This year, another Cocos Creator-built game hit the top of the game charts worldwide. Though the game's name is unique, what it's been doing hasn't. SSSnaker, by Beijing-based game company Habby, is a game built off combining the ideas of the original Snake game for mobile phones, with the difficulty of an Archero game, with the rogue gameplay and upgradability that has become popular in casual games. The game shows that if you put much effort into upgrading the things that are working in other big hits, it will make for a recipe everyone will enjoy.
We've been watching the numbers, and SSSnaker has hit the Apple app store main page 41 times since its release last year, with a rating of 4.42 in Google Play. Not only that, it's hit the top 50 in both the app store and Google Play in many countries.
The game has you play as a snake that has specific powers. As you run around the board, the guns on your snake body attack the enemies on the screen. On occasion, you'll receive new snake body parts or health. At the end of the level, you may also have a chance to add powers to a snake body part, increase the power of your attacks, speed up attacks, add more body parts, or improve your health in the modern rogue-like style. You fight off a boss at the end of the 30-stage levels that increasingly get tougher. You can also upgrade your snake's weapons and armor or find stronger snakes to fight for you with different powers. Overall it's a fun one-finger game with you playing for hours if you aren't too careful.
For Habby, this isn't their first big hit either. Builders of all-time classic Archero and the popular game Punball are on a hot streak, with multiple games becoming million download hits. But SSSnaker, their newest hit, is also the latest big hit with Cocos Creator developers as it uses the engine exclusively for their game.
Cocos Creator has been used for many big games in Beijing, including Top War and Anipop. At Cocos, we've been impressed with how well the community is doing in the city and how advanced they are with the software. The game can sometimes get extremely busy as it goes into a "bullet-hell" difficulty. This can occur in boss fights and levels with many enemies that shoot projectiles. With no slowdown in the game, it's impressive to see how well they have been using Cocos Creator to optimize the insanity.
What makes this game such a hit?
There are a few interesting aspects that the game that game developers should be looking for when building games like this. I’ve made a list of some good practices that Habby have brought from their other games into the game.
Revive and health to ease difficult gameplay
One of the biggest issues that gamers have is they want a tough game, but as a developer, you don’t want to make it so tough that you lose the casual players early on. To combat this, SSSnaker gives players in the early stages a lot of health opportunities as well as a chance to revive. This helps gamers to understand the difficulty, but be able to complete the level with ease. If you are a game that is “easy to learn, hard to master,” it’s a great example of how to keep the gamer in your game for a bit longer before they make their decisions on what to do.
Spacing out your content
One big issue we see in some areas of the industry is just giving away everything after you beat the tutorial level. For some areas, the amount of clutter on main menu is enticing, while others find it distracting and difficult to navigate or know what to do in each area. SSSnaker helps to ease in gamers by slowly adding more content, like areas and trials in further areas of the game, making gamers feel if the game is getting boring, there is something new to get you excited.
People love free stuff
While playing the game, you see there are a ton of chests to get diamonds that you can exchange for armor or upgraded snakes. This idea of giving out more than is needed and at variable times of the day makes gamers feel they can easily progress day by day. The big challenge for a game developer is making sure the upgrades don’t get free gamers ahead too quickly or high-paying gamers bored after buying all the stuff in the store. So careful planning of how equipment is upgraded and how your character is upgraded is very crucial to keeping a balance between making people excited for new free stuff and not having all you need in three months, then quit the game.
Don’t be afraid to use rewarded ads
SSSnaker has over six items that can be won by just watching an ad. That’s a lot of items, but as we mentioned, if you have a strategy for the speed of progression, it’s not an issue. This can allow a lot of gamers the chance to get a little further if they feel like it by watching ads.
Try everything in your ad creations
You probably have seen every type of ad out there for a game. When SSSnaker went global, there was an estimated 50 different types of ads compared to an average of 10 ad types for a new release. Though more expensive, it quickly got the team at Habby to see what are the best running ads and save them a lot of money in long-term spending. So, if you have the budget, go big, go unique, and try everything.
Ads via Facebook Ad Center
You can see they did four different styles: real-life gamer gaming, floating heads, quick explanations, high-level gameplay videos. This is a large part of their videos being shared, but there are a few others built for A/B testing.
A big part that is interesting is many of the floating heads and explanations are using AI for their voice acting. As the company is in Beijing, it’s obvious the cost of an AI voice is far better than the issues that could come with getting a voice-over artist in the city that is cost-effective or an employee that has fluent English. We’ll be seeing this a lot with companies like ElevenLabs, who are doing AI-based voice acting.
From seeing the monthly estimated revenue numbers, this isn’t the biggest hit by the company (but survivor.io and Archero are already mega hits, so it would be hard to beat anyway), but the company is making amazing money from the game every month. And because Cocos Creator is free to use and open source, there aren’t any royalty checks to give out, making the profits even better than other engines. It’s another great hit in a lineup of winners at Habby.