How to "hook" players on a game?

My game has been getting steady traction over a few weeks, but I noticed that pretty much all of them don’t stay for long. They don’t even stay long enough to unlock the first area, and that’s pretty bad. I think the problem is that I’m not “hooking” players onto my game once they play.

My game is a simple simulator game where your avatar becomes a dog and you can run around to get treats and bones. You can use treats to unlock areas and get charms (which are basically pets), and you can use bones to buy upgrades and teleports to areas. You need 200 treats to unlock the first area, which isn’t too much, right? It apparently is, according to the daily leaderboard today:

12 people total played today, so far.

As you can see, only 4 people had the patience to get enough treats to unlock the next area, but why only 4 out of 12? It’s obvious that the players get bored super quickly, but how can I hook them before they lose their patience? When they unlock the first area, they get a little applause sound, and they earn a badge (which is announced to the whole server), so I think that gets them hooked there, but they aren’t staying to unlock it.

This is the game:

I’d like you to join and tell me if you’re quickly bored, that would be appreciated! :smiley: As well as that, can you also tell me how to hook players when they join? That would be super helpful! Thank you!


I got bored after 20 seconds of playing, its no fun running around touching little tokens to give you treats to unlock new areas, the game needs more things to do besides that.


Defiantly not the target market as cynophobic, my feedback from a quick play would be:

  • The density of the treats in the spawn area seemed a bit low, and the spawn time was quite slow. At around 100 treats I had to wait around 20 seconds for the next treat to appear which wasn’t the best user experience.
  • The design of the map may also be an issue - you are caged in from all angles - most simulators I’ve played have a neutral back area and progress sideways/forwards, which doesn’t cause the feeling of being locked in.

Heyo! When you’re looking at “hooking” players and generally player retention, you have to consider the first moments of a player’s experience when joining your game. You seem focused on treats, however in reality the first thing a new player sees when joining the game is a 19 page tutorial! There isn’t anything wrong with having this little booklet open through the menu-button you already have, however for the majority of players this way of explaining the game to them is very overwhelming.

My recommendation would be to forego showing them this pamphlet when they join and instead give them a less descriptive, interactive tutorial in which you walk the player through the steps of your gameplay loop. This form of tutorial is much more suited to getting players immediately into the gameplay and has no tradeoff as the gameplay formula you’re going for should already be very familiar to players and doesn’t need a very wordy tutorial.

That being said, I’ve also got some tips for once your players have gotten hooked and now you need to retain them!

Quality of Life

  • Display how many treats a player receives whenever they pick one up.
    • This gives players a slightly more interactive and tangible sense of their progression.)
  • Reduce the time it takes to dig sparkles up from 4 sec to 2 sec.
    • The current length for this prompt is needlessly long and slows down your gameplay loop by adding an element with no interactivity and no animation etc.
  • As @centraltrains mentioned,

This could be pretty easily lessened by lowering the opacity of your barriers, to give less of a “boxed in” feel without having to entirely re-make your map. The ideal solution would be to rearrange your map into a more linear or organic format, however I understand that for a 1 person project, this isn’t always possible.

To add onto this, you might want to consider prompting players to purchase the next area when they touch the barrier, rather than having to travel to a button at the center of each wall. At the moment it just serves to make the system feel more cumbersome and adds more unnecessary downtime that risks losing your player’s engagement.

Lastly, I’d like to touch on what I personally see as a major issue with the progression design of your game, in hopes that you might be able to improve player retention.

Charm Boxes

  • With the current way that you handle progression, players are forced to spend a lot of time searching for the upgrade boxes without any direction. This is particularly impactful because there are no landmarks or pointers towards these boxes but they are crucial to your game’s progression system.
  • The charms from these boxes are often very un-impactful and often times feel like they are a drop of water in the bucket when you’re looking at the big number you need to progress.
  • There isn’t really incentive to progress to new areas aside from these boxes.
  • Teleports have very little return on their cost. The amount of time you spend collecting enough bones doesn’t feel like it is worth the time saved through teleporting (especially considering there is little incentive to leave the area you are currently in.)

My solution?

  • Consider reworking your gameplay loop to include a “hub” area. In this hub you could include all of the boxes your game currently holds, as well as teleports.
  • Make treats in better areas worth more. I’m not sure if you already have this implemented as the amount recieved from treats varies a lot, but this would give more incentive to progress into new areas. Maybe give them a visual indicator such as changing the colour of their sparkles.
  • Change charms from static (+1/+2/+3 etc.) into percentage increases. Considering you can only equip three charms maximum and that their static values aren’t very impactful, this will make them feel a lot more useful regardless of the tier while still letting higher tiers be better overall.

With these solutions combined, your gameplay loop becomes a lot more defined, where players are expected to go out to collect treats and bones, then come back to the hub area to purchase their upgrades and progress. For most players, this is a much more engaging form of gameplay loop and gives them a solid sense of direction where they always know what to do next, hence they are more likely to keep grinding toward their goal. Then, of course, they get a lot more use out of their purchased teleports because saving them the effort of going between their zone and the hub only becomes more valuable as they progress as it provides a tangible benefit to their progression. The faster they can collect, the faster they are progressing!

Hopefully this advice gives you some idea of the issues you’re looking for!


(P.S. increasing the density of treats and lowering their value makes things more engaging :wink: )


I played the game for a while and as Noire mentioned getting a charm felt really useless especially since you have to travel all the way to it and then when you got it the ability it gave was poor compared to the tasks you had to complete.

I would also like to recommend some form of event such as maybe a helicopter flying by and dropping off treats in the center. Any event will do because as of now it just feels like mindless wandering to the next treat and oh look there’s the 2nd gold treat I’ve seen in the past hour.

Another recommendation is for you to make an actual dog model for the player to be; this could also lead to an implementation of skins and such. As of now the dog model the player takes form is demented and creepy; maybe you were going for a funny factor, but funny only works for a little while before it gets old.

What other simulators have that you are lacking right now is a good way to hide the fact that a player is just mindlessly completing one task then the next with no real point at all.

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Also some feedback on UI. The shape of it is kind of inconsistence. (Refer to image below)