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The power of the Indicator

This is a feature that is considered so minimal but goes such a long way with the presentation of your game. As games get more and more intricate and deep, the need for an indicator has solved a lot of design issues for designers. Let's discuss why.

It still surprises me today, how relevant and powerful a small dot on an icon can be for the intuitive-ness of your game.

A story about game design and liveops

As games become more of a service than a product, developers and designers are dealt with a task to constantly adding more and more content and features to the game. This dynamic has created a culture where designers and UI artists to constantly confront non future proof systems and retro fit new features into a design that wasn’t initially designed to do so, leaving the product with a bunch of boxes and at times, ultimately making it unpleasant to watch.

Having the foresight to future proof feature design is a key element and making sure the game services the marathon aesthetically, and not the initial sprint.

The Magic Indicator Pill

Now you’re 5 Years in and 20 million features later, your product is cluttered with features and any new players will be overwhelmed with the amount of content you have in the game.

The discussion of how to stream-line the players experience is discussed in an onboarding post somewhere in my blog, but for today’s post I want to discuss the magic pill called the "Indicator"

The indicator is commonly used feature on many apps on your phone. Its a little red dot on the corner of your app signalling that something new has popped in, whether it is:

  • Knowing how many messages you have received in your messaging app

  • How many likes you earned in this social media platform

  • How many calls you received while you were asleep

There are many different uses on how other developers utilize the indicator features to get them back into their app. This system is no different than indicators that is used in games. Since players are already conditioned to react to indicators, it only makes sense that engaged players behave the same way when indicators show up in your game.

This condition has opened the doors to push users to discover, clear up these dots throughout the game and further educate them on the intricacies of your product.

Whether this feature is utilize to a user:

  • A new gacha is available

  • An upgradeable item

  • A claimable message

  • A dm from a clan member

The indicator can help guide your users to any feature that you want them to participate in.

When to use Indicator:

Indicator should most commonly used for players to provide a positive experience to the game. Having an indicator, notify you of a negative experience may yield negative result and potential churn.

For example, claiming a reward, or letting players know that a new event is happening in the game, is a very commonly used tactic to get players to return to the game.

Increasing engagement for a small icon next to an icon has yielded some of the best returns in the product, and suggest every designer understand how effect this system can be done when implemented properly.

When not to use Indicators:

Some players can be pretty obsessive compulsive about how clean they keep their app with indicators. Whether it is to make sure you have no more unread /new messages in your inbox or claimed all your rewards. Making sure that you have cleaned all the indicators in the game keeps players coming back.

One aspect of this feature i do not recommend is developing a system where a player will never be able to remove the indicator because the player cannot meet this condition or the work to remove the indicator becomes very tedious.

For example

  1. Overloading players with inbox messages to the point that the player will require to spend many hours opening and closing messages

  2. Indicate to the users a player can level up 'x' item or character but will never have the resources to upgrade it

  3. A persistent indicator that displays a new event but it will only go away when the event ends.

The above use for indicators isn't recommended as it usually yields a negative / annoying experience after the fact.

Overall, personally, a fun post to write, but again, don't underestimate the power of the Indicator.

It's a great feature to stream line your most important systems in the game.

Good Luck

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