Engagement retention with multiple gameplay loops

Most of the time, a game with a single gameplay loop isn't enough to ensure that it has endless playability.
Engagement retention with multiple gameplay loops

Short gameplay loops deliver more engagement at a given moment. However, it’s going to be difficult to give players a reason to come back.

On the other hand, very long gameplay loops are delaying satisfaction because you have to put in a lot of effort before you start having fun.

To ensure endless playability majority of the most engaging games design their entire structure around a medium-length gameplay loop supported by longer and shorter ones. The combination of multiple gameplay loops of various lengths ensures that the gameplay has a predictable rhythm and structure, engaging players with short-term goals that lead to the fun stuff.

Multiple gameplay loop example

Let’s build a game from a real-life example where you are going to sail around the world.

The long-length gameplay loop would look like this:

  1. Board the yacht
  2. Sail around the world
  3. Dock, leave the yacht and give an interview to a local newspaper

As much adventurous as it sounds, it would be pretty challenging and devastating to just sail for an enormous amount of hours.

Let’s add a medium-length gameplay loop:

  1. Visit a remote island
  2. Buy a fridge magnet
  3. Put the magnet on a fridge, move the next island

and a small-length gameplay loop:

  1. Find a grocery store on a map, and set up a grocery shopping list
  2. Travel there while “encountering” local tourist attractions and restaurants
  3. Complete a small part of the grocery shopping list. (Who said that it has to be done in one day?)
  4. Once the shopping list has been completed, you may award yourself with a fridge magnet.

Dividing an epic challenge into smaller steps with additional fun challenges makes the journey more satisfying.

Multiple gameplay loops in Agile development

In a way, you may find multiple gameplay loops in agile IT development. Where features are divided into epics -> user stories -> tasks. Scrum adds a medium-length gameplay loop called the sprint. And if you apply proper motivation with rewards and bonuses at the end of each gameplay loop, your team will be engaged and happy.

Gamified progress tracking screens also help ;)