How to write about features for the game?
When developers present a game, their pitch most often begins with an enumeration of the project’s features, features of gameplay moments, and approach to the plot. It is important that all this is there, but you also need to understand that for the end-user, not a professional, such an approach may turn out to be too complicated to comprehend.
That is why, through trial and error, marketers figured out how to tell people about a product without overloading them and showing the value of the proposal. Namely: to tell through the benefits that a specific person will receive using the product.
We can define three main concepts:
- A feature is a basic feature that describes a fact in the game, without emotions. Features translate into benefits.
- The advantage is a rational feature that evolved in response to the question: What’s in it for me as a player? It can be convenience, simplicity, speed, accessibility — the same experience for everyone.
- The value is emotional, it answers the question: Why should I (the player) care? Here we are talking about safety, fun, creativity, status — subjectively perceived things.
What’s important to consider: if you have multiple audience segments (not just hardcore fans, but a wider audience as well), then you should customize your message with value and benefits tailored specifically for each of them.
So, how to write about values.
I propose to break the approach to the subject into several levels of difficulty:
1. Easy (if lazy)
Without going deeply, here’s what skill you need to pump: try to do a mental exercise and imagine how the features that you have, are transformed into advantages, and what they actually give people.
So, you will begin to turn your train of thought from describing the technical part to the emotional-value one.
By the way, consumption situations can act as advantages. For example, you have short sessions in a game. This can be presented as “you will have time to play the session while you are on the subway/waiting in line”.
If your audience is 12 y.o., and mom asks them to pause the online game, you can also say “each session in our game is on average 15 minutes, just for big breaks between lessons.”
You can take a less abstract example, the description in the store of the new game Genshin Impact. Let’s take a couple of paragraphs from the text to show how features translate into benefits.
“MASSIVE OPEN WORLD
Climb any mountain, swim across any river, and glide over the world below, taking in the jaw-dropping scenery each step of the way. And if you stop to investigate a wandering Seelie or strange mechanism, who knows what you might discover?”
The initial claim of a huge open world is backed up by what the player can theoretically do with it: climb, swim, use a glider. This is how an abstract open-world turns into value, what is → what you can do with it. In addition, at the end of the paragraph, there is a hint that this is not the only thing that it offers to the world.
Let the beautiful sounds of Teyvat draw you in as you explore the expansive world around you. Performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the soundtrack changes seamlessly with the time and gameplay to match the mood.”
Here’s an introduction to the cool soundtrack. And what is also very interesting here: you should not take the authors’ word for it, because there is reason to believe (RTB) — the London Philharmonic Orchestra. RTB actually reinforces the claims, making them more believable to the end-user.
What are the values? The beautiful soundtrack will let you flow in and really feel the game as you explore the game’s world. Plus, the fact that the soundtrack smoothly adjusts to the situation means that the music should not be annoying, that it will always be in place, and in general, you can turn off the silent mode.
Feast your eyes on the world around you, with a stunning art style, real-time rendering, and finely tuned character animations delivering you a truly immersive visual experience. Lighting and weather all change naturally over time, bringing every detail of this world to life.”
This is a very common feature in games, so it’s important to write about it as well. Here the sentences are structured like this: first the experience, then through what it is achieved. Eye-candy through incredible art style and real-time rendering. Further, the scheme is the same: character animations assume the experience of complete immersion in the visual.
2. Medium (recommended)
There is an approach called Benefits Ladder.
Product Attributes — What are the defining features of your product?
Product Benefits — What functional benefits do these features provide?
Consumer Benefits — How valuable are these benefits to the user?
Emotional Benefits — How does the consumer feel about your brand?
In my opinion, Product benefits and Product Attributes for our area are quite similar, so you can follow the path:
Product Attributes → Functional Benefit → Emotional Benefit
For example, you have an RPG game and you have invested a lot of energy in characters. So much so that you have 10 classes of heroes. In this case, the staircase will look something like this:
Product Attribute — 10 Hero Classes.
Functional Advantage — the ability to choose a hero for almost any style of play.
Emotional Advantage — “You can be whoever you want.”
When I’d write about this feature, it would look like this:
For a pumped audience: There are 10 character classes in our game, so you can choose the most suitable one for your passing style.
For newbies: In our game you can choose from 10 character classes and be whoever you want.
That is, in general, if you have a sophisticated audience, you can focus less on emotions, but I still think it’s better to use the approach. The more audience the better! Well, even the most hardcore dudes have hearts (especially theirs).
More specifically, you can take this example of a description of Wasteland 3. I will give the description and expand it according to the model.
“A Core RPG Experience
Features a deep and engaging story, utilizing a dynamic dialogue system with full English voiceover, allowing players to choose their role, and immersing fans of the series and newcomers alike.”
Product Attribute is an RPG game.
Functional Advantage is an engaging story, a dynamic dialogue system with full voice acting in English (even more the latter will be a functional advantage since it has no sentiment).
Emotional advantage allows players to immerse themselves in the role, involving both fans and newcomers (it also emphasizes that you can enter the game from any part, thereby removing the barrier for a new audience — you will be interested in the third part, even if you didn’t play before).
“Survive the Blistering Cold
Set in the savage lands of frozen Colorado, where survival is difficult and a happy outcome is never guaranteed. Players will face difficult moral choices and make sacrifices that will change the game world.”
The headline challenges the reader “(try) to survive in the searing cold”.
Product Attribute is the setting of frozen Colorado.
Functional Advantage — (this setting means) survival is difficult, the game may not end on a positive note.
Emotional advantage — survival in such a setting suggests that the player will face difficult moral choices during the game, and sacrifices are possible.
“Assemble your Squad
A detailed character creation system with dozens of skills, perks, and quirks allow for deep customization of your squad of up to six Rangers, geared to your playstyle.”
Product Attribute is a well-developed character system.
Functional Advantage — this system means there is a lot of variability in character creation.
Emotional advantage — all this allows you to enjoy customization from the look of the character to the style of play.
“Bring a Friend
Play single-player or with a friend in story-driven co-op. Choices open (or close off) mission opportunities, areas to explore, story arcs, and more.”
Product attribute — single-player and co-op.
Functional advantage — big world, open choices system, etc.
Emotional advantage — in this case, only research remains of the “invite a friend” feature, but its meaning in the paragraph about the co-op is not fully understandable (to me!). Here you could add something like “share your emotions with a friend, and you will have something to talk about during cold winter evenings” or wrap it up as a cool time for friends on different continents, or even in the neighborhoods next to each other, or “memories of how you stormed the desert with a friend you both will remember till you die the same day.” Sorry, I can’t do it seriously, but I think you got the idea!
In general, as you can see, the experience is usually spoken of in verbs.
If you are interested in this approach, take a look at the example of a pizza ladder, and here you can read the whole case study. Despite the fact that the category is different, the process of “climbing” the stairs is shown quite illustratively.
3. Hard (full immersion)
If you want to go straight to the hardcore mode or deepen your expertise. This approach is based on Maslow’s pyramid of needs and splits 30 benefits according to each step.
The specific benefits are highly dependent on your project. If you have a game based on Mario or Prince of Persia, then the “Nostalgia” advantage is relevant for it, but it will not work for a new IP. Single-player games will not directly meet Connection’s needs.
Look at your project, maybe it covers more than I mentioned! Cool if you can get beyond the category.
For this example, let’s take a bigger project, Vampire: The Masquerade® — Bloodlines ™ 2.
“Enter the World of Darkness and rise through vampire society. Experience Seattle — a city full of alluring, dangerous characters and factions. In this sequel to the cult classic, your choices, plots, and schemes will change the balance of power.”
Of the benefits listed on the diagram, Nostalgia immediately catches the eye with the words “sequel to the classics” and Self-actualization, which is indicated through choices that change the distribution of power. It can also be credited as a functional advantage: Variety, it is also about the multiplicity of choice. An invitation to the World of Darkness and a beautifully described experience in the city of Seattle tell us that you, as a player, will be genuinely entertained. And here about the advantage of Entertainment and Fun.
So, two sentences cover:
Functional advantage: Variety.
Emotional Benefits: Nostalgia and Attraction.
Next, let’s go directly to the description of the features.
“What Monster Will You Be?
Choose to be brutal and unflinching or cultured and seductive. Use charm, cunning, terror, and sheer will to rise through vampire society.”
Here’s a direct reference to Self-Actualization: What kind of monster will you be? The good news — you can choose!) And Variety is also one of the benefits that were already in the beginning. Can you repeat yourself in the description? Of course, this is how you reinforce the associations between benefits and your play. But you should do it without tautology, telling about the feature from different angles.
“Descend into Seattle’s Dark Heart
Seattle has always been run by vampires; hunt your prey across locations faithfully reimagined in the World of Darkness.”
Here I find it difficult to unambiguously tie a paragraph to a specific feature, it seems to me that it is rather needed in order to emphasize the depressing atmosphere of the game. And if you think so, then you can attribute the atmosphere to Entertainment, as well as Design / Aesthetics.
“Enter into Uneasy Alliances
Choose a side among the competing vampire factions in the war for Seattle’s blood trade. Everyone has hidden agendas, so choose your allies wisely.”
The developers again talk about the Variety of choice, but also about the Affiliation — alliances, parties, clans. By making the main character his avatar, the player begins to take it all upon himself (minding that the dive is done cool).
“Experience the Story
Written by the creative mind behind the original Bloodlines, live out your vampire fantasy in a city filled with intriguing characters that react to your choices.”
Here’s a summary of all that is written above. Again Nostalgia, Entertainment, Affiliation, and Variety.
Functional advantage: Variety.
Emotional Benefits: Nostalgia, Entertainment, Design / Aesthetics.
Life-Changing: Self-actualization, Affiliation.
Try to look at your product through the eyes of a potential audience and ask yourself two questions: what is cool about it and what does it give me as a player? This will not be just a list of advantages, but the reasons that induce us, who are irrational by nature, to make our irrational choices.