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Designing for Multiplayer

Designing for Multiplayer

Sep 13 2019, 10:40 AM PST 5 min

As a social platform, the most successful games on Roblox utilize mechanics that spark meaningful interactions among its players. By making specific design choices that encourage social play, you will see huge improvements in engagement, retention, and monetization.

Design Choices

Balance Lobby Sizes

Keep in mind the size of player compared to the max player count. A few players on a large map will make a game feel unpopulated, while a cramped lobby can feel uncomfortable.

Below are some techniques you can use to balance map size and player counts

  • Create key points in larger maps, such as important NPC shops or buildings in an FPS, to draw people together.
  • Use community events, such as a boss fights or holiday challenges, to bring large groups of players to the same space.
  • During development, playtest with different player counts until you reach an ideal ratio of empty space to players.

Depending on the genre of your game, you may design environments differently. For instance, Welcome to Bloxburg, a roleplaying game, has hubs where players can travel to work, purchase cars, and socialize at restaurants, clubs, or house parties. Large maps aren’t an issue because players gravitate towards these social hubs. Competitive combat games, like Phantom Forces, design their maps smaller to force players to engage with opponents frequently.

Limit Splintering a Small Player Base

Releasing your game with multiple game modes will risk splintering the playerbase. For example, if the game is a battle royale, release with a squads mode until the game has an established player base. Once you are confident the game has enough players that it can be segmented and still have populated servers, then introduce additional modes like solos. Once the player base for previously released game modes are at a healthy player count, there is less of a risk when slowly releasing other game modes. If the game modes can be in the same queues, similar to Phantom Forces, where a lobby votes on a mode, this is much less of a concern.

Provide Login Rewards

One way of maintaining a consistent, healthy community size is ensuring that players return regularly. A common technique on Roblox is to provide login rewards, such as in-game items or currency. As players return for rewards, this becomes part of their daily routine, ensuring your game maintains an active player base.

Some ways of implementing rewards include:

  • Improving standard rewards if players login for multiple days consistently.
  • Providing ways of recognizing players for login streaks, such as rewarding exclusive cosmetic items. This reminds other players of the value of login rewards.

For instance, the roleplaying game Adopt Me! provides players in-game currency for consistent logins and a mystery gift after five days.

Social Features

Friendship and community encourages player retention and engagement. While Roblox includes features, such as in-game chat and a friend system, developers can improve their games with specific social features.

Group Players Together

Encourage social connections naturally by adding a system into your gameplay loop that has players grouping together. This can be a group boss in a combat game or a movie theater showtime in a social game. Not everyone likes playing in groups, though. For these players, features like player factions can provide benefits for solo players, such as faction-specific event rewards. Factions are large groups of players that new players must choose from when starting. For the players that don’t like to interact with others, it still provides a sense of community when playing your game.

Celebrate Player Success In-World

Recognizing players for in-game achievements not only rewards the individual, but can spark conversation or encourage others to seek out that reward. Rewards can be for highscores, difficult achievements, or rare item drops. Some examples of player rewards include:

  • Give the rewarded player a temporary particle effect.
  • Broadcast a message to a lobby of players.
  • Use leaderboards to showcase player achievements.

One game implementing player recognition is Egg Farm Simulator. It includes leaderboards of all players as well as a separate one players can compare their scores to their friends. The leaderboards are located in the central area of the game that showcase the achievements of the most dedicated players.

A leaderboard from Egg Farm Simulator by SirMing.

Cooperative vs Competitive Games

Regardless of making a cooperative or competitive game, gameplay should encourage positive emotions. For instance, if players lose in a competitive game, keep players happy by offering some token to offset that defeat. As an example, give players experience points after a match that goes towards unlocking new items they can use.