Editor’s note: This article was originally written by the brilliant minds of Voodoo. They agreed to share the story with us here, but if you’d like to see the original, head over to their blog.
Run of Life is the brand new hit game developed by Tarek Mongy, a solo developer based in Cairo. The team turned the popular stacking trend into a super relatable concept, had over 20 million views on TikTok and generated a large number of organic installs even before the game was officially released. We sat down with Tarek and Jill, Publishing Managers at Voodoo, to take a closer look at the game and their tips for viral and mass-market ideas for your next prototype.
Basics of brainstorming
Your brainstorming process is key to creating hot prototypes. The more prototypes you create, the more chances you have of making a hit, but coming up with brand new ideas in the hyper-casual realm can be difficult. Innovation promotes successful brainstorming and original ideas help your game stand out from the crowd and make it into the top charts. The development of marketable and original ideas depends heavily on trends – studios often look for what’s trending on the internet and social media for inspiration. This is what we really focus on at Voodoo, bringing you the latest on trends and virality to help you brainstorm.
If we look at Run of Life, we can see that the idea itself combines a successful stacking mechanic with an original and super relatable concept: age morphing. In the game, your goal is to make it to heaven by aging as little as possible throughout the level and choosing between different objects and obstacles that will make you either older or younger as the game progresses. The game uses a simple slider to move your player around and the essence of the gameplay is making quick decisions that create either satisfaction or frustration throughout the level. Thanks to the super relatable concept and the strong implementation, it didn’t take long before Run of Life was trending on social media platforms like TikTok and generated millions of views of its videos and hundreds of organic downloads from the first iteration.
So how did this idea come about? And how did the teams turn this idea into a hit? Tarek and Jill have put together four top tips from their experience to inspire you for your next prototype.
Tip # 1: Don’t just follow a trend, create your own⚡️
Jill: “If you want to use the ‘change the toy, follow the rules’ concept, you need to make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of simply redesigning an existing game. Introducing something new is important to stand out from the crowd and transform a current trend into something fresh. There are several ways to do this, but my top tip would be to come up with a toy or theme that in some way creates a different reaction for the player. This can be done either through the level design, the environment or any of the features within the game. By creating a new feel, players can differentiate your game from others they may have played before using the same mechanics or controls.
Run of Life is a great example of super original gameplay that is inspired by current trends. We can see the influence of stacking mechanics in games like Spiral Roll or Cube Surfer, horizontal stacking like in Roof Rails, and finally the body transformation theme in games like Strong Pusher. But Tarek was able to dig deeper into those trends and twist the narrative to stand out from the crowd. His secret of success? Reliability. Aging is a topic that everyone in the world can identify with and which has not been explored in hyper-casual until now.
Tarek: “For me, I like to look at current hyper-casual trends, but there is a really fine line between being inspired by trends and copying other games that come out. I was really inspired by Strong Pusher for this game, but I wanted to come up with a concept that absolutely everyone could relate to. That’s how I got down to old age – everyone can relate to going from baby to old person! That was where the inspiration came from. “
Tip # 2: keep it simple 👍
Jill: “Another thing to keep in mind during the brainstorming process is to keep things as simple as possible. Hyper-casual gamers don’t want to think too much while playing! In general, you want the experience to be as simple as possible. The easier you make it for them the better, and one of the best ways to ensure this is to keep things very simple during the idea generation process, focus on the core game, and not add too many extras. This is important to get the right metrics to go to market. “
Keeping things simple is a golden rule in hyper-casual. How clear your gameplay is, how universally understandable it is, and how easy it is for the user to learn and play will determine the metrics of your game at the prototype stage. In the first iteration, Tarek focused solely on the core game and mechanics. It has used a simple slider, several clear goals and obstacles, and a well-structured level design so as not to overwhelm the player. The first prototype only had 10 levels in an infinite loop, which allowed it to focus more on perfecting the clarity and simplicity of the gameplay right from the start.
Tarek: “A lot of my brainstorming process is based on best practices from successful games that were previously released. One thing that I found very helpful in terms of level design was looking at games like Cube Surfer and mapping their level structures to find the right balance between simplicity and fun. I literally played multiple pen and paper games and mapped each level to see what was done well and what to avoid in my own level design. “
With a super simple core gameplay and a careful rhythm in the level design, Run of Life achieved a 29c CPI and 36% Day 1 in the first test round.
Tip # 3: Tell a little story, but keep it comprehensible ✏️
Jill: “There’s always a benefit in telling a story through the game by adding a nice narrative. This gives context to the gameplay and allows players to connect more with the game. To do this, you need to make sure that all of the elements of the game are relevant and correlate with the narrative or overall theme you are conveying. “
The story that drives Run of Life is about collecting objects and dodging obstacles in order to be as young as possible at the end of each level to climb the stairs and reach the sky. This concept is super relatable, but Teams AB have tested various objects and elements within the game to make sure they are as relevant to the narrative as possible. It’s a mix of reality and fantasy – unfortunately, using skin products and yoga in real life doesn’t make us younger – so finding the right objects was very important to make the decisions clear for the player.
Tarek: “For this game in particular, I tried to put a little bit of a story around it to make sure it all matched the narrative. For example, although most hyper-casual games use coins and gems as currency, it felt more natural to use cash in Run of Life as it was more relatable to real-world situations! “
Tip # 4: Think about the future 🔮
Jill: “Although you should always keep the gameplay as simple and understandable as possible in the idea and prototype phase, you should also project yourself into the future and consider how much creative autonomy your idea has. Think about what elements you can test in the future and what is next for your game! This way you always make sure that you don’t get into a loophole from being unable to add more depth to the game due to restrictions.
In hyper-casual game development doesn’t stop when the game is started. At Voodoo we make sure that we continue to work on new features, challenges and levels during the live tweaking phase to ensure your game stays fresh and fun for both existing and new users. One way to do this is to organize brainstorming sessions with our marketers to come up with new ideas. For Run of Life, one of our marketing developers came up with the idea of adding binary life choices to the game, e.g. B. the choice between Netflix and Yoga. This was originally a fun idea to test in ads, but it worked so well in the end and helped the game maintain a low CPI even after launch that we even added it to the gameplay itself.
Tarek: “I always try to think about the future when I have ideas to see if the game can still grow. For example, I’m thinking about what kind of updates we can introduce or what elements we can add to the level design. This really helps filter my ideas. Some ideas will seem really cool to you and you will really love trying them, but if you think about it further, you will find that there isn’t much potential for growth there. I’ll think about each idea for about an hour, and if I can’t think of anything, I’ll discard it immediately. “
Advice for Solo Developers 🎤
Some of our most successful hit games were created by solo developers! Before we closed, we asked Tarek for his advice on how to make it into the world of hyper-casual as a solo developer.
Tarek: “It’s easy to get demotivated in hyper-casual, let alone as a solo developer! It took me two years to get a game out and it’s not always easy. But it’s really important to understand that it takes a while to get a feel for the industry. It’s a very special type of game and not like any other game you may have developed before.
I’ve been testing games with Voodoo for a few years now and I’ve learned a lot from the livestreams and other studios in their ecosystem, so I would definitely recommend checking out all of the content and livestreams! And remember, with every prototype you make, even if it sucks, you will learn something how to make a new mechanic. Of course, after a few years you build up a lot of good code, assets and of course experience, so the more prototypes you make it really gets easier! Try doing fun things and just keep going! “
Here we have some important tips to help you brainstorm. A big thank you to Tarek and Jill for participating and congratulations on the success of Run of Life! If you want to see the full length of the live stream, you can watch it right here!
Stay tuned for future live streams full of knowledge and advice to help you create the next hit game.