In the casual game industry it is very common to clone games. In fact it is difficult to introduce a complete new game mechanic to users. Casual Gamers don’t want to spend a long time learning a game and one key aspects of casual games are that they are easy to learn. So many Game studios and indi game developers take a popular game mechanic and add variations to it. Sometimes the game only varies in some graphical aspects and detail. But today I want to talk about 3 examples of very similar game clones. I chose a recently quite popular game mechanic known as “Hidden Object”. I chose this example because it is a game-type that doesn’t allow many variation to the mechanics. So what is the difference between clones? Why do we buy or play a particular game and don’t play another similar one ?
This is a screenshot from PopCap’s Amazing Adventures – the very first hidden object puzzle that was released by them. This game was very popular and fun to play. Let me point out some points that I think helped the game to be so successful:
1. Material and object placement
Is this a cloud? Obviously the designers spend a lot of thought on creating this pictures and how to integrate the objects nicely. as in
2. Placement All the objects could be at this place in a picture.
3. Integration Great disguise for spades.
But there is more important aspects to this game
ColourSee how the colour matches in this picture? The picture actually looks appealing like this which makes it harder to find objects even if they seem obvious.
Sizing It is important in a hidden object game that the objects are in a size so you can actually see them. Also most objects in this puzzle have a correct size relative to each other. Of course some are bigger or smaller than they would be but there is no really odd size difference like a 1cm Eiffel Tower next to a 10cm rabbit
Identifiable objects Now this goes along with the size and is very important to make a game fun to play. Gamers want to find objects and they might like searching for one object a long time. If they finally find it they want to go “aaaah how did I not see that?” and they don’t want to go “really? That is supposed to be a…” or “yeah just randomly clicked there, doing the puzzle again and still can’t see it”
There is more aspects to this game but just focusing on the picture these are some main points that make the game enjoyable.
Now let’s look at example number 2:
This game is called Heidi Hunt and is created by a Danish company called Playtopia or Playandwin ( playtopia.com / playandwin.co.uk)
Ok first impression when you see this picture? It looks very messy. There are far too many objects in the scene and loads of them are just part of the background.
Let’s look at the details:
1. There is a red car in this circle. Can you see it? I think even if you know there is one it is hard to make out it is a car.
2. There is a Gingerbread man but the colour is a different black. If the contrast settings from your screen are set to low or the screen isn’t very good you would see nothing.
3. Look at this pile of objects, I think in this area are probably 7 objects you have to find but there are just too many objects in general.
Another point you can’t see is that the clicking area for some objects is quite small. So if you have to find a really small object and don’t exactly hit it you will get a fail try.
I am not saying this is a bad game, but just pointing out a few differences in comparison to the PopCap game. On the other hand the designers did put thought into the placement of objects: Many objects make sense where they are placed and tie in with the background nicely.
Now let’s look at the last example:
Hidden Gizmo by GameDuell.
In comparison to the previous example all objects are clearly identifiable and stand out from the background. They are not to small.
Still it seems that in this example objects are placed relatively randomly.
1. The exercise bike for example has really no relation to the background, colour or placement.
2. What is this object supposed to be?
3. Sizing The punk looks a bid weird next to the mouse that is twice as big.
So what is the main difference?
Well I guess the answer is budget. Especially in Hidden Object games it takes a lot of time and great designers to create interesting puzzles and that is probably also the reason why there are not many hidden object puzzles developed by smaller game studios. In the defence of GameDuell I have to mention that their game is part of their skill gaming platform which means they wanted to create a game which varies every time you play it so players will find it harder to “learn” game set-ups.
Well this was just an example of one particular game-type but what can be taken from it is something that applies to ever game: Clone a game and you probably know that the game mechanic works for players but there is a lot more to games and it is all this extras and details that distinguish games from each other. A great game idea isn’t enough to launch a new best-seller. Keep the users in mind, think about every detail and plan thoroughly, get a good designer and probably a good composer and listen to any feedback you can get. In the end it can be one tiny details that decides if a game is enjoyable to play or not.