· 5 min read

A Voodoo Guide To Game Design: Keep Things Simple

In this post, Publishing Manager at Voodoo, Corentin Selz, talks about just how exactly they keep their games simple, and why this is so important for hyper-casual titles.

At Voodoo, we firmly believe that simple is best when it comes to designing hyper-casual games. So in this post, we’re going to look at why that’s true, and how to make it happen.

Before we get to that, we just want to take a moment to quickly go over what our market is, and what that means for the way you design games for us.

The guy on the train

Who are our players? The answer is: everyone. Yes, some of them are hardcore Apex Legends gamers. But most of them are just normal people going about their days, from 77-year-old grandmothers, to seven-year-old kids. Essentially, people that play our games on their smartphones, on the go.

Voodoo games on the tube

Take a look at this picture. It’s a good example of the kind of people you should be thinking of when you’re designing your games. The guy in the middle is playing a game on his phone while traveling on a bus. He’s doing it one-handed, which tells us you can’t do a double joystick shooter for this market – it just doesn’t work. And he looks relaxed. That shows us that people don’t want to feel threatened by these types of games. And finally, we know he’s going somewhere, which tells us that people must be able to play these types of games in very short sessions at a time.

Simple games in action

So that’s the theory – simple is best. Let’s look at some examples of this in action. Of the games we published recently, three of our best-performing ones are Grass Cut, Roller Splat, and Fire Balls 3D.

These games are super simple. You could even call them mindless. We don’t mean that in a negative way though, but you can play them really easily with one finger, without really thinking about it. They’re also unthreatening – so much so that in Roller Splat you can’t even die.

Simple = smart

Just because a game’s simple doesn’t mean it isn’t smart. Smart prototyping means you take a bit of time to think about the kind of game you’re making. You also need to take the time to consider how you’re making that game and the level of execution you’re putting in to it. Don’t make the controls or design overly complex. 

The Voodoo guidelines

We’ve come up with a set of guidelines for the five core elements you need to create hyper-casual games.

You should make sure they’re:

  1.  snackable – the session length is short and gives a lot of reward,
  2.  intuitive – players can understand them in a few seconds,
  3.  Youtubable – they’re very dynamic and there’s a lot of action going on,
  4.  forgiving – as mentioned, in Roller Splat you can’t even die (can’t get much more forgiving than that), and
  5.  gameplay first – gameplay is always the most important thing. The visuals come second. In fact, everything comes second. You need to find that one little nugget of gameplay which is really exciting and fun, and everything else should be secondary to that.

We want to encourage you to always go back to these guidelines when you’re making a game. All of our top games have these elements down to a tee – without them, a game isn’t hyper-casual. 

What not to do

Make it too threatening

Your game could be simple, have a nice pace, and feel really snackable. But say you add something like lava, or quicksand (basically something the player will die from if they touch it). This makes the game stressful, and you’ll need to likely have quick reflexes in order to play. Could you play a game like this on a moving bus? Probably not.

Forget about the gameplay

This is a common mistake among game developers, adding on too many complex controls to what essentially needs to be a simple game. Think back to that man on the tube or bus. Can they play it with one hand, while standing on a crowded moving vehicle, for the first time? If your game doesn’t pass this test, then it won’t pass as a hyper-casual title. Think about when people see these CPI videos for a few seconds on Facebook – if they don’t understand straight away what something is, then it’s not going to work.

Layer on too many elements

As mentioned above, this doesn’t mean you can’t be smart about your title. But when you add challenges, multiple controls, loud elements, and threatening opponents, then the game becomes overwhelming and a mishmash of confusing things. Your player should understand what type of game and what to expect from the moment they start playing. If you need to have 100% concentration to play your game, that means it isn’t a complete hypercasual title.

Remember the guidelines

It’s always hard when you’re designing a game to think of everything. Even though you might think you’re making a hyper-casual game, the examples above show how easy it is to go wrong. But just remember the guidelines we’ve given you and use them as a template to help you think about your games in a critical way.