it later.

The producer of AFK often writes to players

Grapeman: Is the scale of response easy to handle? I heard that when many big DAU games do this, the players will think you are very superior.

Jiang ○: We are okay, our posture has always been lower. In the words of the producer, it is to take the player as the center and listen to everyone’s voice. Your design intent is clear, but if the player does not eat this set, it still fails to achieve the design purpose.

Mr. Grape: I think you did the first phase of Tachibana Ukyo linkage, but the players have very big opinions.

Jiang ○: At that time, we made a pay to play model. Only by paying can we get Tachibana Ukyo. Domestic players are relatively good, but overseas players feel that pay to play for free games has a feeling of inequality.

The public opinion at that time was very difficult. The producer wrote a letter of apology and said a lot, and promised that all the roles of the linkage will be available for free. After that, we found SNK again and discussed whether we could modify the acquisition method of the second linkage hero: Naklulu. Including “Overlord” and “Persona 5” have also been discussed at that time, but we must re-communication and modify the contract.

Now we have made “Void Heroes” packaging for the Linkage Heroes. They are cheaper and easier to upgrade than other heroes. IP fans will have a better experience. On the whole, linkage is helpful for retention, return, and payment.

Mr. Grape: Your welfare quota has been adjusted higher and higher this year. Can this also improve communication with players?

Jiang ○: After all, the benefits of the entire card category are rising… Later we also figured out that high benefits will indeed sacrifice some potential payments, but from the overall market, many free or small R players will feel very Conscience, knowing that the company will not run away with money, which is good for the brand and reputation.

Grapeman: How is the trend of the game now?

Jiang ○: It is relatively stable, and there will definitely be some loss in the long run, so returning will be the core of next year.

Mr. Grape: Is the situation of backflow okay now?

Jiang ○: Because our game itself is a general server, no matter when you come back to play, you can find someone with the same level of strength as you. Unlike the roll server game, you can’t play it at all.

But before chatting with players, some players used to have a lot of krypton gold, and they all went to the top 10 in the arena. After returning to the pit, the horizontal collection can quickly make up for it, but the vertical development may be tens of levels worse. More uncomfortable. We are thinking of a solution.

Core battles and “salty and liver” are the core of AFK fun

Mr. Grape: Have you had any improvement in cognition over the past year?

Jiang ○: There are two points in summary. First, the core battle is really the main fun for many players. We have held a lot of seminars and collected a lot of feedback. We found that many core players find that real-time card battles and various lineups to push levels and climb towers are the most fun;

Second, although our players are diverse, the reason why many people really stayed in the end is that this game is “salty and livery.”

Mr. Grape: Let’s talk about them separately. How did you get the knowledge about core battles and gameplay?

Jiang ○: Before, we had a relatively big gameplay attempt-to do match 3 in AFK. At that time, the purchase volume advertisement of match three was also very effective, so we wanted to make a round of cooperation.

We think that AFK players are mostly casual users, and match 3 is also more casual. They should like it very much, or at least not be too resistant, so they didn’t do too many tests. But after going online, the feedback from players directly hit us in the face.

It is true that some players particularly like this gameplay, but the players who do not like it are very dissatisfied: some players want to get full rewards and play very hard, but they feel that the level is too difficult; some players feel that match 3 does not match the overall style of AFK. It is even said that AFK should not have such a gameplay.

The lesson for us from this incident is that before the new gameplay goes live, we must do a good job of player research, instead of making decisions like this. Later, we may only allow some people to play match 3, such as a help function, so that the big players in the same guild who like this game can help you unlock rewards with one click.

Mr. Grape: What do you think is the most difficult thing about creating innovative gameplay?

Jiang ○: Balance the demands of different types of players.

During the epidemic, our team was very addicted to SLG. After discussing for a month, we finally made a GvE game that favored guild collaboration, so that everyone could play together. The effect was really good when it was first launched, and it is helpful to improve the loss and return. However, there are also players who feel that the pressure is relatively high, and feel that it is too liver.

Later we also did the “Fighting Skills Tournament”, which is a mode similar to playing cards in Doudizhu, but in essence it is still a card battle. The acceptance is higher. This case was discussed very early, and the opportunity to make it was a small game at the player meeting: one person issued ten cards, formed and played against each other. At that time, the players were very happy, always saying that they would have more rounds, and asked if they could do it in the game. Later we made it into a competitive gameplay.

With this gameplay, you can get rewards if you win three hands a day. Although some players say that the pressure is too high and the balance is problematic, the word of mouth is good overall. So the enlightenment we got is that when we do this kind of bold gameplay innovation later, we must try to combine the core gameplay.

Mr. Grape: What about the cognition of “salty and liver”? How important is it to AFK?

Jiang ○: This is what the core players recognize. Once we got a little better, they would run over and say, did Lilith deviate from her original intention? At this moment, we feel knocked a bit, and we will alert ourselves to whether we are constantly instilling new things to the players recently, and can we reduce the burden for everyone.

Grapeman: Would it be difficult to set the team’s KPI data?

Jiang ○: There are two dimensions of judgment in this regard. One is the fluctuation and persistence of online time. For example, there is a new system that reduces the online time from half an hour to 40 minutes, and it has been unable to download. We have to find a way to reduce it. The activity looks at the peak value. For example, the duration of the activity becomes one hour a day. If the trend is high and low, it is acceptable, but one hour a day will cause problems.

The second is to look at payment and retention, especially long-term retention. We will focus on whether the old players will return and whether there are public opinions that may lead to the loss.

Mr. Grape: How long do you want to control the duration of each day?

Jiang ○: Let it be. In the beginning, the control was relatively deadly, 20-30 minutes a day, during internal testing, daily tasks only took a few minutes. Later, on the one hand, there are more and more ways to play, on the other hand, some players will keep pushing levels. Whether it is using script or liver, the time limit will be lengthened.

But one thing that is very controllable is that we clearly distinguish events from one-off content. Disposable content is like a bank, it is always there, which is the feeling of whether the resources are taken early or late. Activities are periodic, as long as they are not too overwhelming.

In addition, when the new resident gameplay causes the overall time to rise, we generally simplify the old system. For example, the twisted dreams we have done before are similar to the BOSS gameplay in the guild, so when the former was launched, we made a sweep for the latter, and players only need to click three times a day.

Mr. Grape: How many people do you have now? Will manpower be allocated to different regions?

Jiang ○: There are about 90 people, and there are still many things that are outsourced.

We are the same team at the design level, and localization is the responsibility of the publishing team. I have thought about doing multi-version operations before, but the lesson from the overseas version of “Xiaobingbing Legend” is that if you do not do global operations, players will not think you are a global game.

“The prospects for placement will be brighter” will be the second generation of AFK

Grape: What do you think of the future of placing cards?

Jiang ○: In the current environment, there will be more and more products that occupy a large amount of time such as consoles, PCs, and heavy mobile games, and the prospects for placement will be brighter, at least more promising than traditional cards.

Not just cards, I believe there will be MMO and SLG placement in the future… As long as the core fun of the category can be preserved, and some transformations, a very successful product may be born.

Grapeman: What might be the difficulty of traditional cards in the future?

Jiang ○: It will face the competition of SLG, MMO, and even competitive games. Especially now that many MMOs and SLGs are also doing their own evolution, they will integrate the essence of card games, collection and cultivation, etc., and the competition in this field may be more intense.

However, the traditional card market will always exist. There will always be products with new themes and new styles that can hit users, and the fun of collecting and developing it is not easy to replace. Just like SLG may be able to do it, but it is too confrontational.

Grapes: How would you define your competitors? Will the two-dimensional cards be your competitors?

Jiang ○: The core of a card game is still collection and development. As long as it is a game that uses the player’s fragmented time, whether it is collection or development, it is considered our competitive product.

There are some differences between the positioning of two-dimensional cards and ours, most of them are not as casual as ours. When a head two-dimensional game was launched this year, we also had a lot of players to play, but some of them couldn’t accept the too strong two-dimensional style of painting, and the other part felt that it was too irritating and took an hour a day to do daily routines.

Grapeman: If you make a two-dimensional game with AFK core and use worldview and emotional links to retain players, do you think there is hope?

Jiang ○: Yes, but it’s hard to say how successful it can be. Because only the first game will make everyone feel fresh.

Mr. Grape: What plans does your team have in the future?

Jiang ○: On the one hand, we must conscientiously operate AFK, on ​​the other hand, we are also preparing for AFK 2, hoping to fill the regrets of some generations. At present, we are still in the early stage of discussing and building the framework.

Mr. Grape: What are your regrets?

Jiang ○: Quite a lot. The most typical one is the slow growth feedback in the later stage. This is a problem of numerical framework. If you don’t restrain the players, everyone’s combat power will grow more and more. There is also a worldview. We are also recruiting more copywriters, hoping to make the worldview and plot more perfect.

Commercialization has similar problems. The payment of card games is relatively advanced, and the subsequent spending will be slower and slower. In the words of the players, our game is either zero-krypton or heavy-krypton, and the krypton gold experience in R will be relatively poor. These are structural problems, and now they can only be partially tuned, and there is no way to solve them completely.

Mr. Grape: Do you think you have a chance to replicate the success of AFK?

Jiang ○: The exact same success cannot be replicated, because the market environment and style of play are changing. But some methodologies, such as Lilith’s category evolution, will be a good guide for us.

Previously, “Little Bingbing Legend” had a “Burning Crusade” gameplay that was particularly popular. Later, in AFK, we integrated it with Roguelike and designed a game called Alien Labyrinth. The feedback was also very good. This is the value of accumulation and evolution.

Mr. Grape: Then what accumulation of AFK can be kept?

Jiang ○: The two cognitions I just mentioned. The first is that core users enjoy the fun of core battles, so at least points cannot be reduced, and it must not be made into a simple turn-based system; second, long-term users value salt and liver, and innovations in gameplay must adhere to this point and cannot be changed. Our audience. If you just copy the gameplay of other categories, why don’t users play other products directly?

Author: Thomas Skull & Isaac
Source: Game Grapes


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