Motivation loops in Clash of Clans

Clash of Clans by Supercell is arguably the best mobile game of all time. One thing that CoC is awesome at is the strange motivation loop. Remember that in a strange motivation loop you have something like:

  • I want A because it gets me B
  • I want B because it gets me A

This is important because you want your player to never experience a moment of “no pull” — a moment when he isn’t motivated to pursue some goal within your app. Designing for strange loops is a way to ensure that your player will always, upon completing some goal, have a new goal that he can pursue.

Strange motivation loops needn’t be so simple (A and B). In fact they’re much more powerful when they’re complex and entangled. To better understand this, let’s look at Clash of Clans.

Here are the basic resources in Clash of Clans:

Basic resources

A player uses these resources to buy things like buildings, building upgrades, troops, and troop upgrades. We’ll get into those details later. For now, just know that a player will frequently be wanting either some gold, or some elixir, or some dark elixir, for some goal that he’s pursuing.

Here’s the simple strange motivation loop that CoC has set up around earning and storing those resources. I’ll leave out Dark Elixir for now for simplicity’s sake.

Resource collector motivation loop

The green lines here indicate “lets me get”. So for example since there’s a green line pointing from Gold to Elixir Collector, you would read “Gold lets me get Elixir Collector”.

Notice the structure. I want Gold (A) because it helps me get Elixir Collector (B). I want Elixir collector because it helps me get Elixir (C.). I want Elixir because it helps me get Gold Collector (D). I want Gold Collector because it helps me get Gold (A).

So the structure is: A → B → C → D → A. It has the same defining characteristics as our simple strange motivation loop. It’s just more complex.

What this shows is just the very beginnings of how a strange motivation loop can become a complex strange motivation network. We’ll see why this is important for mobile retention.

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