Game Design - Player Liquidity
Exploring the Importance of Player Liquidity in Game Design: How Active Players Impact Fun and Success
Here’s an important, but oft-overlooked Game Design concept - games have a player liquidity requirement: the number of active players (be it monthly or daily or concurrent) necessary for the game to be fun.
Consider the very basic player liquidity requirements of board games - when someone walks down the board game aisle of a hobby store*, they can check the cover of the game box indicating the number of players a game can support. Chess? 2 players. Settlers of Catan? 2-4 and more with expansions (sold separately of course). Bridge? Exactly 4 players (no more, no less).
Additionally, all games (both physical and digital) have different player requirements for the game to be “fun”. While it’s doable to play Solitaire with 1,2, 3, or more people (with friends commenting and strategizing together to determine the best play), it’s virtually impossible to play Bridge with fewer than 4).
This, combined this with the exponential growth surrounding modern online games, makes player liquidity the largest litmus test of which games will excel or fail on new platforms.
Modern online multiplayer games include features like matchmaking^ and competitive multiplayer, all of which dramatically INCREASE the number of active players required for the game to work.
For example, while a game like chess could exist in a world with only 2 total players, in practice, without a large community of players to support the various ELOs**, you’d find the same, higher-rated player beating down on the worse players over and over again***. That’s not fun!****
To support matchmaking and competitive environments, the minimum number of players required grows exponentially.
This is “player liquidity”.
It’s both nerve-wracking and fascinating what goes into game design - the choices made even before the first lines of code are committed can affect the game’s success.
What are other examples you’ve seen of player liquidity at play? Both in success and failure for new emerging game studios?
*Or a “Virtual” store. “Metaverse” store?
^ the algorithmic pairing of players to play online sessions together, usually aiming for levels of parity
** An approximation of player skill level. [https://lnkd.in/gxuXbvVC]
*** Vibe games are some of the coolest examples of platform-specific experiences that have evolved the past few years. They function similarly to SoHo house/nightclubs in real life, where players on Roblox congregate and just chat, meet people, and check out the “vibes” of the room. These vibe games may be the closest thing to the reported “metaverse” we see across gaming.
**** It’s one of the underlying problems with “smurfing”, which is somehow both a math problem, community management problem, and potentially a bullying problem all in one…
Want to hear more from Sebastian Park?
Sign up here to receive the latest updates in your inbox.