Anders Drachen

Anders Drachen, Ph.D. is a veteran Data Scientist, Game Analytics consultant and Professor at the DC Labs, University of York (UK).
Given the huge degree of interest in game telemetry and the analysis of player behavior, not the least in the social online games/F2P area, it is no surprise that there is a steadily increasing stream of posts, articles and reports being released on various topics within analytics. We wanted to bring you some of the most interesting.
Finding the good reads in game telemetry can be difficult, as they are released across a lot of different knowledge networks, so we have tried recommending a few, aimed at the person who “want´s to know more”. Some of the reads recommended are from the popular media, some from industry, some just slide shows from event like the Game Developers Conference, and some even research papers. Common to them all is that they provide solid content and good ideas, and are worth the read. In no particular order of importance, we present the 2012 Game Analytics Great Telemetry Reads List – version 1:
  1. Halo 3: How microsoft labs invented a new science of play (Thompson, C., Wired Magazine).This article was one of the first to describe in laymans terms what exactly it was that Microsoft Game User Research (now Microsoft Game Research) were developing back in the early 2000´s, showing how game user research and game analysis can be performed using scientific methods – and the obvious benefits of doing so.
  2. Better Game Design Through Data Mining (Kennerly, K., Gamasutra).This was one of the first publicly released articles on an MMO company using game telemetry for improving game design, and heralded the rise of data mining across the games industry.
  3. Tracking real-time user experience (TRUE): a comprehensive instrumentation solution for complex systems (Kim, J.H. and company, proceedings of the Computer-Human Interaction conference). Get the article from ACM digital library, the link above or read about it in the book “game usability” by Katherine Isbister and Noah Schaffer. At the time this article was released (2008) game metrics were still something of a novel concept in user-oriented testing, but Microsoft were paving the way, and here shows us how an integrated setup, covering both playtesting and telemetry, can look like. As a special bonus, for more on Microsoft´s work on game telemetry from Xbox Live, see Bruce Phillips presentation from the Game Developers Conference 2011: Peering into the Black Box.
  4. Hot Failure: Tuning Gameplay With Simple Player Metrics (Puett, C., Game Developer Magazine). A great, short introduction to how an indie developer uses metrics to get actionable insights on his game.
  5. Applying metrics driven development to MMO costs and risks (Mellon, L., Versant Corporation). Larry Mellon is one of the grandfathers of game telemetry, and in this white paper from 2009 he describes how telemetry is applicable in MMO contexts, covering not only the pervasive player behavior telemetry, but also the importance of performance and production metrics.
  6. Balance and Flow Maps (Houghton, S., altdevblogaday.com). A great case example of how heat maps is just the beginning in the application of behavioral telemetry data in the spatial domain of games – simple spatial visualizations remain a state-of-the-art but as e.g. Bioware is starting to show, there is an untapped potential in using the actual dimensions of gameplay as the basis for analysis.
  7. Virtual goods – an excerpt from social game design: Monetization methods and mechanics (Fields, T., gamasutra). An excerpt from the book “social game design: Monetization methods and mechanics” by Tim Fields and Brandon Cotton, this Gamasutra feature takes a look at how the all important monetization process works in social online games.
  8. Evaluating Motion: Spatial User Behaviour in Virtuel Environments (Drachen, A.; Canossa, A., International Journal of Arts and Technology). It is a research article, and it does not give the key takeaways up front, but diving into this thorough read on how we can use the actual spatial environments of games to gain insights into player behavior is worth the time it takes to read it – an excellent companion to Georg Zoeller´s GDC presentation mentioned below.
  9. Tracking Player Feedback to Improve Game Design (DeRosa, P., Gamasutra). An excellent introduction to time spent reports, using examples from Mass Effect, DeRosa shows how tracking what players do can inform the design process.
  10.  MMO Rapid Content Iteration (Zoeller, G., Game Developers Conference). Bioware astounded at the Game Developers Conference 2011 by presenting excellent analytics tools and awe-inspiring data visualizations from the Star Wars MMORPG. Has set a new standard for spatial visualization.

 

Anders Drachen

Anders Drachen, Ph.D. is a veteran Data Scientist, Game Analytics consultant and Professor at the DC Labs, University of York (UK).

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