Guest Post: Jewels with Buddies analysis

Editor’s Note: This guest post comes from game design consultant Adrian Crook, a producer and designer with credits on over two dozen games spread across a variety of platforms, including classic consoles like the Sega Genesis and modern mobile games for iOS. In 2006, he was named Producer of the Year by the Canadian New Media Awards. You can find out more about Crook’s consulting agency here.

In this analysis of Jewels with Buddies (JwB), we’ll focus on breaking down day one engagement, compulsion loop mechanics and friend invites. I’ve chosen to focus on these aspects of the game because together they represent a tight, focused mobile design.

Day One Engagement

Automatic Pairing

Immediately upon completion of a quick tutorial, the player receives a game request from a stranger. As it is the player’s turn first, they are immediately put into gameplay and engaged. With the asynchronous nature of the game, they already have a reason to return later. Being invited to a game (as opposed to the player having to reach out themselves) also helps the player overcome any fears of inviting others to play with them in the future.

As soon as the player has completed their first turn in their first game, the app presents them with another game invite from a random (non-friend) player. This flow gets the player in the habit of playing multiple games at once while they wait for their opponents. It is also an excellent example of “blurring the game loop,” which I’ll discuss later.

Using two random opponents for the initial matches instead of the player’s friends is smart; it ensures the player is matched with an active opponent and not a potentially lapsed friend.

User Created Game Funnel

With the booster rockets of two games now ignited with random opponents, the player is shown how to start a game of their own choosing (note: orange arrow is in-game art, not my own markup).

Taking no chances, the game walks the player right through the suggested new game creation process, proposing they start a game with a random opponent by default. Again, this is most likely to ensure the new player is matched up with an opponent who is not “stale” (i.e. the app finds a player with a recently opened random game and/or a track record of recent activity/fast turnaround on rounds). The wording below this dialog supports as much, as “start a game with an online opponent” implies that random opponents are ready to play now.

In a matter of just a few minutes, the player has already started and played their first turns in three matches with real people – a great start.

The Compulsion Loop

Getting Into Games

With the on-boarding and day one engagement cycle complete, the player is on their own to use the New Game Creation Menu and Main Games List to start up game loops.

The Rematch option found here is worth pointing out. Frequently, good opponents players find via random games are hard to track down again for future games. But this feature allows players to view a list of recent opponents from current and previous games, building rivalries and friendships that will make the player more invested and thereby increase retention.

Starting a new game via an opponent’s username is also vital to allow out of network player discovery and for those who don’t connect via Facebook. Frequently, 40 percent of a game’s online play comes from non-Facebook sources (i.e. a username system).

Lastly, on the Main Games List suggested games to start are always present.

Play More, Get More

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