Player Obsessed! How to build exceptional player experiences
Itamar Rogel, CPO at Affogata
Greg Posner, Director Solution Engineering at Helpshift
What is this episode about?
1. Minute 04:23 - Trends and Challenges in the video game industry.
We start by talking about an article from Data Science Learner that gives an overview of top games industry trends in 2023. The article mentions three top trends for 2023 -
1. Increased Focus on Player Experience.
2. Emergence of New UI Design Elements.
3. Integration of AI technology in gaming UI.
We'll focus this episode on the first trend.
2. Minute 08:26 - What are the pitfalls if you aren’t paying attention to feedback from your players. What are the pain points for studios. What does it mean for players?
3. Minute 12:50 - What is a modern support journey?
4. Minute 18:15 - What are the benefits of having a 360 degrees view of player feedback?
5. Minute 24:50 - What's the benefit of integrating your open web player feedback with your support system player feedback?
6. Minute 30:40 - How product and engineering teams can benefit from such integration and how it can help get more value from the work with community and support teams.
Transcript (After intros)
To get us started, let's talk about trends and challenges in the video game industry. When we were preparing this podcast, we were looking for trends, right? And we found an article from Data Science Learner, an overview of Top Game Industry Trends for 2023.
And they mentions three top trends. The first one is increased focus on player experience. The second one is an emergence on new UI design elements, and the third one being integration of AI technology in gaming UI. I'd like us to focus on the first one, increased focus on player experience, because I think that both Affogata and Helpshift bring tons of value to teams in game studios in charge of that.
I think it's a good place to introduce to our audience a short overview of what Helpshift, and Affogata do. Greg, do you wanna talk, you wanna tell us a little bit more about what Helpshift does?
Greg - Yeah, I would love to. Thank you. So at Helpshift, we're a consumer first digital support platform. We really cater ourselves to companies that are rapidly evolving the needs of their customers, and we're looking at customers that wanna focus on resolving these issues with technology rather than with just humans, right?
It's easy to keep adding support team members, but it's not gonna scale along with your company. So at Helpshift, we're combining smart segmentation and conversational AI to understand the actual user and try and facilitate them through a guided support journey that resolves their issue easily. And we look at this because we're working with top studios in the industry and they're working really hard at creating those player journeys from within their game.
And typically support gets overlooked, but when the user has an issue, you wanna make sure they also have that top tier journey available to them. So we're helping customers enable that journey from within the game.
Caro - Itamar if you could explain a little bit to the audience what Affogata does?
Itamar - Of course. Yeah, so Affogata is basically a platform that takes in really any data, from any place that your users, your players are talking to you at you or about you, right? So whether it's a public channel, whether it's your ticketing or support system, reviews, app store, etcetera. Really any, any kind of this unstructured data goes into the platform and then it produces insights. It suggests actions, things that you can actually do in the context of your product, in the context of your game, your community. So really the idea is to take care of all these really intelligent, interesting things that your players are saying, right everywhere from your Discord community to in the app store reviews or wherever it may be, and work with it in order to better your product, better your game, respond to things as they happen.
And the way gaming companies use Affogata is that it gives them the understanding of how their players feel about particular things, right? So you may be seeing something in your analytics in terms of churn, in terms of engagement. You see the numbers, you see that something is happening in the product, but you don't really know why.
So Affogata can tell you the why and explain to you why basically things are happening because you see how people are feeling about them, how people are talking about them. At the end of the day, it's a system that really allows you to understand your players better and take actions accordingly.
We are really aligned with what Helpshift is doing and, taking in their data into Affogata , is a very important part.
Caro - I want to focus on player experience. So we are definitely talking about paying a lot of attention to the player community feedback, through any possible channel, right? It could be open web or support channels. What are the pitfalls for studios that actually don't pay attention to feedback channels. Greg, you wanna take this one?
Greg - I think it's kind of a loaded question. There's a lot of different avenues you can go down there, right? In the years past, you had different online communities where people would start to communicate about types of issues that they're having in game, right? It might be, uh, originally it might have been a forum, then it may have been Reddit, then it may have been Discord.
And trying to understand where the player's sentiment is coming from, where people are communicating, is very important. I think studios want to hear, or they should want to hear the types of feedback that players, have about their game. If you take a look at the, the latest trends in gaming, like gaming as a service, these games are continuously putting out updates, continuously understanding feedback from their players, and they're releasing patches on the fly. I think that's the beauty of the modern day game: is that you can release an update but it also allows companies to put out half baked games where people have tons of issues. So understanding where players are communicating and making sure you take that feedback to heart.
"Do we wanna send this to our engineering team or development team or design team?" And I know we're talking more about the elements, but understanding how the player experience works, making sure that players are actually using it, will help you evolve your game and, design so players wanna keep playing that game.
Caro - And what does it mean for the player though? What does a player experience playing games from studios that don't really listen to them?
Itamar - Well, I think one way to think about it is, you know, even as a consumer, right?
Say you're your family to a fast food restaurant right now. Ultimately you're gonna be eating something, but that's just a small part of the experience, right? There is how you get there, what the place looks like. Is it clean? All these elements you experience before and after of you actually getting the service provided, right?
Sometimes people forget that for digital products as well, and definitely for games, there'are these elements as well, right? So your game may be great. I mean the engagement, the playability, the artwork. All these elements could be amazing but if what people experience as they play the game, as they're accessing the community asking for help or talking to other people or forming clans or whatever it is that's relevant for your game.
So that community experience, their support experience, even like what they see when they access Steam or in the app store and you see the reviews, etcetera, all these things are part of the before and after experience. Because a lot of companies that are obviously aiming to have these forever games, if you really want to create kind of a forever franchise or forever title that becomes even more important. What are the different experiential stuff that's not necessarily within the game itself? So I think when companies are missing that out and, not looking at everything that's happened there, happening there, they really lack an understanding of what drives player behavior.
Cause your game could be amazing. and someone could be churning just because they asked something in the community, they didn't get an answer, they got some kind of toxic response or whatever it may be. So that is, I think, the real cause of missing out on the 360 degree of the experience.
Caro - It's interesting because today we announced our February Player Insights champion. and one of the things she had to say was that she doesn't believe that the game that she works on (From SciPlay) would be as successful as it is if they wouldn't put the player in the center of the game making process. And it's a game that is, uh, like up for 10 years now. So , I guess there's a key on a successful game: they're listening to the players.
Greg if we talk about the solution, and what Helpshift has to offer. Can you talk a little bit about what is a modern support journey?
Greg - Yeah. I'm happy to, and, and just to kind of jump back a little bit to what you just said, I think it's fascinating how when you talk to people in the community that they don't necessarily even think about getting feedback from their users yet, right? They've said, Hey, I just wanna launch my game and I wanna go out there and start fixing it.
And, and they don't really put any thought into how am I gonna collect feedback from my users? It can be a simple email, it could be in-game support, it could be a form, it could be a whatever, right? But the idea of these companies who release these massive games without any sort of way to provide feedback or get and gather feedback kind of is mind boggling.
And then you see these smaller games that have these huge communities that hey don't, I mean the game doesn't go viral. A game doesn't blow up with that. That's the type of support if you don't have a, an influencer or some sort of way to just get hooked, and that's where feedback comes from. You iterate. And, and it kind of just boggles my mind on how people aren't doing that yet.
So for Helpshift, how we're helping companies enable this is we're providing them tools to collect that feedback directly within the app or the game itself.
So, you know, we provide bots and automations and a lot of people hear the word bots and they're like, no, I don't wanna mess with bots. People don't like bots. And it's, I get it. I'm the same way. You know, I am dealing with airlines. Roll my eyes every time I need to talk with a bot, because I know the type of issue I have.
And I think this is kind of what makes Helpshift a little special, is that we're providing different types of experiences for the different types of users. But when it comes to bots, it all comes down to design, right? You can be using a Helpshift Bot, you can be using an IBM Watson bot, you can be using a, whoever, all, all the most advanced tools in the world, right?
But it really comes down to design at the end and how you're gonna design these bots. Is it gonna be a positive experience or a negative experience? And, and don't get me wrong, there's a lot of crappy bots out there, and I know that and, I've seen them and I've used them, right? But it comes down to experience.
And where Helpshift shines is we provide the different experiences for each of those users, right? I, as a gamer, I love gaming. Self-service. I wanna try and do as much as I can before I even have to reach out to support, and I understand that it requires my own research. I'm happy to look in FAQs.
I'm happy to Google. I'm happy to go into forums or Discord to try and figure it out. And where it helps are enabling users like myself who want self-service to find the answers that they want. This is where that machine learning and AI kicks in to help route users to the right place, right?
So the beauty of bots, if you give one a shot is that you can design them to fit the needs of the persona of your game. Or you can look at their segment. Are they a V.I.P. game or are they a new gamer? Are they someone that's just confused? You can route them directly to the right person.
So maybe, maybe Itamar is having a lot of issues and we know he's not good with bots. So maybe what we wanna tell ourselves is every time he messages in, we wanna make sure he goes to an agent cause that's what he prefers. So you can build in these workflows that enable you to collect feedback the appropriate way from the appropriate users.
I'm not sure if that answered the question, but that's kind of where my mind was leading.
Caro - That's amazing. And I'm sure that it also does allow the humans behind the bot, the human agents to actually do their job better. Right? Having these technology that allows them to focus on what they should be doing. Does it make sense?
Greg - Very, very, so my first job outta college, I worked at a call center. And we helped people set up email servers and we would get calls from, let's just say, not your typical Microsoft Outlook user, someone that was much older than they should be using Outlook, and they would call and we would have to walk them through setting up Microsoft Outlook.
No one in their right mind. Wants to be talking to someone who is too old to be using Outlook on how to go to the account settings, the advanced properties, and how to set up your incoming outlook. It is a nightmare. Just the same way, you know, you see all these cartoons that have like the, the machines that put the toothpaste tops on.
Certain tasks are automated because they're redundant. They're just not beneficial. They don't help me learn. They don't help me advance, right? So what we can do is we can automate these simple tasks and as an agent, I get more fulfilling work done in my job. I get to start troubleshooting things.
I get to start kind of working in things that require a little more brain power than just putting a top on a toothpaste bottle. Right? It enables the customer service rep, we tend to see, see them have higher customer satisfaction scores internally because they're working on better things andit helps you learn more.
And yes, you still are gonna have those people that, that do the simple jobs, and that's what they wanna do. So you gotta find a way to automate that low hanging fruit.
Caro - It sounds like it could even impact, employee satisfaction in companies. Itamar, can you please tell us a little bit about what are the benefits actually of having a 360 player insights view with Affogata?
Well the idea is, you know, kind of building up on what we just talked about. It's really if you understand that to get to your goals and to provide a great player experience, but also to get to your business goals as far as retention of gamers, as far as engagement, all of that stuff that you're measured on, you really need to have a complete view.
So you want to understand how are people experiencing the community. You want to understand if they're having problems within the game. You want to understand how does it reflect on what they're saying and how do things that people say and what's the information that they give you in various ways can explain the things that you're seeing with the analytics of your game and things that you may not have a way to uncover otherwise. So when you have all the data coming in to a single platform like Affogata, you can really do that analysis and understand the cause behind a lot of the effects that you're seeing and make decisions accordingly.
When you do it and it becomes part of your process, you can really become a much better, oiled machine. Whether it's your game releases, live ops, everything, you really are super responsive to whatever is going on with the way players experience your game in all of its aspects.
That obviously has a lot of impact on the player, you know, the way players feel about the game and their satisfaction level obviously and also, of course, how's reflecting in your metrics. So everyone wins basically.
Greg - Sorry, if you don't mind me asking, have you seen kind of a trend in the different channels that customers are providing this player feedback, or is it coming in more from a new channel these years than it was a few years ago?
Itamar - So this is a, a great question. And you know, there's obviously some of the easy answers, right?
Of course you could say, "Oh we see now more Discord than ever, right?" And it's only growing stronger, but it's kind of obvious, right? Everyone knows that. I think the interesting thing is that we see difference between titles and definitely across different studios. It would be different because each community have a different mentality and different places they prefer to hang out at.
And also there another large aspect, and you guys at Helpshift are familiar with this, of where the behavior in the title drives people to engage, right? So I think smart companies want to keep the feedback closed. They want to have direct dialogues with their players. They want the bad stuff, quote on quote, to firstly be seen by their teams, their agents, and they direct people to something like Helpshift, right? Cause that's the way they can provide immediate solutions. We can learn exactly what's going on. We'll be the first to know. And I think sometimes, and I don't mean to criticize, there's reasons why some teams choose to do that, but some teams choose to actually not have that kind of a really tightly kept really high attention support experience.
In which case maybe it's harder to open a ticket or there's not a lot of agents paying this too much attention, and they are not really encouraging people to do that. So of course, what would you do as a player? You would go somewhere else to complain. Maybe you go on Reddit, you go on Twitch, you go on Discord, wherever it may be. Or you post a negative review, which is, you know, arguably the worst. And that is kind of the short sided thing, which leads, you know: "Oh, we're saving on support costs, we're saving on, the ticketing system costs, whatever." But then the reputation of your game is not as good, and it just doesn't allow you to really provide an experience and it will ultimately show up in your metrics.
So I think it's a great question, and the answer is that it really depends on what you, as the game designer, as, you know, the creator of the game are kind of pushing people to do. But we see different companies, different titles would have a very different composition of where the data is coming in from.
So that's why we as a system, wanna support everything. Maybe your, your title is huge on Reddit. Maybe you have a huge Discord community, or maybe even you're running Vanilla forums and having that kind of interaction on your own, on your own purposes. You wanna support everything.
And I think largely that is the biggest factor. But overall, you know, there's some generic studies we could do. Definitely you see the growth of Discord and things like that. .
Greg -It's a cool topic because you know, I think both of our companies, we try and look at different sides of the spectrum, right?
Where with Affogata, right? You want, it's important to have communities on these different channels, right? I think that's actually part of the player experience: is being able to go to Discord and talk with the other players. Being able to go to Reddit and talk to the other players. I think that makes the player experience broader, right? It makes it feel more real where there's other people like me in here.
Whereas in Helpshift, we try to keep channels conduced to things that are owned, right? We don't want, I'm not saying we don't want you to go to Reddit to complain about an issue, but we'd rather you come to the support team and say: 'Hey, we have an issue." But again, as a consumer myself, I understand that if I go to the loudest network, I might be able to get my voice heard, but it's about making sure we can hear the user in the appropriate channel. But I think all these things have to do with that player experience and helps build that kind of big concept of what this game is, what kind of monster you're creating in this game, and how well it's doing.
Itamar - You know you mentioned airlines before, right? And I think many people can relate to having a bad airline experience. And probably, uh, you know, if you, if you, you're not getting an answer directly from the airline, you can go on Twitter, you tag them and guess what? You may get a far better response. And I think many of us have seen this. I mean, this has happened to me, it's been a while so hopefully they improved since. But definitely something that happens.
Caro - Naturally, you started talking about the value of both ends of the rope, so I think it's a good time to explain what's the value of having both platforms combined.
Greg, what does it mean for Helpshift users?
I'm excited about the Affogata relationship. I've been speaking to Itamar for a couple months now about the possibilities and I think, there's a lot of just cool things we can do, and it kind of goes back to understanding that Helpshift, we're supporting the owned channels, right?
This is gonna be your app, your website, your game, your Facebook channel. What it isn't is everything else, and it's important to understand that, even though we may not be owning the Reddit form, there's going to be an opportunity to understand what is the sentiment on Reddit. There's different levels to this integration I think it's important to talk about, and I'm sure we can get through all them, but right at it's most basic is using Affogata's tools to take a look at the types of queries that customers are sending in from Helpshift and understand what are the insights below those, right?
Because at Helpshift we do insights and we understand insights, but then there's this whole group of unknowns, right? "Hey, this is not tagged properly, and this other thing is not tagged properly". And maybe, three months from now we're gonna release a Facebook update and it's gonna cause crashing and we don't know that. And then through all these unknown insights, we can start to understand that.
So the first level that would be kind of those metrics on how happy are my customers and what is that sentiment and those insights that I'm missing. And then the, second part of that would be a little later or further down the line would be being able to respond to Unowned channels. If I see Kent's having an issue on Reddit about my game, why not send a message to Kent to pull him back into the support experience so we can capture his data appropriately, segment it appropriately, and send it to the right team to fix it, right?
We wanna make sure that players are heard on all the channels, whether it's owned or unknown, and that's what Affogata is providing Helpshift: the capabilities of listening to those unknown channels to provide support.
Itamar - what does this integration mean for Affogata's customers that are using Helpshift?
I think Greg gave us kind of a great introduction to that. And I think that you can already hear even in our conversation here, that there's a lot of alignment, right? And ultimately it's about having a good player experience. If you think about, Affogata as a data and analytics platform, it's pretty obvious that Helpshift data is extremely critical for having the right understanding, the right perception of your players, right?
Because these are support conversations, there's a lot of stuff that's happening in these conversations. Everything from like people perhaps writing their support experience, people interacting with agents and with also the AI that Helpshift provides. And there are a lot of insights that you could grab from that.
And the nice thing about Helpshift also is that, in my opinion, it truly is the most elegant system for gaming. You know, it's basically a monster in gaming, right? Helpshift, basically took over the gaming market because the experience is so smooth and it's really much better. And I don't mean to be selling it too hard, Greg, but I really think the experience is much better than the, the alternatives.
So it's no wonder why they got to this position in the market, right? Because as a player, as someone who uses, you know, a mobile app, say a mobile game you just get a much smoother experience. And that elegant experience also pervades how Helpshift is designed in the sense of how the data is represented and how you can work with it.
And for us, you know, we're like data people, analytics people at Affogata. That's like a real treat, right? Because we like having that data in an elegant data model because it means we can offer a lot of insights. It can mean that we can work with that data in various ways. And our goal is really if you have Helpshift, we have that data and can help you extract the insights from it in real time, understanding the issues that are critical. There's a lot of things that you could do in Helpshift, but obviously I forgot to add that semantic layer, that early detection, that early understanding of issues and allows you to set up everything from, you know, very intelligent alerts, to kind of understanding things that may not be obvious when you just start looking at the data, kind of telling you what you don't know, right?
A lot of that value combined with the elegant data model that Helpshift can provide. And I think if you work with Helpshift, you probably have created for yourself a taxonomy. You have these custom fields, you have a lot of things going on, and Affogata will work with that really smoothly, right?
So it's a lot of power and it's adding this semantic layer. And the goal is, you know, the goal is the same goal we talked about earlier. Like you really want to know the issues as soon as possible. You wanna address them. You wanna make sure that your team is focused on the right things. It will move the needle for your players and for your metrics. And this is what it's all about.
Caro - I wanted to wrap up by talking about something that I hear a lot: that platforms like ours like Helpshift and Affogata are mostly associated to player facing teams like community teams, support teams. But we do see that we bring a lot of value to other teams in the organization, like, product teams and engineering teams that are actually game shaping teams. And I wanted to hear what are your takes on this? Where do you think platforms like Affogata and Helpshift bring value to other teams that are not the ones dealing with the players every day?
Greg - I think that that's a great question and I think internally it helps us. We've been learning about this over the past few years as well, right? Where originally we sell to the player support team, right? That introduces us to the player tools or whoever's in charge of player tools. And what you start to understand is that, you know, especially in gaming, a user's gonna have a gameplay issue and the game's gonna crash. Support can't really do anything about that, right? What's their goal in support is "All right, let's collect information from this user. What type of device were they using and what level were they on?" And then you pretty much open that ticket for engineering, maybe you're gonna go to Jira or you're going into some other tool to do that, right? Then, the support team member, the player facing team member, again, is not resolving this issue. They're collecting the data that's necessary.
They're acting as the middle man or woman who's collecting this data and providing it to the engineering team to resolve. So, especially in small companies, but in companies all sizes, right? In indies, we typically see there is no support team. Maybe it is the engineers and maybe it is the developers and, and it's in everyone's best interest to create a game that works right and a game that has people having fun with and playing with them. With that, what can happen, the marketing team can send the right message to the audience, letting them know: "Hey, we have this new feature that's been asked for, or there's a game crashing bug that's been affecting iOS devices."
That's resolved. It goes beyond player support, even though we tend to see player support as the face, at least for Helpshift. It really does affect everyone behind it. And we're trying to enable a good experience for everyone who's using it. Again, whether it be the engineer who doesn't wanna communicate with gamers typically, so we'll, again, we'll just collect that information and provide it to the support agent so they can be that front person, as well as everyone else.
Caro - Itamar I think we spoke about this before, but I think it's nice to mention it here too, that it really is about, shortening that gap between, an issue being raised by the community, either on open web channels or on support channels and the product teams and engineering things to coming actually to solve the issue.
Itamar - Yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, it's funny because really when you think about it, You know, your players are the most important thing, right? But in many ways, the people who directly interact with the players, right? The people who manage the community support agents, community managers and so forth, they are oftentimes the people who have the least voice within their organization.
And at least it used to be the case and when you think about it doesn't really make sense. Those are the people who have the direct input, the direct insight into how our players are feeling, but they're kind of aggregating things. They deal with a lot of noise and then when they communicate in internally, they're not always being listened to.
And obviously, smart gaming companies have of course already figured that out. But your goal is really, to understand I cannot have the product manager or the game designer read endless discord discussions. You cannot have that.
So this is really the challenge that we're talking about here, right? How do you take all that stuff that's happening? That's extremely important, and the people who are exposed to it, into how players feel, how do you get that to those teams that make the game, design the game, do the live ops, all that stuff, plan all this stuff out, all the content, everything on the gameplay, and get it to them in a way that they can operate with and make decisions with.
You wouldn't be able to deal with all of the noise if you didn't have a good tool, you know, the proper tools in place. So really, this is what it's all about both for Helpshift and Affogata: You want to have a great support experience, and a good community experience.
You want to have a 360 amazing player experience. And in order to do that, you really need to take those things, those feelings, those inputs, those feedbacks from your community, from your players, and bring them in for those internal stakeholders to make decisions with.
Smart gaming companies have definitely figured that out already. But if you're going to keep your game designer and the people who actually create the game isolated for your community, you know you're gonna have a bad time. Cause other gaming companies are listening to their players. They're making decisions according to what they see.
They have an understanding. When they see something in their metrics, they understand why it's happening, thanks to that practice. And really you can't really afford not to do it anymore.
Caro - I just wanna add a personal note: I started my career as a community manager and actually communicating the voice of the users to product teams and other teams in the organization was really hard. Without platforms like Affogata and Helpshift, those teams they just don't speak the same language. Product teams sometimes feel like the community team, or the support team is kind of cherry picking, whatever they wanna show them. And the community teams feel that the product teams are understanding from it whatever they feel is right for the product.
So I think also that using products like Affogata and Helpshift is allowing them to speak the same language when they're communicating the voice of players. That's my take on that too.
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