Appealing and accessible characters for your app

Angry Birds
Chris Luck November 17 Design

Creating a likeable character can be one of the most challenging aspects of building a game, like our “Boomie vs Pirates.” The characters in your app can be the biggest pull for the users to engage and re-engage. So much thought and research can go into development that it can become overwhelming. There is no need to worry; let’s go over a few things to help you navigate the process of character development.

 

 

A few common likable qualities

There are three major qualities in characters that are essential to building a game that will be memorable for many generations. I’ll give you some real world examples from apps and games that are now household names.

The first is Cuteness. Having a cute character allows your game to be enjoyed by everyone from infants to seniors. Take for example, “Angry Birds”. People are drawn to the cute birds that you use to fling across the husky little green pigs. How about “Cut The Rope”? The whole object of that game is to get the candy into the cute little monster’s mouth. What about “Doodle Jump”? You play a cute guy with beady little eyes who jumps around and shoots stuff out his nose.

The second is a Simple Name. Having a simple name for your character makes it easy for people to remember, relate to, and fall in love with. For example, I bet if I said “Donkey Kong,” you not only know exactly what the game looks like and how fast your heart races when you’re trying to jump over barrels and climb ladders at the same time, but you also know the characters name, and what he looks like. It’s simple and memorable. Just thinking about it brings back childhood memories.

The third is the Supporting Cast. Having a supporting cast full of cute and likeable characters will make your game that much more memorable and fun. If I said, Mario, Luigi, Yoshi or Bowser, you would immediately know what games I’m talking about. Focus on having your main character be cute with a simple name, and make an entire supporting cast and crew of characters with the same qualities to increase the impact of your game.

 

How should game developers determine who their audience is and what they might like?

First, study your top competitors, then study them again, and then study them some more. When building a game, the first and foremost thing you should do is to study the niche you’re planning on entering. Once you define your niche, the next step is to see who the big players are, what the popular games are, and most importantly, who the audience is and what the main characters are like.

After studying the top 10 biggest players, you’ll start to see patterns and similarities they all share when it comes to the main character (and much more). When it comes to gaming, you want to go where the competition is, not away from it. For example, when you’re doing your research and you see a pattern like the majority of the top games in your niche all have some sort of spin on “Zombies”, then you sure don’t want to make a game where the main character is a robotic cowboy.

If the majority of the top big players all share a common element of “Zombies” then you know if you make a game where your main character is a likeable character who is cute, has a simple name, and has a killer zombie supporting cast.

 

Research

Ninety percent of creating an accessible character should be research. To drill down deeper, here are the top three things you can do if you’re looking to build a game on the Apple App Store tomorrow.

  • Go to the Apple App Store and navigate to the games category, then choose the best sub-category that you feel your game would be found in.
  • Start scrolling through (at least) the top 500 games in that sub-category and take notes on all the recurring similarities you find.
  • Download the games that look most appealing to you, and continue taking notes on why they are appealing, and what their main characters and supporting cast are like.

Now these steps may sound like no-brainers, but you’d be surprised how many people fail miserably at taking the time to do them. Then, they wonder why their game never gets any traction and doesn’t turn into a household name.

You can clearly see that researching your competition and studying the vertical game niche you want to dominate is by far one of the biggest secrets to success. Doing it may be hard, but what it takes to do it is simple!

The development stage of your characters is fully grounded in research. I know it’s not the sexiest or most fun step, but eating cake is a lot more fun than baking, and you can’t eat it without baking it first. Hunker down and do your due-diligence and research until you can’t research anymore. Get all the details you need to push forward with your ideas and you’ll be light years ahead of your competition. Remember to include cuteness, simple names and a compelling supporting cast. Along with those, your success and future lies within the details of your research, don’t take it lightly!

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Written by Chris Luck

Chris Luck is the CEO and Founder of Appiteks, a company that produces iPhone apps. Appiteks launched its first game in October 2012, Boomie vs. Pirates.  The game reached the Top 100 Free Puzzles and Top 100 Free Action games on the iTunes App Store in its first week. Chris has had a passion for games since he was a little kid and is excited to have the ability to continue the dream of building games and placing them into the hands of millions of people all over the world.
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