Inspiration

Alexa's ability to play great games is something we've seen in previous gaming skills. And also that it's twice as much fun to compete with other players. This is how the idea for the “Duel of the Vikings” skill developed. The user slips into the role of a Viking trainer. The mission is for the Viking to gain enough strength to win the next battle against ever stronger opponents. An essential aspect for us was to cleverly integrate the in-skill purchases and thus increase acceptance among the users as they get real added value. The general rule for the “Duel of the Vikings” is that users can use the skill without restriction – even without the premium “Diamonds” currency. But with the help of the diamonds, they have the opportunity to achieve faster success and can bring their Viking faster to victory. Especially for players who use the skill very intensively, diamonds are an interesting option to maintain their position at the top of the rankings.

What it does

The “Duel of the Vikings” skill is a continuous game in which the long play of the users is rewarded. The trainers can improve their Vikings' defense and attack skills at the training camp. For this, training partner Alexa throws rotten fruit at the Viking. Archery improves accuracy. Plus, the premium “Diamonds” currency, which is available for in-store purchase, helps to achieve success more quickly: The training facilities can be improved, and the Viking can train more intensively. The shop also features new abilities that change daily, giving the Viking better chances for the next battles.

If the user thinks he has trained his Viking well enough, he enters the arena. This is where he competes against other Vikings. These become stronger and stronger, depending on the level.

How we built it

After we had agreed on a game idea, we planned and visualized the VUI design with Draw.io and then the display design with AdobeXD. In the next step, Mathias, our developer, began to implement the programming code. For this purpose, we have applied our CMS, developed especially for Alexa-Skills. This CMS enables the output variants to be integrated into the skill code via identifiers. The CMS, which was implemented using standard web technologies (HTML, PHP, JavaScript, and CSS), is designed to implement the skill in several languages at a later time. So while the programming code for the skill sequences was applied by the developer, the editors could already create the output variants that can later be heard in the skill.

The skill code itself was implemented with NodeJS, and a MySQL database serves as an interface between the CMS and the actual skill code. Here you can find not only the output variants but also the graphic paths and paths to the sound effects. Here is also the data of the individual players.

Challenges we ran into

It took a lot of fine-tuning to work out a proper balance. This is a learning process that will certainly never be entirely done for us. After all, the different players train their Vikings in very different ways and with different intensity. It's difficult to be fair to everyone because it always seems too easy for long-play players and too difficult for casual players. The various tactical possibilities to advance the Viking through individual training (health, strength, defense, and luck) create different characters in attack and defense. Although this makes balancing difficult, it ensures that users can act in a variety of ways.

It's also challenging to show the user the various possibilities of the skill in a voice-first application: Delivering complexity only with voice guidance requires a clear structure. This helped us to consider the user guidance of the skill right from the start and to consistently implement the VUI and coordinate it with the UX design. We have also implemented a tutorial at the beginning of the skill that guides the user through the most important stations.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are proud of having created the premium “Diamonds” currency, a currency that is tangible and versatile for the user. The user can choose from different packages with 180, 500, and 1200 diamonds. He can then use these diamonds for purposes - either to play non-stop and recharge the Viking with energy after strenuous training or to equip the Viking with special skills or bonuses. The diamonds can also be converted into gold. Gold is used to pay the construction worker, who, in turn, improves the training facilities and thus optimizes the Viking's training success.

What we learned

For a skill to feel “smooth”, it is necessary to have an eye for detail. This fine-tuning can only begin once the basic structure of the skill has been established. It is important to complete the idea with appropriate sound effects and graphics. Also, a skill is never finished: Constant users need continuously new content, which is not generated by automatically growing values but must be generated by editorial maintenance. In our skill, for example, this affects the opponents who appear in the individual arena levels and must be defeated. For this we have created editorially level names and suitable opponents. A process that is never completed.

What's next for Duel of the Vikings

We plan to constantly develop the skill. New mini-games can be integrated so that long-play players can always discover new things. We can well imagine offering other training possibilities through these mini-games. These additional training facilities could then be unlocked with diamonds. We also want to increase the number of skills of the Vikings to provide a lot more variety in the game. We will also significantly increase the bonuses for the Vikings so that players will have even more tactical options to individualize their characters.

Besides the permanently accessible training facilities, we plan daily changing events with rewards to lure the players into regularly using the skill.

We want to publish detailed statistics and evaluations of the Vikings on a website so that the players can compare themselves with each other.

To promote the competition, we also want to create a new place for fights where the players compete against each other. This is where the bonuses bought from real players pay off.

We are also looking forward to the launch of the “Alexa Web API for Games” to make the display experience even more dynamic, exciting and interactive for the player.

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