Back to basics: the rules of the game

After focusing for a long time on a chessboard, I wondered what idea could came out of it. After a while, I decided to beat a dead horse, remembering the few rules that apply to games, if you follow them, you’ll craft a hit.


Simplicity is both a ux design question, and a gameplay question.

Not only popular games have easy-to-learn rules, but they also need a lot of time to be mastered completely. It’s the paradigm of checker, chess or go. It takes 2 minutes to learn the rules but 2 lives to master.

One of the combination you’ll find in angry bird, is the combination of a very simple gameplay and a very simple, promise: you’ll have childish fun. It is clear that this rule is of the essence.


Through simplicity, one achieves complexity. As we wrote earlier, it is hard to become expert in the most simple game ever designed as checker.

If you want to make a complex game it has to be very complex, and challenging. People will try it precisely because it’s frustrating, so the success will rely on a kind of myth, not in the gameplay (in the first place).

The specificity of online games

The web is full of simple apps that deliver good and addictive experience. Most of classics have already been adapted, and the tendency of copying 90’s game gameplay and graphic elements also tends to demonstrate this saturation.

Thus, online game industrials tend to give very recognizable traits to their games. Further, they create a hole universe around the game. Here the example of angry birds is eloquent: beside a very compelling graphic design, easily recognizable, a micro plot has been developed.


Here is the tricky part, and even if you managed the basic set of rules and a simple interface, this is the most random part of all the process.

I will explore different cases to understand how a simple app game becomes a hit

How 2048 became more popular than 1024

For Gabriel Cirulli, the creator of 2048, it has begun with a post on Github. He describes his work as mainly visual. The explosion was mainly not coordinated, he just excited a community, with the right product and the right design. As he writes in his blog he found his inspiration in 1024, a game he was addicted to, he just wanted to make his own version, but eventually he nailed it. On the 9th of May 2014 he wrote:

Asher Vollmer and Greg Wohlwend, its creators, have poured a huge amount of time and effort into it. They’ve recently expressed their frustration over the popularity that the clones of their game experienced. I understand what they must have felt like, and I have a huge appreciation of the amount of work and love they put into building Threes. 2048 owes its existence to it.

How comes that the same game, surpassed 1024 and Threes, that necessited a year and a half of work ?

The creators of the games themselves expressed their anger in a bill posted on their blog. They give us indirect insight about what happened, and it’s all about addiction. 2048 was tailored, even if it wasn’t on purpose, to become a productivity killer. Especially because parties was short.

Wired, compared the two in terms of UX design. They advocated that 1024 was superior, especially because its sound universe is deemed far better. Still focusing on this is missing the point about the breakthrough. According to their standards 1024 creators have created something almost perfect, a game that could be played for a year, whereas 2048 shift the focus on beating your own score. But the issue is to understand that when designing a game, you have two models: you can design an immersive game that will lasts for long or a short term game. In short, quiz are not made to be played for years, as angry birds creators’ declarations let it think.

One case of immersive game, at the opposite is Notpron. It’s raw design, and hard enigmas give a radically different user experience from all that exists around the web.

Angry Birds

Angry bird is quiet a different success for it has been developed by a studio. Still, every step of it’s process include the basics of game designing, Ux design, as well as psychological and social issues. As you may know, they was on the brink of bankruptcy. Angry bird was the completion of Rovio’s experience in the field of gaming. They made several sessions of gaming at their office for previous games, and gathered the notes as a guideline for angry birds according to the telegraph:

The information from these sessions had then been used to produce a blueprint of the “perfect” mobile game. The checklist ran to several thousand words, but, one of the main things they learnt was that each level had to feel achievable.

“It’s important that players don’t feel that the game is punishing them,” Niklas says. “If you fail a level you blame yourself. If the pigs laugh at you, you think: ‘I need to try one more time.’”

They also knew it was important that any game they designed could be played in short bursts – occupying those periods of “downtime”, such as queuing for a coffee or waiting for a bus, that had formerly been devoted to staring into space or, perhaps, reflecting on life.

For their launching strategy, they understood that crafting a catchy named product were crucial, and they teamed up with a US based firm Chillingo, expert at propping up apps on the app store.

Every rules of game design are relevant to online gaming, still if you wanna make something successful, don’t forget to create a universe of your own.

if you want to read further about the subject, you can read those links

The blog of Gabriel Cirulli

Angry Bird business case study

An interesting paper about Flappy bird success


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