Over the summer I found myself at a hotel in Florence, SC faced with several hours of time to kill. So I hopped on the Google Play Store and decided indulge in one of my guilty pleasures: East Asian palace role-playing mobile games (henceforth referred to as palace games). I came across one called Rise of Queendom, which based on the title and promotional images appeared to be aimed at female gamers. Being a gamer and a female, I decided to check it out.
After less than 5 minutes of playing, I realized Rise of Queendom is not equivalent to the palace games I’d played in the past. The first strike was the several minutes long tutorial. While a lengthy tutorial can work for large scale games, in mobile games it is an ill idea. This is because mobile games are meant to be played casually in short bursts. (Underberg-Goode) A long tutorial means the first gameplay session will likely not include any actual gameplay (or in my case not even finishing said tutorial). In addition to this, the tutorial ignored one of the most important rules of good storytelling (be it film, literature, or video games): show, don’t tell. During the tutorial I got to read about all the cool things I could do around the castle, but I never got to practice or see these game mechanics. Another, albeit predictable, annoyance was character customization. In previous palace games I’d played, character customization was limited to gender and choosing between several un-editable static faces. Rise of Queendom, on the other hand, promised customization of hair, jewelry, dresses, and all sorts of other accessories that I enjoy spending embarrassing amounts of time fiddling with. However, most of these items appear to be acquired through micro-transactions. Granted, it was hard to tell with the un-intuitive interface if some outfits were unlocked by gameplay or advancing the story, but with the tutorial still in full swing I felt little hope of getting to do either.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing of all about Rise of Queendom is how easily they could have made things better. In each of the palace games I’d played before, the tutorials were an overall enjoyable and engaging experience. In Be The King: Judge Destiny, the instructions and reasoning behind each activity was explained to my avatar by the main in-game characters. This was much more immersive than Rise of Queendom‘s use of pop-up boxes. In the tutorial for another palace game, Call Me Emperor, I was able to try my hand at gameplay in between instructional exposition. Even though this gameplay was simple tap-to-fight battles and winning was extremely easy, it was more interactive and amusing than anything I experienced while playing Rise of Queendom. As for character creation, there are ways to make it more enjoyable while still including those (unfortunately) essential micro-transactions. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery does this relatively well, charging micro-transactions for more elaborate styles while still offering a decent selection of free options. Perhaps if the developers of Rise of Queendom had looked into the approaches of other mobile games and taken some time to get player feedback, it might be a more enjoyable experience.
This post is based on Exercise 1.2: D.O.A. (“Take one game that you’ve played that was D.O.A. … Write down what you don’t like about it. What did the designers miss? How could the game be improved?”) from Chapter 1 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton (quote taken from pg. 8).
Be The King: Judge Destiny. Hong Kong: Chuang Cool Entertainment Ltd., 2018.
Call Me Emperor. Hong Kong: Clicktouch Co. Ltd., 2019.
Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 1: The Role of the Game Designer.” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery. Culver City, CA: Jam City Inc., 2018.
Rise of Queendom. Hong Kong: FriendTimes, 2020.
Underberg-Goode, Natalie. “Chapter 9: Handheld and Mobile Gaming.” The Evolution of Video Games. Great River Learning, 2018. ucf.grtep.com/index.cfm/videogameevolution/page/chapter9section2.