Royal Match Dominates Match-3: What Can ALL Designers Learn?

March 11, 2022

Funovus Technical Designers share knowledge with each other to level up in what we call ‘Game Salons’. We do group playtests of games and discuss them together to refine our own game design skills. It’s a fun, social way for all of our designers to pool together our collective knowledge. The focus of one such ‘Game Salon’ was Royal Match.

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Who cares about Royal Match? Royal Match has made a meteoric rise into the top grossing charts earning it’s studio $25 Million Funding And $2.75 Billion Valuation. Royal Match is the first game from studio Dream Games, and it is a match-3 game like Bejeweled or Candy Crush — you all know what they are and have likely played one before.

Quality Matters — Polish Until It Shines Good designers are able to learn from any game, and there is a lot to learn from Royal Match. In fact, we came away with too many learnings from our ‘Game Salon’ to include them all. Instead, we’ll focus on a few very specific details you can apply to any game.

Frictionless FTUE — A Product of Polish & Simplicity

Everyone hates long tutorials with big hands forcing button presses, and a player's first impression determines the fate of a game. Our games can learn from Royal Match here, especially Wild Sky TD which still has some of these forced button presses. If everyone hates these tutorials, why do games have them and how does Royal Match avoid them? Simply, designers can’t afford to have the opportunity for players to get stuck early. The easy way to solve this is to force them to do the right things; but this isn’t as fun or effective. Royal Match’s alternative is just to polish the early moments so much that players don’t get stuck even if they aren’t forced.

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Trick 1: Rather than forcing the user path, switch UI pages automatically. During Royal Match’s FTUE users are shown the upgrade screen automatically if they have the resources to upgrade, otherwise the play button is shown. This way the user doesn’t have to force-click on the upgrade menu.

Trick 2: Design the meta flow to be simple by design. There are generally only two actions to take in Royal Match: upgrade the castle decorations or play another level. This isn’t a concession for the early game, they built simplicity and clarity of progression into the core of their game from the start. If players are struggling to understand your game, try making it simpler rather than cramming in more tutorials, button forces, and explanations.

Depth in Spite of Simplicity — A Product of Polish & Focus

However, this simplicity doesn’t sacrifice depth. Don’t make your game dumber, rather make it simpler by consolidating your focus. Focus on your core play mode and audiences. By reducing complexity, you can make what you have the highest quality.

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Trick 1: Make extra modes/systems and events feed into primary game mode. Royal Match has a ton of live events, but they feed into the main game mode rather than being separate from them. Every live event can be progressed by simply pressing the single “Play” button on the home screen. In other games, live events have their own special levels, play mode, or even special Gacha currency. It’s hard to keep track of and if you come back from a break or if you’re a new player, you can be lost or confused. But in Royal Match these events merely add optional goals to the primary line of progression. This adds depth and strategy without increasing the burden of knowledge: players can simply play the levels normally.

Trick 2: Have a lot of opt-in events that target different play session lengths and retention goals. Despite the simplicity, Royal Match creates depth by having a lot of these depths that all have different goals, rewards, and durations. After levels, players see what event progress they’ve made and intuitively understand how to adjust their playstyle to make faster progress on specific events based on how much time they have to play or what rewards they want most.

With these techniques, Royal Match still has depth. It just does it simply and elegantly by keeping the focus on the meat of the game; the primary levels. We’re looking at how we can learn lessons from the way Royal Match runs events to improve Wild Castle.

Communication via Animation — The Vehicle

UI animations are Royal Match’s vehicle to communicate its simplicity, polish, and focus. These subtle tricks masterfully communicate feedback to players without even being noticed. While their impact seems small at first glance, they add up to do a lot of heavy lifting to enable depth while still having simplicity.

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Trick 1: Use animated state transitions to communicate feedback to players. For example, the task menu in Royal Match doesn’t show previously completed tasks. However, when you first open the task menu the last objective you have completed will appear uncompleted at first. Then an animated transition of the task being completed plays and a new task appears. It’s a subtle way of reinforcing the feeling of progression and reminding players of the progress they’ve made previously, without the complexity and clutter of showing all previously completed tasks.

Trick 2: Visually show how currencies are gained and used. Any time you gain a resource it will fly from the place it was unlocked to the container it’s stored in to visually demonstrate where the reward came from and what the reward is. Other games will do this sometimes, but Royal Match does it consistently and goes a step further: when using task stars, it will also show them flying out of the star container and towards the task that is consuming them.

This trick and others like it allow users to construct an intuitive understanding of where resources are used and gained by making physical connections to actions, allowing Royal Match to simplify it’s UI and reduce text boxes and information dumps. These types of animations are used a lot in Pocket Quest, and we’re looking to bring this level of UI animation polish to Merge Wars as well.

Dig Deeper

These are only a few of the tricks Royal Match uses, and these are lessons that can apply to any game. The in-game animations, from the King’s portrait who watches your game and gets nervous when you’re close to losing, or the animation states of quest pieces like garden shrubs, are also meticulously crafted to be visually appealing and better communicate the rules. It’s designers also employ a strong understanding of psychology in the monetization, utilizing sunk cost fallacy, loss aversion, and stacking rewards to motivate last-minute emotional purchases.

There is so much more we’ve learned from the game than we could fit in this blog, and you can learn more as well if you join us If you want to share your knowledge and learn with us as we study other games in future ‘Design Salons’, Funovus has open positions for Technical Designers (and other positions) at www.funovus.com/careers. Keep following our blog and social media to join us next time for a look at Merge Dragons.