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What this cool cat can teach you about mobile free-to-play games

August 15, 2017 in Games | 6 min. read
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The Unity R&D Content team’s latest demo is a complete free-to-play (F2P) mobile game, which makes full use of more Unity features, like Unity Ads and Analytics, than any of our previously released content. The result is an endless runner sample that is available on the Asset Store for you to download for inspiration and learning.

The team’s mission is to understand and learn from the challenges you face as a Unity developer. The results are used both to help us in the future development of Unity, and to help you by releasing our creations on the Asset Store and in supporting material, such as tutorials.

Our latest project is Trash Dash, a cartoon-style infinite runner for iOS & Android. This project is unique for our team as it’s the first time we’ve released a demo game through the App Store and Google Play. One major objective was to see how Unity features like Cloud Build and Collaborate -- features of Unity Teams -- along with Ads, Analytics, and IAP can contribute to a project right from the start ,all the way through the pipeline from creation to shipping and beyond.

Since we’ve implemented working monetization features, we’re donating 100% of the proceeds from the ads and in-app purchases to our partner charity Game Changer to help support the fantastic work they do. Game Changer uses gaming technology to ease the pain of children with life-threatening illnesses.

Trash Dash is out now on Google Play and will be on the iOS App store. The full Trash Dash project is also available for free on the Asset Store for you to learn from and pick apart.

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Build, sync, share, and poof, it’s there

With Trash Dash, we wanted to give Unity users a working example of a mobile project, built with all the integrated features working together and adding value all the way from pre- to post-publication.

Work on Trash Dash explores new areas such as how developers can make money with F2P games using ads and IAP. We’re also using Analytics to monitor and adjust the IAPs and ads for best results, and to tweak the game itself to increase player engagement.

Just as important is fast iteration and easy deployment for testing. During development the team’s producer, Aurore Dimopoulos, used Collaborate to backup the project and set it up to scale for more contributors. Speaking of which, the Trash Dash team consists of two artists, a programmer, animator, producer and two external contractors for UI and Sound. Collaborate was great for making changes to the project and sharing those with everyone on the team. It was really simple and convenient; we didn’t have to context switch to another program or command line whenever we wanted to push changes. Combined with Cloud Build, it made getting those changes on a device incredibly easy and fast without needing to fiddle with build settings or switching platforms in the editor.

An unexpected benefit

A benefit which we didn’t really foresee was how essential Cloud Build and Collaborate were for sharing the project and builds with other departments and our external contractors. Explaining something visual with a link to a build is a lot more efficient than a lengthy email.

More time for important stuff

Features of Unity Teams - Collaborate and Cloud Build - were really well integrated with each other, as well as the rest of Unity. This means more time on the important stuff -- working on the game! You never have to wait to pull a build or go to a separate application. You just open it and and get the latest version. This made it much easier for the producer to check progress and do QA. For a quick overview of the features of Unity Teams, check out the following video.

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Thinking Ads and IAP from day one

While we will continue to monitor Unity IAP, Ads, and Analytics post launch, we’ve actually already been using all three of these features throughout the creation process. We considered these things at the design stage in order to make sure they felt like part of a seamless experience for players, rather than something we tacked on at the last minute.

We knew that if we wanted players to embrace the IAP and ads, we had to start early and make them an integral part of the game. This will hopefully result in players seeing them as something extra, a reward of the game itself.

For ads in particular, we wanted to make the experience voluntary and give appropriate rewards if players chose to watch them. Looking at some of Unity’s published case studies for inspiration, we learned how game studios carefully designed ads and rewards into gameplay right from the start to stir engagement and increase retention.

Is all fair in ads and gameplay?

Our point of view was that the more value ads brought to the game, the more players would engage. Trash Dash offers a variety of goodies, like score multipliers, extra lives, and invincibility powers, which players can earn in different ways.

Players can choose to view an ad to acquire these boosters as part of the game, or they can also make things happen more quickly by purchasing IAP. The idea is that players won’t feel forced into watching ads or purchasing IAP to succeed in the game. We really wanted players to feel empowered in their choices.

Hunches are good; data is better

After Trash Dash is published and enough data from Unity Analytics is gathered, we will use it to tweak the game and get it just right by using player behavior and purchasing trends. During development, we were able to use this feature for internal testing, using data to balance the game difficulty and coin collection. Post-release we can continue to monitor the app's performance and make tweaks based on a larger sample size, which will give us insight into how the game is actually being played.

The custom events we set up allow us to dive into and understand player behavior. One powerful example of this is in the Funnel Analyzer. With a few quick steps, we were able to set up funnels which show us how far our users get along important paths in the game. How long are the runs in our endless runner? How many people get through the IAP store? How many people watch ads? Understanding these patterns tell us where we can make improvements.

Trash Dash is available now

Trash Dash is available now iOS App Store and Google Play with all proceeds going to Game Changer. Visit the Asset Store to dig into the full project and take a look at the help guide on our learn site. Should you have any questions, check out the project forum thread here.

August 15, 2017 in Games | 6 min. read

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