Theme design for match-3

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Phil Steinmeyer, Feb 15, 2006.

  1. Phil Steinmeyer

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    OK, I'm thinking about how to approach a theme for a potential match-3 game. The game would be in the vein of Bejewelled, JewelQuest, Chuzzle, Magic Match, et al, but hopefully with enough new twists to be interesting (the core object manipulation mechanic I have in mind is fresh).

    Anyways, there have been a few games of late that have done their theming/object choice a bit differently than games from a few years ago. Bejewelled had a very basic theme, with the same set of objects (gems) throughout. The objects, while nicely done, were simple and solid colors. Very clear for quick matching recognition, but maybe not as interesting as possible alternatives.

    Games like JewelQuest and Big Kahuna Reef had more interesting objects, that tied in nicely to a background theme, but the objects were a bit more difficult to differentiate than Bejewelled's.

    Magic Match (and I think a few others), changes the object set every few levels. This keeps the graphics fresher, but on the other hand, could cause players to be less familiar with the objects being manipulated.

    I was considering all of these options, as well as one variation on the Magic Match idea - different sub-themes within an overall theme. Perhaps the overall theme is food, the sub-themes are different nationalities/cuisines (Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Seafood), and the individual objects are specific dishes/items associated with that cuisine. One sub-theme is used for an entire series of 6-8 levels (with a corresponding background). The downside is that there may not be enough overall coherence.

    Thoughts on:
    Colorful and basic versus more detailed and harder to distinguish?
    Changing groups of objects/sub-themes every few levels?
    Other ideas?
     
  2. Phil Steinmeyer

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    Also, how important is 'absolute' freshness, as far as casual games go.

    When one thinks of colorful objects that can be manipulated, about 20-30 types come to mind (for me). Some of these have been done in very-well known games (i.e. Bejewelled). Some were used in games that are more obscure - i.e. games that came out 2-3 years ago, and weren't big hits (but still appeared on big portals and perhaps splashed the top-10 for week or two).

    What's the half-life on an already used theme before it's safe to use it again?
     
  3. soniCron

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    Complexity: You want your players to recognize matches as easily as possible, so the tile complexity is negligable provided there are major features (silhouette and color) that help the player identify other similar tiles. Clarity is paramount, however.

    Changing themes: I don't know that I would consider anything like this for any of my games. In order for the player to get to that nirvana of gaming, it's important that their actions on screen happen with minimal resistance. In a sense, they are fully integrated into the game and any actions they commit happen as an extension of their thought process. Changing or adding tiles requires the player to retrain their brain to recognize the new pieces, and this is a generally undesirable side effect that you should strive to avoid. (Jsut lkie you dno't raed ervey letetr in a wrod, the fcous bcemoes the maenig.)

    Other thoughts: It should be possible to have a nice middle ground between familiarity and introducing new pieces. If you're adamant about changing the tilesets every few levels, I'd suggest you pick common identifiers between the different tilesets. For example, use the same shade of red on a Santa hat and firework rocket. (Note that both shapes are also similar.) Your goal should be to reduce the amount of time it takes for the player to assimilate the new tileset into their associative memory.
     
  4. RohoMech

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    Cron's got a good point, if you change things around on the player right when they fall into a groove...and you keep doing this to them, they're gonna get pissed.

    Now, perhaps you were talking about just changing the visual theme of the game but not impacting gameplay at all. Lumines does just that *very* effectivly, but I think that game has a more hardcore following, and isn't really meant for casual players (you have to unlock themes etc...typically don't see that in a casual game).

    so, phil, please correct me if I'm wrong, but you're basically saying, something like bejeweled, but every so often the pieces change how they look, right?
     
  5. Phil Steinmeyer

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    Well, I was thinking of an overall theme, with sub-themes/chapters, and each of the latter would possibly have a unique object set. But it wouldn't be a game about jewels on one level, candy on the next, and pink dinosaurs on the following....
     
  6. Bmc

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    I'll have to disagree with you and ronnie. I think the casual player would appreciate changing pieces, not ever level mind you, every 5-10 levels sure
     
  7. StGabriel

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    These games are all about pattern-recognition. I think that giving new patterns to recognize may add to the fun of the game. It may cause initial dismay as they have to learn something new, but I think if you make the transition levels fairly easy then it won't be too much of an issue.

    You have to hand-hold a lot for this games, but not completely. A game where you just click 500 times to win isn't going to hold interest -- you have to do a bit more than that. By introducing new but managable challenges via new patterns to recognize I think you could well be able to enhance the feeling of accomplishment for the player.
     
  8. James C. Smith

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    For what it's worth, Big Kahuna Reef and Jewel Quest also change the pieces from level to level but neither game replaces all the pieces all at once. One piece and phased in and another pieces is phased out but the other 4 remain unchanged. (or maybe two are replaced and 3 remain the same).

    But the point is, you are not playing with the same 5 pieces the whole game.
     
  9. Grey Alien

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    Like James says, I did exactly the same with Xmas Bonus. It wasn't random either so that when resuming a level it has the same pieces you used last time.

    One other thing. Originally my game had baubles of different colours, but I realised that really the human brain prefers shape matching to colour matching (or better still both combined) and so changed it to shapes that were different colours. I amazed that Sky Bubbles has got away with the same shapes (with tiny variations) of different colours. Aren't 10% of people colourblind? These people may simple not buy Sky Bubbles. That 10% would be pure bottom line profit. Why exclude a market segment so blantantly. Same with left handed people. Your mouse clicks should be the same no matter what button is used.

    [edit] OK I found this "About 8% of men are colour-blind in one form or another. About 0.5% of women are colour blind". So, because the target market may be ladies, it won't matter as much, but I think my point is still valid.
     
    #9 Grey Alien, Feb 17, 2006
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2006
  10. Anthony Flack

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    Do left-handed people typically left-click with the right mouse button, or do they just accept the hegenemony of the right-hander mouse configuration?
     
  11. Raptisoft

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    RE: Left handers:

    We use the left mouse button, just like the normies. Do right handed people really have tallywackers that are only 9 inches or less?
     
  12. digriz

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    I'm ambidextrous, so i just mush all the buttons and hope.

    Shhhh....raptisoft, don't let out the secret. ;)
     
    #12 digriz, Feb 18, 2006
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2006
  13. Dominique Biesmans

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    having been forced to use the mouse with my left hand for a while (dislocated shoulder, I'm right handed), I found it much more intuitive to swith the buttons (right clicking = index finger for me)
     
  14. Grey Alien

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    Windows has the swap button option in it and some people do use it for sure, but I guess not every left-handed person even knows about it!
     
  15. Anthony Flack

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    Well, I have the option to redefine mouse buttons in my game, too. But I was wondering.
    That's what I thought. And no.
     

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