8 Things We Learned from Alexa Games Week

Joe Muoio May 01, 2020
Design Spotlight Game Skills Multimodal

We hosted our first Alexa Games Week, a week-long virtual event from April 13th to 17th, celebrating and discussing many topics in voice gaming. We highlighted technology that helps developers create voice games and heard from seasoned developers regarding best practices on building engaging customer experiences. If you attended the event live, thanks for coming! We’d love to get your feedback here. Otherwise, feel free to watch the recordings of the live sessions on the Alexa Games Week homepage. 

What We Learned

Here are our biggest takeaways from Alexa Games Week 2020: 

Start with Great Audio

  • Good audio design is essential in narrative fiction and adventure games. Audio design sets the mood and can convey information without making the wording of your voice response overly verbose. Starfinder, The Vortex, and The 3% Challenge convey complex narrative scenes with sound effects and other audio without unnecessary words so the player could envision themselves in the scene.
  • Audio is important in other types of Alexa games too! Even when not setting the scene, high quality audio brands the experience and sets games apart. Many of the non-narrative example games featured during the week leveraged sound effects, Polly voices, and SSML to create unique experiences.

Iterate on Your Game Design

  • Playtest, playtest, playtest! The classic wisdom of paper prototyping the core mechanics of your game before committing them to code applies to voice games just as well as other forms of digital games. Playtesting with one person as Alexa and the other as the player is a great start.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. Every failure will teach you lessons to apply to your next game. Volley took lessons learned from a failed game and applied those to their very successful Yes, Sire game by greatly simplifying the interactions and focusing on the story aspects and core game mechanics.
  • You can combine Alexa with tabletop or board games. Alexa can serve as a player, game host, and teacher depending on what your board game needs. Check out the dedicated deep dive session as well as the whitepaper to get started designing your own Alexa companion experiences for tabletop games.

Use Game Tooling to Innovate

  • We saw multiple novel uses of the Alexa Web API for Games. Starfinder took a simple approach by displaying an animated backdrop to play against. Meanwhile, other games like The 3% Challenge, Puzzle of the Day, and Ticket to Ride displayed full web based UIs with real time interactions and animations. Ticket to Ride leveraged it to seamlessly extend the session time for players to take their turns on the physical board game. Check out the dedicated deep dive video as well as the videos from Doppio Games and Stoked Skills.
  • Skill Flow Builder (SFB) is a powerful tool. The core editor is usable directly by designers and product managers to modify the content of the interaction, enabling large cross functional teams to safely modify the content of the game. The SFB core provides powerful tools like the ability to mix audio on the fly as well as giving engineers the freedom to write extensions for any sort of custom functionality. Check out the dedicated deep dive session.

Make Data-driven Decisions

  • Metrics are important for monitoring and tweaking your game to retain players. Use both the Alexa Developer console as well as your own metric instrumentation to better test the effects your specific game features have on retaining your users. Our game designers used a variety of different tools, but the wisdom was the same: instrument what is important and make decisions based on your data from real customers. 

Twitch Session Summaries

If you would like to jump directly into watching some videos, here are the summaries of each session.

Hearing from these experts in voice design, game design, engineering, and entrepreneurship left us feeling inspired, and we hope you do, too. We want to sincerely thank all of the very talented speakers from the week for sharing their experiences with us. Alexa Games week could not happen without the support of the community and our skill creators. If you have questions or want more Alexa games focused content, feel free to reach out @JoeMoCode, or @AlexaDevs

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