The Idle genre is a newcomer to the gaming world, but since its inception, namely in 2002, it has caught the attention and gained a devoted fan base, whose list is still expanding to this day. But how are things in the inner «kitchen» of production, what concepts are used for improvements and what unexpected decisions are made by developers? Sunday shared an interesting article on the subject.

Progression breakdown

Level based progression

In Arcade-Idle, there is always a play area. Also, there is a directed goal to complete the area and move to the next. Each level in Arcade-Idle starts with easily achievable small goals. The goal is to gradually onboard the player with gradual progression & succession feelings. The focus is on mechanics & resources.

Good examples of Arcade-Idle with level based progression would be:

Exploration based progression

For this part, there is a huge play area now. The player needs to explore the area as much as possible to complete the world. There is a goal again but the goal cannot be achieved unless the player explores a lot & gathers huge amounts of resources. Therefore the focus should be on the environment and resources. An example would be My Little Universe from the developer SayGames Ltd.

Growth based progression

In this case there is again a play area. There are also many things the player can do within this play area. To have a lot of variables to choose from, the game needs a lot of resource generators, automation & upgrades. The goal is to keep the player engaged within this world for a long period of time rather than quickly moving on to the next world. Focus is on the option of upgrades, resources & options to make the player spend more time in this world/level. Good examples are:

Exploration + Growth + Mini-Games

Here we have a normal play area. The player needs to explore this area & while doing so, he unlocks new mini-games/elements, which are directly related to the gameplay goal. These mini-games are build with short mechanics which introduce a fun element to the level. The player explores more of the area in hopes of finding new mini-games. Mini-games are not necessarily «mini-games». They can be short elements related to the theme in the level which provide a new way to interact. The basic Arcade-Idle mechanics still apply. The goal is to keep the player exploring & bringing up new mini-games. Focus is on the theme, environment & mechanics. Good examples are:

Level + Growth

You can also combine two or more progression systems. You mix & match the areas and mechanics to create twisted new gameplays and goals:

Market & Progression breakdown

In this part, we are taking a look at progression categories in terms of downloads & retention/playtime.

Level based + Growth based 

This type of progression is a strong way to go. It requires very thoughtful planning of the gameplay & resource structures. These structures are still unexplored and have plenty of potential since not a lot of games exist here. Characters have a base to come back to, to upgrade & expand to skill up & to clear the upcoming levels easily.

Growth based gameplay 

This type of progression seems to do quite well in terms of downloads + and playtime as well.  A female theme could be a good way to go, referencing Fashion Universe with super high playtime & good marketability. Providing the player with various options to invest in new resource generators, upgrade their skills or automate tasks is the key here. 

Level based gameplay 

The progression feels weak compared to growth based gameplay. The playtime in this structure is not strong & the number of downloads wasn’t as well. Growth-based gameplay usually has a lot of elements that the player can explore within a single play area in which they can always come back. In level-based gameplay, the player has a set goal that they look forward to.

Exploration + Growth + Mini-games

These games usually focus heavily on a theme and only attract a small audience around it. The playtime & retention is average. The reason for this is that there is no strong core gameplay and multiple play-styles in these kinds of games. The player is not able to get into the flow by repeating the same core action over and over again hence they tend to churn more.

What’s next for Idle Games?

Idle games have evolved a lot over time. Most of the arcade idle games that we see are based on service management in popular industries via stacking and transporting resources. We feel the next wave of Idle games will have a more interesting core mechanic than just stacking. 

For example, Snow Speculator by Voodoo is again stacking but — with the melting of snow.

Idle + Other

Combining Idle Mechanics with interesting core mechanics such as – Merging, Sorting or Matching is a good way to go.

Rough Idea for Sorting+Idle: In Collect Em All by Voodoo, you need to sort balls. You earn coins by sorting the balls. Adding Idle Mechanics to this could mean: 

  • Using the coins to expand the map size
  • Hire an automation worker
  • Add upgrades for the worker

Idle games are all about making investment choices. Key elements for a modern idle game:

  • Expand the play area
  • Enable Automation
  • Upgrades for the character, automation & resource generators

We have already seen some decent results with Runner + Idle (Idle Speed Race, which was one of our external projects and had promising KPIs + Climb the stairs)

Conclusion

For our conclusion on Arcade-Idle we can list the following results:

Don’t do stacking and the point-to-point resource transfer again! This will result in a bad marketability performance & retention too! People don’t like playing the same gameplay over and over!

Do explore other mechanics to merge with Idle-Games and focus on the core gameplay loop! The most common question for the player is: is it fun, satisfying & innovative? You can add idle mechanics to the gameplay. Some of the most common ones:

  • Character Upgrades;
  • Unlock new «generators»;
  • For example: tables in restaurants, new patch of land in crafting games, new rides/games;
  • Automation.

Do try to merge your idea / gameplay with already existing popular themes/gameplay! Some directions we can think of:

  • FP + Idle;
  • Throw woods to make a building;
  • Sorting + Idle;
  • Merging + Idle;
  • Matching + Idle;
  • Runner + Idle;
  • Stacking + Idle;
  • Puzzle + Idle;
  • Vertical platformer + Idle.

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