The 10 Traits Successful Games Have in Common

Numerous books have been published and articles written on how to succeed in life. While not all such books are accurate or credible, their existence shows an acknowledgement that there are certain common principles shared by the majority of successful individuals.

Similarly, games that gain a large and loyal following often have certain traits in common. We look at some of the major ones below.

  • Intuitive Controls

No matter how sophisticated, well-thought-out and visually appealing a game is, all that development effort will come to naught if players cannot interact with it properly. One of the greatest challenges game developers face is creating controls that not only match the game’s requirements but also enhance user experience.

That means players not finding themselves exasperated by the game’s controls when they try to perform a certain action. In short, great controls are about achieving sophistication while maintaining simplicity.

  • Relevant Themes and Great Visuals

Whereas every gamer and game developer considers gameplay much more important than attractive visuals, that is no license for complacency. The reason why many players will usually read through a best gaming monitor buying guide is to ensure the screen they buy adequately captures the rich colors and sophisticated movement of the latest video games.

Great video games almost always have great visuals. The graphics are literally in the user’s face the entire time they play so developers must ensure the visuals are consistent with the overall style and theme of gameplay.

  • Fitting Sound and Music

Audio is just as if not more important than visuals. Like the movies, it’s the games sound and music that brings the virtual world, characters and events to life, and gives players an ultra-realistic experience. The soundtrack evokes the player’s emotion and enriches their experience.

The power of game sound is most apparent when you compare video games from the 1990s with games of today. Past games had a plastic cartoonish ambience. It’s clear developers now see music and sound as a powerful medium in building a strong bond with users.

  • Enchanting Worlds

Unlike television and film, video games are interactive. Games are fun because of the scenic virtual worlds waiting to be explored. Players will be keen on checking out all that the virtual world has to offer. The things that catch gamers’ attention range from quests and settings to challenges and rewards.

Creating captivating worlds is one of the more time-consuming aspects of building a winning game. Nevertheless, developers have little choice except put in the work given that every newly released major game seems to be raising the bar on game scenes a notch higher.

  • Thrilling Gameplay

The quality of gameplay is the single-most important feature of popular games. A captivating storyline and breathtaking graphics will be futile if the game’s main mechanics are dull, unchallenging and unimpressive. A spectacular game with poor gameplay is little more than an unintentional movie since there’s little incentive for interactivity.

Of all aspects of the game, gameplay is the thing developers must spend the most time thinking about and perfecting. Good gameplay ensures game developers win over hardcore gamers early which is vital since they are highly effective in growing the game’s reach. Ardent gamers are pretty good at picking out a weak gameplay and this could destroy the games reputation from the outset.

Note that the quality of gameplay is not determined by the game’s complexity. There are complex games with poor gameplay and fairly simple games with phenomenal gameplay.

  • Logical Level Design

Level design complements great gameplay. Each new level should have a unique art style and set of challenges. Logical and carefully-planned levels help drive the storyline forward while keeping gamers engrossed in the new challenges.

That being said, few games are able to get level design right from the get go. Fortunately, many users will be willing to overlook minor mishaps and inconsistencies in early releases. With planning, practice and listening to feedback, developers can eventually master the art of creating levels that entice users to explore and advance in the game without feeling rushed.

  • Iconic Characters

While a game’s narrative is crucial, it won’t amount to much if the characters are bland and forgettable. Successful game developers design characters that are relatable, well written and visually interesting.

In fact, storytellers (whether within or outside the gaming industry) would contend that it’s a story’s characters (and not the setting or plot) that distinguishes an ordinary story from an extraordinary one.

  • Balancing Challenge and Reward

This is one of the most difficult things a game developer faces but once they get it right, it can make the game a roaring success. Make a game too hard and most players will abandon it out of frustration. Make it too easy and players will be bored with it in a matter of days.

The most successful games have mastered the art of balancing difficulty and reward. They also have a smooth escalation of difficulty that ensures the next level of the game is never a steep climb upward when compared to the preceding level.

  • Entertaining

Some of the best loved games in history are remembered for the riveting stories they told. Humans are inherently attracted to things that entertain, touch and encourage them. Successful games have intriguing storylines with unpredictable plot twists and memorable characters. Video games are a particularly powerful tool for storytelling since they are interactive.

  • Uniqueness

We are looking at the traits that top games have in common. Ironically, it’s also their uncommon characteristics that make them so popular. Whereas there are almost limitless thoughts and ideas developers can borrow from online and offline, originality is paramount. Games that introduce something unique are more likely to catch people’s attention.

Of course, introducing unique features is fraught with risk. People won’t be attracted to something just because they haven’t seen it before. So it’s best to tread cautiously when it comes to more radical features. Where there’s serious doubts on whether the market will be receptive, it’s best to stick to adding a couple of tweaks to an existing style or genre.

Gamers are not a homogenous bunch so what one player will see as fun and unique will probably be considered below par and boring by someone else. While game developers must come to terms with the fact that they won’t be able to impress everybody, they should work towards creating a game that will resonate with the majority of their target audience. These success factors should help them do just that.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.