With 20 years’ experience in the videogame industry, and titles as successful as Candy Crush, Hitman, Kane & Lynch and Hugo the Troll behind him, there’s no doubt that Kim Krogh is one of the leading authorities in the industry.
Just like many of the mentors and participants in the F2P Campus, the story of how Krogh made his first steps is very curious: “Back in the 90s there was no game design or game education you could take, so I was studying film science…and while I was still studying I started making board games”. Since then, not only has he made the leap to the digital world, he’s also created games for all kinds of audiences, from families and kids to hardcore gamers.
That’s why we couldn’t miss the chance to talk to him during his stay in Vitoria-Gasteiz as an F2P Campus mentor.
F2P Campus (F): In your career you’ve made tabletop games, paid videogames and free-to-play games. At first sight they’re radically different, but do they have anything in common?
Kim Krogh (K): I think we play for the entertainment no matter who we are, when we play or how we play. We always play for the entertainment. It’s just very different types of entertainment that we are looking for.
Yesterday I talked about the Candy Crush player and I was talking about most casual players being female and looking for time to relax. And some of the attendees said, ‘But I play Candy Crush and I’m a hardcore player’. I think what all games have in common is that they are entertainment to fill the gaps in our lives.
F: What have you learned making tabletop games and videogames like Hitman that can be applied to free-to-play games?
K: There are a lot of things. Especially in tabletop games, they need to be super simple. It needs to be something that anyone can sit down and play immediately. People are reading the rules and then they are forgetting the rules, and they start discussing what’s happening on the gameboard…
The fact is that many tabletop games are full family entertainment and that’s the same with Candy Crush…anyone can play. So the simplicity of making board games is very similar to the simplicity of making a free-to-play game.
F: Why choose free-to-play as a business model?
K: Many of the people who download and play Candy Crush games or casual games, they do it simply to fill some time in their lives and they don’t think of themselves as gamers. So they would not pay for it. They would not go into the App Store and look for games and pay for them to do this. They just need something super, super simple to fill the gaps in their lives. So first of all, I don’t think they would do it they had to pay for it. And secondly, I think that it is the absolutely the best way for us to reach hundreds of millions of players.
So offering it for free, and keep it for free as long as you want it to be free, that is a philosophy that I think is vital if you want to reach a very broad market across the world.
F: I want to ask you about the infamous level 65 of Candy Crush. On one hand I think that the most reasonable choice for a free-to-play game like Candy Crush in this situation would be to make it easier so that people don’t quit the game out of frustration, but on the other hand the talk around the level was great promotion for the game and a lot of people wanted to face the challenge. How do you balance that?
K: Any game needs to have some difficulty to it. If it’s way too easy then you feel you’re wasting your time. Our games are meant so you can unwind and relax but at the same time give you some challenge while you are doing that. As a player, you want the challenge; and we see if it’s too easy then people also drop off. If…they just keep trying the same level for many days, then it’s too hard. But…that particular level is super fun; even though it’s really hard, it’s a very, very fun challenge and that’s what we try to deliver to players: fun challenges. So sometimes the challenge is a bit hard but the level is fun enough for you to try it many times and then finally you pass it, and you feel relieved. The feeling of always being able to complete and proceed is super important.
F: How do you make the game attractive and easy for new players as well as being a fun challenge for the most experienced players that have beaten all the levels?
K: That’s what we see with Candy Crush and some other games, they manage to be alive for many years. We do see a lot of new players coming in but we try to accommodate the players at the end with enough content as well. We try to make as many as possible for those who are at the end but at the same time we go back and look at if there’s anything that we can optimize. But for both the beginners and those at the end we keep adding new ways of playing to the game. So we add new features like tournaments where they can socialize and have extra challenges.
For us it’s really important to make good levels; we really care about their quality and we discard a lot of levels because we don’t feel that they’re fun.
F: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to start making free-to-play games?
K: You need to be very dedicated and really want to do it. You need to have a team that you have fun working with. I think that’s very, very important, because together you’re going to fail many times and you have to be aware of that; you have to be mentally ready to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. When you are a new team you need to be prepared to fail several times, and therefore you need a team that you have a lot of fun with.
Many thanks to Kim Krogh for coming to Vitoria-Gasteiz to answer our questions and advise the F2P Campus teams.
Until next time!