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Thread: Match-3 Untimed - Yes or No?

  1. #1

    Default Match-3 Untimed - Yes or No?

    It's easy enough to include two modes for a match-3, untimed and timed (i.e. complete the level before the timer expires).

    But I'm not entirely convinced that it's a good idea to include both modes. The problem is that it becomes hard to balance them so that they're both challenging. Usually, the timed mode is challenging, and the untimed is not - you can play the latter for an extremely long time, only losing when you get an unlucky board situation.

    Bejewelled has both modes, JewelQuest is timed only.

    I'm inclined to go timed only, just so I can better balance things for that scenario. But of course, this could alienate some users who only want to play at their own pace.

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  2. #2


    I almost never play the timed or timed-mode games. Most friends / family who play casual games prefer the untimed games. They like to leave the computer or respond to an instant message without hitting a pause button, and the very reason they ENJOY these games is that it's "low stress" and relaxing - presumably without the pressure of time limits.

    Time limits make it easier to increase the challenge, certainly. But is the casual gamer really playing for the challenge, or for the activity?
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  3. #3

    Join Date
    Feb 2006


    Personally I love the match games where I'm racing against the clock. More challenge, more excitement, higher scores. My husband prefers to play in untimed mode. More relaxing. I suggest to include both if at all possible. Sometimes people like to swap modes just for a change of pace.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Dordrecht, The Netherlands


    I agree with Coyote. The gamers I've seen playing match-3 games don't play for the challenge at all and would be put off by a timer.

    But maybe you could start off with a very lenient timer and shorten (or lengthen) the time in subsequent levels according to how much time it takes the player to finish previous levels. That way, if someone actively tries to beat a level quickly, the game will pick up on that and provide more of a challenge with the next level. But if she takes her time on the first level, she can take her time on the second level also.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Feb 2005


    An interesting point about casual players. In the case of match 3 I really think they just like to chill out and relax (use their minds more than their reflexes).

    However that is "match 3" but not all casual game types. For instance in virtually all other casual games such as BBB, Zuma, tetris-a-likes etc there is a time element whereby if you don't perform action before the condition has timed out (a brick falling, a customer getting bored, a ball reaching the end) then you loose (points) or have hampered your chances of success. This is still a timer, and those games seem to do well. It forces people to be aware and active. Usually though it's pretty forgiving but provides just enough momentum to drive the game on (Which would come to a standstill otherwise).

    Now, match 3 (ala tile swap games) already have the mechanic of "find the match" so do they really need a timer as well?. If I was doing a tile swapper I would put everything into the non-timed version and balance that. Then see if I could add a timed mode for the more hardcore people who want a challenge also. (of course minor re-balancing will be required). However if you really only want to add one, it has got to be the non-timed version imo.

  6. #6


    When I play match-3 the challenge is only thing that drives me and I think most match-3 give you scence of challenge (and acomplishment).

    Challenge can be relaxing in a way - because of this playfull colorfull challenge/problem - I can lay off my real life challenges/problems for few minutes. If I want to relax in a pure way I would then rather take a walk or watch tv or just go to sleep...

    If I loose a level I rather loose it by getting out of time than being locked down (no-more matches and stuff) because I don't know exacktly what to do to not get locked down (and it makes me feel more stupid) - with timer I know I just have to do that thing a little faster or better next round, so there is more desire to do it again.

  7. #7


    It really depends on the type match 3 you are making as well. I put a timed mode and a 'move counter' mode in my game, and always ended up having better feedback on the timed modes. It also get down to focus and budget. I would love to have multiple game modes but when it comes down to balancing it means you may be actually looking at building 2 games instead of one.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Springfield, MO


    I can't stand timed Match-3 games for the simple fact that the player is already limited in what they have control over. Honestly, whether the player is able to continue or not hinges a lot on the pieces that randomly fill in when an area is cleared. No matter how good a player's move is, they will have no idea if they will be in better shape afterwards.

    Untimed at least gives players the ability to plan and combo without pressure. This allows them to set up more complicated moves and clear more area so they can at least have a better chance of something good coming down randomly.

    (I'm assuming that random pieces will be filling in gaps, per what Match-3 games tend to do. If this is not the case, I apologize.)
    Doug Hill - Game Designer
    Black Lantern Studios

    [Note: The opinions expressed here are my own, not (necessarily) the opinions of Black Lantern Studios.]

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