The Art of LiveOps

Constraints Are Beautiful! w/ Terry Redfield, Niantic: The Art of LiveOps S3E11

July 05, 2022 James Gwertzman and Crystin Cox Season 3 Episode 11
The Art of LiveOps
Constraints Are Beautiful! w/ Terry Redfield, Niantic: The Art of LiveOps S3E11
Show Notes Transcript

Terry Redfield is the Creative Director of London for Niantic Games. She's was a founder in the mobile games space and a designer across many different LiveOps projects including Psychonauts, Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering.  In her 27 year career, she's worked on many platform, mobile, PC and Facebook games.

Terry and Crystin discuss different types of monetization models including cosmetics and fashion (skins); pain relief (cheats); goals (power-ups); time is money (skipping levels) and sponsorships (tournaments).

Terry discusses biases in the games industry that create false assumptions about what your players will be attracted to in a game. She also talks about constraints and how they can be beneficial overall and how diverse teams make for better games.

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00;00;05;01 - 00;00;06;16
James Gwertzman
Hello. I'm James Gwertzman.

00;00;06;16 - 00;00;09;24
Crystin Cox
I'm Crystin Cox. Welcome to the Art of LiveOps podcast.

00;00;14;16 - 00;00;21;02
Crystin Cox
Welcome to another episode of The Art of LiveOps podcast. Today we're going to be joined by Terry Redfield.

00;00;21;07 - 00;00;42;26
Terry Redfield
So I am Terry Redfield, and I am currently the creative director of London in Niantic. I've been in games for about 27 years now. I've worked on platform games like Psychonauts, and I worked on PC games, and I've worked on mobile games and Facebook games and all sorts of platform games. And where I was previously was Wizards of the Coast, where I worked on Dungeons & Dragons IP and Magic: The Gathering.

00;00;43;00 - 00;01;07;07
Crystin Cox
Terry has been working on games across many platforms, and she has some wonderful experience as a founder in the mobile space and also as a designer across many different LiveOps projects. So I'm looking forward to diving in and talking to her about some history, some design, you know, some of the different aspects of it, especially social mobile gaming.

00;01;07;07 - 00;01;45;24
Crystin Cox
So let's dive in and start talking with Terry. One of the reasons I was so interested in having you on is you've had so much experience in LiveOps, both for like in the mobile space, but also like in other platforms and especially you've had experience as a founder and building up a small company and a small team from just absolute scratch to work on a LiveOps focused game. So I'd love, if you wouldn't mind sort of sharing a bit about that experience.

00;01;45;24 - 00;02;20;20
Terry Redfield
Oh sure. OK, yeah. So in addition to being in Corp, I was in startups for ten years, but really the last startup I was in, it was about two years, but still it was probably my most activity. I raise 4 million from Tencent, so I was able to kind of make a game from like barely nothing any money, which is cool Force of Elements, all the way up to like getting this investment and then being able to make the game in full, right? And I think that like, and I'll say this to a lot of people, is when you think about LiveOps, I generally build them into my games, especially as a startup.

00;02;20;20 - 00;02;38;14
Terry Redfield
Right? Because you, you only have so much money and when you run out, you could just die, right? So I try and cover all that stuff. Plus, if you don't put LiveOps in the original design you kind of are tacking them on and they often don't work as well as you would think. So really in my startup experience

00;02;38;14 - 00;03;04;14
Terry Redfield
I think that it is just it is really learning how to weave in that experience and how it scales and how it continues on even though you don't have the money to survive that long. You know, it's like you might..., but still like having that in mind, like how, how... where do we go once we launch the original game, I think we had like four or five releases worth of content that we could kind of, you know, dole out every month even at the start.

00;03;04;14 - 00;03;23;18
Crystin Cox
And yeah, it's so hard to get to have that discipline though. But as you said, like if you don't have that discipline from the beginning, trying to add it on later becomes so incredibly difficult. And I think these days, if you are pitching to funders, to people who are looking to fund your projects, I think they expect it.

00;03;23;18 - 00;03;25;22
Crystin Cox
I think they expect you to have all of these plans.

00;03;25;22 - 00;03;53;27
Terry Redfield
Oh, yeah. I mean, potentially, though, I mean, it seems like now they do or at least depending on the publisher you go to, right? Because I think before my first startup, there wasn't really, and this was like around I mean, this is the worst time for money ever was during the housing crash was like 2008, I guess. And back then when I was, you know, pitching to publishers and investors and things like that it's just they didn't really talk about LiveOps or the longevity of games much.

00;03;53;27 - 00;04;11;03
Terry Redfield
Right. They just they just wanted the next, you know, where's the big game? Where's the next Bejeweled? Right? Like that's kind of their thinking. But I feel like as the time has gone on, they've seen that, oh, well, these games have to have a long lifespan, there's been more emphasis. And also smart publishers like going to yourself.

00;04;11;07 - 00;04;19;03
Terry Redfield
who expect to see that kind of planning. Right. You ask for it, right? Which I think, unfortunately, isn't everywhere.

00;04;19;03 - 00;04;40;07
Crystin Cox
Yeah, that is true. And I think it's interesting because we've had other people on this show before he came from mobile, and we're always fascinated to talk to them because I think LiveOps has an interesting relationship with mobile. And I'm sure you see this now, too with your role now at Niantic. There's parts of LiveOps that seem almost native to mobile.

00;04;40;07 - 00;05;00;23
Crystin Cox
There's data, there's iteration, there's quick updates, there's A/B testing. There are these things that we think like, oh, mobile, you know, you kind of expect those to happen if you're working on a mobile game. But then there are other parts of LiveOps that are sometimes kind of difficult for mobile to access like community, community building.

00;05;01;01 - 00;05;11;22
Crystin Cox
And I am sort of curious to hear some of your thoughts on that, especially working at a company like Niantic, which is a mobile company, but a company that's really built around strong community focused games.

00;05;11;23 - 00;05;28;15
Terry Redfield
Yeah, sure. I mean, I think that there's a lot of different things that people can do now in different types of media where they can kind of call out and string together things like some people use the actual ARGs, right? Which is kind of like this multimedia experience where you're kind of uncovering some kind of cool thing that's happening.

00;05;28;15 - 00;05;50;10
Terry Redfield
I think. I think that they did the "I Love Bees" campaigns back in the day. Remember, it was kind of, you know, outside of the box thinking on how to pull people into a product and I think that Niantic does it too, that we have like live events, like we're gonna have one coming up in Berlin where it's kind of get out there and play and all the fans come to a particular place and then they, they interact with Niantic employees.

00;05;50;10 - 00;06;06;27
Terry Redfield
And they play and they get special, specialty, you know, Pokemon they wouldn't get elsewhere. Right? And we like charge for that but it really doesn't really cover the cost necessarily. It's more about the community building and like reinforcing your values, which is exercise exploration and real social.

00;06;07;15 - 00;06;34;01
Crystin Cox
That is so fascinating because in some ways it's so it's such a throwback. It makes me think about early, early MMOs where you'd have, you know, game managers or game masters who would come in and like do events and hand out prizes to players sort of like one to one so it's so cool to hear that you guys are doing something like that in the physical, in physical space that's sort of an outdoor event.

00;06;34;04 - 00;07;03;11
Terry Redfield
Well, you know, it's funny you say that because John Hanke, right? I mean, I actually used to work with them at 3D0 in like 1996 like so he was on Meridian 59, right? Which was one of the first early, early MMOs talking about like really early games that had LiveOps and you know, they would try and do things like that, like to drum up interest and have clubs and people, you know, messaging and have message boards but like so it doesn't surprise me that he's that's kind of his thinking still to this day, right?

00;07;03;11 - 00;07;30;01
Crystin Cox
Yeah. That does make sense. And I mean some of it is that I think that we've seen an interesting evolution in LiveOps where we've gotten so much more access to data, which is great and it's wonderful to have the data and just even the ability to do things like A/B or multi variance testing. But there's still a lot of things that haven't changed that are still like, you know, communities still want to have special events that they can look back on.

00;07;30;01 - 00;07;38;07
Crystin Cox
They still want to make human connections with people who make their games or other people who play the game. Right?

00;07;38;15 - 00;08;01;11
Terry Redfield
Oh, yes. You know, some of the more interesting experimentation I've seen outside of the box for that is I think Riot has this, they had a relationship with a couple of fashion brands, like really high-end fashion brands, and I think they had some skins based around them. They had a big event about it. Right. And I think that that brought in a lot of people who would otherwise not think about the game.

00;08;01;21 - 00;08;19;28
Terry Redfield
That loves fashion, right? We also did some exploration at Wizards, right? About like, you know, how are some ways you can bring in people, maybe the Stranger Things, right? That's a whole series. And they mentioned the D&D and so it's brought in people who are curious about D&D. Right. There's the Critical Role.

00;08;20;01 - 00;08;38;07
Terry Redfield
Right, which was. It wasn't even related to us in any way. It was actually owned by I think Amazon. So but that brought in a lot of new players young players into the universe. So like when it came to games and LiveOps and things like, well, how do we make...can we make experiences now for these people who aren't core gamers?

00;08;38;15 - 00;08;38;25
Crystin Cox
Right.

00;08;38;29 - 00;08;40;13
Terry Redfield
And that's kind of what I was doing there.

00;08;41;07 - 00;09;00;14
Crystin Cox
Yeah. Which is, which is cool. And I know those kinds of connections are always fascinating to me because games are culture, right? Like they're that's a lot of what draws people in and keeps them in. Yes there's the act of playing but there's so much of it that's around culture and the culture that you are joining and the community that you're a part of.

00;09;00;24 - 00;09;25;08
Crystin Cox
And all of those other things you're talking about are part of culture as well, right? Like fashion is a great example of this. Like anyone who's ever played it or worked on an MMO is like there's an incredibly important fashion component there. You might not think of it that way and every player might not think of it that way, but in fact, like so much of the same things that sort of drive like fashion trends, you see them play out in those virtual worlds.

00;09;25;21 - 00;09;50;23
Terry Redfield
Oh my gosh, definitely. I mean, if you look at CS Go, right? I mean, they had a whole economy based on nothing but guns. Like looks like it skins, right? I mean, they were gambling skins and crazy things like that. I mean, $100, real money for a knife skin, right. Which is like insane, right? But it shocks me, though, it's still to this day when I tell people like, hey, you know, like individuality, especially in the United States, that's big money, right?

00;09;50;23 - 00;10;11;16
Terry Redfield
And they push back at me and say, like, on an investor's decoration, right? No, it's all about the power, right? And it's like and I haven't seen that over the years. Actually, again, you look at Riot as an example, right? It's you know, skins are a big money maker for them and now crafting and also events, right, around this to drive that stuff is a big source of their income.

00;10;11;16 - 00;10;19;22
Terry Redfield
Right? So it's just puzzling to me that people are still trying to push back on that idea that people want to decorate, that people want to dress themselves up. Right.

00;10;20;13 - 00;10;40;20
Crystin Cox
I think it comes that some of it comes to maybe like a bit of naivete about monetization. Like a lot of times when I talk to people about their monetization plans, they'll say it's cosmetic. And at some point we had to go. That is very broad. What like what do you actually be? Like do you mean it's personalization?

00;10;40;28 - 00;11;07;15
Crystin Cox
Do you mean it's status? Do you mean like it's social currency? Like what is it actually you're talking about because or I mean, is it literally decorating a space that you own? Is it self-expression in ways that are like like fashion or potentially MMOs? There are so many things that covers like cosmetics has become a little bit of like a, you know, a word that when I hear it, I have a little triggered.

00;11;07;15 - 00;11;16;15
Crystin Cox
Like, I'm like, oh, no, we have to do this whole thing to take in. What do you mean via cosmetic? Because it covers such a broad spectrum.

00;11;17;24 - 00;11;39;10
Terry Redfield
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I mean, it's like what I like to characterize it is it's just improving players joy in your game, right? It's just making them have a better time, whether that be, you know, more closet space an easier way to access something, right? Something to decorate. I mean, I would love to have something to compress all my Pokemon things and put them in their places for me.

00;11;39;10 - 00;12;00;07
Terry Redfield
Like I would pay for that, right? Like it's just making experience of the game better and keeping the players there longer. And, you know, it's longing, the tale of the games in time, right? Versus the old school power, right? Like the Game of War type monetization where it's just like, oh, I'm sorry, do you want some pain here, some more pain or do you want to release that pain well, why don't you pay for that?

00;12;00;07 - 00;12;24;22
Terry Redfield
Right? Like, I mean, you actually Candy Crush is like that, too. I mean, the majority of, all the money, really, today on Candy Crush is made from you know, basically able to pay for cheats, which interestingly enough, like basically it turns out that women tend to not like to cheat. And so they won't buy cheats, right? So but a lot of the like men tend to want to get to the top ranks.

00;12;24;22 - 00;12;28;18
Terry Redfield
I need get to thousand. I need to get there now. I will pay for that. Right?

00;12;29;02 - 00;13;03;13
Crystin Cox
Yeah. It's like, you know, splitting your motivations up there between like what is motivating you? Is it specifically reaching a certain goalpost? Right. Is it just like I really need to see like that rank number or is it sort of skill acquisition, which is it's tough to balance. I think one of my favorite sort of like questions to ask and sort of like evaluating my station designers is like, give me a great monetizing lesson plan for fighting a competitive fighting game because it's challenging, right?

00;13;03;13 - 00;13;24;20
Crystin Cox
Because you can say like, well, we could monetize and it might work for some players to monetize things like be able to sort of smooth over your skill curve and like or like cheat or like get past a hump. But for players that are really motivated by gaining skill, that's sort of going to be in conflict with why they're playing the game in the first place.

00;13;24;20 - 00;13;49;22
Crystin Cox
So you really get into this very difficult situation and there is so much space to work in that doesn't really touch that, you know, not to take anything away from, you know, competitive games that do have successful power monetization mechanics, there's definitely people for whom that's what they're looking for. But there is so much space that doesn't include that out in the world that it is...

00;13;50;00 - 00;13;55;02
Crystin Cox
It's sometimes surprising how difficult it can be to get people to focus on it.

00;13;55;10 - 00;14;12;20
Terry Redfield
Oh, yes. So for you know, for Force of Elements that was a competitive game. It's essentially a match three, right, where you share a game board and then two players face off. It's like Puzzle Quest where you match gems to fill up your mana and you attack your player to get them to zero. Right. Which is it's full on PvP, right?

00;14;12;20 - 00;14;32;03
Terry Redfield
So we decided to use kind of a more of a Riot monetization, which you know, works for them, so, and actually I actually created the game because I wanted it to be a companion app for a League back in the day. It was kind of like, hey, if you don't want to play League, you can play with the characters in the world and in this fun sort of match three format.

00;14;32;03 - 00;14;48;17
Terry Redfield
So if you play Candy Crush, you can enjoy this world too, right? So but that was like, you know, skins but also, you know, time is money seems to work pretty well, right? So it's like I want to get up in advance faster. I'm going to pay for that, right? Not because I'm blocked, but because I don't have a lot of time in the day.

00;14;48;17 - 00;15;12;02
Terry Redfield
Right? So we had like, you know, a ways you can buy shards to improve faster as far as like crafting things. Right. But it doesn't really stop your skill growth. It's not going to help you stomp a poor goldfish or something. But also, we were exploring with some, you know, creative differences like having tournament structures that really allowed for a sponsor to come in, give us money.

00;15;12;02 - 00;15;23;09
Terry Redfield
And also give money to the players. And I get money that way. Right. And if that's a successful model, you know, it's good for them, good for us. And, you know, it doesn't place all the pressure on the players.

00;15;23;09 - 00;15;23;20
Crystin Cox
Yeah.

00;15;29;08 - 00;16;04;16
Crystin Cox
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00;16;04;16 - 00;16;10;18
Crystin Cox
Welcome back. You're listening to the Art of LiveOps podcast. And today I am talking to Terry Redfield. We are

00;16;10;18 - 00;16;25;26
Crystin Cox
talking about a little bit of everything today, experiences that she's had in the industry for 27 years. We're talking about mobile. We're talking about data. We're talking about the various genres of gaming and how they relate to casual and core.

00;16;25;27 - 00;16;31;28
Crystin Cox
It's an exciting conversation. We're digging into a lot of good deep design territory. So let's get right back into it.

00;16;40;24 - 00;17;09;14
Crystin Cox
Yeah, it's fascinating because, you know, competitive games are still like some of the most popular games in the world, right? There's lots of other stuff that's out there. There's obviously a super wide variety of successful LiveOps games, but I always sort of look at competitive games and be like, but, you know, there's so wonderful because they're really pure and they really have this focus on engagement comes from other people who you're playing with.

00;17;09;21 - 00;17;31;26
Crystin Cox
But I also find like, I think a lot of people hesitate to enter that space as developers and designers these days. And I'm curious, like you said a little bit about why you chose to focus on a competitive game, but like did you feel that like were you like, wow, it's there's so many big players in that space like, I don't know about getting into this space.

00;17;32;10 - 00;17;54;27
Terry Redfield
Well, I mean, actually, I was targeting a space they weren't targeting, so they were mostly targeting, you know, men younger men particularly. Right. Who were super into competitive games. And it's very core and it's very in your face. It's very smash your face like kind of stuff. But what I was after was like more of a casual audience because I noticed a large portion of people that were like, say, playing Candy Crush,

00;17;55;07 - 00;18;18;09
Terry Redfield
were looking for more like more core experiences, frankly. But that still had the accessibility. To like get in, have an experience for a couple of minutes and get back out, take the kids to soccer. Right. And also, I did some research over the years around strategy players like women love strategy, actually. And when I tell a bunch of boards of men about this, like, oh, women love strategy, they're like, oh, no, way.

00;18;18;15 - 00;18;36;11
Terry Redfield
But no, it's real. Like gem matching is a type of strategy, right? It's a puzzle, but it's still like kind of a strategy in a way. So really, I was betting on this, and really I went to, it's funny, I went through all the VCs. I went to everybody, and they all were like, oh, women don't like competition, Terry, what are you talking about?

00;18;36;11 - 00;18;54;21
Terry Redfield
I'm like, what do you... what? It's like what world are we living in? Because Words with Friends did great. And I've heard plenty of women like talking smack about each other, like their scores and things. So it's not true. So but, you know, Tencent picked this up and everything, and I had a large amount of Candy Crush players come into my game loving it.

00;18;54;21 - 00;19;10;16
Terry Redfield
Like a lot of women who never played games actually were coming into my game they were coordinating with each other when they could put their kids to bed and play the game. Right. And since it was cross-platform where it didn't matter what platform you're on, you can play on your PC [against], with your mom who's on her iPhone, right?

00;19;11;01 - 00;19;29;27
Terry Redfield
It didn't matter. Right? So it was like it was all roads lead to Rome. So like I was picking up on that more casual audience but it was a hardcore PvP game, right? But it was softened in that it was done with a gem mechanic that played just a Candy Crush, so they knew how to play it. But as you played it, you learned, oh, there's these other layers on to it, right?

00;19;29;27 - 00;19;44;09
Terry Redfield
And so in that way, I was able to take advantage of this new space, right? Which a lot of these guys aren't exploring. I think they touch on it a bit in like the Fortnite. Right? But I mean, it's still much, much, much younger, but still it's like it's a [ ... ] if you ask me.

00;19;44;21 - 00;20;10;16
Crystin Cox
Yeah, no, it's really interesting because we had someone from WUGA on the show last season and they have a huge business in Bingo. It's just a huge, huge business in digital Bingo. And obviously like that space is not what you think of traditional core players for the most part, but it's very competitive. Like they're very focused on being competitive.

00;20;11;19 - 00;20;28;15
Crystin Cox
I believe their demographics do skew more female which isn't surprising because, you know, just in general, if you look at like all like all gamers in the world, it skews a little bit more female, a little bit older. So for really broad appeal stuff, it's probably going to. But that's tradition. I mean, there's something traditional about that too, right?

00;20;28;15 - 00;20;49;14
Crystin Cox
that's what do you think of when you think of a Bingo hall? I guess if that exists in your culture, I guess it's probably not universal but there are parts of the world where there are Bingo halls. who's there, and they do incredible business on it. And I tend to agree in like certainly research that I've seen in the more general like human psychology research would back that up.

00;20;49;14 - 00;21;14;26
Crystin Cox
Like competitiveness tends to be pretty well represented across the board in the human population, regardless of whether you're male, female or non-binary. It's a pretty universal experience. I think the thing that's really interesting about that, too, is that casual nature, right? Because I think we think a lot about competitiveness being tied to physical skill. And that is so tied to age, right?

00;21;15;01 - 00;21;33;17
Crystin Cox
That that really falls off after a certain pretty young age. So that is also like, I think, a fascinating opportunity space there, because there is still this desire for competition, but maybe not as interested in getting into Twitch based or heavily physical skill based games.

00;21;33;18 - 00;21;54;04
Terry Redfield
Oh, definitely. I mean, I've used TFT: Fight Tactics. Right, right. And that's actually pulled in a lot more I'd say more casual users of their brand more women because it's more like chess. Right. And it's also done in a very understandable way instead of like I mean, there's, you know, like again, you place units and they go it's like kind of an auto battle sort of thing.

00;21;54;11 - 00;22;13;16
Terry Redfield
So I mean, people who wouldn't like go in and do the Twitch based league, right? Where you have to, you know, your reflexes matter can go and COT and have a good time. And they're really interesting monetization. I mean, I'm frustrated. I don't play anywhere because they keep changing the rules like every other week, which breaks the rule I was talking about, which is like let people feel mastery, right?

00;22;13;16 - 00;22;30;29
Terry Redfield
Like let them like change it a bit to make it fresh and then let them feel like masters. If you change it too much, it's just they're out right? Because it's like, I got to learn this all over again, but they only monetize all these cute little, little pets. Basically, that are you, and it seems to be doing pretty well for them.

00;22;31;00 - 00;22;49;16
Terry Redfield
So, I mean, there's a lot of biases I find, right? Like they're kind of like making people think, especially people from who are now VP's and they're making decisions right. Who are old school where they have these biases set, right? So when they're saying like, oh, women don't like a politician or, you know, they're don't like this or that.

00;22;49;16 - 00;23;09;01
Terry Redfield
So League of Legends also had this live event that's called Spirit Blossom Festival. I don't know if you've seen it, but if you haven't, I would highly recommend people to go and check it out on YouTube. But essentially it was very soft, very pastel, very cute. You like basically romance the characters and this it was kind of like a romance novel.

00;23;09;10 - 00;23;22;16
Terry Redfield
It was very similar actually to the Arcana, which Nix Hydra did right in art style and everything. And essentially you're doing things for the characters by completing missions. And then essentially you go back to them and then they, you know, they give you stuff.

00;23;22;19 - 00;23;23;01
Crystin Cox
Yes.

00;23;23;01 - 00;23;43;04
Terry Redfield
And that did gangbusters. Best event they've ever had, actually. And they didn't think I don't think, you know, talking to people who had worked on it or whatnot, they're I don't think the sentiment was it was going to work. I think everyone was surprised because they had these biases. Right. Oh, this thing, it looks like, you know, girls thing. Or like it looks so soft and cutesy.

00;23;43;13 - 00;23;46;16
Terry Redfield
Who wants to romance this character? Right. But turns out everybody does.

00;23;46;21 - 00;23;48;06
Crystin Cox
Have they been on the Internet?

00;23;48;06 - 00;23;56;29
Crystin Cox
Exactly. Yeah, I know. Right. Right. So with these biases, right. I think they're stopping a lot of great work that could be circulating and growing the audience.

00;23;57;07 - 00;24;33;13
Crystin Cox
Yeah. I mean, it's definitely true. But I mean, biases come for all of us. Right. And you do really see it. I used to have a frustration because there was a time where monetization wasn't really well understood and we started hearing like these numbers like, oh, you should only expect like 2% of your population to spend. And it became kind of a trope like around game conferences and stuff, and it would be like, wow, this doesn't match at all, like my experience doing monetization for the last ten years, but it's just these biases because people would be like, Well, this is how it worked in my game, or like, this is what I saw in

00;24;33;13 - 00;24;53;18
Crystin Cox
my data and I thought and we were successful. So we sort of like make this like this bias when it gets developed and it gets really hard to unearth it after a time. And I think that has made it even more difficult many times on this show. The theme comes up of like LiveOps. expertise is sort of developed in a lot of different corners in the video game industry.

00;24;53;28 - 00;25;14;23
Crystin Cox
But as it spreads, it actually can be challenging for people to come like say if you if you were like, I have a ton of experience in mobile social games, your skills might be incredibly valuable to someone who's actually making a huge triple A like console PC game. But it can be difficult actually to get the conversation going and share the same language.

00;25;14;23 - 00;25;40;19
Terry Redfield
Oh, absolutely. I mean, even hopping over from job to job really a lot of that stuff really translates, especially even platform to platform, right? Mobile to triple-A on a console. But yeah, I see this like, oh, they just do social games, so their experience isn't relevant? Right when it absolutely is. Because again, you know, I find that the industry is kind of like reaching a horizon points flatlining in a way, right?

00;25;40;19 - 00;25;54;23
Terry Redfield
So it's less about core users and casual users and more about like, what do I feel like playing today? Right now we're seeing more of that, like, oh, I want to play on my phone on the couch. But, you know, then I can jump on my console and play like my mom plays Bayonetta and she plays God of War.

00;25;54;24 - 00;26;16;22
Terry Redfield
Like, she never used to play that stuff and she's 72, right? So you see more of that, like gaming just is becoming normal normalized, right? It's less of a, of a special club to be in which makes people are upset about but like you just now, it's more for me and this has been successful for me over the last like say five or ten years, which by the way, I hang out with a lot of young people just so I can try and figure it out.

00;26;16;22 - 00;26;41;14
Terry Redfield
And lessen my biases. But like you said, everyone has them, but it's like it's more of a pooling mechanics and systems monetization from buckets right? And going like, oh, this is more of a core... like Gardens of Time. We, I worked on that game and like I put in... the team and I put it in a core..., like it was basically a crafting system for like World of Warcraft, OK?

00;26;41;22 - 00;27;01;26
Terry Redfield
And the execs really thought about like, oh, no way. That's way too hardcore for these women because by the way, it was over women over 40, it was 95% of the audience and they're like, It's never going to work. And then we put it in A/B test, right? And it did amazing. Like fixed all the problems. It raised revenues by like triple.

00;27;01;27 - 00;27;09;23
Terry Redfield
I mean, you know, when you do, when you get past, kind of push past the biases you look at the data and try not to cherry pick. I'm sure you know about that.

00;27;09;23 - 00;27;10;25
Crystin Cox
Which is hard.

00;27;10;25 - 00;27;16;06
Terry Redfield
It's hard, it's hard. You don't want to look at bad news. But, you know, you can see a really good results.

00;27;16;12 - 00;27;35;10
Crystin Cox
Yeah. I think that that's so telling too because it's I hear what you're saying like we're getting to a point where people just play games you know, we when we look at like big market data, like we see things like guess what? Like they're you can't say, well, what do console players want versus what do mobile players want?

00;27;35;10 - 00;28;02;12
Crystin Cox
Because everyone plays mobile, like literally everyone plays mobile games. There's definitely some mobile players who don't play console, but everyone plays mobile and there's a ton of crossover between those groups. You get things like, you know, I think just recently Diablo Immortal came out and it's like, wow, that game did amazing. And it's like yeah, like a lot of people, it's not like everyone who plays mobile games is like, I've never heard of Diablo, right?

00;28;02;12 - 00;28;31;13
Crystin Cox
Like, it's a huge brand. These people are gamers. They just play, they might not be called gamers, but they play games. So it really has created a situation that in some ways is the golden era of saying like you can put design and mechanics together in whatever way really best fits your game and in other ways does create this very challenging situation where we're like how do we mix all of these things together and make it come out in a way that feels cohesive and makes sense?

00;28;31;13 - 00;28;50;06
Crystin Cox
And where do you draw the line between depth versus complexity that's going to make it difficult for people to attach? So it's an exciting time. And in some ways, like I said, a golden era. And in some ways I think a lot of teams feel like they're drowning in options and drowning in data.

00;28;50;06 - 00;29;08;18
Terry Redfield
Oh, yes. And well, that's where it comes. Like constraints come in, right? People think that constraints are like no fun. It's a bummer. But constraints are the things, they're beautiful. Constraints are beautiful because they actually keep you in the sandbox. Right. Where you're not going to be going outside the lines. And you know, you can't... you only have...

00;29;08;18 - 00;29;26;03
Terry Redfield
So I mean, that's why the old school arcade games are so great is because their constraints were so vast. Right? You only had so much memory. You only had so much graphical color, right? Like you only had so many options so you had to make a good in a little space. And now I think today with all these options, they just people just throw them away.

00;29;26;03 - 00;29;40;24
Terry Redfield
But it's like, no, you still need them in place. So I think constraints are important and also a diverse team. Right. And people from different backgrounds like I'm a casual gamer and you have a core game and they're all sitting in the same room and they're thinking about how this experience be fun for me, right?

00;29;41;13 - 00;29;58;29
Terry Redfield
We actually and also with like the way the game looks and the characters like we...on Force of Elements, we had a character that was a big hunky male character. He was based on like a Mayan kind of kind of look and the girls loved him like, oh, he's so hot. Like, you know, and it was made my artists were primarily female at the time.

00;29;59;12 - 00;30;13;28
Terry Redfield
And then the guys took one look at him and said, oh, my God, that guy's a wimp. Like, get him out of here. Like, they just they were not interested in him at all. So we used to go...we just we made the weapons huger. And it was his stance, actually, at the end of the day, he was a very passive stance.

00;30;14;08 - 00;30;32;21
Terry Redfield
But when he put up his dukes and like, he had this really cool stance, suddenly everyone loved him. And he became really, you know, an interesting character. And then the other side of the fence we had Ki, who was very soft, very, very defensive. She floated. She looked beautiful. She's very Persiabn looking like who was inspired by Persian culture

00;30;32;21 - 00;30;47;16
Terry Redfield
kind of look. And essentially and she had a flute actually. She didn't have weapon. She had aflute and she would play it. And she had wind powers. Right. And everyone thought no one would like her at all. But even though the team liked her, they thought, oh, she's not going be the most popular. Turns out, hands down on the metrics.

00;30;47;16 - 00;30;56;03
Terry Redfield
Men and women all ages loved you more than any of the other characters. So, yeah, you know, it's the point it's like you gotta trust your data.

00;30;56;03 - 00;31;17;09
Crystin Cox
Yeah. Sometimes we just get in our own heads, you know, like sometimes you can't... you're looking at it way too closely. And also there's other times I know like from my experience working on kids games, it can be very instructional to work on something that isn't for you so that you can get out of your own head a little bit and get out of the idea that, like, asking yourself, like, what would I like?

00;31;17;09 - 00;31;37;14
Crystin Cox
And go, well, this game isn't for me. So what I like is kind of irrelevant. Like, what will my players like? How can I? And if I'm not those people, like, we were all kids once. But I think as everyone knows, as you get older, it's harder and harder to really embody that persona. How are you going to find it out?

00;31;37;14 - 00;31;52;24
Crystin Cox
And data can really save you there but it can also, as you said, be something you're just cherry picking through. It can be something that you know, you only look at the way you want to. And so it's not a you know, it's not a softball either.

00;31;52;25 - 00;32;14;23
Terry Redfield
Oh, definitely. I mean, I was lucky, I guess in since sense I didn't think of it at the time, but my first game, I worked on ever was High Heat Baseball which Trip loved, right. But it's like it was I knew nothing about baseball, nothing. And I had a recolor like you know, Japanese players uniforms. And we didn't have you know, back then it was like CSGI machines.

00;32;14;23 - 00;32;32;06
Terry Redfield
And I had it was really hard untangling all the animation data. But like it taught me like you to your point. Like that there was people on the team that were very passionate about baseball. It was their thing, right? So I was I try to latch on to their passion and do the best I could. Right? They really taught me to think like, you know what?

00;32;32;27 - 00;32;43;02
Terry Redfield
I just got to make this the best I can. Try and understand what the motivations are of the audience. Right. Which by the way is who you're making this game for. Not for yourself necessarily.

00;32;43;06 - 00;33;12;20
Crystin Cox
Right? Yeah. You know, like there is this distinction between games that are really like more about what the developer is bringing, right? Like their point of view, like they're sort of directive, like highly crafted experience, which can be wonderful and like, I love those games, but in a LiveOps game, you're usually more trying to put the player in the driver's seat because it's about them existing in a space and feeling like they're sort of the center of it, or at least they're in a community that's the center of it.

00;33;12;21 - 00;33;32;03
Terry Redfield
Oh, yeah. No, totally. I mean, it's sometimes it's hard for folks to think about an audience. And I've been told actually multiple times like, oh, we don't focus on an audience. No, we just we might have a persona or two personas, but they but that's great. But like, I always hook up with the marketing guys, the biz dev guys because, you know, metadata is good to.

00;33;32;04 - 00;33;49;21
Terry Redfield
Right. Kind of understanding a general direction where you're going, right? Because I mean, they use that to sell products and it works great. So why not use it for games, right? Let's use it for good. But like, it's putting yourselves in there. But it's also like, again, like understanding what's the person's day like, you know, like what are people doing?

00;33;49;21 - 00;34;10;20
Terry Redfield
Like they have less time. Now, overall, when you look at metadata, you can versus just, you know, the micro data, you can see people are busy. They're busier and busier and busier then getting busier. Right. So so play sessions for an hour are much harder like. I played League when it came out. Right. I mean, so it's like I still play, but like I get an hour maybe at night when after Bella's in bed like my kid.

00;34;10;27 - 00;34;23;28
Terry Redfield
And I think experiences are overall people are expecting more shorter bite-size sessions that pack that same punch for them. Right. But if you're not doing that though you need to know and why and what you need to put in to solve that issue.

00;34;24;06 - 00;34;47;24
Crystin Cox
I mean yeah trying to understand how your game will fit into your players' lives I do think is an important exercise for LiveOps games. A lot of times I get teams that are very ambitious. They're like, I want my players to play my game every day forever. And it's like, wow, that's actually a lot like that's asking for quite the commitment and maybe you're coming on a little strong.

00;34;47;24 - 00;35;03;23
Crystin Cox
Actually, right, like you might be coming out a little too strong in that case. Like, how are you actually going to fit into your players lives and again, like, you know, working on kids games was very informative and we really did ask a lot of questions like, well, when do they play? How do they play?

00;35;03;23 - 00;35;28;22
Crystin Cox
Is it mostly like with their parents, under the supervision of their parents or caregivers? Or is it sometimes alone and like, what does that look like? Those were questions we were sort of forced to ask, and I've carried that with me for sure. Like even when making games that are like for adults, you know, people who are well, it, you know, perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. We don't have to worry about whether they're supervised or not.

00;35;29;12 - 00;35;32;18
Crystin Cox
But you still care. Like, how are they actually going to experience this?

00;35;32;19 - 00;35;50;29
Terry Redfield
Oh, totally. I mean, social is often overlooked quite a lot, I'd say in LiveOps in making games, right? Because it's like that's what I find brings people back, especially the younger generation like Gen Z they're always connected with each other all the time. They're on Discord all playing separate games and talking about what they're playing right?

00;35;51;01 - 00;36;13;23
Terry Redfield
And it's like you need that to kind of like ...because you know, even back in the MMO days, like EverQuest days, right? When like you had your guild and when you moved out of EverQuest, you moved into World of Warcraft together, right? I mean, I think gaming habits are similar in that, you know, you're taking your social group with you, but also depending on obviously where you're from, the United States especially, you're making new friends online right.

00;36;14;00 - 00;36;32;09
Terry Redfield
Which we don't have the mechanics and the knowhow and the connection to do so. Then you're not making those friends and you're bouncing, right? Friends definitely keep you in the game, right? Your little ecosystem inside the game. But there's so many times when I see those just completely ignore social. They stick it on at the end, right?

00;36;32;09 - 00;36;36;27
Terry Redfield
And then they go Well, why aren't we getting organics? Well, because you left social out.

00;36;37;10 - 00;36;50;00
Crystin Cox
Yeah. You're not really doing anything to support these people, making these connections. Yeah. I know we're getting close to time here, so we have to leave room for our favorite question that we ask everybody,

00;36;50;00 - 00;36;50;27
Terry Redfield
OK?

00;36;50;27 - 00;36;54;16
Crystin Cox
Which is, can you share a LiveOps disaster with us?

00;36;54;16 - 00;36;55;19
Terry Redfield
oooh.

00;36;55;19 - 00;37;04;02
Crystin Cox
we love to ask this because a lot of people, I think listen to this or like are exposed LiveOps and they're maybe coming at it for the first time.

00;37;04;02 - 00;37;13;22
Crystin Cox
I always like to emphasize that everyone has experienced the LiveOps disaster and even people with tons of experience go through these things. And they're just fun.

00;37;14;04 - 00;37;31;16
Terry Redfield
Oh, absolutely. There's so many. Let's see. But I can tell you probably the worst one for me personally was like when we were doing Force of Elements, we had I mean, literally at the time and you know how startups go. You like run out of money and you're like, you got only so much money and you're like putting it out on Google Play to get

00;37;31;16 - 00;37;47;20
Terry Redfield
some metrics and basically it was looking great, right? But I think around the mid...I mean people are buying things. I'm like, oh, awesome. But then around the middle, like I'd say halfway through the month, Google put out a patch that essentially stripped all the purchases from the people who had bought things

00;37;47;20 - 00;37;48;10
Crystin Cox
Oh no!

00;37;48;10 - 00;37;51;25
Terry Redfield
Out of their accounts. And I could not contact them directly.

00;37;51;25 - 00;38;01;18
Terry Redfield
All they could put up is support in the chat, right, and be like, hey, contact us if your stuff got stripped, right? And it wasn't our fault, but still people were really upset.

00;38;01;18 - 00;38;01;28
Crystin Cox
sure.

00;38;01;28 - 00;38;17;05
Terry Redfield
Understandably so. Right. But you can see like even though like our metrics were trending really well and I mean I'd say overall they're pretty good, but still you see a big like dip there because unbeknownst to us, we got bombed by a patch.

00;38;17;05 - 00;38;23;20
Terry Redfield
Yeah. So that was probably my worst most panic anxiety inducing LiveOps blunder.

00;38;24;16 - 00;38;41;00
Crystin Cox
Yeah that's a doozie. Oh, my gosh, yeah, that's so rough too. And I think a lot of times on mobile, like it can be really hard because you can sort of just be subject to those things. And it is really difficult to cont... you can't really reach out to people proactively. Like it's not really something, you know, like it's this interesting balance right now.

00;38;41;00 - 00;38;52;19
Crystin Cox
With like it's good in that like I don't want all my data to just be given over to everybody whose app I use. But it does make it sometimes tough in games when you're like, I'm trying to solve a problem, but I can't.

00;38;52;21 - 00;38;59;06
Terry Redfield
Exactly. It makes you feel bad because you want to care for your users and make sure they have a good experience and it's just your hands are tied.

00;38;59;08 - 00;39;03;28
Crystin Cox
Yeah, absolutely. That's a good one. That was painful

00;39;03;28 - 00;39;05;17
Terry Redfield
It's still painful.

00;39;05;17 - 00;39;17;22
Crystin Cox
but that's a good one. Yeah. Beware the updates that just come and affect you. Well, thank you so much for coming on. It was a wonderful chat. I really appreciate it.

00;39;17;23 - 00;39;21;22
Terry Redfield
Oh, yeah. Well, it's always a joy talking to you, Crystin. I enjoyed it.

00;39;26;29 - 00;39;29;12
Crystin Cox
Thanks for listening to The Art of LiveOps podcast.

00;39;29;12 - 00;39;34;20
James Gwertzman
If you liked what you heard, remember to rate, review and subscribe so others can find us

00;39;34;20 - 00;39;39;17
Crystin Cox
and visit PlayFab.com for more information on solutions for all your LiveOps needs.

00;39;39;17 - 00;39;40;12
James Gwertzman
Thanks for tuning in.