MLU: Masterful Goalposting

August 28, 2022

My Little Universe (SayGames Ltd) is a casual exploration game with resource-collecting gameplay. While simple at first glance, the game has unique design tricks designers can add to their repertoire. Let's explore what My Little Universe does to hook players into their game and keep them playing.

Establishing the Chase:

One of the first things players seek when experiencing a new game is goals. Does the player want to defeat a boss? Collect a specific resource? In either case, goals give the player something to aim for or chase after. Without clear goals, players start to feel their tasks are getting repetitive. My Little Universe is exceptional at introducing goals at strategic points to solve this.

Long Term Goals:

  1. One of the first goals the player encounters is a Broken World Portal. The player must collect resources and bring them to the portal to repair it. At first, the resources the portal needs are nearby. After some repairs, the portal requires resources not yet unlocked to the player. This goal drives players to start exploring the world to find these resources. In the process, they soon encounter the next long-term goal. This starts a new chase, prompting players to use the resources on this new goal instead of the portal.

  2. Once the world starts to expand, the player encounters a tile with a Magic Sword. The player's goal switches from repairing the portal to acquiring the magic sword. The sword requires a special item to unlock it. Nearby, signposts point players in the direction they need to go. These simple signposts draw the player to explore with a new goal, keeping the game fresh. The signs make the goal feel like a tile away, but the path to unlocking the Sword is much farther than it seems, keeping the player engaged for a long time.

  3. As players chase after the Sword, it leads to a tall mountain guarded by a Giant Yeti. This yeti, like the portal, requires plenty of resource gathering to unlock. By this point, the players realize the signpost pointing to the sword was misleading but they have a new goal. This change yet again gives players another refreshing task to work towards.

Each new long-term goal is clear to the player, even before any have concluded. Players can progress each goal before the next long-term goal encounter. The pacing allows players' mindsets to not stagnate on one task.

Just One More Tile:

When players start their universe, there is little land with few resources to collect. As players unlock new tiles they get access to new resources. Also, new routes unlock which provide more efficient gathering pathways. The constantly improving landscape makes players want to expand their world. If players ever feel lost, they can look to signposts pointing to the direction they should go. This subtle visual guide gives hints to players about what's around the corner. Early on tiles are cheap to unlock, and players can expand easily. As the world starts to grow the tiles cost more to upgrade. When progress starts to slow, players look to upgrade their gear to get them back up to speed. Players either harvest more resources to upgrade their tools or watch ads to upgrade faster. This gets players to value watching ads so they can continue unlocking tiles efficiently.

Strategizing Ad-Watching:

My Little Universe has plenty of ads. Players will encounter resource bundles in the world they can unlock by watching an ad. They can also watch ads to gain the resources needed for specific upgrades. The amounts always vary. This makes some opportunities more valuable than others. Oftentimes resource bundles are near where they're needed, alluring players even more. This asymmetric value to ad-watching makes players plan when to and when not to watch ads. This incorporates monetization into their gameplay strategy rather than avoiding it.

As time goes on, the amount of time spent watching ads starts to dawn on the player. The value proposition of the Ad Removal IAP becomes more and more enticing the more ads they watch. It becomes worth it to remove ads rather than spend time watching them. My Little Universe doesn't surface this option immediately. Instead, the player must unlock a good amount of tiles before encountering the shop in the world. This forces them to watch a good amount of ads, making the IAP look reasonable.

Session Start Windfall:

At the start of each session, the player can claim rewards of stone and wood as well as a boost to their gathering tools. These rewards are upgradeable by watching ads. Tiles need stone and wood to unlock so the start of each session guarantees progress. The tool boost makes gathering resources a breeze. This makes the first few minutes of each session fun and refreshing. By keeping the start of each session engaging, players always have something to look forward to. After lengthy play sessions, the actions in the game start to feel repetitive and tedious. The players can put down the game at the end of each session and can look forward to breaking from the monotonous grind the next time they open the game.

Enhancing the Casual Experience:

In My Little Universe, the camera moves on its own, without the player needing to control it. The camera keeps important objects in view while showing points of interest in the background. The camera achieves this by pitching, panning, and zooming around as the player moves about the world. By keeping important things in view at all times, the camera guides the player. One example is the shop or portal coming to view as the player walks around tiles near it. By putting ad resources in view when near places they're valuable, it influences players' decision-making. Another aspect that enhances gameplay is the haptic feedback. The haptic feedback on resource collecting and attacking groups of enemies is satisfying. You want to go around hitting everything to keep the vibrations going. This amplifies the upgraded tool experience at the start of each session, making users opt to watch the ad for the upgrade.

Join The Team

Here at Funovus, we love to explore and study successful mobile games to find insights we can share with our team to level up our collective experience. Through our open collaborative efforts, we can grow and make better games together. If these types of discussions appeal to you, feel free to check our open positions at


Google for Startup 2022