Archive for the ‘Match-3’ Category

Threes! inspired

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

In part because I’ve only just found out that someone beat Threes! for the first time, I’m finally going to write a post about my game Slide Quest.

But it won’t (just) be about Slide Quest… (Feel free to skip to the list of my three favorite Threes!-inspired games below.)

Okay, first off, I’ve never publicly talked about Slide Quest before. There are several reasons for this, but namely I’ve been embarrassed by it. I actually never meant to release it. (This is hard to believe, I know, but in some past versions of iTunes Connect — apple’s publishing webapp — you had to set a release date for your app. If you started creating the app in there, but you didn’t know if you wanted to publish it, one technique was to just set the release date to some far off date in the future. I did this, but then that date passed, and the app was released. No fanfare, I didn’t even get notified, or if I did I was too busy with client work to notice.) Anyway, when I found out it was released, it was to a few pretty terrible reviews. (It was basically not much more than a prototype.) I decided I’d rather it was out there than not, but I felt dumb, and basically never promoted it in any way.

I was also embarrassed because of all the issues around whether or not games inspired by Threes! are clones. Threes! was famously cloned very soon after its release, with a game called 1024 appearing in the app store only three weeks after Threes!. This was exacerbated by the release of another game (called 2048) by an 18-year-old developer who claimed he’d never even seen Threes!, and had written his game based on 1024. 2048 was made in javascript, in a weekend, and released for free on github. It proved to be extremely popular, in part because there were a ton of versions of it that appeared for free, often with Ads. (Threes! later went “free with IAP”.) 2048 was also an easier game. It’s wasn’t as punishing as Threes!, and a casual player was more likely to hit upon a winning strategy.

The point is, within a month, there were probably hundreds of games inspired by Threes!, both in the app store and elsewhere. For more about Threes! and clones, you should read the Polygon writeup, but also read the post by the developers of Threes!, where they also post all their correspondence (emails) during the game’s creation. That post is rather heart-breaking, but the email archive is actually a pretty amazing resource for aspiring game developers.

Anyway, I loved Threes!, and played the hell out of it at launch. I bought the tshirt. At some point I started thinking about an RPG with the same “swipe mechanics” as Threes!, and the thought kept me up at night. I too put together a prototype of that game in a weekend. That game was initially called RPGeez, but eventually I changed the title to Slide Quest.

There are several subtle differences (aside from the obvious aesthetic ones) between Threes! and 2048. In Threes! a swipe only moves each of the tiles on the board one space; in 2048, they move until they can’t move any farther. There are of course other differences, but this is the main thing.

With Slide Quest, the main mechanical difference is that there is a character on the board. That character is “you”, and you slide around the board with every swipe. You have a level, and you level up if you attack (combine with) a monster on the board that is the exact same level as you. You can attack and defeat lower level monsters without effect. Higher level monsters just block the board and lead to (eventual) game over. Like 2048, Slide Quest is definitely much “easier” than Threes!, but it does have one more interesting twist, in that every 33 levels, the algorithm for what level monsters spawn on the gameboard changes, getting more difficult.

Over the 3.3 years since Threes! was released, I’ve sometimes taken note when I see other games inspired by Threes!, mostly because I’m curious to see how they tweak the mechanics.

Here is a list of three Threes!-inspired games that I quite enjoy:

Stencilsmith, by Nicholas Sepi Jr. — This game is probably easiest to describe as Threes! meets Minecraft, though much simpler than that makes it sound. Essentially, there are pickaxes that need to combine with land to make materials, and the materials can then combine with pickaxes to make more powerful pickaxes. There are also swords, which need to combine with materials before they can then combine with enemies to take them off the board. You have three hearts (in the main game mode), and when you combine an enemy with something not a sword, it takes a heart.

SideSwype, by Radiangames} — This game combines Threes!-style swiping and match-3 mechanics. I really enjoyed it, and it’s got an elegant graphical style. Incidentally, it’s also by the developer of Slydris, which is an amazing game.

Puzzle Chips, by Curt Stein — Curt Stein created one of my early app store favorites called DropOut. In this poker-chip-themed take on the genre, each tile is a stack of chips. When the stack gets tall enough, it can be tapped to remove it from the board. So basically the numbers don’t really combine or increase, but as you play, chips that are worth more will spawn more frequently.

In a post back in 2014, I talk about small grid games, and said that 2048 was my favorite threes-inspired game. But in my memory of the time, I didn’t actually play that much of 2048, I was actually just really excited to surf the many forks of it that added different mechanics. Now when I try and view forks on github (it says there are 15,037), it just gives me the error “Too many forks to display.”

Please let me know (either here in the comments, or over on my twitter) if you have other Threes! inspired games that you like.

Blop, a precursor to 1010! and Hex FRVR

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

blop_logoInterested, as I am, in the family tree of puzzle games, when I wrote up my post about deconstructing Tetris, (the one where I go a bit into the mechanics of 1010! and Hex FRVR) I’d completely forgotten about this simple little iOS puzzle game from way back in 2009. Predating my own ActionChess by about two weeks in the app store, I remember playing a ton of this simple little puzzle game called Blop when I first discovered it.

The goals are slightly different from our line-making in Hex FRVR and 1010!; this square-grid game is actually more of a match-3 than a Tetris variant. The block shapes that appear are either 4-color squares or an angle made of 3 squares. And where color doesn’t matter in 1010! or Hex FRVR, here, the color is what’s used to remove pieces from the board. The board itself is 10×10, and each level the goal for number of matching colors increases. The first level, as soon as you connect 3 of the same color, they are removed from the board. After you’ve removed a square from each grid space (there is a handy “show” button to show you where you haven’t yet removed one), then the level increases, as does the number of squares you need of the same color.

blopscreen320x480The gameplay is at your own pace, and you do see a queue of the next few pieces, so you can plan ahead to maximize your strategic brain burning. When picking up the game again after all this time, I found it didn’t quite hold my attention the same way 1010! and Hex FRVR have for so many hours. I’m not honestly sure why that is the case. The complexity is about the same, maybe a tiny bit higher, due to the color matching rather than line-making, but I found myself playing the game a lot slower than I do those others.

After being spoiled by the simple and pleasant UI from 1010! and Hex FRVR, I did have a couple of minor UI quibbles as well:
– The squares to be placed appear “hovering” on top of the gameboard. They can and do get in the way of any squares you have already placed underneath them.
– You move the pieces around with your finger, but cannot rotate them this way. Tapping on them does nothing. (There are buttons at the bottom of the screen for rotation, as well as one in the middle to drop the piece.)

I will say, the game has held up remarkably well. It functions just fine after all these years. Notably, it did see an update last back in May of 2013 that added (among other things) multitasking from iOS 4.

Update: It’s perhaps worth noting that I ran into Blop again while looking through my iOS purchases, and it was not the first time while doing so that I thought “hey, this game is actually very similar to this other game”, but I hadn’t recently written about either of those other games. For posterity, they were Unify and Claustrophobia. Zach Gage’s game, Unify, came out in September ’09. It felt to me (at the time, I distinctly remember) like a re-imagining of another early iOS game, that came out in December ’08, by David Leblond, Claustrophobia. I actually remember downloading and playing Unify when it came out, and thinking it was different enough to be its own thing, but that I liked Claustrophobia better. (I have actually written about Claustrophobia once before.)

Action Puzzle Games

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

I presented the following slides on Action Puzzle Games tonight at the MN Mobile Game Dev Group. I’m not sure the slides are really enough to convey the meaning, but most of this is really just a list of good Action Puzzle Games for iOS, and I said I’d post those, so here they are.

Action puzzle games from livingtech1

Special thanks to Jesper Juul, from whose amazing article (“Swap Adjacent Gems to Make Sets of Three: A History of Matching Tile Games”) I stole the Family Tree of matching tile games.

Game Center Match-3 Mania!

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Game Center games are starting to pour in, and today I stumbled onto the (true**) first Match-3 game I’d seen, (although I don’t think it was the first one on there), called GeoBlocks. I’m going to talk about that, and then I’ll also talk about the second match-3 game I played with Game Center integration, Squaree, and I will actually go so far as to say that Squaree is my new favorite Match-3 game! As of this writing, both GeoBlocks and Squaree are FREE in the app store, so get ’em while they’re hot.

I played GeoBlocks for quite a while, trying to get the next achievement. It’s a pretty standard match-3, with level progression based on the number of matches you’ve gotten in all the colors. In fact, that’s one of the only really interesting aspects of the game… to score really big, you actually want to try NOT to progress, so you can rack up points before the timer (white line at the bottom of the screen) gets going so fast that you don’t have time to think before you match.

I made a note to myself to add GeoBlocks to my spreadsheet listing Match-3 games for the iPhone, and I actually went one step further than that, and added a column indicating whether the game has Game Center integration. I suppose now that I’ve done that, I should really add another column for OpenFeint. Maybe I’ll do that some other time and actually go through all the games listed to see which have which features.

So then I went looking to see if there were other Match-3 games with Game Center, and I found Jewel Craft in the featured list. I wasn’t about to shell out $3 for another Match-3 game though, (especially when I just played a perfectly decent one for free). That got me thinking about what other free Game Center games there might be out there, so I searched App Shopper for “game center”, and sorted by price. That was when I found Squaree.

Squaree doesn’t really look like much, and (as is common when I go app shopping) at first I didn’t even play it, just downloaded it to check out later. But I soon grew tired of scanning through all the crap in that AppShopper search, and Squaree was either the first or second app I opened up to check out.

It’s match-3, definitely, but the way you get your squares is pretty unique. There is a board with a whole bunch of grayed out pieces. Tapping a piece causes un-gray, and for it to fall all the way to the bottom of the board (or until it hits another solid piece). Get three of the same color to match, and two of them disappear, but the third turns into a “locked” piece. Match four pieces and you get a X2 piece remaining, and if you match 5, you get a piece that, when matched, removes all solid pieces of that color from the gameboard.

This is pretty much all you need to know to get started playing Squaree. It’s simple, yes, but I had a lot of fun with it, and I’ll definitely be playing more of it in the next few days. There are two game modes, but only the “Challenge” mode has a high score list. That list is extremely short right now, and I’m hoping to make it to the top with some practice in the next few days. My only disappointment was finding out that there aren’t any Achievements. I wish I could add yet to the end of that statement. :)

**Note that both Azkend and Dice Match had Game Center the day after its launch. They are both solidly in the Match-3 category, but neither has the swap-to-remove mechanic. Both are the kind where the matches already exist and you have to choose which one to remove. (Think Same Game rather than Bejeweled, but you have to touch all the pieces you want to remove.) It would be interesting to write another post comparing and contrasting those two games, but I’m pretty much done for the evening.