從產品測試角度聊Alliance: Heroes of the Spire是如何盈利的

原作者:Matt Suckley 譯者:Willow Wu

歡迎回到In-App Purchase Inspector,在這裏我們會以消費者的視角,定期測評一些F2P遊戲。

每期文章,我們都會考慮遊戲中IAP的誘因、壓力、它們的感知價值、IAP帶來的擴展內容還有整個遊戲體驗的評估。

最終目的就是看看這遊戲究竟值不值得我們砸錢,不花錢的遊戲體驗是否也能讓玩家感到滿足。

這次,我們來測評Rumble Entertainment旗下的Alliance: Heroes of the Spire,這是一款受亞洲遊戲啓發、以團隊模式爲基礎RPG遊戲。

Alliance: Heroes of the Spire(from pocketgamer.biz)

Alliance: Heroes of the Spire(from pocketgamer.biz)

從西到東

Rumble Entertainment的首款手遊KingsRoad發佈於2015年,它是一款頗具西方傳統風格的動作RPG遊戲。

最初它是網頁遊戲,把Diablo和Torchlight中的loot-gathering和物品管理機制移植到觸屏終端上。

但是在最近的更新中,我們發現這羣來自美國加州聖馬特奧的開發者們不再像往常一樣從西方PC遊戲尋求靈感,轉而更多地參考日本、中國、韓國的開發者們經常使用的免費RPG手遊戲設計。

這類設計就是利用隨機的抽卡系統組成團隊,收集資源,通過戰鬥獲取經驗——玩家可以選擇自己控制或者是自動戰鬥,最終通過合成系統進化英雄們。

沒有什麼新鮮的東西,當然。但是厲害的地方在於開發者們讓這些機制配合得恰當好處,相互交織,儘管它們越來越多地被應用於西方手遊,但也不會讓玩家感到違和。

開始召喚

收集-抽卡-合成機制在遊戲中已經是司空見慣的套路,Alliance可以立即把玩家到傳送到入口,召喚新英雄,完全沒有浪費一點時間。

系統會送你三個Hero Cores——其中有一個Epic Hero Core,可以得到3星到5星級別的英雄,另外兩個普通的可以得到1星到3星級別的英雄——遊戲很快就把玩家帶入抽卡機制,這也是遊戲的重點部分,盈利的主要來源。

在Alliance中,召喚新角色並不像其他遊戲中有那麼高大上的出場方式。沒有炫酷的動畫,只是簡簡單單地出現在玩家的視野中。

這其實跟Hero Cores可用頻率有關,意思就是玩家可以在一天內多次使用Hero Cores。

移除那些華而不實的出場儀式在這個遊戲中是有益的,不然玩家一次召喚好幾個角色就變成了一個漫長而痛苦的過程。

指揮

在對戰部分,Alliance和其他的RPG手遊幾乎沒有什麼不同。

不同的角色有不同的能力——有的是防守技能比較好,有的攻擊力比較強,還有的側重遠程輸出。玩家要根據不同類型的角色屬性制定策略。

玩家可以選擇在加速模式下進行對戰,不需要玩家進行操作,在任何一個已經完成的區域都可以使用自動戰鬥模式,大部分的有效的決策其實都是在戰場之外製定的。

遊戲本身也十分推崇這種做法:“自動戰鬥就是你的英雄在場內戰鬥,同時你在場外製定策略。”

核心循環

組隊真的是一件很重要的事情,這也是抽卡系統起作用的時候。

Hero Cores屬於常規獎勵,完成戰鬥你就可以得到,只用花100金幣就可以召喚一個1星至3星級別的英雄。

相比起來,Epic Hero Cores就比較罕見了,完成主線任務之後有小几率能夠獲得,再使用5000金幣就可以召喚一個3星至5星級別的英雄。

如果玩家沒有Epic Hero Cores,也可以用75個寶石(硬貨幣)召喚一個3星至5星級別的英雄。

遊戲中還有Legendary Hero Cores,使用25000金幣可以召喚一個4星至5星級別的英雄,。但是我天天玩,連續兩週多我都沒有見過它,或許這是給高消費玩家留的吧。

犧牲

我要講的下一個重點部分就是合成。每個角色最多可以和另外六個道具或者角色融合,如此一來被合成英雄就被銷燬了,成爲了更高級別的角色。

當他們達到級別上限——1顆星是10,2顆星是20,以此類推,可以通過使用(並銷燬)其他同一級別的角色進行升級。

這個過程需要花費金幣,級別越高花費就越多,但是這種軟貨幣一般來說不會不夠用。

更重要的是,這就意味着持續提升英雄的能力依靠的是犧牲其他角色,玩家就得返回召喚入口召喚一個新角色,然後再進行升級,如此循環。

Alliance: Heroes of the Spire(from pocketgamer.biz)

Alliance: Heroes of the Spire(from pocketgamer.biz)

財富的力量

金幣和寶石是Alliance中的兩種主要貨幣。

前者是用來召喚英雄、合成英雄、升級裝備,後者的基本用處就是Gem Summons、加速或者是復活在戰鬥中死去的角色。

在任務獎勵和自由的探索模式中游戲會送給玩家大量的金幣,探索模式就是玩家派遣一隊英雄完成長達好幾個小時的遠征任務,目的就是收集資源,獲取經驗。

金幣也可以用寶石去買,但我沒有那個需要。另外,遊戲也有提供寶石禮包,從2.99美元買70個到99.99美元買3250個。

然而,最具誘惑力就是禮包,這是Alliance的盈利重要來源。

禮包的樂趣

遊戲很早就讓玩家接觸禮包了,開始時會給玩家提供免費的資源:10個寶石,20能量,3個Hero Cores還有10000金幣,這就是遊戲中的“免費新手禮包”。

這個禮包就在新手包#1和新手包#2旁邊,這兩個禮包都只能買一次。顧名思義,這兩個禮包就是鼓勵新手玩家早早地花錢。

新手包#1就是撬開我錢包的“罪魁禍首”,包含250個寶石、50000金幣、2個Epic Hero Cores、每日專屬獎勵25個寶石(共15天)、Small Alliance Gifts還有170VIP點數,這些只要4.99美元。

除了超高的性價比,禮包中最有意思的地方就是會連續15天,每天送給玩家25個寶石。

對於這種annuities模式(玩家付一定費用,然後遊戲會在限定時期內用虛擬資源給予每日獎勵),Scientific Revenue的CEO,William Grosso說其實這本質上是在銷售每日登錄獎勵,對比那些衝動消費和必定消費人羣,這吸引的其實是具備另外一種消費觀念的羣體。

毫無疑問,這對我來說很有效。而且這一系列文章也表明了我更傾向於投資包含annuities模式的遊戲。

沒了就是沒了,不騙你

Alliance很大程度上也是靠着它的限時禮包獲利。兩種新手包都只能買一次,遊戲啓動時每次都有不同的折扣推薦,都是屬於“要就拿走,不要就沒有了”,在玩家企圖關掉窗口時,遊戲還會再次懇求玩家“不要錯過”。

除此之外,還有各種各樣的遊戲禮包——迷你的、小的、中的、大的,從9.99美元到99.99美元,其中所包含的寶石、金幣Hero Cores數量也不同,這些禮包的有效期都只有一個月。

擁有這些限時的東西確實能給予人一種的與衆不同感受,但是目前它還是不足以吸引我。其中之一的原因就是遊戲推送給我的大部分禮包都是99.99美元的,超出了我的價格承受範圍,而且我得說這推送算是挺頻繁的。

就像是這遊戲覺得既然我已經花了錢,那我就會向更大誘惑屈服,去花更多的錢。

算是個小問題,但是我覺得如果價格跳躍不要這麼大的話會比較好——我不敢說我瞭解全部數據,但是我懷疑有很多玩家買過4.99美元之後就直接去買了99.99美元的禮包。

想怎麼玩(買)就怎麼玩(買)

總而言之, Alliance最大的優勢就是它會給玩家提供選項。

你可以按照平常的方法購買寶石或者金幣,或者你可以買個禮包,什麼東西都可以得到一些。你可以立馬就拿到你要的財富,或者你也可以選擇讓遊戲在接下來的幾天“分期付款”。

你可以接受遊戲的推薦,購買限時禮包,或者你也可以選擇不要寶石,直接把錢用在裝備禮包上,武裝你的英雄。

上面說的這些都會增加的你的VIP點數,VIP可以加速自動戰鬥,獲得更多經驗,還有很多其他的長期福利,取決於你花了多少錢。

最重要的是,玩家也可以選擇不花一分錢玩遊戲,照樣可以獲得新角色,升級英雄,增加他們在PvP中的競爭力。

這會是一條更長的路,但這也是在可預見的未來裏我會選擇的一條路。

本文由遊戲邦編譯,轉載請註明來源,或諮詢微信zhengjintiao

Welcome back to the In-App Purchase Inspector – our regular look at free-to-play games from the consumer’s perspective.

In each instalment, we consider the incentives or pressure applied to make in-app purchases, their perceived value, the expansion offered by IAPs and the overall value of the experience.

The end goal is to see whether the game makes a good enough case for us to part with our cash, or whether players are content – or engaged enough – to ‘freeload’.

This time, we’re taking a look at Rumble Entertainment’s Alliance: Heroes of the Spire, an Asian-inspired squad-based RPG.

West to East

Rumble Entertainment’s first mobile game was 2015′s KingsRoad, a game very much built in the Western tradition of the action RPG.

Originally a browser game, it brought all the loot-gathering and inventory management of Diablo and Torchlight to touchscreens.

But for its latest release, the San Mateo, CA-based developer has looked less to Western PC games for its inspiration and more to a brand of mobile free-to-play RPG design popularised by developers in Japan, China and South Korea.

This means building a squad of characters through random gacha systems, gathering resources and experience through battles – be they presided over by the player or fought automatically – and ultimately evolving heroes by fusing them with others.

Nothing new here, of course. But what’s remarkable is the finesse with which these mechanics have been made to interlock, making a more than compelling case for their increasing inclusion in Western mobile games.

Set to summon

As is common in games with collection-gacha-fusion mechanics, Alliance wastes no time in shepherding the player towards the portal for summoning new heroes.

Giving you three free Hero Cores – one Epic Hero Core for three to five star heroes, two standard for one to three star heroes – the player is quickly introduced to the gacha mechanic around which much of the game and its monetisation revolves.

Summoning new characters in Alliance isn’t the event it is in some gacha titles. There’s no fancy animation here, rather instead they quickly phase into view.

This speaks to the rate at which Hero Cores are made available, meaning that this is a process that can be carried out multiple times per day.

Dispensing with the pomp and ceremony is a welcome move in this context then, making summoning several characters at once a pain-free process.

Taking command

In combat, there’s little to differentiate Alliance from a whole host of other mobile RPGs.

Different characters have different abilities – some defensive, some attacking, some ranged – and the primary strategy stems from the elemental strengths and weaknesses of different character types.

But with an option to let battles play out in an accelerated form without any player input, and a full auto-battle mode available for any already-completed area, most meaningful decisions happen off the battlefield.

The game itself puts it best: “Auto-Battling lets your heroes do the work while you do the planning”.

Core loop

Setting up your team is the real focus, then, and this is where the gacha system comes back into play.

With regular Hero Cores, a common reward for completing battles, you can summon a one to three star hero for a paltry 100 Gold.

Epic Hero Cores are far rarer, occasional rewards for completing major quests, and can be used in conjunction with 5,000 Gold to summon a three to five star hero.

Alternatively, if the player has no Epic Hero Cores available, a three to five star hero can be summoned for 75 Gems (hard currency).

There are also Legendary Hero Cores, which can be combined with 25,000 Gold for a four to five star hero, although in more than two weeks of consistent daily play I’ve yet to see one of these – it appears they are the preserve of high-spenders.

Making sacrifices

The next key part of the process is fusion. Each character can have up to six others fused into them – thus destroying the fused heroes – which levels them up.

When they reach the level cap for their star rating – 10 for one star, 20 for two stars, etc. – they can be evolved using (and destroying) other characters of the same level.

This process costs Gold, costs rising as you deal with higher level characters, but the soft currency tends to be in plentiful supply.

More importantly, it means that continually strengthening heroes relies on the sacrifice of others, which creates a loop of returning to summon new ones and begin the whole process afresh.

The power of wealth

Gold and Gems are the main two currencies in Alliance.

The former is used for summoning heroes, hero fusion and equipment upgrades, while the primary functions of the latter are Gem Summons, skipping timers or reviving characters in battle.

Gold is dished out liberally in the form of quest rewards and in the hands-off Explore mode, which has the player send a batch of heroes out for several-hours-long expeditions to collect resources and gather experience.

It can also be bought with Gems, but I’ve never felt the need to do so. Gems, on the other hand, are available in bundles ranging from $2.99 for 70 to $99.99 for 3,250.

However, the most tempting offers come in the form of bundles, and this is really the thrust of Alliance’s monetisation.

Bundles of fun

The game introduces the player to bundles early, opting to present its free resources to get the player started – 10 Gems, 20 Energy, three Hero Cores and 10,000 Gold – as a ‘FREE Starter Bundle’.

This sits in a menu next to Starter Pack #1 and Starter Pack #2, both of which can only be claimed once. As the name suggests, these bundles are there to encourage early spending.

Starter Pack #1 was the one that prised open my wallet, offering 250 Gems, 50,000 Gold, two Epic Hero Cores, 25 Gems for 15 days, Small Alliance Gifts and 170 VIP Points for a mere $4.99.

Apart from offering excellent value, perhaps the most interesting thing about this bundle is the offer of 25 Gems every day for 15 days.

Known as annuities, Scientific Revenue CEO William Grosso says that this process of essentially selling a daily login reward “appeals to a very different psychological group than the impulse purchases or the gotta-have-its.”

It certainly works for me, and this series has shown that I’m far more likely to invest in games that offer annuities.

When it’s gone, it’s gone

Alliance also relies heavily on the idea of scarcity in its retailing. Both Starter Packs are only available once, and there are a number of take-it-or-leave-it splash screen offers that implore “Don’t Miss Out!” when you try to close them.

Furthermore, there are also a number of packages – Tiny, Small, Medium and Large, ranging from $9.99 to $99.99 and offering Gems, Gold and Hero Cores in different quantities that are each only available once per month.

This does give them an air of exclusivity, but I’ve yet to be tempted by any of these. One of the reasons for this is that many of the offers I’m being shown – quite regularly, I might add – are for $99.99 bundles, way out of my price range

It is as though, emboldened by the fact I spent money, the game now feels I can be tempted into spending large sums in-game.

It’s a minor point, but more of a nuanced ramp-up would be appreciated in this regard – I can’t claim to know the stats, but I doubt many players are leaping straight from $4.99 IAPs to bundles worth $99.99.

Play (and pay) your way

All in all, Alliance’s greatest strength is in giving its players options.

You can buy Gems or Gold in the normal way if you like, or you can sample a little of everything with a bundle. You can get your currency now, or get it in instalments over the next few days.

You can buy limited-time offers tied into the ongoing in-game festivals, or you can circumvent Gems and plough your money straight into buying equipment packs to deck out your heroes.

All of the above will contribute to your VIP level, which gives boosts to auto-battle speed and XP earnings, along with many other long-term benefits depending on your level of spend.

Most importantly, however, players are given the option to play the game, get new characters, level them up and be competitive in PvP without deciding to spend.

It’s a longer road, but the one I think I’ll be taking for the foreseeable future (source:pocketgamer.biz