Easter eggs are a great way to keep veteran players investigating the game long after they’ve played through it. I have discussed briefly how replay value can come from Easter eggs as it encourages users to invest more time and energy going through your game trying to “Collect” all the colorful eggs you’ve left for them to find. However, when using Easter eggs one must consider the applications of an Easter egg given the environment it’s contained within. Let’s break down the possibilities and discuss what exactly an Easter egg is.
What is an Easter Egg?
Like the name implies, an Easter egg is a present within a game for a user to find. Easter eggs can be any form of tribute, bonus, joke or reference. Typically these Easter eggs are simply meant for amusement, but in some instances may be used in advantage of the player. It’s critical to keep in mind which one you use in multiplayer and single player games because they can tip the tides of a battle in your favor or ruin a player’s experience.
Single Player and Multiplayer
In my youth and naivety I discovered the hard way the importance of using Easter eggs responsibly. The first time I ever implemented an Easter egg into my work I did so in a multiplayer environment. My initial reason for doing so was to give people something to skulk around for when there was a lull in excitement in the game. It worked better than I had ever hoped. People were never happier to have secrets that they could trade almost as if they were collectible cards. “How do you get this?” or “How do you do that?” topics flooded my forums and with each update I added new things to discover. The game saw a huge boost in returning players and I was happy for a time.
Now to introduce the folly of what I had done. In my inexperience I thought it would be nice for Easter eggs to have a small impact on the outcome of the game. This is perfectly fine in a single player game where nobody can feel cheated by the growing disparity between veteran users and new users and may need the bonus to advance within the game with less resistance. However, in a multiplayer environment I discovered that veteran users would already have a great advantage over new comers and that giving them additional resources caused new players to shy away from the game that would not put them on even footing with hardcore fans. It was done. I had created a chasm and I needed to bridge it, but how?
In my first attempt to rectify the issue I went cold turkey, removing all Easter eggs that I could. This was nearly a mortal mistake as the community was in an uproar about what they felt was my attempts to rob them of gameplay they had become accustomed too. I immediately reverted the changes I had made to placate the fandom and started investigating other methods of reducing the magnitude of the rift between new players and veterans.
My next attempt was to give users the option to remove secrets entirely from the game should a majority of players wish for it. This idea was well received by the community but seldom used and proved to be ineffective to the degree that I desired.
Ultimately I decided that with each new update I would slowly reduce the effects of the Easter eggs. Trimming advantages here and there so that the loss would be less sizable and not as drastic to the user base. It was a success, I managed to patch the problem I had created but it took a great deal of years to do so.
Different game types may require different kinds of Easter eggs. In multiplayer it would be unwise to offer Easter eggs that influence the outcome of the game because it would create greater disparity between veteran users familiar with the eastern eggs and new players who ideally need as little opposition to them getting into the grove of the game as possible. If you have already made the mistake as I have, then have hope for it is not too late. You can remedy the situation but it would be wise to do so slowly so that you do not cause any animosity within the community.
Gotta Collect Them All?
In one of my favorite childhood games the gamer was subjected to an experience that I like to call the “Gotta Collect Them All” effect. What the game would force you to do is go beyond the scope of playing just once and by yourself to achieve all that the game had to offer. This had the brilliant effect of spreading the product to new users as well as increase the time you would play through it. The idea is that while playing the game by yourself and through once you would have choices that would prevent you from obtaining every secret the game held. This would force you to play through again or with a friend to collect all of the secrets. My favorite way to use this effect is to give players the option to take one or the other when it comes to an Easter egg. This way they could play through again and take a different path. Giving users options such as good or evil, right or wrong, up or down let them feel like they are roleplaying the character, even if the results of the decision are inconsequential.
Easter eggs are a great and simple way to improve the experience of your game, but always try to keep in mind the negative effects they may have on the game!