First Person Shooters (FPS) are rapid, reflex based and rely heavily on player engagement. To ensure you secure and sustain your players’ enjoyment, and keep them in the threshold of engagement zone between boredom and anxiety, you need to use tracking.
Although tracking is any action initiated by the player that forms an event, it is not worth setting up metrics for every single element of your game. Instead focus on, and prioritize the most useful and desired metrics to generate actionable insights.
To help set the most valuable events we have put together the top tracking tips for first person shooters.
1. Don’t track every bullet!
Player tracking is the best way to understand player behaviour, but tracking every bullet fired or every step taken will lead to data overload. It is better to track aggregate events, either at the end of each round, or at key milestones within a round, such as point captured or player killed. These aggregate events can then track the number of bullets fired, hits and kills, which can more easily be queried, rather than trying to tally up the innumerable individual bullets fired.
2. Track classes fairly
One of the classic mistakes in designing first person shooters is to include numerous light support classes without rewarding for anything except kills. Game balancing across classes is vital in successful games – Overwatch is a great example of this. Therefore, tracking player effectiveness equally is important; for instance, this means for support classes tracking engineer repairs and heals as well as damage. Using this data, you can either build a fair XP system, or calibrate the existing one so that you can compare player performance.
3. Heatmaps are not the only way
The classic example of player tracking in a game and one which is used frequently, is a heatmap of deaths and kills. While they may be excellent for map design, they won’t help you balance a game, require lots of data and are therefore not very practical as a development tool. Furthermore, they can change radically if you modify the game parameters, for example increase range and power of weapons, or introduce vehicles. Certainly use them, but don’t rely on them to show you everything.
4. Matchmaking is the key
After the launch, shooters usually struggle to maintain a good first time player experience, and at the same time keeping long term players happy. While basic level-based matchmaking can work, it may struggle with concurrency if the new player base drops off, pitting new players up against experienced ones straightaway. Good matchmaking will separate novice and advance good players quickly, while leaving beginners on the nursery slopes for as long as they need to. The first step is effectively tracking performance and building metrics for player performance over time, for instance median XP/round over the previous week.
5. System performance causes churn
For PC games the range of system performance is vast, and for F2P games many players will have low specification systems which simply aren’t cut out for an optimum gaming experience. While supporting these may be out of the question, it is vital to know which players are churning because of poor frame rate, and which are churning because of game issues. Tracking GPU, CPU and memory specifications is important for PC games, as well as developing simple categorizations for your game of playable, borderline and unplayable.
If you liked this article, you can read how first session length impacts game performance here.