Gold, Goblins, and Good Game Design

July 08, 2022

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Gold and Goblins (created by AppQuantum) is a very unique idle game. It requires more action and strategy than traditional idle games but still maintains the incremental flavor of them. It has gained more than 10 million downloads since its launch. Let’s dig into the mines and find out its secret to success!

Idle income meets merge two

Gold and Goblins brings more action and puzzle elements to the idle game genre. Players need to use gold to buy goblins, merge them to higher levels, and plan where to put them to dig different ores. Higher-level goblins have better efficiency at mining, but ore also has higher levels that take longer to mine. Compared to other games in the genre such as Idle Miner Tycoon, it requires more action and strategy – making it higher engagement. The "merge two" feature also makes players curious about what the next level goblin will look like, which is another incentive to keep playing.

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Each Mine is a forced Prestige

After each mine, the game removes all progress except card levels. Mine levels, goblin generator levels, and all goblins are all wiped. The player has to start from scratch. This forced prestige feels unacceptable at first but soon makes each session more interesting. In traditional incremental games, prestige is usually controlled by the player. But for the player, it is very unintuitive to choose to remove all their progress and start over. It feels like a huge loss. In idle games where players control prestige, they tend to prestige too early (too few rewards) or too late (progress too slowly).

Forced prestige solved this problem so players will always be at the right and designed pace for playing the game. As we mentioned in our Rush Royale post, the juiciest part of an idle game is usually the first 10 minutes, and in G&G players can enjoy this at every single mine! We can use this same lesson for our games. If players need to reset their progress (such as prestige) doing it for them will result in better pacing.

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Perfect game loop designed for watching Ads

This game almost feels designed for players to watch ads. It's human nature to try to complete multiple tasks at the same time, and "Gold and Goblins" hacks our brain with its ad pacing.

In early games, goblins usually take around 30s to 1 min to finish mining an ore. During that waiting time, the game provides "watch ad" opportunities of a similar length. Players feel very smart accomplishing two tasks at once when they watch these ads. Watching ads during this period feels like a double reward: the reward from ads and the reward from their goblins’ work! We could totally use this in our games as well: pair up watch ads opportunities with idle timers that take an equal amount of time.

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Triple your income, and more!

The gold mines’ upgrade is almost the same as other incremental games, with one little innovation: a progression bar. In traditional idle games, upgrading a mine would increase its production efficiency at a flat rate. But in G&G every mine has its own progression bar. Every 10 levels, upgrading generates extra rewards – double, triple, or even x10 the efficiency! It also gives players some elixir, which is the most scarce resource in the early game. These set up mini-goals for players to chase and is way better than flat efficiency increases. When we are designing upgrades of any system, think about this mechanic–adding more staged goals, adding a progression bar.

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Live-Op event: same gameplay but different feeling

Live-Op event uses a different map but still similar mechanics. It feels like playing 2 instances of this game at the same time. However, this fits the game’s pacing incredibly well! Normally each side of the gameplay takes about 5 minutes of micro-management. Meanwhile, the other map has already accumulated enough resources for players to play again! Switching between two different maps massively increases players’ session length and brings a fresh breath into the gameplay experience. Clash of Clan had a similar setting for the builder’s camp and the original camp.

We can apply this to any games we're designing with mini idle mechanics to make them feel more engaging. For example, in Wild Castle we could add a live event that adds a second castle with progress starting from scratch. This could drastically increase the session length and retention for any game with timers.

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Deeper strategies as the game goes on

The game advertises itself as an idle puzzle game. At the very beginning, the puzzle part is not that obvious. Arranging goblins in different positions doesn't feel like it's making a huge difference in the game’s progress. But as the game goes on, worker placement strategy becomes more important. This is especially true in the Live-Op event where the game introduces a time limit. Players need to plan the best route to dig into the mine end. They also have to think about whether to merge goblins for higher efficiency or keep more helping hands to mine different directions.

Adding time limits to any easy game mechanics would make them more intense and strategic. But this should only happen in later stages of the game when players have mastered the game. For example, we can add a special event in Merge War where a player only has a limited amount of time to make decisions. That would make the game way more intense without changing any mechanics.

Conclusion

Gold and Goblins is a very addicting idle game with many innovative designs.

  • Embedded forced prestige system to keep players’ experience fresh
  • More actions and strategies compared to traditional incremental games
  • Perfect gameplay and pacing for watching ads
  • Live-Op event makes the same mechanics more strategic and session times longer

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