Overview: MiniPlanet is a group of programs hooked together around a world, and players can complete jobs, run a store, gamble, chat, and spend their earnings on lovely furniture for a home of their own. Apropos to the name of the app, I suppose, is the fact that there is no central game here. There is a central world, and games for relating to it.
Avatar Generation: Particularly for a game as social-heavy as this one, a good avatar generator is key, and this game has it. Players can make themselves look mostly like themselves, or as different as they like, on a whim.
Costumes: Somewhat related to the advanced avatar generation is the fact that the player can buy special clothes and outfits to customize his own look. Having the ability to purchase something that travels with you to all your social situations is much more compelling than having the items for the personalized location, at least early on. That more compelling ability translates into an increased desire to play the various games and earn the in-game currency.
Slick Look: Unlike almost everyone else, the slick look of this app extends even into the store, so that the player doesn’t feel like he’s walking into a sleazy alley to buy his merchandise. There are still just a few bugs with the graphics, but they’re largely negligible except to the hardcore gamer, and the hardcore gamer is clearly not this game’s target audience.
Varied Play: With a decent repertoire of underlying games, this game could take off by having a little something for everyone. It’s almost there.
No Core Game: My first impression of this game is that it’s like Maplestory without the game. It provides a cute chat experience, a forum for people to talk, and a few benefits for selling things or playing a gambling game intelligently. But the game never says “This is the goal.” I have no idea how I gain xp (I assume I do, because the game tells me I am level 1 of 25).
Invisible Benefits: Visibility is highly important for anything that can give a bonus of any kind to the player. In the cafe games, you can see what’s on the stove. In the farm games, you can see your crops. In the adventure games, you can see the countdown to your next encounter or the next time your hp will recover. In this game, you can only see your products when you take the time to go into your store, and then you can’t see anything else.
Loading Times: This may be unfair, but it’s still true: Because other games have set the bar for loading times so low, this game feels like it runs slowly because it has screens and areas that take an entire four seconds to load. Gasp! If possible, it would be better to put me into the space immediately and then add people in once I’m there. Then I feel less as if I’m waiting.
Tiny Store: The clothing store should be obvious and easy to find, possibly its own main tab.
Getting Around: More generally, it’s tricky sometimes to get from place to place, which it shouldn’t be in such a simple game. Movement should be very intuitive.
What I’d Add:
More Games: This one is a no-brainer. As more of a game-world than a game, MiniPlanet benefits from having more games in it. If the games are designed in different ways, there really can be a little something for everybody. Right now there’s nothing for someone who wants to do battle, and (see games like ZOMG!) a game-world like this can definitely include that kind of game.
More Leaderboards: If there are many games to play, there can then be just as many categories in which players can excel. More competition with players of similar interests (see: those who play the same kinds of games, in my game-world) encourages and facilitates the social aspect of the world.
Mixed Price Plans: The inclusion of items that can be bought using either real money or in-game money helps fight the impression that you are denying content to non-paying players. The occasional “payer-only” item is good, because it increases the prestige of owning it. Still, items that cost both types represent a prestige to the non-paying player that can make them more excited about your world.