The match-3 genre itself has become popular thanks to the successful promotion of such large publishers and developers as King and others, many developers managed to enter this niche and take their place, but in recent years it is more and more difficult to do it without a professionally organized PR campaign. For me, this genre is still attractive, because the gameplay itself is rehearsal, attractive to any audience, there is a variability that allows you to replay the levels and get completely shocking results, and in light of the symbiosis of match-3 and the second game, the meta game, this gives even more variety, interest and creative flight.
One of the first Match-3 was developed by me in 2014, at a 3-day Hackathon-type event held in our city at that time ... I don’t remember the exact name. The purpose of the event is to gather a team of those present and provide a working prototype in three days. We made a match-3 about galaxies with the programmer, code-named GOU - Gods of Universe, where the player collects ore in the process of match-3, which he then uses in orbit in the galaxy, creating planets, comets, asteroid fields and other space objects. Already in this project, I introduced a system of gravitational holes, when the chips move not just from top to bottom, but are attracted to the specified cells. Later it appeared, well, I'm not the only quick-witted one, in the projects of large publishing houses.
But before that, there was already a little experience in the development team of the Music Wars game (which is available on the Web, in the Vkontakte social network, and for mobile devices), where a mini-game in this genre was implemented - MusBox, which allows players to get goodies, and the quality buns depended on the demonstrated skill in the game.
The experience was mediocre, since the idea was not mine, but I really liked it - at the end of the next match-3 game, the player received currency, for which he exchanged it for prizes in a specialized game store. Here and now, the remainder was converted into another in-game currency. It was great, players do not miss a single attempt and play all the games, even buy additional ones. A game with a short session, since there is specific pressure in it - after the 3rd move, the playing field begins to shrink by one row. In addition, the game has three bonuses that are charged from effective play and the player applies them at his own discretion. Some bonuses allow you to boost the number of points scored or delay the reduction of the playing field per turn.
Then I came to my second concept in this genre - Pearl Diver, in which I borrowed the ideas I liked so much from MusBox, only in this case the game is aimed at a wider audience and for mobile devices. Therefore, it was necessary to documentarily propose changes to the system of pressure and bonuses, to implement development in the game, because a game for mobiles should contain many different levels. In this project, the number of bonuses was invented not three, as in MusBox, but six. The latter increased not only comfort, gave the player variety in passing the level, but also increased the gaming session. The setting at that time was chosen as a marine one, that is, it was aimed at a female audience that is greedy for pearls, shells, and other beautiful luxury things.
Then we, me, as a game designer, artist and programmer, in our free time were engaged in the development of our own projects, which is why the visual quality of the sketches was lame, there was little personal experience, and the project itself after implementation, we would not have pulled. It would hardly have been possible to promote on word of mouth alone.
Years later, we again got together with them, here they talk about the training camp for the match-3 genre, and so we are going to discuss projects in other game genres, and decided to make another match-3. In one evening, an idea was chosen, a concept was thrown, sketches were made. The elaboration of the design of the document this time was at a higher level, the sketches and art also pleased. But in terms of coding, there was silence, the programmer had personal affairs at that moment.
After a while, when I changed the company, it was necessary to come up with a concept of the game that would please a large part of the audience, class not lower than AAA, with sticky gameplay and good profitability. Again, I returned to match-3, but not with the classic combination matching, where it is necessary to swap two pieces, but with a selection. Best Fiends was taken as the reference gameplay, which at that time became quite successful, the only match-3 in this genre, with a good audience and excellent financial performance.
Unlike classical matching, I personally like this one more, here you can come to a combination in different ways, there is more control over the playing field than in the first case, you can refuse an unconfirmed combination for matching. That is, there is more food for the mind than in the classical one, everything is by chance, the player just does one action, and then there is just a series of matches that are independent of him, which is presented to him in the form of beautiful choreography and effects.
Setting... it was necessary to choose a setting. It is clear that these should be characters, yes, they have an excellent system with development. We decided to take a theme with super heroes, anthropomorphic heroes. The project was launched under the name - Mad Monsters.
I started writing a design document, which absorbed the best features from Best Fiends and classic match-3, for the latter it was necessary to resort to adaptation. The artist proceeded to the concept and sketches. At some point, the process was paused, since some moments did not have a logical connection with the playing field, they looked illogical, for example, the characters stood with their backs to the player, or they seem to be on top like in Best Fiends, on the other hand, according to our concept, they didn't belong there. Further more. They could not fit and fit the already redesigned characters into the meta-game field, they had to be cut to the level of the bust, or they appeared in full growth, but it looked flawed. It was not possible to get inspired and find a solution ... The project was postponed for other reasons as well.
Upon completion of the Darkanoid project on Steam in the arkanoid genre, it was necessary to move on to the development of the next project, to propose several concepts. During the evening I made three concepts in different genres and took the risk of returning again in one to the match-3 genre. This time, all the issues were resolved, which were not found solutions in the previous implementation, in the game with characters. Love for space in this life will never disappear from me, that's why the concept was proposed in this spirit. And this love originated from the time of the first computers based on the ZX Spectrum, the same Elite game, but then more. The cinema also did its job, the films from the Star Wars series did not pass by in my youth. And yet, until that time, no one offered a match-3 in this setting, but the current market was studied. Yes, the risk is huge that such a setting is not for a female audience over 30, however, if you implement high-quality gameplay, then the male audience pays many times more with its reduced volume.
But how can you attract an audience? PvP? Yes! But this gameplay is not being implemented so quickly, and before that there should be a PvE product already working with this paying audience. You need to take the effects, atmosphere, visual part, which, in principle, do other companies that develop games in this genre, luxury chips, beautiful art, screensavers, effects after pressing buttons, and so on.
The effects that have been implemented at the moment do not yet fully reveal the whole idea and all the plans, but when they are implemented, the game in PvE mode will be no less interesting in terms of gameplay.
All the emphasis on effects and my stake is on the meta game. It is clear that you won’t surprise anyone with the effects on the match-3 playing field, it all depends on the artist and on who implements the effects through shaders. Therefore, another atmospheric effect was the idea to make feedback from the meta, to the player ... and vice versa, but with even greater effort, and not what we see in ordinary games of this genre, which consists only in chip matching. And this feedback was tied to the fact that all events in the meta-game take place in real time. You tell me, well, this is hardcore, this casual audience will not play, since everyone is against the levels for a while, but here it is generally real time. Yes, again a risk, but depending on how to implement it all. You can make a smooth entrance, let the player enjoy it, get used to it, and for this there are all the tools for that, so that it does not seem like hell. In short, I hope for an excellent balance of levels, but I’ll say right away, I didn’t give up the idea of leaving the players to play levels for turns. Everything is there, thus the audience will smoothly enter the game, suspecting nothing and not feeling discomfort, and then they will only like this moment, since this moment will be well received by players who will play in PvP mode. Yes PvP with a real meta-game! The pain of defeat and the pleasure of victory will be felt much more sharply. That's what the bet is!
Our strong point is both the visual component and the popular match-3 gameplay and its less blurry offshoot with the highlighting of the combination, which gives more variability and gives food for the mind, and an active and interactive meta game, with its own gameplay and PvP competitions for more demanding players.
I also remembered one moment. You can come up with anything in the concept, the worst thing is the lack of the ability to implement what was conceived, and worst of all, to face those questions that have questions not of a technical sense, but from the visual side. In our game, visual effects are just a must-have, since they give the immersion that is in the current version, and without them the game would not have been able to pull out in this genre. And it is also a loss of 1 month of development, which would have been spent on the implementation of the prototype, and maybe 2.
But all's well that ends well. Already at the prototype level, the camera yielded to that necessary setting and gave the necessary angle, the required world with its isometric view was created, we didn't even have to use 3d graphics yet. The game would look much better with it, but even with 2d sprites it looks good. If necessary and possible, this can always be replaced. The same point concerned the correct display of 2d gun sprites, their rotation, and other moments that, if not from a technical, then from a visual point of view, would cause dissonance in the player and could easily cross out the whole concept and that conceived ideology. Not finding a solution to these issues, they simply did not have the right to be present or could be present with that crutch implementation and the principle “okay, they might not notice” or “so let it be, because everything is fine with the rest”. But this is unacceptable, it is not professional. I am glad that we with the team overcame all these difficulties, at least at the prototype stage they were resolved further, until the current version they no longer arise so acutely, which means that the project is already in business. The rest of the effects will only be a plus, and at the prototype stage, our main effect with the turn of the ship was also successfully tested in the test version, although it is not shown in the current implementation, since it takes a lot of time to create an algorithm and logic.
During the development process, questions arise regularly. It turns out that there are some sections of the design document that were clearly worked out and described, but after implementation they look different. This needs revision, but the implementation cannot be simple and fast. Any change already affects other mechanics, and here, when the project is already at such a stage of development, you cannot hesitate, you have to quickly look for a way out, and the latter can appear completely by accident or be born from an absurd idea. This happened when the playing chips on the playing field should be controlled, correspond to the minimum number of guns, but the ship had to be repaired with something, and it had two health bars, strength itself and a shield, and it was blasphemous, but otherwise the playing field looked like a trash can. The idea came up by chance, one of the evenings, when there was a conversation with the artist, and the logic for it had already been developed by the programmer for future special tricks, developed earlier than necessary or is it at the right time?:) Now on the playing field in the main game were used colored game pieces, and to replenish HP and Shield, own chips are used, they are generated several times less on the playing field and they do not need to be matched according to the principle of three in a row, they match with any combination, and they look good and are very noticeable against the background of the rest. The problem both came and went, not immediately true, but this is good news.
In general, everything conceived fits perfectly into our game, we hope that it will continue to be so, during the implementation of the project there will be fewer questions, and inspiration will not leave me when it will be necessary to solve the latter.