Tarek Mongy, a solo developer from Cairo, and Jill Keshyap, publishing manager at Voodoo, gave tips on how to come up with viral and mass-market ideas for your next prototype. Game Analytics shared an article from Voodoo.
Run of Life is the brand new hit game developed by Tarek Mongy, a solo-dev based in Cairo. Transforming the popular stacking trend into a super relatable concept, the team hit over 20 million views on TikTok, generating a huge number of organic installs even before the game was officially launched.
If we look at Run of Life, we can see that the idea itself combines a successful stacking mechanic with an original and super relatable concept: age-morphing. In the game, your goal is to make it to heaven by ageing as little as possible throughout the level, choosing between various objects and obstacles that will either make you older or younger as you progress. The game uses a simple slide control to move your player, and the core of the gameplay lies in making snap decisions that create either satisfaction or frustration throughout the level. Thanks to the super relatable concept and strong execution, it wasn’t long before Run of Life was trending on social media platforms such as TikTok, generating millions of views on its videos and hundreds of organic downloads even from the very first iteration.
So how did this idea come about? And how did the teams transform this idea into a hit game?
Tip #1: Create your own trend
By creating a new feeling, players will be able to differentiate your game from ones they may have played before which use the same mechanic or control.Jill Keshyap, publishing manager at Voodoo
Run of Life is a great example of a super original gameplay inspired by current trends. We can see the influence of the stacking mechanic as seen in games such as Spiral Roll or Cube Surfer, horizontal stacking as seen in Roof Rails, and finally the body transformation theme seen in games such as Strong Pusher. But Tarek was able to dig deeper into these trends, twisting the narrative to stand out from the others. Its secret to success? Relatability. Ageing is a theme that everyone in the world can relate to, and is previously unexplored in hyper-casual.
For me, I like to look at current hyper-casual trends, but there’s a really fine line between being inspired by trends and copying other games that are coming out. I was really inspired by Strong Pusher for this game but I wanted to come up with a concept that absolutely everyone could relate to. So that’s how I came up with the age thing – everyone can relate to going from a baby to an old person! That’s where the inspiration came from”.Tarek Mongy, developer of Run of Life
Tip #2: Keep it simple
Another thing to keep in mind during the ideation process is to keep things as simple as possible. Hyper-casual gamers don’t want to think too much when they’re playing! They generally want the experience to be as straightforward as possible. This is essential to hitting the right metrics for launch.Jill Keshyap, publishing manager at Voodoo
Keeping things simple is a golden rule in hyper-casual. Your game’s metrics in the prototype phase determine how clear your gameplay is, how universally understandable it is, and how easy it is for the user to pick up and play. Tarek focused solely on the core gameplay and mechanic for the first iteration. The first prototype only had 10 levels on an infinite loop, which allowed him to focus more on perfecting the gameplay clarity and simplicity.
A lot of my ideation process is picking up on best practices from successful games that have been published before. One thing I found really helpful in terms of level design was to look at games like Cube Surfer and map out their level structures to help get the right balance between simplicity and fun. I literally played several games with a pen and paper, mapping out each level to pick up on what was done well, and what to avoid in my own level design.Tarek Mongy, developer of Run of Life
With a super simple core gameplay and careful rhythm in the level design, Run of Life achieved a 29c CPI and 36% Day 1 in just the first round of testing.
Tip #3: Tell a small story
It’s always a plus to tell a story through your game by adding a nice narrative. This gives context to the gameplay and allows players to connect more with the game. To do this, you need to make sure that all elements in the game are relevant and correlate with the narrative or overarching theme that you’re conveying.Jill Keshyap, publishing manager at Voodoo
The story that drives Run of Life is to collect objects and avoid obstacles to be as young as possible by the end of each level in order to climb the stairs and reach heaven.
For this game especially, I tried to create a bit of a story around it to make sure that everything was coherent with the narrative. For example, even though most hyper-casual games use coins and gems for currency, it felt more natural to use cash in Run of Life as it felt more relatable to real-life situations!Tarek Mongy, developer of Run of Life
Tip #4: Think about the future
In hyper-casual, game development doesn’t stop once the game is launched. At Voodoo, we make sure that we keep working on new features, challenges, and levels in the live optimisation phase to make sure your game stays fresh and fun for both existing and new users. One way we help do this is to organise brainstorming sessions with our Marketing experts to come up with new ideas. For Run of Life, one of our Marketing Developers came up with the idea of adding binary life choices to the game, such as choosing between Netflix and yoga. This was originally a fun idea to test in ads, but it worked so well, helping the game sustain a low CPI even after launch, that we actually added it to the gameplay itself.
I always try to think about the future when ideating to see if there’s room for the game to grow. For example, I think about what kind of updates we can introduce or what elements we can add to the level design. This really helps filter my ideas. Some ideas will seem really cool and you’ll be really keen to try them out, but when you actually think about it further, you’ll realise that there’s not much growth potential there. I’ll spend an hour or so thinking about each idea, and if I can’t think of anything, then I’ll immediately scrap it.Tarek Mongy, developer of Run of Life
Advice for solo-devs
Some of our most successful hit games were created by solo developers!
It’s easy to get demotivated in hyper-casual, let alone as a solo developer! It’s taken me two years to get a game published, and it’s not always easy along the way. But it’s really important to understand that it takes a while to get a feel for the industry. It’s a very specific type of game, and not like any other game you may have made before.
I’ve been testing games with Voodoo for a couple of years now and have learnt a lot from the live streams and other studios in their ecosystem, so I’d definitely recommend checking out all the content and live streams! And remember that with every prototype that you make, even if it sucks, you’ll learn something like how to create a new mechanic. After a few years, you naturally build up a lot of good code, assets, and of course experience, so it really does get easier the more and more prototypes you make! Try to make fun stuff, and just keep going!Tarek Mongy, developer of Run of Life
So there we have some key tips to help you ideate. A huge thank you to Tarek and Jill for participating, and congratulations on Run of Life’s success!