Skillz Blog

Key Design Elements For Competitive Mobile Game Development

Author: Evan James, Head of Product Marketing

Thousands of game developers partner with Skillz to drive the success of their game. Skillz works with game developers of all sizes, from large enterprise studios down to small Indie game developers. Skillz hosts multiplayer iOS and Android games across a wide range of genres from puzzle games to sports games to first-person shooters. The result is an eclectic amount of successful content on the Skillz ecosystem, which 18 million Skillz players eagerly compete in.

But not every game that has launched on the Skillz platform has seen success. There are a multitude of reasons as to why one game becomes popular, while a similar title doesn’t reach the same level of popularity. So much so that trying to produce a wide-sweeping analysis to produce a game development playbook to guarantee success is near impossible. However, there are trends in the games’ design elements that reveal positive correlations between one successful game to another.

We’re going to create a multi-part blog series focused on key design elements that drive the success of Skillz-powered games. In part 1 of this series, we’ll cover the core elements for launching a successful Skillz-powered game.

Competitive & Skill-Based Gameplay

In order for a game to become cash enabled on the Skillz platform, the game must be qualified as sufficiently skill-based. The reason for only allowing cash competitions for skill-based games is that this is what differentiates competitive gaming from gambling. To ensure a game is sufficiently based on skill, any dominant elements of chance either need to be made the same for all players in a match or need to be removed from the game altogether. Below are the two most common types of chance found in games:

1. How To Deal With Random Outcomes In Your Skillz-Powered Game

Any outcome which is determined by “randomness” is classified as a major element of chance. This is especially true when the randomness has a significant influence on the outcome of a game. A simple example of this would be too flipping a coin — one side of the coin results in a win, and the other side a loss. Assuming that the coin is flipped fairly, the outcome of the contest is completely random, with no skill involved. Gameplay that includes randomness is considered gambling if there are any cash prizes involved.

To prevent the element of randomness in your game, any element of your game that is dependent on random number generators should be adjusted in these ways:

    • Change the random game element to a non-random system instead.  For example, by having it follow a set sequence of outcomes, or basing the outcome on the game state in some predictable way.
    • Randomize that game element at the match level, resulting in all players receiving the same outcome during a game.


2. Hidden Information Within Your Game
Games that require players to guess at hidden information to determine important outcomes are also considered games of chance. An example of this type of game is Rock-Paper-Scissors. Although both players are choosing a hand symbol, presumably with no randomness, a player must successfully guess his opponent’s symbol in order to win. This guesswork creates a large element of chance within the game.

To make a game skill-based, players must be provided with all relevant information required to an important decision before the choice is made. With that said, irrelevant information that is not applicable to a player’s immediate strategy may be kept hidden to simplify the gameplay or create suspense. However, as information becomes relevant to the game’s outcome, it must be revealed so the player can utilize it for determining the correct strategy. The result is that the player is no longer guessing at the correct strategy, but instead, is making an informed decision; thus removing chance and replacing it with skill.

Evaluating Your Game As Skill-Based

Skillz has developed a patented statistical algorithm to determine whether a game is a skill or chance based. The algorithm was developed by one of the world’s leading statisticians and is used to analyze game results by outputting the fractional importance of chance in determining a game’s outcome. The algorithm has been reviewed and validated by the legal experts in the gaming industry and it was patented in 2016.

To further remove randomness from games, Skillz has developed a sophisticated randomness replacement engine to help “skillify” games that have some degree of chance embedded in them. This feature, called Skillz Random, can override the game’s existing RNG so that all players in a match receive the same outcome for each RNG event (for example, shuffling a deck of cards, setting up a game board, etc.)

Launching A Skillz-Powered Game

Stay tuned for upcoming articles on mobile game development on the Skillz platform and game design best-practices. During this series, we’ll cover topics like creating the best game tutorials and first-time user experiences, User Interface best practices, to creating and communicating an effective scoring screen.

If you believe that you have a game that is skill-based and competitive in nature, then check out our Skillz Developer Console. Free to access, the Skillz-Developer Console provides game build examples, the Skillz SDK, and full documentation to walk through every step of launching a Skillz-powered game.