I have been playing this game for several months off and on. I was looking for a construction game that I could explore and this fit the need. It doesn’t have a huge play time requirement. Your main core game loop can be completed within 5 mins. But the builder aspect of configuring the ships, and changing out components can keep you in the game for an hour if you want. For someone who spends a lot of time in airports and sitting in Ubers this has been a great quick session game for me on the go.
This was how I originally found the game. I was looking at research trees in F2P games and this was recommended at a game jam as a system that looked easy to implement, and had good depth. I agree.
Watch the video to see what I mean.
Easy to pickup, layered complexity
This has several great free to play elements in it, but perhaps the best is the come for a minute and stay as long as you like. The ships are simple, the space to build them out is simple, and the PVP is simple. All aspects of the game are easy to get into, and quick to get up and playing.
You can go much deeper in trying to optimize builds, and figuring out which ship performs well in each bracket. That extra depth adds just enough to keep you coming back for more.
One More Brick was suggested to me by a YouTube viewer. I have quite a collection of these almost by accident. I am starting to think this series will be a good example of game design progression within a genre.
This game really impressed me for the polish and attention to detail across the board.
The power-ups and randomizer in the game are really well done. Watch the video for my full breakdown.
Clear the level? Get a checkpoint
This is honestly the coolest feature. I have said it in multiple reviews of these games. When a player clears the entire screen, give them a payoff! It is hard to do, and should be a big deal.
One More Brick does this really well. They give you a checkpoint in the game. Your next play will start at that level! How cool is that? Once you have started at that level the checkpoint is cleared, but this is a HUGE encouragement for the player to try to clear the level.
This is a great, huge, complex game. Way bigger than you think when first starting out. If you are a Star Wars fan you will geek out for about the first month you play this game. It has characters to collect, and power up. Fights for the Light Side, and the Dark Side. Plenty of things to collect to power up your characters (armor, boosts, etc). And that is where the problem starts.
There is honestly too much to do. You can spend 30+ minutes in this game every day just trying to knock out the daily mission list. Then if you join a guild (and you should), expect more raids for the team and helping each other out. This starts to feel like an MMO style treadmill after a while.
Pay to Win downfall?
The real downfall for me was the constant (I mean as in 10 times a day sometimes) bombardment of ads to buy something. They have premium skills and characters you can spend tons of money on. If the rumors are to be believed this game has made close to $1 billion across all platforms since launch. The pay to win aspect, and the constant buy this limited time character or power, and then this one, then this one just really wears on you after a while.
Still a great AAA game title that is really free to play, as long as you don’t want to get competitive or win PVP very often.
Charming Runes by Mighty Games is a very well polished implementation of what I am calling the Block Breaker Genre. They are all very similar clones of each other, but this one is unique. If you have played Ballz or BB-TAN you should check this one out as well.
Polish makes the difference
All of these games have a similar mechanic. Throw something at blocks and break them. Acquire most of the something to throw, and go up in levels while the blocks come down after every round.
Charming Runes has power ups, and a score system that adds excitement through multipliers and rewards for making longer lasting shots. Add in their achievement mechanic, and this the best of this genre that I have seen.
Energy Mechanic too stingy
My one complaint is that the energy mechanic is too stingy. I really like games that have a 5-15 minute session length. But if the player has NOTHING to do when they run out of energy other than pay you money, that feels like a stingy paywall. The player will leave and go elsewhere.
Ads not all rewarded video
The other negative to me is that the game will throw up a video add after sessions where you watched an ad for a reward. You might have gotten a second chance to continue for an ad. Then they interrupt your game with an ad for no reward. That feels like a session breaker to me. I have no more turns and you just made me watch an ad? Bye Bye
Selling Premium – without being too pushy
This is an area they did really well. The pushing of power ups and rewards doesn’t feel like spam. It is well integrated into the end of a game loop. I felt like I would consider them, but didn’t have to use them. Until you run out of energy of course. 20 minutes to regain one heart and then trying to sell them for $4.99 felt steep to me. Even at $0.99 for a single 15-20 game session feels way to steep. I always feel you need to make players think they are only paying a few dollars an HOUR for premium add ons. Anything more feels expensive.
The Walking Dead: No Man’s Land is a huge licensed property that ties into the TV show. But don’t think you can’t learn some lessons from it. It has great game design at the core, and then layers on a lot of complexity.
Not casual, needs commitment
The game suffers from too much to do after a while. If you want the level of commitment of an MMORPG this is a great game. If you want to play casually for 10-15 minutes at a time this will frustrate the heck out of you.
Watch the video above for some idea of the levels of complexity in the game. I personally loved the cinematography and the characters. The main game loop is a turn based combat system that is satisfying and gory for fans of the show.
TinyTower by NimbleBit is a fantastic example of a well designed free 2 play title. There is a lot for casual game players to really love in this game, and it is layered so encourage play within the app for hours outside the core game loop.
Essential Game With Reason
This game is listed as an essential game by Apple with good reason. It really is that good. Disney licensed it to make Tiny Death Star, and there is a Vegas version now as well. This is a great game for just about anyone, even kids learning about strategy and business. There are a lot of good lessons here for game developers and game designers as well.
I started a game deconstruction series on YouTube where I break down Free 2 Play titles.
So far I have only done a few games. Idle Heroes, BBTAN, Scale, and Ballz. But I will add more over time.
The purpose is to look at the game from a game design / mechanic standpoint. What works, and what doesn’t? Lots of games are missing some small tweaks that could have a big impact on player engagement.
I am moving my blog, resetting my twitter to match, and lots of other social media changes for me.
I have used the @InfiniteCodex and InfiniteCodex.com for the past 7+ years. The mission of both of them has changed quite a bit over that time. I decided that now is the time to reboot my social media self for a specific purpose. This site will be about the indie games that I create, and the presentations I do around Indie Gaming in general. Could also slip in some game analysis and other things that I find interesting.
Gaming is a hobby for me. I did used to be a commercial professional game developer. Back in 1996 I was the lead developer for HeliCOPS, and a number of smaller games published here in the US and Japan. I don’t do that style of games anymore (big budget, big risk). Now I teach people how to make games at Code Camps and at the Microsoft Garage after hours. And I build little games for myself as a hobby. No aspirations to get back to the full time game gig. This is a pure fun thing for me. I like to write code, and I like games. I will explore what those two things mean in this blog over time.