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An endless game consists of the same gameplay mechanics repeated over and over. You have to keep doing mostly the same things as long as you can.

So it is quite easy to make players bored of your game. What are some concepts that one could implement into the game design to keep the player engaged?

To be more specific, my game is an endless tapping game where you have to tap rockets to make them explode into fireworks, and sometimes on falling meteors too.

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    \$\begingroup\$ reddit.com/r/thebutton \$\endgroup\$ – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Sep 26 '18 at 21:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd say to not overthink it. The type of game you're proposing will always have the upper limit of the player's physical endurance as their hands tire out of tapping (the brain also tires of paying attention), so you are never actually dealing with a truly "endless" game. \$\endgroup\$ – Oskuro Sep 27 '18 at 11:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you want them to keep coming back to the game, or do you want game sessions to last as long as possible. These different goals. \$\endgroup\$ – De Novo supports GoFundMonica Sep 27 '18 at 17:03
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Provide visible goals for the player to achieve. For example:

  • Levels: If you click enough rockets, the game becomes more difficult. When you are lazy on a tight budget, then you can just tune some variables. Like Tetris, for example, where the only difference between levels is speed and score multiplier. This is easy to do, but requires a lose-condition so the game ends when the player reached the limit of their skills.
  • Content unlocks: When the player taps enough rockets, new game features become available.
  • Story progression: Have your game tell a story. When the player keeps playing, new parts of the story get revealed.
  • Achievements: Acknowledge when the player did something good for the first time, like tapping 10000 rockets or tapping 100 rockets in just one minute.
  • Becoming better than other players: Create an online leaderboard where users can compete with each other.

One important aspect is to make the player aware of what goals there are and what they need to do to achieve them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just for the record, tetris is not an endless game. Increasing difficulty might enforce an end. Said otherwise, I think OP's game is a game you can't lose or it will not be endless. Increasing the difficulty might make it frustrating if at some point it becomes unplayable. \$\endgroup\$ – Pierre Arlaud Sep 27 '18 at 7:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ It should be noted that "Content unlocks", "Story progression" and "Achievements" only work up to a defined finite point. In other words, they can only postpone the boredom in an endless game. (They may be able to do so long enough, but not indefinitely.) \$\endgroup\$ – Jasper Sep 27 '18 at 9:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PierreArlaud Most implementations of Tetris, since they use a pseudo-random number generator and not a true-random number generator, are theoretically endless—with perfect play, they will not end. (Because it becomes impossible to clear the screen with only S or only Z tetrominoes, even perfect play will fall to a long enough sequence of one or the other—but most pseudo-random number generators will never generate such a sequence, which would be possible if it were truly random.) \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Sep 28 '18 at 4:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, daily rewards for playing everyday. The more days in a row they play, the better the daily rewards are. Jetpack Joyride and Temple Runner (1 and 2) are exampled of this. They are endless, they increase in difficulty, they have upgrades (content unlocks), achievements and (I believe) a leaderboard as well. (Haven't played them for 1 year, so, can't say how they are now but they used to be like this) \$\endgroup\$ – Ismael Miguel Sep 30 '18 at 12:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Tangential to the Levels bullet point, Space Invaders unintentionally scaled up the difficulty (invaders moving faster). As the invaders were killed, there were less invaders to draw, thus resulting in the game needing less time to draw the UI and thus increasing the amount of frames in a given time frame. They later chose to keep this difficulty scaling as it kept the game interesting and less of a repetitive bore. \$\endgroup\$ – Flater Oct 1 '18 at 9:35
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I would suggest adding a mechanic that encourages emergent gameplay. Often emergent gameplay can be introduced by adding physics into your game.

For example, if a rocket explodes, it could launch fragments of itself across the screen, and if those come into contact with another rocket, it would also explode. Then the player could try to get the biggest chain-reaction they can, which wouldn't be a defined goal of the game, but rather one the player comes up with.

That may not be the best example, but I hope it helped.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Rocket League is a good example of this. The rules and physics of the game are fairly simple, yet three years after launch players are still discovering new mechanics. \$\endgroup\$ – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Sep 26 '18 at 20:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Another classic example of this is speed running. Most games people speedrun do not have clear-time as a stated goal, and people often come up with extra constraints (like perfect completion or intentionally getting no powerups). Not exactly applicable to an endless game design, but still a good example of emergent gameplay.. \$\endgroup\$ – Austin Hemmelgarn Oct 1 '18 at 12:50
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You need to have something that keeps changing. Interest will be replaced by boredom if it is the exact same game over and over. But it doesn't have to be.

Many classic games are the same game, but you play them with different people. Chess or Go, for example, have zero randomness except for the people playing. That makes it interesting to keep playing the game.

Other games have elements of randomness that keep the game fresh. Card games or dice games. That means games never exactly repeat and while if you play long enough you will spot patterns, you never actually play the exact same game twice.

A third category is ongoing storytelling. If your game develops over time, even if the core game mechanics stay the same, it can provide interest. Real world wars (seen as games following James P. Carse definition) are not interesting because weapons change, but because they are part of the history of the world. Many roleplaying games fall into this category. The content can be created by players.

A fourth group is procedural content generation. You can make the game endless not just in time, but also in content. If there is always one more world to discover, one more level to explore. This is similar to randomness above.

What I found the strongest factor is human interaction. If you have a multiplayer game, the fact that players constantly adapt to each other, providing a constantly changing environment, you can draw people in a lot. My most successful game, which has been running without interruption for almost 20 years now, mixes the history and interaction elements and is still interesting to players (some of whom have been playing for more than a decade).


In your tapping game, obviously the aspects requiring other people are out. I assume that you already have some randomness, but this aspect is not strong enough to provide gameplay in itself the way that it does in card games (where playing good with the hand you were dealt is often exactly the challenge).

I would advise to play with randomness and procedural content. You can make levels more chaotic as the game progresses so that the skill a player requires slowly changes from prediction to reaction.

By nature, your game is probably most close to a card game. In this class, the successful games all have a very good balance between skill and randomness. While you get a random hand, the game is balanced so that a good player can win with almost any hand, while a bad player can absolutely lose with even the best hand. There are often also multiple ways to win so you can choose a different strategy based on your hand.

Your game may simply be too simple to have these elements that a game requires to be eternally interesting. You may have to add such elements.

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A user will not play a game where they do the same thing over and over. It will get boring and they will leave. As such, you need to make it feel like they're doing something new, even if the underlying mechanic doesn't change.

The ultimate example of this is probably Candy Crush. The mechanics introduced in level 1 are basically the same mechanics you use in level 1800. So what changed? The big thing that changes is the difficulty. You have to do bigger and better chains and plan further ahead in order to win.

Another ultimate example of this would be the famous games of Chess and Go. Both of them introduce 100% of the mechanics in the first week of your playing the game, but those mechanics interweave into endlessly intriguing things which people devote their lives to mastering.

Chess and Go demonstrate one very powerful tool for keeping your game interesting: strategy. If the tactics are simple, but the strategy is vast, then players will keep going back for more.

In the end, the best answer is no gimick. If they feel their life is enriched because they play the game, they'll keep playing it. That is the true art of making a game that lasts. You can put as any gimicks in as you please, but its the users who invent the real reason they play.

Take fantasy football. There's almost nothing to it, mechanically. But it is incredibly popular. It's popular enough that if you search for it, the Wikipedia article on it isn't even on the front page! This popularity is because players feel that they are close to the real action. They create their own purpose for continuing to play the game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I won my office's fantasy league one year by doing nothing (almost nothing). My boss was super upset (he had even tried cheating by managing his wife's team and trading players with her, which the rest of us blocked because he'd left league approval turned on). Easiest $100 I ever made. \$\endgroup\$ – Draco18s Sep 26 '18 at 20:19
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Expanding Philipp's content unlocks category, add powerups/items that change up the gameplay. For example: You may tap to explode a rocket, but what if there was an item that made it so when you tapped, a "tower" would spawn that would help you. That kind of stuff is why Enter the Gungeon and The Binding of Isaac are so popular today

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, but I'm not sure whether that could work. This is less of a slow-paced RTS game and more like a fast-paced "do it quickly with your hands" type of mobile game. \$\endgroup\$ – Gurpreet Singh Matharoo Sep 26 '18 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ The speed doesn't affect much in this situation; The items are there to spice up the gameplay to keep the game from playing the exact same way over and over again. \$\endgroup\$ – Priswall Sep 26 '18 at 14:55
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I feel that there are two important factors that would cause a person to keep playing a game like this. Extreme difficulty and quick, visible rewards. The ratio between these two is important to test out on an audience.

If the game is too easy, they'll get bored with it as it doesn't offer any challenge.

If the rewards are slow to come, then they won't be incline to continue because there isn't any gratification. The rewards could be as other have suggested (levels, power ups, achievements, a narrative)

Most of this is from my personal experience playing mobile games, many of which have no end state, are free to play, and rely on frequent restarts to generate ad revenue.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I understand, so it helps to keep telling the player "hey, you're playing, you get this, now you get this, just keep doing great and you'll get more". Thanks. Now I'll add more collectibles (or maybe an XP system) that can be collected from random drops from the fireworks. \$\endgroup\$ – Gurpreet Singh Matharoo Sep 26 '18 at 19:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah. There's a psychological aspect of gratification and thinking "oh dang, next time I'll do better". Similar to gambling. It's why people play old arcade games. Even though the chances of "winning" are extremely slim, they still pump money into the machines. \$\endgroup\$ – curt1893 Sep 27 '18 at 2:20
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If you are too lazy to make an expansion, a new level or sth else, let the user do it:
Custom levels are always pretty hyped

OR:
Look at Minecraft that Game was released a century ago and is one of the most played games, because they had extra content (produced mostly by the users),
like custom server with different rules, custom games like Survival Games.

In your example you're limited to a 'piano tiles' like game, so you have options like:

reverting screen: Geometry dash does this too
Bosses: needs to be tapped 30 times, or must be encircled
Powerups: more damage, explosion damage, shield, extra heart, etc
Game mechanic change: instead of tapping, you slash now, like Fruit Ninja

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