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Improving Freemium Design – Knight Storm by MunkyFun
This is a guest post from Ben Sipe, crossposted from his blog.
I love medieval and renaissance themed entertainment so when I came across Knight Storm you bet I downloaded the game! I’ve been playing for a few weeks now and think some aspects of the game are really well done. However, like all games, I think there’s some room for improvement as well.
What they did right:
Knight Storm looks amazing. At first launch, my character rode his horse out of the castle, the title appeared and then the horse stood up in front of an amazing looking castle… I was ready for an epic adventure! The horses look realistic and animate beautifully. I was pretty amazed but remembered that MunkyFun is also the developer of My Horse so it made sense, but it doesn’t discredit their ability to make beautiful graphics.
Also unhorsing my opponent feels very satisfying due to the visuals. I love the slow motion camera, his lance exploding into splinters and watching your opponent flip end over end off of his horse.
Blending game mechanics
I’m a big fan of breaking up tedious tasks or a single style of game mechanic with various other mechanics. In Knight Storm players not only joust and battle, but they also have a castle that acts like a home base that generates coins, experience and potions for the player. One can also upgrade their equipment and get more sigils from the castle.
I am the minority of players that actually read the in game text, but I enjoyed the bits of humor that the developers threw in. Instead of using “next” or “ok” buttons, they used more humorous options.
They also wrote the dialog options as if coming from their character’s thoughts.
There were a couple parts where I actually laughed out loud, but forgot to grab screenshots during those moments.
Upgrading makes you feel badass
When I upgrade a piece of armor or weaponry it really changes! You might not think this is a big deal, but so many games just change the color or give the equipment a better stat. I want to SEE the different item as well as the upgraded stats. Players need visual changes in order for them to feel like anything has even changed. Some games can get away with minor changes on smaller upgrades, but if you’re asking someone to pay premium currency then that item/equipment/weapon better look visually awesome!
Look at beginning gear, some middle of the road equipment and then what end game equipment looks like.
Adding a chance mechanic to battles
I like their addition of sigils to combat. It’s basically a game of rock, paper, scissors for bonus damage. It adds an element of chance to the battle without completely screwing the player if they don’t make the right decision.
I always advise developers to have an element of chance in their games if it’s going to be a more casual game or if they want mass market appeal. Some people love strategy, but even more love an element of chance. Take board games for example. Settlers of Catan has been one of the best selling modern board games. My wife doesn’t like to play me in competitive strategy games and doesn’t even enjoy medieval/renaissance themed games, but will play Catan with me because no matter how well I strategize the dice can make or break a game. It is one of the most brilliant chance/strategy combinations.
Almost all games should have some multiplayer aspect and Knight Storm does too. Players can joust against each other for glory points which determines your leaderboard ranking. In addition to glory points, players can also earn fragments which are used to forge sigils at your castle. This gives players an additional benefit to the single player game for taking up your lance against other players.
What could be improved:
As you can see from the screenshot below I have over 300 of each potion. I could play for hours with that many potions. Now I realize why there are potions and I think it’s great to allow players to create potions so they can continue to play, but I wouldn’t allow players to stockpile so many. There needs to be a better balance between potion creation and consumption.
Also having this many health or stamina potions makes their “Potion of revival” pointless. Why would I ever drop 5 gems on the “Potion of revival” when I can just forfeit back to the map screen, drink a bunch of health/stamina potions and try again?
Lack of customization
I love that I have a castle, I love the armor and weapon models but I just wish I could customize them! Having a little more control over what is happening and where in my castle would make me feel more attached to it. Same goes with my jouster. I would like to customize his armor, banner, color, something! I can upgrade him which is nice, but it would be awesome if I could design a crest for him or choose armor customization options from a predesigned list.
Repetitive and a little time consuming
I mentioned earlier that unhorsing your opponent feels satisfying, but after 10 jousting battles it becomes a little tedious and time consuming to have to watch all of the slow motion, body flailing and your character ride around in victory. I would appreciate at least a fast forward button.
Also during every joust battle, players need to move their lance to the left and down. It’s always to the left and down. It would’ve been nice to make the lance harder to aim to give battles more of a challenge. I have never missed or been outside of the red + sign during a joust. Perhaps the lance would bob up and down with your horse’s strides, maybe don’t have the game go into slow motion or perhaps your character’s aim gets better as you level?
Awards for glory points
Better sense of damage
You can knock off shields and helmets, and I’m sure it technically gives that player/opponent a disadvantage but it’s not as drastic as one might think. In a real jousting battle if one lost a helmet you’re pretty much dead next round, and if you lost your shield then you’d most likely be unhorsed the next round. However in Knight Storm, when losing a shield or helmet it just places a broken armor icon at the bottom of your stats and doesn’t appear to decrease them.
Sigils with multiple attributes
I talked about the rock, paper, scissors aspect to battles as a nice addition, but players can also get sigils with two attributes. Then it gets confusing which is considered the main and secondary. Is there even a main and secondary attribute? I’m not even sure. If sigils with multiple attributes are used in battle then I just have to wait for the game to tell me which wins and I don’t have a concrete answer as to why. Players can also aim at two or three areas on an opponent with these sigils, but I don’t think it matters which target they choose. Does the head deal more damage than the shield or left arm? It would also be nice if certain areas took damage so players would try to target the same area repeatedly.
Knight Storm certainly piqued my interest when I saw it. It’s a great example of how games can look, and worth a play. I don’t know if the game has the ability for mass market penetration because of the theme, but a successful game doesn’t always need that. If they just tweak some of the monetization mechanics and increase the difficulty then I think they’d could really boost their metrics. I look forward to seeing how they update on this one!