If you haven’t played the iOS app ‘Dots’, please go download it. It’s an incredible game built simple and addictive, but in a good way. It’s a very soothing gameplay with soft rewarding sounds and a beautiful interface! Here is an article below from Wired about the 4 design secrets behind the game that was really intriguing!
Admit it, you’re still playing Dots. Even with the booming popularity of Candy Crush, you find yourself itching to hear the bouncy bleep every time you connect those brightly colored circles. You’re not alone. Since its release in May, Betaworks’ Dots has steadily climbed to more than 4 million downloads, with more than 450 million games played. According to Paul Murphy, SVP of product atBetaworks who worked on the app, 50 percent of people who have downloaded the game play it at least once a week and that on any given day, a typical player will open the app three to four times and play four to five games. In an app universe where games burn brightly and then burn out, it’s looking like Dots might actually have some longevity. But why? What about this game makes it so damn addictive? We talked to Patrick Moberg (the engineer at Betaworks who built Dots) about his design process. Below are a few theories on how to create a game that people can’t stop playing.
WHY NOT CRAM EVERYTHING IN AT THE BEGINNING? LET US EXPLAIN.
Start Slow, Build From There
In the weeks leading up to Dots’ launch, the design team stripped out half of the features they had originally created, leaving only what they believed to be the strongest and most essential aspects of the game. “We had a more complex system that aimed to reward clever gameplay,” says Moberg. “But it became a bit convoluted to explain.” Now that the app has its legs, Moberg and Murphy are beginning to slowly add back the more complex features they built in the beginning. Their hope is to add a multiplayer mode that would allow for players to compete against each other on their own devices via the Internet. They’re also looking at a move-based mode and want to implement arcade-style play, which would increase the game’s difficulty the longer you play. So why not cram everything in at the beginning? Let us explain in our next tenet…
Oversharing Is a Buzzkill
When you first open Dots, the first thing you notice is how little there is to notice at all. There’s no flashy intro and no real step-by-step explanation for gameplay. “There’s a trend to explain every UI element when you open a new app, which is really cumbersome,” Moberg said. “In Dots, we explain the bare essentials in an interesting way and then leave the player alone.” The lack of information was intentional. It’s not unlike courting a prospective mate—offer up too much information and the allure vanishes. Not explaining more complex moves and power-ups in the beginning created a sense of mystery and discovery. It also forced people to share information with each other about how to get the best score possible. “Learning something from a friend is much more powerful than learning it from a device,” he noted. Think back to the first time you made a square—that would have been way less cool if the game had explicitly told you that every dot of the same color would disappear from the board, right? Of course, with vagueness, there’s always a chance that users will get frustrated and not return, but that was a risk Betaworks could afford thanks to Dots’ intuitive design.
Keep Things Simple
Everything about Dots is simple, beginning with the rule set. “How quickly you can explain the rules to someone is a great way to gauge simplicity,” Moberg explained. But simplicity doesn’t translate to easy or boring. Rather, Dots is instinctual. Thanks to its clean, intuitive design, players immediately know to connect like-colored circles. “There was a lot of care put into the motions of the elements animating on and off the screen,” Moberg said. “It feels like the futuristic interfaces you see in movies like Minority Report.” The game’s look was initially inspired by dots-obsessed artist Yayoi Kusama. Unlike the Japanese artist’s scattered array of dots, Moberg kept things precise and orderly, which helped the game to feel fluid. Similarly, he wanted the design to avoid the heavy-handed cartoonishness of many current games. “Cartoon characters attract a certain group of players and repel another,” he said. “Neutral designs let the player inject their own narrative into the game.” The result is a game that you don’t get sick of looking at.
‘HOW QUICKLY YOU CAN EXPLAIN THE RULES IS A GREAT WAY TO GAUGE SIMPLICITY.’
Aim for Timelessness
The fact that you’re still playing Dots means the Betaworks team is on its way to accomplish one of its main goals: longevity. But making a digital mobile game feel timeless is not easy. “With the current version of Dots I was hoping to create something that can exist like a board game on a shelf,” Moberg said. “Something that you keep around and can come back to and play with friends.” To do that, the design team sacrificed some of the functions that are thought to help a game succeed. Dots isn’t pushy about making players share their data on social media and it doesn’t trick them into shelling out money in order to keep playing. “Timelessness has a lot to do with a player’s experience and the emotions they have during a game,” Moberg said, adding that any form of manipulation tends to degrade a player’s relationship with the game. Ultimately, Moberg would like to turn Dots into a go-to for 21st century family game nights. “Think of the digital board games that we could be playing with our families; and I don’t really mean porting existing games to the screens,” he said. “I mean creating new, original ones. We’re hoping to make that happen.”