Clash Royale Deconstruction from a UX Designer's Perspective

I chose Clash Royale for my deconstruction exercise because I was looking for a mid-core top grossing F2P game that I can critique on. As a UX designer, it is important for me to understand the basics of game design, and how game designers think and work.

Overview

I first started by reading deconstruction articles, and research on things to look for in deconstruction. Then I jumped right into playing Clash Royale for several days, taking good notes along the way and putting thoughts on what works well, and what can be improved. My deconstruction consists of 5 parts:

  1. Player Types - getting to know Clash Royale’s main target users.
  2. Onboarding - learn by playing, and an interesting card showcase by auto scrolling.
  3. Return Triggers - besides Clash Royale’s well designed multiple appointment triggers, I propose two possible improvements on its nudge triggers. My proposed Mockup and Prototype.
  4. Core Loop - an engaging core loop where waiting is optional.
  5. Monetization - a good experience receiving a special offer.

Player Types

Understanding the player is the key to building a great game. Clash Royals are catered to Killers, Achievers, and Socializers. Here is my take on why:

Killers/Clubs

These players really enjoy competing, killing, and dominating. They find pleasure in difficult PVP and guild raids. In Clash Royale, players can destroy opponent buildings, battle in real time, and organize battles with other clan members.

Achievers/Diamonds

Achievers love high scores, achievements, and rare items. Top Royale achievement boards, rare cards, battles, quick battlefield chats to taunt other players, are all mechanics catered to these players.

Socializers/Hearts

These players enjoy chatting, and like to help out. Socializers also enjoy co-op games. Clan in-game chat, co-op battles, battlefield chats with preset messages such as “Good Game” and “Well Played”, and the ability to donate cards to others are all traits that make Socializers recommend Clash Royale to their friends.

Onboarding

Upon installing, I paid attention to the onboarding experience. Supercell has placed a lot of thoughts on the onboarding experience. The game takes you right into the battlefield for immediate actions with a “trainer” to guide you on how to deploy cards, collect rewards, open chests, and upgrade your cards. I also find the incremental difficulty in the 5 training battles especially well designed, with the final training having just the right amount of challenges to get you ready for the real deal.

Something that really caught my attention was the introduction to the cards screen during onboarding. Upon passing the first level and collecting a new card, tapping on the card menu brings you to the very bottom of the screen and automatically scrolls up. This purposely showcases all the possible cards you can collect. I find this especially appealing to achievers by showing them a possibility of unlocking a huge collection of cards.

Return Triggers

Return triggers give players reasons to come back. There are 4 return triggers in Clash Royale that I would like to discuss:

Appointment Triggers

There are multiple successful appointment triggers throughout the game which reward players for coming back to open unlocked mystery chests. These mystery chests contain random cards, gold coins, and gems that are vital to the gameplay. Opening the chests is the core way to get new cards and money you need in the game, and something for players to look forward to.

The main chest reward is the “Arena Chest” you get for winning a battle. Every time you win a battle you get a free mystery box full of random cards and gold coins. But here is the catch—you only have 4 chest slots to hold your Arena Chests, and you can only unlock one chest at a time. Unlocking starts a countdown timer that requires you to wait to open, so you always want to come back to free up more slots to collect additional Arena Chests. This is definitely a clever way to encourage players to come back multiple times per day.

Nudge Triggers

For players who accepted to receive notifications, Clash Royale will send alerts when their chests are unlocked. However, for players who chose not to opt-in to notification when first asked (at the initial launch), they won’t have another chance to change mind and turn notifications back on, unless they dig it out from the phone settings. In fact, these players might not even know that Clash Royale send notifications for unlocked chests and battle invites.

Notification is a very popular topic in ux design. When to ask for permission? How frequent should we push? Recent research shows that nearly 60% of users opt-out of notification when asked point blank upon initial load. It’s like walking up to someone on the street and demanding they go on a date with you. Very much like asking players to watching a video ad, the user must understand and see the benefits of opting in to notification. For Clash Royale, one possible improvement would be to add a “Turn on Notification” CTA on the setting screen, allowing players to easily opt-in when they change mind.

For Clash Royale, one possible improvement would be to add a “Turn on Notification” CTA on the setting screen, allowing players to easily opt-in when they change mind.
Or perhaps ask players to turn on notification when they have multiple reward chests ready to collect. Here is a quick prototype to showcase the idea.

Other Triggers

Clash Royale also makes use of social triggers and special events. These create a sense of belonging, giving players a feeling that they are part of something big, and are responsible to engage in the community.

Core Loop

Clash Royale uses an engaging core loop where players battle, wait to unlock chest, collect rewards, and upgrade for the next battle. What makes this loop unique is that battles are not paced by energy system, like other standard loops, instead they are paced by the free mystery chests that the player collects upon winning each battle. The player has a limit of 4 slots to keep their winning chests. Each chest takes time to unlock, and can only be unlocked one at a time. Should all the slots are full, the player is given 2 choices:

  1. The player can keep battling, but forfeit the ability to collect additional arena chests until their slots open up. This comes with the risk of losing trophies should the player loses the battle.
  2. Or, the player can voluntarily enter a wait loop, where they can wait for a chest to unlock (or use gems to skip the wait), to free up a slot for collecting the Arena Chest upon winning.

Unlike traditional wait loops where players must either pay or wait to continue gameplay, Clash Royale players are given a choice to continue the gameplay without getting Arena Chests (which is probably fine for some types of players), creating a healthy community full of active players.

Monetization

Clash Royale’s main IAP is gems. Gems allow you to unlock chests. They come in different types of bundles, and the most popular bundle is the “Pouch of Gems”, which contains 500 gems for $4.99.

Another popular IAP is special offers. Here is an example I’ve experienced—after completing an Arena, I received a special chest called Magical Arena Chest. This chest looks much bigger than the ordinary ones. I waited 12 long hours for the chest to unlock, and when I opened it, I found a surprising generous amount of gold coins and upgrades, as well as rare new cards!

Shortly after, when I was at the Shop, I noticed a special offer that was hard to resist: For just $0.99 (which is the usual cost of 80 Gems), this special offer contained 80 Gems, 1000 Gold Coins, and get this—another Magical Arena Chest like the one I’ve just opened! This is really a great way to give me a taste of the goods so that I’m much more willing to make a purchase. It’s breaking that really hard to crack shield converting from non-paying gamer to paying gamer.

Final Thoughts

This exercise was an awesome journey for me. It gave me a good understanding in game structures and how to approach deconstructions. Having some basic ideas of how game design works helped me better understand how UX designers can work in the game industry.