Match-3

Design Analysis- POW!

Recently, I was digging through some of my old stuff and found a notebook of designs I created years ago when I had just started designing games. I thought it’d be fun to look at them now and critique them. Occasionally, I’ll post one of my very old designs and will explore what went well.. and what didn’t.

The Old Design:

Disclaimer: this used to be on paper with faded pencil. I’ve made a nicer, actually legible version to post here.

DB_POW - Grid.png

Intention:

Looking at this design, I think my intention was to capitalize on the excitement players feel in match 3s when they make a bunch of matches at once. A flow would look like this:

DB_POW - Flow.png

Done Well:

This does give the player that rush of excitement. The tension of the timer ticking down encourages the player to create as many matches as they can as fast as they can, and to even plan before hitting the POW! button as to max out their point multiplier. They feel that they have some control, and the game makes them feel smart as they almost clear the board with their prepared matches. It almost feels like completing a jigsaw puzzle within a time limit.

Not So Well:

Back then I failed to understand the importance of combos and chains, only focusing on one aspect of match-threes. Chains were entirely missing from this design, referring to the chance that randomly generated shapes that would 'fall' onto the board and create more matches. In the case of combos, the number that could be created at one time were limited. In Candy Crush, the player can chain together insane amounts of matches to make for quite a tasty experience.

Power ups are also harder to implement, especially those normally associated with match-threes such as stopping time or removing a chunk of tiles due to the importance of the POW! button.

For example: Stop time whenever they feel like it would allow the player more time to make matches but the game should focus on making matches and POW!ing quickly. We don’t want to slow down the cycle of rewards. We want to keep the pressure on the player so giving them this level of control is a bit counter to what we want. Maybe something with less control like the fever timer in Tsum Tsum might work. In Tsum Tsum a fever activates once a point threshold has been reached. It stops the timer for a few seconds and all matches made during that time are worth additional points.

Assumptions And Missing Info:

It looks like (referring to the old design mock up, due to the side note next to the bar) that the player will get a huge bonus if they POW! A second time. This is implying that it will be difficult to get it a second time. If they do, it will be exciting, but I think there is too much focus on a calmer play of swapping things around rather than quick repeated rewards.

Movement isn’t explicitly listed out either. Do the tiles swap like Candy Crush? Or do they move around freely like Puzzles and Dragons? This question needs to be answered if the game is going to be enjoyable. They each serve a different kind of challenge.

How to fix it:

So how do we fix this without dramatically changing the layout of the game? We need to make sure a few things are covered so the game will be enjoyable for more than ten seconds.

·       Chains

·       Continual play

·       Power Ups

·       Movement

Chains and Continual Play:

We need to encourage the player to make multiple POW!s within a short amount of time to create chains. Since we don’t have the ability to have chains in the traditional match-3 style, we’ll have to go with a Tsum Tsum approach. Additional tiles fall and if they happen to line up well the player can activate the POW! a second time quickly to continue the chain. Of course, a short chain timer will be necessary, thus encouraging the player to POW! Frequently without creating the perfect board layout.

For those unfamiliar with Tsum-Tsum: Tsum-Tsum is like a match-3 where players are matching groups of similar characters together quickly. Although if they are in groups of more than three they do not pop and give the player points until the player selects them. Thus, traditional match-3 chains are not present in Tsum-Tsum either.

Power Ups:

The traditional power ups for match-3s could work. But I think locking them into the game would be more useful. For example: If the player matches twelve tiles together the tiles could combine into a larger tile which takes up four spaces but is worth considerably more points when matched with other tiles. This will keep the focus on the gameplay and the player will only have to stop or slow down at all to hit the POW! button and get rewarded.

I know some people may argue that a traditional bomb style power up might be a good choice here instead of the growing tile. I’d argue against this because assuming the bomb explodes when the POW! is activated, it could ruin some of their planned chains or combos.

Movement:

It should move like Puzzle and Dragons. Having the free roaming movement of P&D will allow the player to create more matches (much like P&D does) at once, resulting in more rewards.

If I Designed This Now (Top Three Tweaks):

·       I’d probably do away with the POW! Button entirely and instead allow a double tap anywhere on the screen to let the player activate the POW! action.

·       Move the timer bar to the top of the screen. Allowing the play field to be near the bottom and closer to a player’s hand. When this game was designed phones were MUCH smaller.

·       I'd dedicate a spot on the screen to display combos so players could see how well they are doing without covering up the gameplay.

A potentially unique way to accent the combos might be to have the tiles become swollen. Increasing in size within their space along with the rising combos.

DB_POW - Swollen.png

Starting with these tweaks, this game might shape up to something fun. What tweaks would you make to improve the design?

Until Next time,

Scott