Idle Miner Tycoon: gold game review

Doesn’t sound very exciting, but captures the essence exactly. Idle games are almost always built around similar mathematical calculations.

At the beginning, you have points or currency that you can build up manually.  Once you collect enough game currency, you can buy a tool that increases the speed and convenience of clicks to get all the same currency.

That’s practically all. There are more detailed descriptions of idle games and the reasons why they can captivate players. But it was the above that we kept in mind while creating Idle Miner Tycoon in 2016.

At the beginning, there were 4 people in our team.  We started modestly, but over time our staff exceeded 100 people, and we were able to launch a gaming franchise with 100 million installs in total.

1. Start by looking for an extraordinary idea

The idle game format fits well with two sub-genres: business simulations and tower building. Therefore, most games on the market are either the first or the second.

We slightly changed the original concept. They took the idea of building a tower and did the opposite: instead of building higher, you dig deeper.

The difference is small, but thanks to it, Idle Miner Tycoon stands out from other games.

2. Create a simple prototype

The motto of our studio may seem strange to you: “Say no to your desires.” Whatever bold and ambitious ideas we come up with during development, we say “no” to them and stubbornly stick to the original concept.

It was remarkable not for what was in it, but for how much it was missing:

no 3D graphics;
no IAP;
no social functions;
no localization;
no ads;
no cloud saves.
And this prototype worked well. He had an outstanding 1st day retention: from 63% to 81%. (Most games don’t exceed 40%.)

Such a prototype is the basis for a good idle game. You can add everything else to it later.

Taking into account only the D1 retention, we opened up a large fork of possibilities in the later stages of development. Therefore, in the future, if something went wrong with the game, our fixes did not affect D1 retention.

Thinking about it now, we see three reasons why the game didn’t work:

we chose a waterfall development model instead of a more flexible one;
we have overcomplicated the technical process;
and we haven’t tested the project for months.
We realized that the game does not work when it was 60% ready. It was possible to grind it out further and still finish it, but instead it was decided to curtail development and do something new.

4. Place the entire game loop on one screen

The game cycle of Idle Miner Tycoon is divided into four stages:

1. Loot
2. Transportation
3. Sale
4. Upgrade

Our interface demonstrates all these steps on one screen. Between them is a “checkpoint”. This is a variable that determines the speed of your progress. Pumping this variable allows you to extract more resources, transport and sell them faster, etc.

Such transparency of the gameplay makes the game very easy. Therefore, in order to immediately immerse yourself in the gameplay, even a 10-minute train ride is enough for you. The same transparency allows you to clearly indicate to the player all the “checkpoints”, which will become the basis of your monetization model.

5. Build monetization on “pay or wait”

There is no loss in an idle game. The only thing that matters here is how fast you want to progress through the game. This rate of progression is exactly what players will pay for.

wait, repeating the game loop until the opportunity to open the mine.
We earn about 60% of our income from advertising.  On average, a player watches eight commercials a day.

The rest of the income comes from in-game purchases. Initially, they were not in the game. But the players themselves asked to be given the opportunity to spend money to speed up the progression.

6. Apply Lean Methods

With the release of Idle Factory Tycoon in 2018, our portfolio has grown to two idle games. By that time, during the development and publication of our first game, we had learned a lot. And they reduced the whole process to five stages:

a small team starts. She looks for a good concept and chooses the main mechanics;
Each developer on the team plays the game, evaluates its fun and fixes bugs. At this point, about 8 weeks have passed since the start of development;
It’s still about four weeks;
once the game suits us, we start scaling. We are expanding the team, introducing new features, and growing the audience.
We got it from Eric Rees’ book The Lean Startup, and it’s our main source of inspiration.

There is no point in wasting time polishing graphics and balancing if you are not sure that the basic concept is effective.

Game development is a business where hits are everything. Therefore, the sooner you realize that the game is not working, the lower your losses will be.