Product manager Mikhail Katkop, who worked at Rovio, Supercell and Zynga, in his blog Deconstruct or of Fun described the shortcomings of the mechanics of Need for Speed: No Limits and told what developers could learn from the World of Tanks Blitz and Hearthstone projects.
The editorial staff of the Game Market column publishes a translation of the material.
Need for Speed: No Limits (NFSNL) by Firemonkeys is an impressive racing game: stunningly beautiful graphics, high-quality level design, simple controls. It is so good that other racing games for smartphones simply pale in comparison.
NFSNL is now the third highest-grossing racing game in the world, even though it’s only been a few months since its launch. The game’s downloads peak has already passed, but their level is still quite high due to the popularity of the series and the strength of Electronic Arts as a publisher.
But if you compare the number of downloads and the profit brought by the game, for example, on App Annie, you can see that the retention of players, and therefore monetization, is not so great. NFSNL is at best in the top 100 in terms of profitability and only occasionally, during in-game events and sales, gets into the top 50.
High-quality 3D graphics cost the developers dearly. Downloads take a long time, the application takes up a lot of space and quickly overheats the battery. But the game remains in low positions not only for this reason. I think the real problem with NFSNL and other racing games is that they’re far from real racing, no matter how much they want to be. The developers have spent too much effort to turn them into something else.
It seems to me that racing games are based on the fact that the player wants to explore every track, every car, hone their driving skills. Players love racing games precisely because they can learn every corner of every track, know them like the back of their hand and enjoy it. Need for Speed: No Limits is not a racing game (like its rivals CSR Racing and Racing Rivals, by the way), although it wants to appear so.
Racing and controls
Each race in NFSNL, like in CSR Racing and other similar games, begins with the player pressing the gas pedal to move the tachometer needle to the desired level. If you press the gas pedal too weakly, then at the start the car will go slower, if you press it too hard, it will get out of control. But if you do everything right and keep the arrow at the ideal level, then the car will rush forward and the real fun will begin.
After the start, the player only has to control the turns of the car: there is no need to worry about the gas and brake. Turning the car to the right and left is not at all difficult and quite pleasant. A quick press on the right or left side of the screen only slightly deflects the car in that direction, and a long press makes the wheels turn to the limit. New players may occasionally get confused and make a mistake, but that’s not bad. It’s the ability to make a mistake and then come back and do better that makes racing games so fun.
The player must continue to press the pedal until the tachometer needle is in the green area. If he succeeds, the start will be perfect, if not, the car will lose control or start the race at low speed
After the start, the player must by all means avoid collisions with other cars and enter turns in order to improve their time or overtake other racers. To keep players from getting bored, NFSNL introduces drift and turbo boost mechanics. It helps with style into corners and fills up the turbo gauge. It is turbo acceleration that helps to win races.
To start the turbo, if the player has enough charge, just swipe up
The core game loop in NFSNL is as straightforward as in other free-to-play racing games. Winning races brings game currency. The currency is used to improve existing cars and buy new ones.
The player alternately goes through the race and improves their cars
Usually in games, races bring the user a certain currency, which he uses to improve his cars. The more the garage grows, the more currency you have to spend. To increase the retention rate and profit from the game, you need to make the player require more and more currency, as well as introduce the energy mechanic. Energy prevents the player from completing too many races in short periods of time.
To keep winning races, the player must upgrade cars and buy new ones. Upgrading requires coins and takes time. Participating in races absorbs energy, which is restored over time, and winning brings coins
The main loop in NFSNL contains the same elements as the racing games before it, the key difference is in the details for improvement. Winning races in NFSNL not only earns currency and experience points, but also gives you a chance to unlock a blueprint for a car or a specific part. Parts are needed to improve a certain part of the car, such as the engine or gearbox. Quite rare schemes are used to improve the car completely, opening up the possibility of installing even cooler parts on it.
Upgrading requires a certain amount of coins and parts and is instantaneous. Participation in races consumes energy (fuel or ticket, depending on the type of race), which is restored over time. Winning races earns the player coins and parts
The reason for this change in the cycle is quite simple and logical in theory. Each new playthrough costs more than the previous one, and the player’s energy is not infinite. His development is artificially limited, which, in theory, should force him to make purchases in the in-game store. For the management of many gaming companies, the mechanics of random rewards for completing levels is a real gold mine, it seems to be able to bring endless profits.