One thing that I think is interesting is that relatively few games outline what, exactly, they're trying to do in a really clear way. Even internally, it's often something that's assumed, or poorly articulated. Here's what we're trying to do with Alter/Ego.
- Short play sessions. We want this to be a game that you'll pick up when you have a free moment. If you're playing on the subway, while standing in line, or in the bathroom, we've hit the right spot. You should be able to accomplish something significant in two minutes or less. One thing that is interesting in this regard is that we actively do not want you to play for hours and hours at a stretch. Why? Because when you're faced with the spectre of needing to invest dozens and dozens of hours to accomplish something or be competitive, it's actually a huge barrier to enjoyment. We're making games for people with little time, and needing to tune the game to accommodate people with infinite time AND little time is nearly impossible. So we're building the game for the latter, not the former. Over time, we hope to be able to accommodate both, but our initial goal is to get in and get out having done something neat in as little time as possible.
- Trivial controls. No dexterity. No time pressure. You should be able, again, to play this on a crowded, busy subway without playing any "worse" than you might if you were sitting on the couch. Touchscreens aren't good for precision, timing-based gameplay. We don't like playing those kinds of games on our phones and we've got plenty of information saying you don't, either.
- Progression. We don't want the game to be the same whether you're just starting out, or whether you've invested dozens (or hundreds!) of hours into it. We want the experience to evolve over time as your skills and your character grow. It also means that if you play the week after it's released, and you're still playing a year later, the game should be different in significant ways, because this isn't a game that you're getting as a complete package - it's designed from the ground up to be an evolving service.
- Value. "Monetization" is a thing we've gotta talk about. If we don't make money off of this game, then we quit & find "real" jobs. We lose our investors' money. So it's something we've gotta consider, right from the start. But we've been doing this for years - trying to find a good balance between earning money & giving players things they really value and *enjoy*. We don't want to monetize frustration. We want to give you something you'll love, and we want you to *want* to give us money in return. That's how my favorite games work, and it's how we intend for our games to work as well.
- Social. We're making a multiplayer game. It will have certain competitive elements. It will have some cooperative elements. The main goal, though, is to make you feel connected to both your friends, and the people you're playing with. Our favorite games have been ones where you're having a new, memorable experience with other players. Close wins, total blowouts - things that were surprising, and became part of your shared memories. Because we're focusing on folks who have relatively little time, getting some social interaction in that limited time can be hugely valuable.
I think those are the main points. This will dictate a lot of how the game is tuned, what kinds of progression & reward systems are built into the game, and how and why we make a lot of the decisions we do during development. Hopefully when you get a chance to play Alter/Ego, you'll notice that these things were part of the focus and that they feel like a natural, almost-invisible part of the experience.