Game developers have tapped into something, well, big. Big data, that is. If you’ve heard about what big data can do for your development efforts, you’re likely very excited about it. You should be. But there are limitations to what big data can and should be used for. Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to leveraging big data for your game development efforts.
1. Never Let Data Replace Good Intuition
Do your instincts tell you that Millennials will go nuts for your new action-adventure concept, even though the data is pointing squarely at (yet) another sports game? Follow your gut.
Data can help you determine what’s trending in the world of games, as well as what features are most popular and keep players coming back for more (and bringing their friends!). But game developers have always had a strong creative streak and a tendency to think outside the box when coming up with ideas for their games. Don’t stop. While data is an excellent guide in a general sense, it should never be used to replace those sparks of genius that produce golly-gee-wow ideas like Pac-Man and WoW.
2. Learn to Ignore Some of the Metrics
If you aren’t careful, the amount of information available through big data can become overwhelming. Soon, all you’re looking at are metrics, metrics, metrics. Some of the metrics are useful and should be applied. Others can be utterly ignored, or merely identified and considered but not used to drive the project. Learn to tell the difference. Ignore metrics that aren’t obviously practical to the development and gaming experience.
3. Use the Data to Solve Puzzles and Answer Questions
What data is excellent for is to answer questions that you have while designing and distributing the game. For instance, will this particular game be more popular with the FPS crowd, or will it fall more in the realm of the role-playing category? Data can help you determine things like what character will resonate deeply with your target players and what features will be most popular to incorporate into the landscape and action sequences.
4. Big Data Can’t Make Up for a Bad Design
Game developers who rely solely on the analytics to map out their development projects will quickly find that their games are stale and predictable. Big data can’t solve a lack of creative inspiration or a poor concept. Data can take a good idea and make it great, and even help turn a so-so concept into something viable. It can’t, however, deliver stunning concepts and a well-conceived UX on its own.
5. Know Your Data Tools
Big data without good data tools is just a big, fat mess. You won’t be able to leverage the data without acquiring and mastering big data tools like Hadoop. Take time and care in selecting the big data platform and tools you use, and be sure to learn it as well as you know Java and C++. Just like any development skill, data analytics is only as good as you are.
6. Become a Data Scientist
Hiring a data scientist isn’t always your only course of action. The care and feeding of a data scientist is pretty much a combination of some math and computer science, followed by a dash of practical experience.
Reading the news and blogs, you’ll soon get the idea that big data and data analytics are completely out of your grasp because you’ll never be able to find or afford a good data scientist. Poppycock! Most savvy developers can become decent data scientists with some training and practice. Study the mathematics behind data analytics and learn the programming aspects, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a data scientist who can manage your game analytics for yourself.