A tiny puzzle that grows on you.

The Rip-offs & Making Our Original Game

It’s been a weird and awesome couple of months. Our expectations for our tiny game were well, fairly tiny. Basically, we hoped it’d do better than Puzzlejuice. It did. By a lot. It’s still hard to address the world’s response with something beyond a wide-eyed daze but essentially we couldn’t be more thrilled. Duh.

But there’s another side of that daze that we wish to talk about. The rip-offs.

With Greg being part of the Ridiculous Fishing team, we’re not shy about calling a clone a clone, and believe us, there’s no shortage of straight-up clones out there, especially on Android. But it’s the not-really-clone sort of games, the rip-offs, that have popped up that have our feelings puzzled. We know how to deal with a clone, and likely, so do you.

First, it started on iOS with a game called 1024 released 21 days after Threes (February 27th). It’s different, but not. The sliding is there, the doubling of cards, the merging, even the art is extremely similar. There are differences. New cards spawn all over the place. Swiping up, down, left or right moves the cards the full distance possible. There are “stones” in the grid that never move. This last feature was likely a choice the developer made based on the fact that the game was too easy. It's not very fun.

Next, came 2048 about ten days later. A game system identical to 1024 with one tweak, it removed the stones. Since, the game has grown in popularity after a posting on Hacker News on March 10th. It’s freely available and open source, allows swipes so it can be played on the phone and has spawned many variants since, including our personal favorite: Numberwang 2048.

It’s all in good fun, at least we’d like to think so, but try as our logical brains might, we still got the same “cloning feeling". Especially when people called Threes, a game we poured over for nearly a year and a half, a clone of 2048. Others rifled off that they thought 2048 was a better game than Threes. That all stung pretty bad. We know Threes is a better game, we spent over a year on it. And obviously, Threes is the reason 2048 exists.

But why is Threes better? It’s better for us, for our goals. 2048 is a broken game. Something we noticed about this kind of system early on (that you'll see hidden in the emails below). We wanted players to be able to play Threes over many months, if not years. We both beat 2048 on our first tries. We’d wager most people that have been able to score a 768 or even a 384 in Threes would be able to do the same using the fabled “corner strategy”. You probably could too! Just try tapping “up” then “right” in alternating order until you can’t move. Then press left. You may not get to a 2048, but you might just see your highest score ever.

When an automated script that alternates pressing up and right and left every hundreth time can beat the game, then well, that's broken. Is Threes a better game? We think so. To this day, only about 6 people in the world have ever seen a 6144 and nobody in the world has yet to “beat” Threes. But that’s what’s better to us as game designers. We worked really hard to create a simple game system with interesting complexity that you can play forever. You know, “simple to learn, impossible to master”. That old chess-nut…

And it all happened so fast. Threes was cloned and beat to a different market within 6 days of release on iOS. 2048 isn’t that clone. But it’s sort of the Commander Keen to Super Mario Bros. situation. Imagine Tetris was released and then less than a month later (instead of years) Dr. Mario was released. Dr. Mario is a pretty great game by the way, so the comparison is a bit weird here. Hopefully you get the sentiment.

This sort of fast turnaround creates a lot of confusion and while it’s exciting and somewhat inevitable, it doesn’t make the aftermath easier to deal with as original creators. Maybe not a lot of people know Alexey Pajitnov made Tetris, but of those that care about that kind of thing, it’s fairly obvious to everyone that Tetris came first. If you’re aware of Dr. Mario, you’re almost certainly aware that Tetris exists.

The branching of all these ideas can happen so fast nowadays that it seems tiny games like Threes are destined to be lost in the underbrush of copycats, me-toos and iterators. This fast, speed-up of technological and creative advances is the lay of the land here. That’s life! That’s how we get to where we’re going. Standing on each others shoulders.

We want to celebrate iteration on our ideas and ideas in general. It’s great. 2048 is a simpler, easier form of Threes that is worth investigation, but piling on top of us right when the majority of Threes players haven’t had time to understand all we’ve done with our game’s system and why we took 14 months to make it, well… that makes us sad.

It’s complicated and hard to express these conflicting feelings but hopefully this is a start. We are so happy with Threes and how it has done and all the response. Seriously. And even writing this feels like we’re whining about some sour grapes that we have no business feeling sour about. Like it’s not ok to feel the way we do some of the time. But we do.

We do believe imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but ideally the imitation happens after we’ve had time to descend slowly from the peak -- not the moment we plant the flag.

It took awhile to climb this mountain, 14 months actually. So to “show our work”, we’re posting around 45,000 words that mark the trail we took. It’s not every text, skype call or even every email in our big 500+ email thread. But it’s the important stuff, and a lot of it was important to getting Threes out in the world.

~ Asher & Greg

The Threes Emails

All told, we sent 570 emails in this email thread. The first 100 were sent from 12/2/13 to 6/20/13. Then things start to pick up more up until release. Asher sends out a prototype on 12/2/13 to a number of friends, including Greg. And then it begins.

First Contact

Greg to Asher - 12/3/12

“what are all these 2s UGHHHHHHH”

Play the prototype! [PC & Mac]

Greg to Asher - An hour later

Greg to Asher - Next afternoon

ok so the atoms one is bs, don't even know why i'm showing you. the other one is based on additive colors. we'd do symbols with these as well or some kind of representation so it naturally doesn't screw with colorblind folks.

so basically. you've got G = 255, then a R,B = 255. when you combine these with a screen blending mode, they = 255, 255, 255 or white...

Asher to Greg - A little later

Awesome! I really like the tiles. Very solid and they definitely look merge-able.

Really dig the 3Dness too. I can totally imagine the arrows and walls having the same amount of depth.

Not too keen on the color scheme, to be honest. It feels a little abrasive and neon for my taste. Though if the game stays this simple we could make a bunch of color schemes and something like this could be an option.

I'm still going back and forth with how abstract the game should be, but if we go abstract this is definitely a superb option.

And I think I'm totally cool with their verticalness too. If we size it right, we could make it rotate appropriately on the iPad.

Sick dude! I'll let you know if I have any other thoughts.

And that’s how it started. Within a day it would seem we were fairly close to the final product. If you look at that last screenshot and compare it to the final version of Threes you can probably make out the changes necessary to get from A to B. Of course, the game itself had arrows and walls at that time so Greg was skirting a lot of the complexity in favor of getting a general look-and-feel quickly.

So what happened over the next 423 days? A lot… We’re not going to post everything, but we’ll go through all the key moments of development through our emails back and forth. For links to certain points, check the list of links with dates below:

Table of Contents

“Holes” and Argyle Style

From Asher - 12/7/12

Ahaha I love that you represented fire/water with the burner/pot of water.

Also note that I'm going to add "Holes" to the game as soon as I get a free second. You basically slide them into numbers to eat them and that's how you cash out points. I think it's going to be fun.

I get what you're saying about the liquid stuff-- that seems like the most elegant metaphor for the relationship between the numbers. Buuut I dunno the idea of moving molecules or liquid or chemicals doesn't really grip me, y'know? I mean I love science, don't get me wrong, but it feels very... cold. Abstract. And if we're going abstract I would rather go full abstract like the tiles you made earlier because Excellent Graphic Design excites me much more than organic chemistry.

So here's my lame marketing thoughts for the game: If we go full abstract with just numbers and graphic design then we have basically guaranteed the Drop7 audience. That's not a huge audience though and in doing so we will scare away... basically everyone else. But if we go full CutePandaTown on this game then we have the potential of attracting a much larger crowd, but then the Drop7 people might never even touch it. And the Drop7ers are probably our core.

In a crazy way, I sort of want to do both! It's dumb idea though because it's basically double the design work. (But since you asked: I was thinking two websites, two trailers, but they both pointed at the same app. And then when you start the game the first thing that pops up is a question like, "Do you like Pandas?" which would determine how the game is skinned)

ANYWAY: the gist is that the design we choose has to jump out and grip the audience in one way or another. And the only two ways I can think of right now are "Graphic Designy" or "Cute." I'll let you know if I think of any other ideas.

Oh geeze I was going to write some more srs bzns stuff, but I'm super late for work now. More later!

From Greg

alright i hear you. also: holes! cool.

i think that the liquid/molecular shit is just... yea. why even both when abstract is easier to explain anyway. BUT i do pretty strongly believe this game should have one voice/look/feel/brand.

related: for hundreds, about 5 months ago, i wanted to turn it all into blowfish so it'd attract a completely new audience, but as you progressed the graphics would start to glitch out, eventually completely revealing the core, original look and feel with red/grayscale. i still think it's awesome, because hardcore players would really get into it and casual players would never see it because they didn't get far enough. and then hardcore would kind of hear about "dude, i know it's blowfish but you gotta play it, it gets really weird and good and hard." i still kinda wish we did that, but it's ya know, ya gotta ship...

anyway, as far as two styles, i also kinda think that's the easy way out a bit? like it's avoiding the problem. everyone plays solitaire and playing cards are abstract, at least their individual design. we can make abstract look accessible.

like, i was just in the shower and then i was like ARGYLE! and then rushed out and made it. don't worry i'm not naked. but seriously, i think a pattern like this could kinda feel warm. it wouldn't have to be argyle. maybe it's fabric. maybe it's something else entirely. i added sort of a card frame for the numbers, maybe that's not necessary.

i am really open to any kind of possibility, but for me i just think that the real challenge is getting this into people's hands and them "getting it" without much exposition. imagine if we didn't need ANY? that's probably impossible, but i just feel like characters bouncing around then combining leaves a lot of holes. like black bears can't combine with each other but they do combine with white bears and but pandas can combine with eachother? why can't i have a group of white bears? a group of black bears? and then combine them both to have a group of pandas as well?

one idea would be sperm + egg = mitosis. then the cell divides as it gets combined with other cells (threes). obv, not marketable. but something out there that kinda makes sense. sperms don't wanna combine. neither would eggs. but cells might? like you multiply the number of divisions. i dunno.

i think just in general we can have a "soft" look without being overly saccarin that also explains the game really well in a more abstract, fundamental way. unless we come up with the perfect visual metaphor that people can instantly relate to. i think it might exist out there, but i haven't found it yet.

From Asher

At work so not verbose but: holy shit argyle is brilliant.

From Greg

fuck yes. it was one of those shower ideas.

From Greg

ok, phew. hereeeeee weeeee go

mouth might be a bit wild. and then yea. some wall ideas. some arrow ideas. mostly happy with the basic one though.

tired now. night nightttt

From Greg

ok way better monster mouth idea, after seeing spacejam midnight showing

From Greg

i gotta say, the holes are awesome, they make total sense. i DO really like the arrows, at first i didn't it's a high level skill to be able to push one out of the grid. the walls, i feel less able to work with, but yea. i GUESSSSSS the thing i'm trying to say is that "what if it was justs threes and holes?"

the games would last longer for sure, but maybe that's kinda good? i dunno...

also there's kind of a high level thinking with the holes as they are that if you get a huge number three going and then you try and baby your first hole, if it swallows another three, then... maybe it's start over time? it'd be cool to be able to recover from that. like you try and go to the last possible moment with getting that hole up to like a 20x+ and then you eat that 100+ three and BLAMO! high score. sooooo that kind of risk/reward dealio could elminate the need for something like walls that generally brings the game to a close. i think spikes are cooler, but i've just never been too sold on either.

i think one thing that contributes to the spikes are better than walls, is that i feel like i have much more power to deal with them. now... when there are three or more, i'm fucked a bit. i know i can do stuff with walls by merging and stuff, that's good, but it feels like the same kind of action/thinking as spikes, but with less clarity.

From Asher

Okay whew sorry for not responding sooner, but I've been trying to drown myself in the design and figure out what'll give this game legs. The holes feel mixed to me at the moment. They add a nice risk/reward element, but something about them is making the game feel like a grind for me. I dunno. I think there's needs to be something about the way you summon them or protect them. Right now they show up every 30 turns, which is arbitrary and unfun.

Still working on it, but doing little things like changing the starting conditions of the game makes the whole thing feel way better and snappier on the whole. (Less "waste" moves.)

Holes still might be the answer, but I don't know. Either way that monster is absolutely kick ass. I burst out laughing when I saw it. The eyes are fantastic. The monster makes me want to keep holes.

Personally I really like the walls. Maybe it's just because I've played this game a 1000 times already, but the walls make me think differently and more about navigating around the board. And it's a nice sub-goal to swallow them from the side. The arrows, too....... oooh like maybe holes can wrap around the board like arrows. Gotta prototype that.

I am super super super sold on the argyle thing. I search for "argyle" on google images and I just get all these warm feelings. Also Argyle is a fantastic word and I'm sure we'll figure out an amazing related name for the game. Also if we just cram all the different argyle layers into a single atlas it'll be super easy to switch them out for skin packs.

Right now I'm thinking that skin-swapping will be simplest extrinsic reward. Like "Hey you made it to move 200 for the first time! Have this panda-styled pattern." And then we don't have to worry about powerups or anything.

Hmmm do you think the default theme could be a little warmer? The black background feels a little oppressive to me. Oh man can you make it feel like a warm sweater I want to curl up in?

From Greg

New Version with a Hungry Monster

From Greg - 12/10/12

i just ate a 6000 point chunk of food.

man. i just don't feel like it's work? i dunno... it makes me think so much more about my actions, planning moves ahead. and the pay off is soooooooo good. my monster was like at 30 or something? ate a 160+ some square. the game was like 3 minutes total. and you get sort of "threes vision" for the basics 1s and 2s and so it's all about perking up when shit gets real. like spelunky, maybe you get good enough where you auto-pilot and then... you see a shopkeep you just gotta kill. or you get to the black market. or whatever.

i know it's extrinsic because it's points but it's really not. you've seen that 160+ square grow up. you grew it. you've seen that monster get hungrier and hungier. you made that happen. now it's time for it to eat. is feeding a starving snake a rat extrinsic?

i don't want to belabor the point but i just feel like this game is super fun. maybe i'm not playing at high enough level? or i'm not playing it enough? i just, it doens't feel like a grind to me. it feels like The Game.


Greg Wohlwend

Play the Monster Prototype! [PC & Mac]

From Greg - A bit later...

can't stop playin!

one thing, and this might be a temp balance thing, but every time i get an arrow off, another one comes right back next move. it doesn't seem like it wraps but it does seem like it's always the next turn. like i had two arrows to start off and i'd almost always get them off one right after the other, and then, sure enough, there are my two friends comin' back to play. anyway, i wanna get those bastards outta my hair for a bit. i earned it! :)

From Greg - A little later...

another thing real quick. there's a lot to be said for a way to explain this game in a sentence. puzzlejuice had it on the clever/marketing side "brain punch" but also the direct pitch "it's tetris, boggle and bejeweled".

i have trouble explaining this game to people in a few sentences. i feel like the monster/hole solves that kind of a lot. "you torture a monster until he's as starving as you can get thne you feed him the biggest chunk of food you possibly can." it's not super brief or anything, but it's kinda more "special". having that "special" thing that people can latch onto and parrot is pretty key.

From Greg - Later still...

broccoli cheese probably isn't a winner, but you get the idea. i have another idea that's slightly weirder but might be much more readable for displaying the food. also the colors of the cutting boards are pretty horrendous. so don't look at that?! :)

From Greg - Even later...

ok, had to do the apple.

From Greg - 12/13

oh man... hmmmm so i just took a pretty fresh look at the old version, solid argyle. and it's kind of like... really strong i think. he's the argoyle, he only eats argyle and that all makes sense. solids are not edible, argyles are.

the food is cool though, i mean i want that to work. anyway, just having second thoughts.

From Asher

Yeah I hear you, dude. I was kind of thinking the same thing.

It's super clear and metaphorically sound if we go the pure argyle route. And it's probably super tricky to get food looking appropriately delicious inside of the square limitations. And there's no good way I can think of to animate the foods coming together.

I feel like argyle should be our Main Thing. We can get clever and stuff in certain skin packs, but sticking to these attractive patterns will be super strong and, almost as importantly, super fast.


Walls and a New Schedule

From Greg - 12/14/12

so i had an idea last night for some interaction stuff that might communicate things better.

basically, when you swipe, we've got this whole other interaction compared to just arrow keys. arrow keys are a binary sort of thing, whereas a swipe is a spectrum. it poses some real interaction problems.

when you swipe, and don't release, can you undo? is that a way to test the waters? or is it just any swipe in any direction in the slightest locks you in? i feel like that would probably feel horrible, but then again... "undo" is sort of bizarre.

generally, people don't understand there are walls on the opposite side of where you swipe. these would animate up (as you swipe) to reflect that. the whole idea of walls and non-walls and pulling and squeezing should feel pretty good with this. i think i might mock it up. ok, that's what i've got.

the argoyle is still in flux. the arrows i don't hate.

From Greg

updated argoyle and introducing poundstooth, a bit rough and from the hip but he's here.

From Asher

Blah sorry for the radio silence.

I'm sort of a little overwhelmed at the moment with a bunch of different projects and trying not to be a social shut-in. (Admittedly all of this is self-inflicted.) The current plan is to finish my current Ardunio project before I leave for Europe this week with the family. I'll bring my laptop with me, but I probably won't get much done while I'm there.

I get back around new years and that's when I want to kick Threes production into high gear. Is it crazy to try to be feature-complete by the end of January? We don't have many features! In fact I'm going to list them all right here:

Core Game Tutorial Menu Flow Music SFX Monster Animation Game Rotation (for the iPad/PC) Leaderboards Achievements Twitter Skin Packs IAP (Undos?) Puzzlejuice Cross-Promotion And then we can spend February fixing bugs and adding skins or whatever juice we can think of.

Okay and now feedback stuff:

I totally think we should add some preview hey-this-block-is-going-to-merge-and-this-block-isn't feedback to the swiping. But we shouldn't go through the whole rigamarole of totally merging and spawning the new blocks until they confirm the action. Mainly because the player shouldn't know where the block spawns before they take the action. (And if the player can find out by half-swiping, then the optimal tactic would be to half-swipe in every direction before taking a critical move, which doesn't sound fun)

Super dig the blocks spawning in through those bars. It's way more elegant than sliding from off screen. And I like the idea that the monster can travel through them. I dunno about the walls popping up when you slide in that direction, though. It feels like visual noise that doesn't help much. And people seem to be able grasp the limits of the board. The boundaries are going to be challenged when we have the monster hopping around, of course, but that's why the wrapping is limited to hard mode.

Still going back and forth on whether or not the non-argyle tiles should have numbers on them. It's more visually pure without them, of course, but I sort of like the mathy context that the numbers give. I'll keep thinking about it and it'll be easy to prototype both ways.

Digging how the arrows match the argyle diamonds, but I'm worried about the fact that horizontal arrows and vertical arrows look different. Maybe if they were squished down into perfect diamonds (rotated squares, basically) it would look more unified? I'm a little concerned that the white line might be too subtle? Hmmm

Digging the new Argoyle design. Love the dots in the mouth and the diamonds-as-eye-markings. I can totally picture him jumping out of that tile and being a complete monster.

Have you thought about how it'll look when the monsters eat the tiles? I haven't been able to wrap my head around it yet. Maybe they just turn into crumbs/dust and the monster chomps appropriately.

Poundstooth looks bad ass! I love his teeth! Something to keep in mind, though, is that I was hoping we would animate the monster to be alive and have reactions to the player's moves and sort of eye the closest juiciest nest-egg. (Also I'm excited to record some growls for the sound effects.) We can totally support different monsters, but we're going to have to animate them all uniquely and we absolutely shouldn't have a different monster for every skin pack. And then the players can have fun with mix n' matching monsters and argyle types.

Okay I think that's everything. Sorry again that there probably won't be another playable this month D: January's going to be the month of rock, though. You've been killing it all this week, though!

From Greg

haha argoyle socks would be so fucking cool dude. i can have the toe part be the monster head/mouth and then the argyle goes up the calf like a normal sock.

ps. puzzlejuice skin = awesome. also, i still dig the purple/green/white colors from that original mockup, i kinda feel that's what the drop7/puzzle hardcore folks will get into. so between pj (maybe that's a secret unlockable after a certain point) argyle, houndstooth, solid purp/green/white... we can also do plaid, paisley and pin stripes. that's 7 total. 6 mains and 1 secret pj? maybe we give them 3 options (masculine like solid or pin stripe, feminine like paisley, then argyle) and then the other 3 are unlockable through progression through the game, earned or hell, IAPed, secret pj is unlocked in some other secret manner.

ok onto the game game email:

schedule: check, check. looks good. feature complete sounds perfectly reasonable knowing how we work together. i am currently having a lot of fun working on it, so i just work on it because i feel like it. i've got other stuff too. i think 4 projects total right now. RF, lasers, effing hail and threes. i'm gonna pull onto effing hail this week and get that to a point wehre we're hopefully feature complete. but three i kinda end up doing when i can't sleep because i'm thinking about threes or whatever. it's just really fun to work on for me.

merge preview: great idea. yea i think a preview is definitely the way to do it. it'll feel good without giving away the juicy bit of which card is gonna come out and where.

block/barrier spawning: i dunno, i really feel like this is something people don't get. i think if it's attached to the "merge preview" especially if it's tied to distance from pull/touch then they'll get it almost immediately. it's a faded kinda bg element so it's not in your face after you've "gotten" that the barrier comes up, otherwise without something like this hmm... though maybe the slot popping up explains it enough.

arrows: yea i feel like the arrows need an "Idea" that we just haven't come to yet. similar to how the monsters came out. they are different beings in this world and making them an arrow card thing feels weak. i think a more bold shape would help, for sure. but i also just feel like the problem is deeper.

monster animation: i have, and i'm pretty pumped to get that down into a .swf. there's a lot of ways to go. i do think this could (and maybe should?) be the most involved piece of programming/animation/polish we'll do in the game. it should bring people pure joy.

We can totally support different monsters, but we're going to have to animate them all uniquely and we absolutely shouldn't have a different monster for every skin pack. And then the players can have fun with mix n' matching monsters and argyle types.

shouldn't = should here, right? or am I missing something. so you're saying different monsters, but not tied to the pattern types?

ps. regarding "no playable sorries": dude don't worry at all. there's still so much for me to chew on and i know you've got tons going on. don't worry another hair over any of that.

later gator! pppppps. have fun in europe. that rocks.

Hundreds Launches

Over the next couple of weeks, Greg goes off to work on the launch for Hundreds as well as to their respective families for the Holidays.

From Asher - 1/3/12


Congratufrickenlations on the amazing Hundreds launch!! As far as I can tell from lurking on Twitter and the toucharcade forums and your freaking FRONT PAGE APP STORE FEATURE you are in amazing shape and probably don't need to work on Threes any more because you'll be busy rolling around in a satisfied daze for the next few years.

Totally 100% deserved. Loving the game so far but geeze all that amazing polish makes me melt. The seamless screenshots, the 60 fps, the super clear death screen. Also I've been screenshotting the codes when they pop up so hopefully I'll be able to figure those out at some point.

I've been cracking down on making Threes work in futile for the past few days and I'm just about done porting it over. The rest of this email is my plan of attack so DO NOT READ until you want to start working on something unhundreds.


First a clarification about the monster thing: what I was thinking is that if the monsters are different shapes for every pattern (like argoyle and poundstooth are) then they'll all need their own set of animations, which sounds like a lot of work. The possible solutions are

A) We have a single monster shape/template that we use for every pattern

B) Most of the patterns use the same shaped monster, but some will have a special monster (like houndstooth)

C) We have 1-3 monsters that can be mixed+matched with the different patterns

I'm open to any of those.

Okay so Futile is a rough new engine and it shows. It's super clean and efficient and pixel-perfect which is great, but Rix is just one dude. For instance: I spent all last night figuring out how to fix the fact that text didn't center properly. This has slowed down the porting process in an annoying way. It's just about done, though.

In order to focus my energy and make sure I don't dive any further into the add-features-to-an-engine-that-isn't-mine rabbit hole, I've laid out a rough plan of attack. It's tight and going to be tricky, but I think it might actually be doable:

January 3-10: Complete Game Flow + Analytics January 10-17: iOS + Start Art integration January 17-24: Revise Game Design + Tutorial + More art integration January 24-31: Technical stuff (patterns, game center, IAP, twitter,etc)

This week I want to complete the entire game flow, which means getting all of the menus working and out of the way. Without a visual editor, creating menus is a pain in my rear. It'll be easy to modify them, but the setup is such a hassle. On top of that, it'll be nice to have a skeleton of a working game that we fill in with metaphorical muscle and flesh. Also I want to get analytics in there because I'm curious what our playtesters are up to.

Next week I want to get it on phones and drop some art in there. Also I know the core game is not totally done and will feel different once we get it mobile, so I've accounted for time to shift the game design around a bit.

Brief srs bzns interlude: We never wrapped up the exact deal (my bad) so I just want to get it out of the way. If you want to stay hands off like in PJ then that's totally cool. 60/30/10, then?

Finally I've written out the total menu flow. It's about 10 screens all together. Not bad! You'll probably recognize a few of them from Puzzlejuice:

+Splash Screen +Main Menu -Simple Monster / Resume Game -Clever Monster / End Game -Patterns -Scores -More +Confirm End Game -Yea -Nea +More -About -Tutorial -Sound y/n -Music y/n -Puzzlejuice +Game -Core Game -Main Menu Button +New High Score! -Name field -Proceed +Recap -Go Again -Stats (Score+Moves+Biggest bite) -Tweet -Main Menu +Tweet Screen -Tweet Score -Tweet Biggest Bite -Log Out -Back to recap +Patterns -Scrolling Marketplace -Instructions How to Unlock -Apply button -Buy button -Main Menu +Scores -Simple Monster scores -Clever Monster scores -Gamecenter +Puzzlejuice -Goes straight to the App Store, maybe? +About -Working links to our websites -Working links to our twitters

Okay that's the news from Lake Woebegone. Enjoy release week, buddyyyy!

From Greg

thanks dude! it's been a bit unreal. i have threes open right now actually (the ai file) so i wanna work on it. things are waylaying me left and right but i think working on stuff is going to be good for me.

so. 1 thing. and this ties into the srs bsns. basically, i want to do what's going to make the best video game. if me doing the integration makes for a better video game because you spend less time monkeying with that shit and more time polishing or designing or coding cool stuff we'd otherwise have no time for, then i htink we should do that. i'm familiar with unity and a plethora of other 2d game tools, so i think i'll be alright. heck for gballs i did some c++. mike set it up for me as a skeleton but i did the rest and it was nice because instead of me saying the text box was off 3px, i just did it. so yea, i get the feeling that'd be a big help and maybe we turn out something super slick because of that?

as far as teh schedule, i've gotta say that it does feel like we're jumping into integration for me a bit fast. i wanna make sure that the menu mockups are tight and we allot enough time for that. however, that shouldn't be too much trouble if i'm doing integration, i can pop in a bit later and you can work with placeholder stuff hopefully until i'm ready to operate.

a few thoughts to bounce around, anyway let me know whatcha think. :)

oh yea duh. monster stuff. i'm gonna lean towards what's less work for sure. it seems like doing one monster type to start and treating it like a skin is best. if we do want to expand, we can always do that later. (at least i think we should be able to, right?) mght be good to keep that in mind in case this puppy warrants an expansion/update kinda thing.

ok rad :) i'm going to try and work on some menu stuff and flesh that out ASAP.

From Asher

Duuude if you're down the help with integration then I'm all for it!! It'll lighten my load and let me focus more on design and it'll make the game prettier and it'll keep me sane and it's just good for the entire world basically. Awesome!

I can spend time next week hooking you up with the code and showing you how it works :D I guess I should set up some sort of source control now. (Usually source-controlling Unity is a pain, but Futile is all text files. Handy!)

Clearly 50/40/10 is the way to go.

The schedule: Next week I was just hoping to take the assets you've already made and dropping them in just so we could get a better feel for the game, but we can totally push back everything else.


From Greg

rad rad rad! sounds great!

so waking up this morning, shit done blew up and i'm having trouble focusinggggggggggg. hopefully i can calm down soon though but yea. hundos be hundoing

From Asher

Dude no worries at all. Bask in it! Ride the explosion!

From Asher

Dude no worries at all. Bask in it! Ride the explosion!

From Greg

allllright! so hundreds housekeepin is definitely gonna be A Thing. but here's my schedule...

basically, ridiculous fishing is cancelled if it's not done by the end of january. i'm flyign to NY next week to finish it next to zach. this week i'm going to try and get you setup with a ton of UI and everything else so next week you can roll on it without too much trouble.

ok so that's my plan! here's to this week! :)

Greg Leaves for NY to Finish Ridiculous Fishing

From Greg 1/10/13

also, did we ever discuss how ballscrazy you meeting johnny in line for coffee because you had hundreds on your phone?! because thats banananannanananannanas and i still cant get over it. we probably discussed in this very thread but the iphone is annoying anyway. yes. that is all

here's a splash, my favorite so far:

however i'm not sure it's Right. other ideas i have for the splash:

an argoyle sitting to the right of a "3" card eyeing it. when the game goes live, he starts to slobber and then you swipe to eat it.

two argoyles, similar to the style of the screenshot linked above. called "The Argoyles" like a family portrait, one mrs. one mr.

two argoyles and one card in the middle. one is the "clever" argoyle. the other is the "simple" argoyle. depending on which way you swipe chooses the clever/smart game mode.

i think those are all kinda... well... clever. especially the last one. however! i'm worried how immediately useable that'll be. i'm kinda big on that now, especially since gasketball and now seeing how hundreds is working. i want people to have 0 friction getting into the game.

so this is me sort of exploring the Big Idea of the ui and how it'll all be setup.

another idea in general that i think would be super cool for transitions:

step 1:

step 2:

step 3:

step 4 - 6: open the mouth into new thing. maybe on step 3 we can afford a bit of a pause for loading times, or some sort of idle animation... yea, anyway...

here's another quick idea for general ui inside the mouth:

this one is incredibly rough, but the general composition isn't horrible. it's a little basic though, ui wise and lacks decent hierarchy. not that exploration wouldn't be fruitful though.

anyway, let me know whatcha think and if you have any wild ideas of your own, lay 'em on me!

From Asher

Ahhh shoot sorry sorry for being quiet so long. It's been kind of hectic. I made a resolution to stop turning down social engagements and that got kind of out hand this week. And then it was hard to just get started on work again. Totally my bad for not at least shooting out a status update.

BUT I'M BACK. And I've just about got the entire game flow working. (With a lot of placeholder menus, of course, but the whole skeleton should be done by tonight.)

Thoughts about things:

1) Good luck in NY! I want RF to exist, so god speed to you fellas. Moving forward into next week, I can definitely take+use the assets you've made already and pop them into the game. Obviously we'll be revising, but I think it's important to replace the current "hole" with an actual monster before I start sending out the game to new testers.

2) WTF Johnny Love. I've mentioned to you that I've watched the 4/4ths trailer one thousand times, right? Meeting Johnny totally kicked me in the pants. I found it hard to express to him how much that thing influenced me. He just sort of nodded and smiled. Also I wasn't actually playing Hundreds at the time! I was reading the Gamasutra article on my phone and he saw a screenshot. I haven't tried hundos on the phone but does it... does it work at all?

More Hundreds stuff: I was explaining to my friend over skype that it was full of cryptography and she got absurdly excited and started scribbling in a notepad trying to figure one out while I held the iPad up to my webcam. Then I accidentally touched the text and it EXPLODED INTO THE DECRYPTION INTERFACE and both of our brains melted. Pure joy.

3) DAT UI.

Ahhh I absolutely love the look/love that the interface is getting!! The vignetting makes it feel warm and cozy (like argyle) so I am totally pro all of that.

The splash screen looks great, but actually hopefully might not be necessary! If this game is as small+sleek as I hope it is, we could theoretically have ~1 second loading times! That might just be a wish/prayer, though.

The monster transition is excellent and clean and totally viable. I was thinking though... I notice the drop shadow between the main interface and the lower argyle backdrop. I can't help but wonder what's under there. It might be a sleek way to load the game or other menus if the teal background just slid straight up and revealed all the argyle underneath. We could put the options menu in there and maybe some between game loading-jokes? And then the teal just slides back down when the game is loaded. This MAY look strange if the game loads fast enough, though. Hmmm.

Still trying to wrap my head around how to get sliding into the main menu. I'm super happy we did it with Puzzlejuice. I think it might actually be more clear if we reverse the way you have it set up in that last mockup, where we have an argyle on either side of the monster like so:

The obvious downsides to this approach is that we lose the idea of two monsters who have different amounts of intelligence (I realized the simple monster was like a cockney peasant only as I was editing this mockup) This saddens me because I was growing on the idea of an argoyle family. The upside is that this clearly mimics the mechanics of the game where there's one monster who has a choice of argyles to eat. The downside is that once the monster eats the selected game mode, the OPPOSITE game mode is left behind, which might make it look like that's the one you selected >_<

This is tricky. We should keep thinking about it. I think in Round One of art integration they're just going to be buttons.

Thanks again dude for pumping out all of these kickass ideas! Seeing these definitely reinvigorated my desire to work on the game. Speaking of... OFF I GO.

Excitement Fades and Time Passes

From Greg - 1/21/13


so that new mode is really cool. it's got a sort of "thinking mans" kinda thing going on. is it just to kinda test it out? i still think the previous version was super rad and had more "cleaning up" and success in it, i also liked that it had one very direct lose condition. with this mode it's interesting that the lose condition is tied to scoring a high score, but i still miss the previous argoyle version.

sorry for the quick driveby, deep in da fishin' zone. :)

From Asher

Yeah I was just testing it out. I was trying to figure out how to deal with that sense of "oh no I have to keep playing and build up the monster again" after I got a gigantic bite. But Zach emailed me a good idea for the monster and I'm going to try it out tonight.


From Asher

Built sent! No idea if it's fun. Too tired to know much of anything.

Alas I see no icon. Try again?

At this point, Greg is just finishing up a huge crunch on Ridiculous Fishing and living with Zach Gage at his New York City apartment . A couple months have passed since the initial 0-60 excitement of the first few prototypes and the game seems to be stagnating. Emails and builds pass slowly as Zach and Greg burn themselves out on 14 hour days to finish Ridiculous Fishing. It won't be until mid February that they talk seriously about things...

Asher is Dissatisfied with Threes

From Asher - 2/17/13

Here's the thing I wrote last night


Okay I've been hinting at this, but I've spent some time thinking about it (and I spent a lot of time yesterday playing the damn thing) so I'll just come out and say it:

Threes, in its current state, is not worth releasing. And by current state, I mean the actual game part. I know there's a lot of menu/UI polish ahead of us, but I don't think any of that will fix the core problem. I've been trying to think of a nice succinct way of putting it, but the problem is worth more than one sentence.

Okay here we go. The game is fun to learn because the rules are new and quirky and interesting. Learning how to manipulate the field is an interesting challenge, but eventually you figure it out.

After that, the game is fun moment-to-moment. Each move is relatively low impact and the game is turn based, which means the player gets to pick how fast they plays based entirely on their current mental state. Because of this, the player is very likely to go into the flow state (that "cleaning your room" feeling), which is legitimately super great.

The problem is that everything interesting about the game ends there. The moment you've A) learned the game and B) played with the game for a while-- there is nothing left to achieve. The game ends, I lose my flow state, and then I have no desire to continue. My personal skill at the game has plateaued, and with nothing driving me to keep playing I see no reason to try to improve my score.

Just writing this has given me some ideas how to fix the game-- but I'm not 100% sure of any of them. I'm going to keep putzing around with the design, but I just wanted to let you know where my head is at right now. Also if you have any ideas please shower me with them :D


I didn't send the email because the contents seemed kind of heavy and I don't trust myself to make such weighty statements so late at night.

I tried implementing one of my ideas last night (namely that the playing field expands every time you get an arrow off the board) but it turned out to be a bigger technical challenge than I could manage at 2AM. Gonna keep trying for it throughout the week.

It was a real blow, and shortly before, Asher flew to Chicago for a weekend where we both poked at things a bit, but we both sort of felt this crushing weight about the reality of the game. We both sort of knew it, Asher moreso than Greg. The excitement and drive wasn't there anymore and something was missing. So after Chicago and this email that was the wake-up call, we decided to table the game indefinitely. It sucked, until a month later when Greg throws a question in the ring...

One Last Effort Before the Hiatus; Stone Prototype

From Greg - 3/8/13

should we just kill the monster?

i am sorta on the case again and im just wondering if reducing things to their base elements (with the arrow -> three board clear thing) might give us more clarity...

the win/loss case of clearing the board/filling it makes so much sense maybe its the monster that is confusing us from going forward.

on that note, what if it's combining odds/evens, so there is much more variety, a la drop7. hmmm no, it's 2am ok goodnight

The e-mail is coming from inside the iPad!

From Asher

I've been trying to wrap my head around this...

My current hunch is that the monster is good because it gives the game a focal point. I think that one of my original goals (having every move effect the entire board) is actually more of a detriment than anything-- it's clouding the impact of each swipe and making it seem like your decisions are random and non-meaningful.

I've been meaning to prototype the idea of moving ONLY the monster all week, but this illness has been putting a cramp in my brainstyle. I'm feeling better, so I'm going to try it when I have a free moment this weekend. Also I think your idea of stopping the monster from getting too hungry might be super perfect. He's constantly building up and demands more and more satisfying food every time, maybe?

ideas idea ideas

From Greg

aw shitty, forgot you were sick. yea dude take your time. i guess the thinking behind stripping things back down is that we have a better zero point to go from for thinking about ideas that we could throw into the system. i dunno. might shake things up.

i htink the monster is good too, it's definitely good thematically and also, like you said, sort of as a focal point game wise. but yea. maybe we'll learn more about the game with something more basic and then bring the monster back in more confidently.

From Asher

Development stufff: Okay okay so I spent all day redoing the game (again) and I ended up with a thing. The game has been temporarily visually downgraded (like the tiles don't actually move anymore) because I wanted to strip away Futile and make the logic much cleaner/reworkable.

(Totally glad to be done with Futile. The game uses more draw calls, but I working with the editor is sooo much better for my workflow than fiddling with text files.)

The game's definitely confusing without the slidey transitions, but fortunately it should be pretty straightforward to add the animations back in when I have a second.

Game design stufff:

Anyway, the game is WEIRD NOW. The arrow keys now only move the monster, not the whole board. He pushes the blocks around like no one's business. The monster will wrap around the board, but blocks will not. The catch is that he's ALWAYS HUNGRY and will eat a 3 if he touches it. But when he does, it spawns THREE blocks to random spots on the board.

The most effective way to fight the rising tide is to merge several 3s together, which is a lot trickier than before because the monster will eat any 3s he touches.

When all the board is filled up, you lose.

Score stufffff:

Your score is the number on the monster. Every time he eats, your score is increased by the block-you-ate squared. Because of this my average score is ~300, but my top score is 4,242, from when I ate a 64 block.

Here it is!!!

I have no idea about how to feel about it. I almost didn't talk to anyone today, so my brain is kind of untrustworthy.

okay dead sleeping now.

From Greg

man, this is DIFFERENT! ok cool.

i've played about 10 rounds so far, still picking at it.

sort of a streaming consciousness thing:

man. this one is a real brain turner. it's good. but i lost that feeling of cleaning up or at least the feeling of being in control of things. it's much more, eat -> arrange as best you can -> admit there's nothing left to do -> eat (and sometimes it's for a lot of points). i don't think that's bad, but i do wonder if you added wrap-pushing, if the game might be accessible, or at least easier, maybe too easy. i dunno.

From Greg

ok, this felt pretty good (opening round)

haha, damnit:

now i am TOO good!

maybe i needed to unlearn some things?

hmmmm yea maybe that was it. i was too into thinking of 3s as the gold and not enough into thinking of them as.... lava? or lava that later becomes food? haha

holy fuck

dude. this game

From Greg

i'm on afuckin route!!!!

so the game is a bit too easy as it stands, but that's a great sign in my opinion. much easier to make something more difficult by adding fun new things than the other way around. yea man. so hey. i'm so charged up it's hard for me to sit in my seat. i'm pacing.

From Greg

accidentally ate my big boy:

maaaan. felt like i might of been able to go on forever. c'mon vollmer gimme a challlllaaaaneengnenge!!! :)

From Greg

i kept up with that one, kinda got reckless to see how well i could manage things once they got stickier, didn't do too terribly:

All of these emails were sent in the same night as Greg played the initial prototype. He’s excitable, but soon after, the excitement fades and they feel that familiar feeling of malaise about the design.

From Greg

so hey. zach is upset we're considering moving on. whadya think about getting him on the TF? he's fighting for the clever monster and all that jazz, like rolling back to what we had.

From Asher

Okay so I spent the entirety of last night making the grid system super robust and able to support all kinds of logic. I can make the game be monster-moves-only or whole-grid-moves with the flip of a boolean. Also I can make specific types of tiles wrappable or immobile or mergeable or whathaveyou.

The plan is that I'm going to spend tonight whipping out a ton of different prototypes. I'm taking the spaghetti v. wall approach. If anything catches my eye I'll focus in, but if not then expect a bunch of different versions to appear late tonight.

I've got some ideas (like making everything wrappable except for some immobile rocks), but mostly it's going to be flipping booleans and switches until something jumps out at me. If you've got thoughts please lay 'em on me and I'll try it out :D

I can throw Zach on the TF, but it's just going to be the old version for a while. I'll do that tonight.

From Asher

Okay so I made one prototype.

As usual, I have no idea if it's fun. Which worries me. At this point I think it might mean it's just not fun. It's certainly... an activity.

Okay no monster this time. The lack of swiping is extra confusing in this one because EVERY NUMBER WRAPS! They can only be stopped by the immovable stones on the screen. The goal is to kill the stones by merging numbers next to them (ala Drop7). When you kill the stones you get to move on to the next screen.

I think what I learned most from this is that I really like making things squish and bounce en mass.

I dunno. Gonna try again tomorrow.

The next day, Ridiculous Fishing is released and we don’t email (though we do text/twitter from time to time) for a whole three months about Threes. Also, during GDC 2013 Asher and Greg hang out a fair bit. At one point, Asher, Greg, Zach Gage, Mike Boxleiter, Max Temkin and other indies have a heart to heart with Asher about his growing desire to go independent full time. A bit later, he makes that tough decision and quits his job at That Game Company. All of these things plus a growing sense of "can this really work?" set in, where we're unsure where things are going with Threes.

Asher Sends A Flurry of Prototypes

From Asher - 6/13/13

Okay suddenly Threes again!! It's only been what, three months?

This is the non-animated version, so it's gonna take some brainpower to understand/remember what's happening.

The rules:

You have a limited amount of moves, which is the number on the bottom. You get +3 moves every time you eat a 3. It caps at 10.

You cannot eat any numbers greater than three. Your score is the highest number on the board.

My high score is 209.


From Asher

Okay better version ho! This one feels like a good sweetspot. I think I might have successfully eliminated putzing around, which has been my biggest problem with Threes since forever.

Basically: If you're actively playing the game, your score is actively going up. And it goes up until you lose.


If you feed the monster when it's capped at 10, the monster gets "OVERFED" and it lowers your score tiles by 3.

I added arrows back! They do the INSTA-THREE thing, which is actually super helpful in this version.

Here it is:

Next I'm going to bring animations/iOS support back.

From Asher

My high score is 96 in this version. But I feel like I'm improving :D

From Asher

120 :D :D

Okay so further reflection shows that the "Overfed" thing is way too convoluted. I just made it so you can't eat anything when you're maxed at 10 and it has the same effect on the game. Gotta run, so no time to upload a revision today D:

Agh sorry for flood your email. Just suddenly excited for this game again!!

From Asher

ah ok, well i'll play this one for now. gimme dat new one when ya get up! :)

the heartbreak:

this time i just focused on eating healthy. you know. well fed. above 5. then i got greedy... maybe a little cocky. insta-threes will go to your head:

put you on blast:

alriiiiiiiiiighty! i been workin on this. just cuz i can't not.

Asher Finds Threes

From Asher - 6/20/13

Okay okay more thoughts:

I think I would be pretty happy with the basic colors->simple argyle->complex argyle ramp. We've got this abstract thing to fall back on in case our other ideas don't work out.


I really still love the idea of the Argoyle. In addition to it being a fantastic pun, it's basically a brand new creature that we created and that's pretty exciting. So

What if you're just combining/upgrading Argoyles?

Basically Argoyles are these creatures that roam around looking for other argoyles-- and then when they find the right one, they merge into a bigger better Argoyle. (Sort of like a Pokemon evolution) Maybe they also get smarter and instead of just grunting they start talking?

Of course that would just be background lore for the game, which could look like it does now.) Just cards you slide around with eyeballs and mouths on them.) But it means we could do things like have a bestiary of all the types of Argoyles you could create/find, Ridiculous Fishing style.

I dunno, just spitballing.


PS: Picture some fanart of two Argoyles high-fiving, but their hands are overlapping/merging into a new pattern.

From Asher - 6/20/13


192, a 96, two 48s....


This is the first email that shows the final “doubling” mechanic that makes Threes, Threes and it took about 7 months to reach. But it’s not immediately obvious to either of us, especially Greg. After some texting back and forth, Greg sends an email…

From Greg

yea i mean i think the monster thing in general makes sense because eating is a little cooler than simply merging things, but also, it just feels like a really solid and unique IP. it gets me excited to work on it.

i have to say, and i dunno.

i am not super convinced that merge is better than monster.

i don't want to be a wrench here and stymie your enthusiasm either. please know that i think merge is a really cool game, but i think it's missing... weirdness.

this could be my own shit and this is often a messy business of extrapolating/isolating initial impressions and etc. etc. but i'm going to try to expose how i feel about it. bear with me.

-- # --

Greg's Case for Monster Mode

it has a unique feeling

I think the feeling of monster mode is more visceral and maybe... personal. my focus is on the monster, which is an interesting thing because it's not necessarily advantageous to do so. if an arrow is out there, it can prove beneficial to focus on that, if there's a couple of large numberscore cards to be merged, focus should be there. if the monster is hungry, at a 5, then focus needs to be a 2/1 combos if there are no 3s around. there's the right amount of stuff to take in with this game.

there's also a lot of tension

because your monster can die of hunger, it's a balloon that needs to be popped up into the air all the time. it's not just a "if the board fills, you're dead" type situation. so because of this, you have these narrow-miss sorts of drama that are really rewarding. when i'm at 4 and i manage a 2/1 merge -> eat with the perfect set of moves, man that feels good. and i'm not even that much better off, i'm at a 4 again, but maybe there's a nearby 3 now due to the sliding and I can get back on my feet. that sort of granularity to the win/loss risk/reward makes for cool mini-moments, it even creates possibility for story.

the arrows

these are such a cool addition to the game and it's another case of what i just outlined previously. it allows for a less zero-sum game which means more joy. where the monster's hunger is escape from tragedy, an arrow off the board is overcoming hardship.

the fun comes sooner

i think as i play merge mode, i initially was into it but as i continue, i find myself turning my brain off a bit until i get to around 96/192. that's sort of where i'm at now with my development of play and i think it's mostly a ceiling thing. the game slows down a lot, and it's fairly challenging during that time, then things slow way way down and by then it's a bit too late. with monster, i feel like i can really maneuver, maybe too easily, perhaps should add an element that boosts difficulty in some way either with a module or change in algo. but my main point with merge mode is that its such a zero sum thing, even though i'm working towards the same goal of gaining points, there are less joys, pains and drama in the early parts of the game. in a game like this where you're probably going to play a lot of rounds i think it's kinda important to have more highs and lows without ending that particular thread.

it feels like my fault

i have all the tools to dispose of arrows, merge 3s and other white cards, feed my monster and so on. when i lose in monster mode it's because i took too many risks, got greedy or what-have-you. in merge mode, and this could be my novice ways, but it seems to be i lose due to the system. it overwhelms me, and while i fully know intellectually that it's my fault, it doesn't really feel that way. i have this crowd of diamonds that are dispersed in an unfavorable way (due to my actions, of course) and by then it's too late to do anything about. i feel more helpless and ill-equipped than i do like i made the wrong choices. maybe it's because those choices are back about 20 moves, maybe 10, or maybe it's due to the simple and elegant system. but the feeling is the same nonetheless.

the actual ceiling

is there one in merge mode? given that there's only so many grid spaces, it stands to reason that maybe you'd only be able to grow your biggest card to x amount. maybe that's something crazy high like 1536, but damn. i don't know. perhaps there's a way to isolate your merges so you are only growing one other half of an egg at a time so it perfectly intersects but isn't that also a bit of a problem? there's just something that feels more like it's a rubick's cube. not too solid on this point but interested in discussion.

there's nothing else like it

this isn't my strongest point, because it's somewhat arbitrary, but i do think it's important. not only is there financial incentive for doing this but alongside that we get to do exactly what it was we want to do, explore an unexplored realm that makes sense to itself and only itself, and for some reason that really resonates. being different and weird and a little off-kilter is (one of the reasons) why hundreds did so well, and i think that can be said for a lot indie games these days. hundreds was a really eye-opening experience for me. i did exactly what i wanted with the prototype and threw caution to the wind on EVERYTHING as far as visual design of the iOS version and i was rewarded not only creatively but especially by The Market. that's no metric to design games by (the market) but i think it maaaay be coloring things a bit here, i dunno. what i'm saying is that the boldness and weirdness of an idea is a huge advantage for us, we should meet it with excitement and not trepidation. if that's something that holds even a faint anxiety in your mind, cast it away, it's fear fucking with you.


so that's most of what i am feeling about monster mode. i'm just a guy. i don't know if i know better.

-- # --

one test that i wish we could do is give monster to zach, then erase his brain, then give him merge. maybe we can do this by giving zach monster, and adam merge. then give them the opposite after they've played their respective modes and see what their thoughts are. i dunno.

problem is that zach has preconceived notions from old threes too... so hmmm.

From Asher

I can't possibly deny that "eating" is like a million times better than whatever the hell "merging" is. You're totally right about that.

Also first lemme say thanks for bringing all this up. Obviously super necessary, but also incredibly helpful to nail down all these points.

I feel like the core thing you keep touching on is that merge mode is kind of... soulless. And I can't disagree. In it's current state there are no creatures or special-case powers or events that change the landscape or anything like that. Numbers beget more numbers beget more numbers.

I'm torn because I actually like that it's so clean and pure. It's incredibly gratifying to have a system with such simple rules that you can play over and over again and constantly get better at. It's the reason I've been playing Drop7 for years without stop-- this game feels like it has a similar skill curve and that's incredibly exciting to me.

But of course Drop7 is by no means for everybody. In fact I have never successfully convinced any of my friends to start playing it because it's so... ugly and dry and drab and hardcore. And that's a huge problem. It's not at all what I want for Threes. If we could nail the "foreverplay" of Drop7 while keeping it intensely accessible, we would be absolutely golden.

No question that MergeMode is too hard in its raw form. There's nothing that eases-in the player. Nothing that soothes the pain of dealing with cold hard steel game rules. Definitely a problem. I was going to try to deal with that today, actually, by trying out a slightly different mode with a bigger grid. May or may not work.


But despite it's dryness and growing pains... every time I hand Merge to someone, they get it and they always start the game again immediately after they lose. That's a clear sign to me that they're learning from their mistakes and they see how they can change their strategy and do better. The playing/learning/insight/growing loop is a good indication of foreverplay.

The same can't be said for Monster, unfortunately. I've seen a lot of one-time Monster play throughs where people get really far (because they immediately understand the feed-the-beast strategy) and then have zero interest in playing again after they lose. It's because A) the game lasts too long and they're exhausted and B) there's no clear way to improve or change strategy. Just feed the monster.

Changing field:

MonsterMode has this quirk where the gameplay doesn't change over time. The board could look the same on the 200th turn as it does on the first turn. That's one of the cool things about the mechanic, but also one of the exhausting things. It's basically a war of attrition if nothing ever changes.

The playing field in Merge evolves and changes and sticks around and makes the early-game feel way different than the late-game.

I really really like the evolution of play. I think that's what keeps the game interesting. The lack of evolution is one of the many things that's bugged me about Threes. The board gives off the illusion of changing, but then four smart swipes later and it's totally clear again and it's basically like you're starting over again.


So in MergeMode it's actually super important how you arrange your board early on and keep as much as the board as free for as long as possible in order to make room for the bigger numbers to grow.

BUT I WILL GLADLY ACKNOWLEDGE that "super important" and "fun" are not at all the same thing. This is actually probably the clearest point that shows how different the two modes are.

If there's a way to make super-important (read: strategic) decisions inherently fun then that would solve a lot of problems.

Score Ceiling:

So like I said in MonsterMode it's totally possible to get a late-game board to an early-game state. That means there's no score ceiling, but it also means that once you get good enough your score won't be a function of skill, it will be a function of time and patience.

Here's the thing: that's also true with Puzzlejuice and Ridiculous Fishing. If you were agile enough to master either of those games-- you could get a crazy high score if you just played forever.

The score curve in MergeMode is much much less linear. In fact I bet it looks much more logarithmic. This means that beginners' scores are going to rocket up pretty fast, but masters' scores are going to be pretty close to each other-- hopefully eeking out one another when they figure out a new strategy or have a particularly good run.

RF and PJ were successful and they had a linear scoring model-- but they were also realtime games, where the stress/fun came from pushing your physical limits. Threes doesn't have that element.

Okay sadly I have things to do today D: I have to get lunch and get ready for obligations. I'll finish this email later in the day. But I think these thoughts might be coherent enough to send off and for you to chew over and respond if you have any follow up follow up thoughts.

Next up: summations and solutions

From Greg

Right on. While writing this, I definitely saw the other angle of a lot of my points, specifically in the purity and elegance of the game system. I think the right answer is probably the hard one. Finding a tiny spot where we can have both a fun and inviting metaphor on top of a elegant and largely minimal puzzle game...

So as I type this. I am returning to an idea I had during Hundreds. Clearly there are some parallels here. Both games are very simple and contained, merge mode even more so, and for now, the graphics are both very minimal and utilitarian.

So the idea and you may have heard this:

But basically, hundreds was going to start out with blowfish or something similarly nice metaphor wise and feature pretty saccarin graphics, maybe ala gasketball a bit. Light, fun, playful. You get the gist. So you get going in Hundos and you're maybe at level 15 or something and you notice something out of the corner of your eye. There's a visual abberation, you think it's a bug at first. Then levels continue and you notice it again, but it sticks around this time. The "blowfish" is missing a big piece of itself and it's just a plain circle. This continues and breaks down and eventually towardsthe end you're just left with the raw graphics.

That could work here. as you progress, things break down in some way or mutate.

Maybe not though, i mean this is a contained game so breaking down the graphics in hundreds would sort of have a bit of a narrative arc over the course of the 100 levels. Still, there might be something to this idea that we can play up. maybe we use that "ceiling" idea in order to grant people new things in the game. like you pass 192 and you earn... something. the game changes. i guess that's ala Stickets, but it could be more than just color changes...

I dunno...

I had mike test it with me, i think i'm going to dive back in and take a fresh look at things.

would the game be way too easy if instead of 2s and 1s, it was just a basic thing that had to be combined with itself. that would seal up the anomaly that is 2 + 1 = 3 whereas everything else is x + x = y or (2x).

And not much later, Greg comes around to “merge”

From Greg

proton(1) + neutron(2) = atom(3)

atom(3) + atom(3) = molecule(6)

molecule(6) + molecule(6) = mole(12)

mole(12) + mole(12) = meteorite(24)

meteorite(24) + meteorite(24) = meteor(48)

meteor(48) + meteor(48) = planet(96)

planet(96) + planet(96) = solar system(192)

solar system(192) + solar system(192) = galaxy(384)

galaxy(384) + galaxy(384) = universe(768)

universe(768) + universe(768) = multiverse(1536)

multiverse(1536) + multiverse(1536) = ultima(3072)

ultima(3072) + ultima(3072) = asher(6144)

and the bg would change to reflect what level of inner/outerspace you were in etc.

since "asher" probably isn't viable we could drill further into quarks or something but yea...

And some name ideas...

From Greg




ok, explored a bit. no pressure just kinda working things through. gotta jet to a movie.

And this starts the journey of coming up with an appropriate theme. A huge bottomless pit of things-that-can-be-doubled… But it doesn’t mean that Asher (or us as a whole) are convinced that “MergeMode” or what anyone would call “Threes” today, is the right answer.

From Asher

Ahaha sick dude, that's awesome!! I am, deep in my heart, a space aficionado (hence spacetronaut) so this pleases me on many levels. Though good luck figuring out the icon for "Ultima." I think we could actually stop letting things combine at that point-- and the game would be about maximizing how many Ultimas you could get on the screen. (Though I don't know how many are actually possible... I bet I could figure out some math for how much space you need to build each number)

Hmmm so I'm going to keep poking around with different modes today because-- while I'm kind of in love with MergeMode it can't stand on its own for all of the reasons I went through yesterday.

In fact lemme just recap those reasons:


+ It's too dry and mathy and puzzley

+ It's too easy to hit a skill wall and give up

+ There's no surprises (powerups etc)

Sooo as much as I love space and all space-related pieces of our existence: my main concern is that the science theme doesn't actually help the first point-- that the game is too dry. I think that there's probably a way to do science right/exciting, but it's going to be a long hard fight to do so.

I think a lot of the joy in our game will come from every time you upgrade a tile to a new level you haven't seen before it has to be super exciting/pleasing/surprising.

Okay I'm gonna be totally honest (and probably not surprising) when I say that I still love the idea of the Argoyles. Or at least some kind of animals/monsters. And it's mostly for one very specific feature that I think might help alleviate a lot of our problems: The Bestiary.

Having a list of all the creatures you can collect in the game just sounds incredibly pleasing to me. Also a good way to show off. Also just a fun thing to browse. Also I was thinking if I ever figured out a multiplayer mode that this would be a way to unlock new avatars.

ALSO it will help us/the users keep track of all the possible combinations. The mode I'm going to try to make today is instead of just the two colors A&B being on the board, there will be A&B&C. This will lead to more interesting puzzles AND you can now make creatures of type AB, BC, or AC. At least that's the theory.

Okay thems my thoughts.

A Little Encouragement

From Asher - 6/27/13

Sent Threes to my friend a week ago and she's sent the attached message out of the blue.

The core mergemode is pretty solid and all this genetics stuff is complicating things :0 Backtracking. I think I might just go back to the arrows and that will be our powerup.

Hope camping is grrrrrreat!

From Asher

Okay more and more backtracking.

Ignore all this if you had some wilderness-based revelation about how to make Argoyle evolution idea work and be cohesive.

I've been wracking my brain about how to grow the playspace of the game with the idea of creatures/argoyles in mind. Genetics, food, powerups, arrows...

None of it's working. All of it serves to make the game less fun and more of an interactive burden. And honestly what the game needs right now isn't more complexities-- it needs a ramp-up to ease in new players. That's definitely going to be my focus next week.

On a slightly related note: I'm having a really hard time wrapping my head around what the evolving argoyle looks like and I don't think the problem is going to go away. Figuring out how to make this game about fantasy creatures AND fantasy merge logic seems like it will be nothing but an uphill battle for us.

The space idea has grown on me. I think we should do it.

I was resistant to it at first because It felt really dry and distant and I didn't spend much time imagining the motion of it. But today I was laying on the floor listening to RadioLab. (Have you heard RadioLab? They have the most beautiful sound design. It makes This American Life's music usage seem rote/trite by comparison.) Anyway, I closed my eyes and listened to their sound effects and I can totally picture the satisfying _bong_ of merging your two largest tiles and watching the playing field ripple as the background zooms out to an appropriate level.

Everything will be a little softer/squishier.

We can spend time polishing every tile type and animation. The gentle shake of the protons, the wild randomness of an atom's electron, the rotation of the solar system.

If we have time and feel ambitious, I was thinking we could put in little flavoring... Like when you build a planet there's a small chance that it will launch a tiny rocket that will fly around the playing field (and maybe land on a asteroid. Plant a flag, why not)

This is a much... quieter and more contained game than the one with the bestiary and skin-shop. But I think that's what the game wants to be. It wants to be a little zen.

Anyway current thoughts. Lemme know how this all feels to you.

From Asher

(Sorry for the deluge of emails... Still thinking this through. Theming/dramatic-elements have never been my strong suit, so thanks for working through this with me)

I just wanted to do a sanity check on the space idea before we plunge in:

+ Threes is a small, compact game that I have yet to figure out how to expand into anything larger. I feel like we should be inclinded to be upfront about that fact so that players don't decry the lack of content. (Example pitch: Threes is a tiny game that you can play forever.)

+ I know we should ignore markets and stuff and just follow our hearts, but I feel like this is a pretty straightforward fact: a tiny game about attractive creatures will attract a broader audience than a tiny game about space. (If you disagree please try to convince me otherwise.)

+ But whatever, right? It's not, in any way, a bad thing to target a smaller, more passionate audience. That's fine (if not preferable) but I do believe that, for the sake of our mental health, the amount of time that we pore into a project should be proportional to the amount we expect to get out of it. (Whether that be money or personal growth or what have you.) If we move forward with the space idea, we should proceed with a "let's knock this out real quick" mentality. If we do the creature thing or something similar, we should be ready/willing to handle support features like the bestiary, skin packs, etc.

+ I guess down to brass tacks: I expect a creature-based game could have success comparable to Puzzlejuice. A space game would have less. But that's totally fine if we knock out the game way quicker.

Heads up: I might have just talked myself into doing the space game as fast as possible. (1-2 months?) That sounds pretty fun/reasonable, actually.

+ Actual practical concern: Okay how the heck are we gonna fit the multiverse onto a single tile.

From Greg

words from the barstool:

i personally think argoyle hits this special point of uniqueness that also is simple and has sort of "my style". the more games i make the more i think going full in with that is The Way To Go.

sum: i'm not super sold on space. i think argoyle is much more in the wheelhouse and to go even further, i think your "a tiny game you can play forever" is soooo good. it could be about... tiny things.

orrrr tiny monsters.

orrrr just a tiny game.

theming games is what i do, i approach it like a design problem and while at times it is slow or seems like we wont find it, we somehow always do.

i think your inclination to start back in on adding mechanics and so on to play within the game system will afford you some space to breathe creatively on this. we'll get it, we always do.

greg "three beers in" wohlwend

This e-mail is coming from inside the iPhone!

From Asher

<3 best email ever

So with things still sort of vague if we’re going with monster or not, we continue on to find a theme for this little game.

Finding Soul in the Numbers

From Asher - 6/30/13

Okay my girlfriend came up with a lot of good ideas. I am transmitting said ideas.

Color A + Color B = Colored Toe (3)

Colored Toe + Colored Toe = Polka Dot (6)

Polka Dot + Polka Dot = Stripes (12)

Stripes + Stripes = Checkered (24)

Checkered + Checkered = Plaid (48)

Plaid + Plaid = Argyle (92)


dunno how to continue. Lacework maybe?


Increasing number of teeth. Increasing size/sharpness of teeth. (From zero teeth to shark-like)

Shrinking pupil size. (From giant baby pupils to piercing adult eyes)

Accessories for the higher levels (IE: Hats, crowns, scepters)

Also we can signify which monster is the largest super simply: He leaves his mouth open.

When you merge your two largest monsters and move to the next highest level: The new giant monster roars and all the other monsters look briefly scared.

Instead of selling pattern packs (obscene amount of work) we can just sell/reward color packs.

From Greg

so here.

color + color = colored toe

toe + toe = polka dot

dot + dot = stripe

stripe + stripe = checkered

checkered + checkered = herringbone

herringbone + herringbone = plaid (96)

plaid + plaid = houndstooth (192)

houndstooth + houndstooth = argyle (384)

argyle + argyle = Ise-katagami (768)

Ise-katagami + Ise-katagami = paisley (1536)

paisley + paisley = ????

we could add more boring stuff too in the early stages if we don't wanna go into the weird paisley/ise-katagami stuff since that's less recognizable as a textile. paisley is though, but yea. there's like "denim" and etc. etc. or more fabric based stuff.

here's a dealio. kinda keeping the colors consistent for the patterns for now.

From Asher

Awesome!! Looks good. It's pretty clear which pattern transitions into which.

Maybe the lower ranking patterns could have more whitespace? Like spacing out the dots and stripes, for example.

One thing to keep in mind is that this game gets really confusing really fast. It might help if each tile passes the "squint test" where you can tell them apart even when you blur your vision. (I don't imagine that we'll be able to keep that up for the more advanced patterns, but there's going to be a lot more of these lower ranking tiles on the board at a time.)

Also love the new arrows. <3 Maybe maybe we'll get to use them.

From Greg

the thing i think is that we need to differentiate genus and species.

genus = purple, green, white, orange (arrow)

species = dot, polka, stripe, etc. etc.

so that's sorta the thinking there for now, keeping the patterns mostly the same color and etc. we can do special things but i think if they are all very unique, we'll have a mess on our hands.

so when i take something like the "high", 192, and make it a special color, it gets a little lost amongst its brethren. (see attached). maybe this is ok as an aberration, but you can imagine if each of those were a different color. so that's just color though, so i'm worried that if we go hard on difference then we'll still have that same mess problem. trading potential color uniformity issues for form uniformity issues.

anyway, i'm gonna keep runnin' with this and also some other ideas, incorporating more monster stuff etc.

just finalized the rf update with zach earlier this afternoon and he's excited to try the new version out. i told him we'd probably wanna wait a bit, but maybe not. thoughts?

From Asher

This all sounds good. I think we'll get a lot of milage out of the monsters and their expressions and the like. (IE: the highest monster on the board has its mouth open, so we don't have to mess with colors or anything.)

Also hoping to finish up the Indiecade build today/tomorrow. That should be very sendable to people.

From Greg

ok, i think the best one is "3" but i think this is gonna be good in general. could do a special color scheme for the top one, like the highestnumber, got argoyle with his mouth open.

From Asher

Ahahaha the Daft Punk 12 made me laugh.

I really really like seeing the board full of monsters. It'll be fun to see them all animated and reacting to each other. If they stay this unique then each will need their own set of animations, but that's totally okay.

I'm not sure the creepy thing is sitting well with me. I really like how unique each of them are, but their sickliness is not exactly inviting me in to touch them. Is that just because they're super pale? Or it might be all the little details (the freckles, the mouth/eye lines).

Also concerned about the harshness of the color scheme in general. Just rambling here, but remember how we kept striving for "candy" in Puzzlejuice? Candy seems less essential here, because the game isn't asking to be poked. It's asking to be... slid?

I made the tutorial and was trying to find a writing style that was quick/punchy like puzzlejuice, but less agressive and bro-ish because the gameplay is none of those. So I tried to narrow in on the "tiny" theme and ended up using words like "charming" and "splendid" sort of like a diminutive tea party or some nonsense.

But it fits in a really satisfying way. Merging two tiles is "delightful." And it makes the game feel really... warm.

So yeah I think warmness is something to aspire for. If only to balance out the harshness of the rules and gameplay mechanics.

Build coming ASAP. Eta: hours.

From Greg - 7/4/13

so i'm just iterating, trying some pattern stuff. i think at this point i'm ready to sort of throw away the _observable_ pattern progression and just sort of use it as a creative constraint within my own process instead of making it something the player notices.

we could still call them The Argoyles, though.

but yea, anyway, here's some new guys attached. i still like the daft punk guy, removed the multiple eye/freckle guys.

i like 24 but he's a bit simple, maybe he's a better 3, or 6. some iterations:

in this attached mockup i think the argyle is the weakest, or at least the most unlike the others, also haven't worked on it any further since the first go 'round.

From Asher

Oh man these are definitely getting better.

I would try to hold off on killing the observable pattern thing, though-- I think I much prefer the guys on the top. Especially Polka Dot. Though that might be because he looks the least alien of the bunch. Maybe because he just looks the least... albino?

I think maybe the next step should be trying to figure out how to clarify the progression... IE: a 3 turns into a 6 turns into a 12. Right now it's not immediately apparent which guy turns into which except by looking at the number at the corner. If there was a feature(s) that sort of clearly advanced from one to the next, I think that might help a lot. (An obvious example would be horns-- the horns on a 12 would be longer than a 6, longer than a 3.)

An alternative way of handling continuity would be that the guys stay fairly similar, but only their features/skin-pattern change.

Can't wait to start prettying up the game itself :D

The core is actually basically done at this point, it feels like. The frequency people play is just cementing in my mind how complete the game already is. And it's satisfying the goal of make a compelling, super-mobile game: play sessions are frequent and range from 30 seconds to fifteen minutes. And already there are some people have played the current version more than I have! (Anonymous user #1 is Zach, who seems to be playing every day :D)

From Greg

so here's a bit of a stream of consciousness.

max brought up "why don't you make the monsters actual guys" and all this stuff instead of cards and so i've been turning that over in my head. some of it is a rationalization because i'm much more at home with kicking ass on a 2D sprite than i am a iso-ed sorta sprite and so on. not that i can't pull that off, it's just more illustrative and etc. but i think there actually is good reason for going with cards and solid forms. we get a kind of solidity to the cards and people can get right away what happens when they merge. i think it also kinda reads more as the game that it actually is instead of a draping over it. hmmm.

intermission: tried this for "progression" idea. not working. moving on.

hmmmm, i started in on the horns annnnnd: could be a problem with everything next to eachother etc.

also, doin' some open mouth animation stills and so on: 24 would probably work a lot better with a straight-forward face and all that.

stacking as progression:

stacking ss:

issue with stacking is that it's gonna gooooo toooo high. but maybe color changes.


From Asher

D'aww he's so happy to be here.

I was thinking about Max was saying too, but I think you and I ended up on the same page. The cards are really good for a lot of reasons and you hit the nail on the head that the most important one is usability. It's clear that the cards block each other because they're all the same size. Also this lets us focus on their facial features and give them personality, which I'm all for.

Ahaha the horns make the dudes look like they're shrugging ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Potential flaw with the stacking idea (and the reason I never switched over the numbers from 3->6->12 to 1->2->3) is that when you merge two dudes-- you want them to double. That means that you'll want a 1-stack to turn into a 2-stack to turn into a 4-stack... And that will get out of control absurdly fast.

Okay honest opinion/question: I really do miss the way the guys used to look. It might be the colors or the patterns, but I think it's really about how non-alien they feel. They look like creatures that I would actually, y'know, enjoy spending time with. So I'm just curious what the reasoning is for moving away from the old look and into the new look? Knowing the reasons will probably help me provide more constructive feedback instead of just knee-jerk wanting to tell you to go back in time.

From Greg

here's what we've got so far:

5 is a bit doofy/half-baked

is 9 enough?

don't have to put the #9 on there because... final 'goyle?

ok runnin' to dinner bbl

From Asher

Yessss something about this feels way better. Maybe it's just seeing them lined up like that.

Down the line:

1 is adorable. Not a huge fan of the drool. I'm worried how much the one eye sets it apart from the others... like it's clearly a _different_ monster than the rest. I like how optimistic he looks.

2's big rectangle tooth is great. I don't think I like features getting cut off by the side of the cards. This includes the eyes and the mouth.

Yess I really really like 3. Raccoon eyes are delightful. Probably my favorite of the new bunch.

4's glasses grew on me real fast. Clearly this is the awkward teenage stage <3 Tongue's not doing it for me.

5 is a goof. I think his weird/different pupils are what's making him so awkward. Again not a huge fan of the clipped mouth, because it's hard for my brain to process.

value = 3*(2^(rank-1))

rank = 1: value = 3

rank = 3: value = 12

rank = 8: value = 384

So the current Largest Monster is 384, which is equivalent to 8. I think an 9 appearing is right around the corner... Total speculation, but I imagine if we released this into the wild we would see a 10 after less than a month. I think if we want to live up the claim of being a "game that you can play forever" we should be prepared for people (somehow my god) reaching 12. I bet it would take a year.

We could design 12 monsters (the last 3 of which would be seen by hardly anyone [which is kind of cool actually]) and then stop allowing the tiles to merge. (At which point it would be about seeing how many 12s you could get onto the screen.)

Or we could design 9 and then just add a simple effect to monsters after that. Like a bronze/silver/gold border...

From Greg

i'll shoot for 12 but then again, we'll have to see. i think regardless, we should plan for something more data driven at the top end.

anyway, playing with huggy hands and a last-minute crown.

To the Drawing Board and Back

A little over a month goes by and the thread is quiet. We’re at a bit of a standstill with the game’s theme and it’s not working with testers. They miss the numbers but we’re being stubborn and want to deliver a game with more personality than just numbers.

From Greg - 8/14/13


ugh, i just keep looking at those little guys above and like them best...

keep looking…

From Greg - 8/15/13


the game just has to use these monsters. it's too good on too many levels. we'll call it argoyle. and you'll evolve your King Argoyle and that'll be the one you show your friends. "look, i got the Fabrique Frightener" or whatever the level 8 one will be called.

so it should just be that you evolve them and they all look sort of cut from the same cloth as opposed to separate species.

here's the general idea:

the thing about this is that early on it's easy to see how you're "building the argoyle" by adding an eyeball, a mouth, then two eyes etc. the animation can nod to that. so then the argoyles just keep looking cooler and more decked out as you play and if you're up to level 6 or 7, then you're probably pretty decent at the game and understand how things work. you can see what i'm doing with the pattern as well.

i just can't get into anything near as much as this path and i think focusing on a progression of "facial features" and also evolution of ONE argoyle as opposed to multiple characters makes a ton of sense.

From Greg

here's things a bit further along:

i think 8 and 9 eyes are a bit weak, might need to change 10 so the evolution makes sense.

From Greg

From Greg

eyeballs as numbers?

Greg is fairly frustrated at this point. We’re about 9 months into development and the game’s art has grown more complex, requiring a fair amount of custom animation. But the fact remains that people can’t differentiate between different monsters being less or more powerful than their counterparts.

From Asher

Oh sick dude I just saw this progression: and it's fantastic!! The last few monsters, especially. The ever-biggening mouth is super clear and pleasing.

I think 3+4 might be a little too derpy for my tastes-- but everything after that is gold.

I'm going to try to get familiar with Uni2D this week. I think it might be our animation solution and should be pretty good at making the monsters feel flexible+alive. (I hope!)

Do you think I can get the .ai to start cranking on how they would look in-game?

We're nowhere near the final look of Threes as we all know it today, but we're closer and keep circling back to these monsters or characters on cards. We will eventually head to PAX with this last type of setup in our pockets to show to people. But first we have other bits of the game to consider...

Tutorial Thoughts and UI

From Greg - 8/21/13

so my girlfriend played the game for the first time, not a gamer In The Least and had real trouble with the tutorial. mainly the concept up front about the sliding and that they all moved together. she wanted to put things in place directly, rather than the round-a-bout way of sliding around. so we should either explain that more clearly, maybe add another step or something? it could be something unintuitive. i DO think that my barrier things that pop up when you slide will help a lot on this front, but also it might be something that's easier taught with more cards on the playing field since with one or even four evenly spaced cards the concept is a little more hidden maybe?


also, maybe it's premium but there's an IAP for undos... honestly the game has some kind of "doh!" moments where it's clear you made the wrong choice. sometimes that's due to randomness but others it's just the wrong move and an undo would be useful. maybe undos could even be earned throughout the course of a game for spectacular things so it's not pure IAP. i dunno.

so to continue, she dropped the game and was frustrated and then i took a moment and walked her through it in the game proper and she caught on with the sliding mechanic etc. after that she got a 250, then a 400 something then she got a 192 1500 something. so yea. she's into it. haha. so that's awesome. :) :) :)

From Greg

some title stuff. i was thinking about them as a family, silhouette frames on the wall...

now the actual silhouettes won't actually be as recognizable as a sort of iconification of them: so this one could be the interface for the title screen. you swipe to start a new match, to get to the "next" one on the right. and then you swipe to view all the previous guys... these could be animated too.

did a white bg one, sort of like a book cover: more of a wallpaper feel in the bg etc.

From Greg

ok here are the silhouettes. a bit bizarre, but kinda goofy/funny. i could go less card based on these, a lot of options really, anyway... (these are in dropbox, so easy testing on your phone too)

just wanted to get those out. i've got a movie here in a half hour so i'm gonna jet but i also addressed the cleft lip thing:

i also sort of did a sanity check on some of the characters overall. here's what i came up with.

current designs (doesn't include the edits)

here's without the patterns:

numeric badges:

progress focused: (only up to 7)

i worked most on teh progress focused designs. working with eyes and thinking about tarantulas. they're much scarier and weirder in that level of the progression and i don't think we can cram like 8 or 9 eyes in one of these guys especially with those sized mouths. i think the mouths are really cool and like you said. it's much more important to differentiate at the lower end of the specturm as those will be much more common through the entirety of a session.

so yea. i still like where we are with the character design, i do like the edits enough to solidify them, and i went with round teeth on that one guy to further differentiate.

okkkk, i think that's it!

oh. one thing about the uni2d thing. i think we'll probably wanna do the eye movement programatically, right? like have it rotate a sprite based on where it's looking etc. if it has a pair. there may be more things like that where we need to separate out animations and layer them in an intelligent way to get the best bang for our buck. i'm all for diving in on uni2d but a lot of these guys are gonna be best animated in flash, especially vector mouth smiles and stuff like that. at least, that's where i'm gonna start with stuff and see what happens, similar to that mockup but more focused on pushing the edges and getting a read on all what needs to be animated and how.

ok byyeeeeee

From Greg

i did a setup with some different expressions (attached) and the edited mouths, new progress-based guys. i also added them to the ASSETSCS5 file:

i'm mostly sensitive to the delineation between different cards, especially early like you mentioned. i think just getting these guys in there for a test, especially with other people (even veteran threes players) and see if they have trouble telling them apart, will tell us a lot.

for now i'm gonna kinda hold off on the ui stuff. though i do have this latest idea for a swiping menu system. you load up the game and you see a wall of unfilled argoyle portraits. you swipe down and look at the argyle carpeting (high scores) swipe up goes back to the wall/main menu. swipe up again and you look at teh ceiling with some argyle crown molding/architecture and see "play puzzlejuice", back down to the wall. now swipe rightward (move thumb west to see further east) to play the game (looking for next argoyle). swipe left to look back at the first portrait (the tutorial). on first load of the game, the player is presented only with the one portrait on the right so a swipe westward begins the tutorial. either that or just throw them into the tutorial without any further interaction.

i have a rough mockup of this as a graphic that perhaps explains it better but i'm not happy with it yet and i don't want to show you something half-baked because i think it could be really cool. i know it's not as direct as simple text but "more games" and "high scores" should be discovered anyway, it's just important people play the game a dozen or so times anyway before they dig into high scores and the like.

oh i also messed with a "vertical hug"

About a week goes by, Greg and Asher are at PAX Prime. Zach Gage and Greg show off Ridiculous Fishing at the PAX 10 and Zach makes mention that he feels it’s too confusing without numbers on the cards. And then a brainworm settles into Greg’s head.

From Greg - 9/4/13

here's some number stuff


altered monsters, without borders. corner numbers, typical "playing card" style.

something like this with just the numerals:

that will only really work with single numerals like that though... i htink multi-digit guys will be too weird/awkward:

then there's the existing monsters and doing card stuff: (gets a little bad with larger numbers and more boderless monsters)

From Asher

Ahahaha sick dude. These guys are cracking me up. I'll throw them in.

The upside down number feels a little arbitrary and in the way, though. I mean it's clearly a throwback to playing cards, but the cards have an obvious correct orientation and you're never going to flip your phone and the numbers start cluttering the card as they get larger.

ACTUALLY I do think the upside down numbers would work if the guys looked a little bit more like they were actual playing cards. Right now I don't really believe it. I'm browsing through a bunch of playing card designs to try to figure out what makes them feel like playing cards...

1) They've all got a pretty clear border. (which is where the card # lives)

2) They're full of embellishment and intricate details. I think this is something we could play with. I wouldn't be afraid to get a little more fine with the monster's details.

If we got these guys to look like playing cards that would be pretty sick. Playing cards are an unconventional merch, but I kind of dig it.

My intuition says it's not worth spending time figuring out the mirrored-upside-down-weirdness that face cards have. Seems like a waste of screen real estate.

Speaking of real estate, it's probably worth trying out the conventional numbering scheme (1, 2, 3) instead of the threes scheme (3, 6, 12). It'll feel weird at first, but I bet it's a better idea in the long run.

From Greg - 9/12/13

alright, so here's the 1 and 2. very temp. i have some ideas for rendering these with finer details and so on. but getting the thing to read like a number and also a monster is my main focus at this point. silhouette stuff.

have a ton of paper sketches, mostly ideas. if we go this numonster route, i think we should try to keep focusing on the silhouette. if we go with the typical 1 number in the corner playing card thing, well then we can do whatever we want. for functionality though, i think this makes the most sense with the game. i still wanna make sure that 1,2,3,4 etc. makes sense to people just like 3, 6, 12, 24 does or at least enough. ok.

From Greg

ok, set it up on a board real quick, i think it works and sure is damn readable. also threw in an idea that zach had about making sure things felt "caged" and i think he's right. instead of the reactive borders (which maybe that would be better) it'll be perma walls. they are hastily done in this mockup as far as colors and depth goes but yea, hopefully you get the picture:

ok cleaned it up just a bit, gotta jet

From Asher

Oh fuck dude this is super pleasing and readable to look at. The monstery characteristics are secondary to the big chunky numbers, which I think is brilliant.

The big metagradient really makes the whole thing cohesive and feel like a real space. The slotted background does too. (My intuition says we're still gonna need your animated walls IN ADDITION to the caged board, but everything helps.)

The spawn slot is a really slick idea. I don't know how I feel about telling the player exactly where the tile is going to spawn, but it's definitely worth a shot. The slots are gonna have to only show up while the player is "peaking" of course, or else it negates the whole effect of the cage.

But sick dude!! This is really coming together.

We Try to Name it Again

From Asher - 9/13/13

Okay the lack of a real title is bothering me. Here's a title idea dump, starting with some nonsense/puzzley sounding ones

Any jump out at you?

Okay all of those are terrible.



From Greg

so i was thinking the sliding in would happen after you made the choice. i think that's an important part of the tension (that randomness).

i don't, but also kinda do like mergesters. but i think that's more because it's a joke. still makes me laugh when i think of it.





interesting words that contain Sum



Summon (Summonsters?)


Monster Mates

I like Golems, it's nice, but it's a bit common and not as clever/descriptive.


here's what i'm using (not these search terms, but this combo of resources)

The Rise of Mergesters

From Asher - 9/13/13

Ah I see (re: spawn slots) that totally makes sense.

So somehow Mergester is growing on me. (And all the little dudes would be mergesters) Hmmmm.

Twosome or Twosum is nice and cleverrr

From Greg

hmmm. yea, i mean. it's defintely dorky. i feel like a dork saying it though. so... i kinda feel like that's a dealbreaker.

ps. sized down the numbers on teh cards, definitely a little less claustrophobic.

tbh, i really don't love the monsters. i dunno. they're missing that derpy weird/cute thing that the argoyles had.

something like this, though it may be less readable colored and finalized, it'll be more of a... guy

From Asher

Yeah I hear ya :/ They're a little... plain.

But having the number big and in the middle is so... satisfyingly clear, y'know? The game designer is pleased.

But on the other hand it makes the game feel like a numbers game, which it really isn't. This might scare off some people... but the alternative is to figure out some kind of universally understood symbology that can clearly communicate rank-- which we've figured out is a really hard problem to solve.

A part of me misses the textiles because they feel like a cozy/familiar version of fractals. But the main problem with textiles/fractals is that they become much harder to tell apart at higher levels.

The primary advantage of using monsters them is the SURPRISE/DELIGHT of getting a new one, which is actually a pretty big deal. It occurs to me that the more we downplay the monster attributes, the less delight we'll get out of players. Hmmmmm. HMMMMM.

The ball's really in your court right now. At this point I'm kind of willing to go down any path. Maybe it makes sense to try out a bunch of very different tile designs and we'll figure out which ones pop out at us?

From Greg

hmmm, alright so i have 1-8 sketched up. they'll tighten up A LOT from here and get colored etc etc. buuuuuut man. i showed the game to max (with the art that's in there now) and i just really miss the opportunity for slobbery animations and winks and eye gazing and hugging. even with a really awesome set of 10 numberdudes, i fear we will miss that. and if i just make the progression more apparent and make them more different, won't that do the trick?

hmmm. i think i'll take the weekend to ruminate, let me know your thoughts.

From Asher

Ahahaha that's hilarious! Actually pretty great dude.

That totally seems like the right balance of surprise/clarity. If all the dudes had little personalities.... We could even play with the backdrop and make it match your highest number or something.

On my end I switched the numbering scheme from 1+2→3→6 to A+B→1→2 and showed the game around this weekend to give it a shot. Overwhelmingly people had a harder time grokking the number system and, when given the option, preferred the monster face art.

I'm totally confident it's because all the numbers look too similar on their own and the monsters are visually distinct. But people definitely lost track of which monster led into what at higher levels.

I think it's worth giving the faces another shot, but for the sake of not being stuck in an infinite revision loop I'm going to be straightforward with my feedback.

1) Making all of the monsters distinct from each other is important, so people can insta-understand what tiles can/can't merge with each other.

2) Making the growth progression of the monsters understandable is a secondary goal, but it's still important. When the progression is clear, players can see moves like "oh I can merge those 6s into that 12 into that 24..." (Maybe try embedding numbers into their pupils? Something super-obvious like that.)

3) I think these guys are unattractive. They're well designed, but as a face I have to stare at... I find their expressions really unpleasant.

4) We're going to need to make the 1+2 tiles visually unique in order to convey that they're an exception. The color thing is conceptually cool, but all people think is "these two purple tiles are identical, they should merge.”

Yeah dude I am SO ready to start adding life to this thing. <3

From Greg

1) Yes! Highly important. I'm confident i can work this out. :) as a intermediate, easy swap-out kind of test, you might wanna swap in these guys in the 2nd row: since they should be more different. see how it plays at least.

2) Hmm, interesting with the number pupil thing. I'll give that a shot and keep this in the back of my mind with this, what will hopefully be the final major revision. honestly, i think color might be something we can play with, i'm going to go that route for the differentiation as well, so it might be a "ramp" we can climb.

3) Ok cool, they're also very similar to one another so no problem axing that gross mouth.

4) Yea, really good point.

Ok, I've got some concise things to go after, next volley of email will be productive and visual. I've been AWOL this week due to a move to a new apartment, bootstrapping the move myself and IKEAing etc. etc. so definitely ready to get back to computer times. look for me next week.

one thing about this process we've trudged through, it'll make a GREAT process post. i have all the art saved, and that with your different prototypes... it'll be... exhaustive, haha!

Self-referential process post mention in the process post itself! In the end, the Mergesters concept felt artificial on the cards, like they weren't really integrated into their thickness and weight the same way the characters could be. Plus, they just looked a little weird...

Moving Back to Monsters

From Greg - 9/24/13

) Tried out animal food chain stuff.

Couple of issues:

a) Combining to make a new one doesn't make total sense, in fact opposite sense.

b) A rat doesn't look more intimidating/scarier than a spider.

result: doesn't work. i'll keep pushing. i think i'll favor fiction again...

4) here are some ideas for 1+2 tiles:

hope to get to somewhere solid by the end of tomorrow.

From Asher

Ooh that final 1+2 looks like it's headed in the right direction

From Greg

ok, well 9 and 10 are too close, but i think these guys are on the way to be Very Different as far as their form goes. next up is color.

From Asher

Ahaha yeah dude! Digging the two new guys.

Good idea getting a tarantula guy in there, too. ughghg now that I'm thinking about animation-- his idle blinking animation is going to be amaaaazing.

From Greg 9/28/13

great new build! i think we're on the right ytrack with the monster design. i think the 1s and 2s are the confusing point now, more confusing than before, well especially in contrast with the "2" and the "3", i'm guessing you feel that too.

one thing: i don't think showing the score during play is neccesary, i always liked the ticking up of the score after losing. made losing a positive thing, a fun thing. "what'd i get?!" sorta feeling.

haven't tested out undos yet, they are a bit cutoff graphically on the arted version.

excited! will pump hard on monday :) :) :)

From Asher

Whoo! Got to a computer ~10 minutes after you messaged me and I think it took <5 minutes to get your art on the phone. Super fast iteration = feel free to ask me to drop your art in any time.


1) I'm on adobe CC now, don't know if that changes anything.

2) Gonna be a priority to figure out how to communicate "I'm the highest number!" Highlighting the biggest numbergives the player a super clear goal.

3) I think the numbers are too small? Or maybe the vertical text makes it weird. Either way: it's tricky to insta-read the numbers on the cards.

4) Ahhhh I'm super digging the slowly-becoming-monsters thing. The fangs on the 96 are brilliant/subtle.

5) This direction feels really really really good. Readable+unique+engaging = ugh everything we were missing <3

From Greg

so i kept the vertical numbers because horizontal numbers will make for the eyes basically being covered up or crowding things. i can still play though and keep the eyes high or low. but yea. also, simple color shift on the "highest card".

here's the numbers more normal like:

ok, pretty happy with these as a 2nd draft.

From Asher

Yessss the top monsters all look distinct/rewarding enough to egg people to keep playing :D

The teeth on 48+96 are confusing. I thought their mouths were their bottom part?

From Greg

just fixed 'er! :)

also, i added some ears to "the bat" 768: you can see how the artboard is gonna mess with that. i figured it'd be kinda cool to give a little breakout like that, maybe do more with the final guy too...

here's a mockup with the hugging:

and put these in the artboard setup if you wanna check 'em in game.

From Greg

the forgotten wall bg:

i don't like it aesthetically as much as i do the original plain black bg but yea, just bubbling that up to the surface a bit more. i made a file called "" which is just the same with all artboards but less clutter. the score up in the center is just to test out how that'll lay out at the end of a round.

here's a simpler wall bg, opening and such:

lighter colors, similar to what we had before.

From Greg

i REALLY like this! like, a lot. ok. awesome :)

Putting Together the IGF Build

With the IGF deadline approaching (10/31/13) we begin to implement the art into the game. This starts to get technical and not the kind of technical that could be interesting. It's just sprite-sheets and animations and texture atlases. We'll try to spare you from most of it, while still focusing on the interesting conversations.

From Greg - 10/3/13

do you have a local version with those new artboards? mine still say top (i'm using FINAL)

also, i revised the last handful of monsters: i think these are a huge improvement over the previous versions, now look much more like "animals" or monsters with a personality that's identifiable. the snake should be fun to animate.

across the board, i added black eyes to the "gold" cards, just to make them pop a bit more overall.

i also wanna test out a "1" and "2" on the green and purple. feel free to veto if you think that's a bad idea.

ok, that should do it for editing "FINAL" for now, if you wanna throw in a new ai file with those artboards like you have them, i can merge the two and we can go on our way.

later i'm gonna come at you with an email about how i'm thinking we should setup the animations. (idle and otherwise) as well as a merge mockup (hopefully).

ps. i played last night for about 30m and got my highest score ever. 3,410 with a "384" but damn, i can't believe your 9,385. is that including a 1536??!?! no way. can't be. it was a great experience though, because when i play i just sort of was in this mode or headspace of playing quickly and "feeling it" but last night i was very methodical with all of my choices. my strategy was to first to avoid "checkerboarding" as i call it in my head, where i keep like things contiguous as much as i can, secondary strat was focusing on purp/green stratification. both of those things, and a slower pace made a huge difference. what a game dude. ok cool.

pps. still though, tell me about that 9,385 run. jesus.

ppps. is score just raw numbers adding up at the end? i'm kinda feeling that trend lately, how 868 does it and just generally keeping scores and values at their most atomic. i dunno. a different beast, an arcade/puzzle game like this, but yea. just a thought i'm throwin' out there.

undo sending: hmmm, maybe that would discount the effort and amazement deserved for something like merging a 1536 together. like, that's the same amount of points as having two 768s, unmerged on the board at death time. maybe we already cross this bridge a long time ago. ok. haha. yep.

From Asher

Oooh yesss I love the new monsters! (Also the bunny eyes made me laugh) Happy you didn't change 96 too much, I think he's my favorite :D

If you look at assetsFINAL now you'll see the ideal artboard layout.


So in an ideal scenario: the animations would be done in-editor instead of being frame by frame. It would let us do 60+ frames per second, keep the file size small, and we'd have built-in animation transitions. Also it would make it much much easier to do procedural animation if we ever wanted to move anything besides the pupils.

Mecanim (Unity's animation system) is actually pretty straightforward keyframe-based animation. The tricky part is going to be the masking and how/if Unity can handle what we need to do. Next week is basically gonna be devoted to researching/implementing that.

Is there any tricky or hand-drawn stuff you're doing that you think wouldn't work in Unity?


Think the snake dude can idle with his mouth more closed? Looks like he's blowing kisses or something :p Also I've been getting some "uhhh" responses on the purple/green blocks. We might want to try some quieter colors.


The 9,385 score was a crazy run (though my friend Michael Chu has broken 10k!). I feel like I was meditating. No 1536s, but I got a 768, which adds ~4000k points.

It took a while to figure out a good scoring system, but yeah you nailed it: the tiles get worth more than double every time they upgrade so that one 12 is worth more than two 6's and so on.

Game over man

The game over flow definitely needs a lot of work. (In fact it's worse than before... turns out I lost the old endgame counting code =/ Current version was implemented in a rushed 30 minutes.) I think we're gonna need a "game over" screen that's not just the board??


Finally feeling out some sfx! I think when the animations are in we're gonna want some monster grunts, but I'm playing around with some thinky-mergey sounds. Possible soundscape attached. The long tones are for when the player is dragging into a merge (those will fade in and out) and then the sound after that is the "successful merge!" sound.

From Asher

Oh and do you think we can lighten the blue even more? The screen's getting pretty busy.

From Greg


here's a lighter blue, definitely REAL light. as light as i'd ever wanna go. blurring my eyes makes things pretty clear, also changed up the 1/2 colors. i dig these as more "beautiful" colors in their own right. i tried other versions where the saturation was sapped out and all that and they blended into the rest of the field. i also played with changing the red color for the "gold" top card (192 in this ss) and it's just not as powerful. i think that guy should stay fairly powerful. it's just one card and it should be higher up the visual hierarchy anyhow. ok. still playing though.

ps. what about BE3? or i dunno:

here's an idea for the 1s and 2s:

From Asher

mmmm those 1+2 colors are tasty. We should definitely try throwing the peg/hole look into the game to see if it works! Oh man I like "Be3" but is it a problem that it looks like "BEE"??

From Greg

haha, we're really in sync lately. i made a new icon.

still riffing, but i'll throw it in FINAL

probably too cute:

buuuut, i am getting used to the new peg/hole things. i dunno. i think it deserves a kleenex test or two without using the tutorial.

From Asher

Totally reconsidering a stance:

We can just call it Threes. I bet we can google up to the top.

From Greg

i agree about googlin' up, but also is this a potential issue:

From Greg 10/17/13

oof. ok. welp. did a bunch of menu work. got some alts in there, the title and the game over aren't super polished. my favorite idea for the title is just to have it be a living game board where you play with your guys that you've collected. though the highest have 2 and then you merge them to start. it remembers the orientation etc.

ok! i'm beat, see ya tomorrow

From Asher

Ahaha that's awesome dude. Definitely want to try out the main menu idea.

Though I'm confused about the Main Menu / Retry options. Are you supposed to slide or tap those? It looks like slide, but if it is I'm worried about conflicting with the iOS notification center.

From Greg

yea the idea was that you slide.

basically, my impetus for that whole deal is that you are used to sliding in the game and this sort of maintains that. HOWEVER that could be bad, obviously we need two interaction models (tapping and sliding) in the game so you can exit or activate an undo etc. keeping the buttons up there as they were seemed a little anti-climactic but might still be the best option for clarity.

ok, so here's a new flow of shit, i cut down that old title screen and just left a couple options as well.

From Asher

Oh yeah and unless some kind of magic revelation happens, blitz mode is probably gonna die.

From Greg

got up to 12 done. looks like this:

gotta grab dinner, hope to be done early tomorrow.

ps. can you toss me a testflight build with the most up to date static blocks? my current version still has the peg/hole guys and the faded "gold" blocks

And so we continue working towards submitting to IGF. We settle on Threes as the name and while we still argue about it later, a lot, but it sticks. The font gets changed. We struggle through finding an animation system that works. We work with a Flash->spritesheet->Unity atlas kind of thing. We switch some focus to thinking about the tagline instead of a name for the game. And start thinking about the website too.

Thinking About the Website

From Greg

idea: an online/web version that fits seamlessly into the website, maybe even playable on any browser? that only goes up to 96...

basically it IS the website.

just playing with website stuff. if i presented someone with just the tagline, what kind of questions would pop up. and how would we answer on a base level. and then next i'll try and translate those answers to showing as opposed to telling...

here's a rough of that website/game idea:

From Asher

Hmmm not to throw down roadblocks, but I'm kind of super wary about putting the game in the browser for a bunch of different reasons.

1) We'd basically need to port the entire game. Including the tutorial or something similar. Would it be a Unity plugin (easier, but no one would install it) or html5+javascript (100% port job)?

2) Demos are notorious for killing game sales. People play it for a while and say "oh I get the gist of it" and move on with their lives. I can super see that happening with Threes. =/

From Greg

yea i hear ya, it's a lot of work and yea. the demo is the catch-all solution to having people "get" the game without explaining it. though, my friend joe, he's fiending for the game. i've never seen anyone do this with a game before. and while he COULD play it online and so on if this was real, he wants it in his pocket and he probably wants the full limitless version. but yea, i understand your wariness.

to throw in another data point though, solipskier is fully available and i think that has a lot to do with why we're still selling copies. we've never updated the game or anything and it still sells copies. And it's also the full game. people just want it in their pocket and to touch it. apples and oranges maybe though since that's an action/real-time experience and this is a puzzle situation. but it does feel similar with the arcade aspect and the desire to play it anywhere, especially in moments of... phoning.

i dunno. having an amazing way for people to get into the game is so incredibly important. it's early in the website/marketing idea stage, i'm working on a little family tree story thing right now. this type of thing was on the table for the hundreds website and we deemed it too much work but i think it's good to look in all the cracks to find the specialness in how people share the game, talk about it and so on.

i'll keep pokin' :)

From Greg

trying out some 3 new taglines. i think my favorite is the animated gif idea. the gameboard there would be an animated gif of a play session. complete with wall stuff, arrows showing up to represent swipe actions and etc. easy enough for me to do and it could just communicate the game well enough to intrigue people?

some core high-minded ideas i've been pushing around:

simple to learn / impossible to master the endless/boundless challenge (using that as a taunt, almost and a way to pique interest amongst really hardcore arcade/puzzle people)

favorite right now is the animated gif one. will sleep on it, see ya tomorrow! :)

From Asher

I really like the gifs-as-tutorials idea :D

Still thinking on the demo idea. Worried about all the logistics involved. (Example: If we did port it to html5, we'd have to actively prevent people from playing it on their phones x.x) Releasing it on a game portal like solipskier is an alternative but hmm.

I personally like "you can play forever" instead of "you'll never finish." The never finish thing is a good taunt towards the core players, but it might scare away everyone. Also it feels like we're highlighting the futility of it all??

Back in the saddle today! Scoreboards ho! :D


The simple to learn & impossible to master thing is on the nose so we should figure out how to say that without sounding cliche :D

From Greg

cool! yea i agree. this is what i'm rolling with right now: couldn't be simpler. it's probably not working SMART but i just wanna do that tutorial gif right now. so i'm gonna do that...

also, i think if we do some really nice photography of the game in people's hands etc. that'll be a good way to show the game in full glory, contrasted against the simplistic gif tut.

also pretty excited about people just posting that gif and that being our trailer or something.

ok, this pup is 200KB. shows about 5 swipes in ~120 frames.

We made the IGF deadline, but you’ll notice it was with a game that doesn’t look a heck of a lot like the final version of Threes. The game functioned and kept people playing and all that but we had a lot of work to do and a lot of thinking left.

Tutorial Ideas

From Greg - 11/3/13

also, i was listening to zach's talk yesterday, and he mentioned something about spelltower that has my mind reeling.

he mentioned how he was very proud of his tutorial, and i never really thought it all that amazing, but he mentioned that the REAL tutorial in spelltower is Tower Mode. basically, you can't die in tower mode, there's no real challenge.

i wonder if we took that to heart what we'd come up with. maybe it's something simple like just starting their first ever game with a single tile. i mean, we can't take the challenge out (the addition of the cards) without drastically changing the language/system of the game itself, but it's maybe a sentiment to keep in mind.

From Asher

OH MAN what a good idea. We can start their first game with the 1+2 layout that the tutorial starts with. Except then tiles will start spawning in...

Important Email from Zach Gage

From Zach - 11/4/13

Hey dude! thanks for sending the latest 3s build over. sorry it took me so long to get you a reply!

I love the game still, and i really like the stable of creatures on the first page, and the sign your name on the highscores is awesome too. Ultimately though, I think something in the art just isn’t doing it for me. so warning, all personal preference here (sorry greg :( !):

it’s running this strange line between cute and sort of a geometric stylization, and they don’t feel like they’re fitting together well. combine that with the font (i totally hate how the 3 looks in this font), and something feels wrong.

Some of the creatures are super cute(12s), and it feels good to make them, so I feel like having these number blocks turn into adorable creatures is a great idea, i just don’t really buy this direction in style. It feels like they should be way more adorable. I feel like everything over 48 looks undesirable to me to get. Amy was put off by the design as well, so i know its not entirely just me.

The game also feels very dark. I wonder if the background could be different brighter colors instead of black. It feels like the wrong tone for a casual but secretly super hard and interesting game.

It’s also a bit weird how the higher you go with numbers, the smaller the numbers get. It makes 3’s stand out way more than 384s for example. I know there may be no good fix for this issue, but I thought i’d at least point it out

anyway. i dunno. just figured i’d share my thoughts, sorry they’re not more uplifting :/

From Greg to Zach & Asher

just wanted to say thanks for the feedback. it was a bit of a blow for me but i think i've teased out what's useful after a healthy amount of thinking and experimenting.

it seems the problem is that the cards don't feel rewarding enough when you get a new one, it doesn't evoke a sense of "wonder what's next?" like it should. it's also exposed a pang that we've shared about how the game needs a firmer foundational fiction. asher came up with some good ideas on that last night and hopefully we can realize them or it sets us on a different path to find a new answer.

as for the colors, i agree with you that they could be more pleasant, but while threes feels like a small game, there is a fair amount of information being conveyed between the characters, the numbers, their merging, the slots and the walls and of course the super important 1s and 2s. if you look at these lighter versions: and it's clear just how busy or claustrophobic a white/light background can make things feel. a black screen lets the eyes rest just like a white piece of paper does. processing another color back there gets even worse, let alone a lighter gray or white. it's like, i like how this looks: but then with that or other variations, even this: , you get a busyness like this: and this which is really problematic. i think if we scrapped the characters completely, more colors would be definitely in the cards, but as it stands there are a lot of moving parts to balance that need the quietness of a black bg so the 3s have the highest contrast.

anyway, we'll keep at it for sure :)

From Zach

something about this one is actually kind of charming

here’s a slightly simplified version (mostly i just lightened the empty shadows and removed some colors)

obviously things are entirely wrong with the color palate now, but i think something like this could maybe work?

So after that Asher and I talk it over privately...

From Asher to Greg

We don't have to deal with this at this very moment but oh man would you hate me if I said that blue/white background is soothing to my soul.

The tile colors are totally wrong, but that screen looks pretty inviting overall.

I know due diligence has been done, but it feels wrong not to mention how much that badly photoshopped mockup attracts me.

I'm probably a damned fool, but maybe the current color scheme (red+blue+white) would work on that background.

From Greg

sure, i can put it into a fully fledged mockup but it's gonna have a lot more red than blue. it's kinda easy to make something look nice when it's just a 1 a 2 and a 3. but when it's full of blocks...

just a sec

From Greg

so here's that scheme fully played out:

here's with a more modest, safer palette for teh cards:

here's one i dove into, not as good as the safer one even, but a little darker bg:

From Asher

That middle mockup has potential! The biggest problem there is with the 1/blue cards because they fade into the background. A similar problem with the face cards, but less pronounced.

Maybe some kind of outline on the cards? Have you played with that at all?

Thanks for humoring this... I feel like there's something here.

From Greg

alright, so here's a refined/tuned version:

i added a folder in dbox called "colors" and it has 10 screenshots of different color mockups, so you can swipe through them side by side on your phone. i think this one is nice, but i don't think it's as good as the black bg. the white bg slots are problematic and muddy the white 3s. i'm going to darken them, but i still stand by the black bg as king of clarifying a glut of cards

From Asher

Played around with some colors and outlines myself.

But man as I was flipping through them on the phone itself, the black one just... fits.

I feel like it's going to look oppressive in screenshots, but it feels really natural on the phone. Especially with a black border. Maybe it feels different on a white phone.

Hmmm I wonder if we can detect that sort of thing.

It's been so arduous revisiting this thing over and over, but this actually feels like a valuable thing to learn. Ugh what a headache to keep reevaluate decisions we've already made.

From Greg

yea, i hear ya!

with the screenshots that's been my main concern too, with the color change it'd be nice, but i can do some cool stuff there like i did with hundreds or etc. and also, a light bg and intro may be in the cards through a modified menu/ui and or tutorial?

things to think about, it'd be nice to intro with a lighter color or someyhing. if you think about the menu itself we can think aboyt it like a book cover ot someyhing too. different scheme and so on, and the pages are the important/functional part.

alright! :)

This e-mail is coming from inside the iPhone!

From Asher

I'm down for the occasional pallet change! And if we get the chroma-key thing working on the faces then it should be zero problem to change the colors of things at will.

Ooh exciting.

Also seriously gonna look into if there's a way to detect if a phone is white or black. We can potentially have the intro-pallet be based on that.

Maybe night colors like spelltower? (Meh.)

From Greg


i just feel like getting more colorful/lighter with the color palette makes it so much busier.

there are a lot of reasons for the colors we chose, the freedom that a black bg gives us, how the white cards stand out and individual cards stand alone amongst that black bg. black screen == white paper so our eyes focus on the objects on the blank canvas, but on a lighter background, we focus on the colored block in the background, at least a little bit. gold ranked cards vs. normal 3s color difference in the black bg is subtle yet clear. in a white bg, that's lost amongst a 4th color. the white 3s cards are special in that they're white, the absence of color, so they feel more special and apart from the red/blue color scheme of the 1/2 combination.

when i keep the color count down, and add in a white/light bg, but keep the white, then we get something like this:

so that's about as dark a gray as we can go while keeping the "lightness". also, one side effect of the color changes would be a different icon. i'm pretty damn happy with the icon as it stands, so here's how it'd look with the altered scheme:

i tried a bunch more, where i just changed the colors of the icon and then fed those changes reverse-ways through a mockup and nothing looked better than the white. i tried sort of a reversed scheme as well, something like this: and it just is too much to see the characters at all. and when i make the features of the characters brighter than the face of the card itself, it just looks goofy, so when it comes to 3s as a dark or black card (the highest contrast on a light/white background) we really don't have the same leeway or soft, secondary visibility that we would on a white/lighter colored card.

while admittedly, there are things i like about a lighter color scheme, some faded, less saturated 1s and 2s, functionally for the game, it requires the current color scheme that we have. everything i've done on this game has been an investigation into communicating the slight weirdness of the game system in a natural and pleasant way. it's been tough because the game feels simple and small, but we want to pack as much personality AND functionality into the game as possible and being the arbiter of that has been challenging, if not exhausting at times. some sleep will hopefully help, but i do stand by the current look of the game, the colors, the structure, the characters and everything else.

i feel like i've done the due diligence here, at least colors wise, the main concern. the other points of zach's i feel are more personal taste or how he would design a game. i understand what he's saying about a "casual game" but is that even casual? it's a loaded word filled with crocodile characters and other cartoons. we don't really have those, and do we want them? it's been my experience that if you make a unique thing with as much heart as you can cram in there, people will respond. i'm not saying that threes truly has that, and maybe that's what zach is really getting at, but i don't think that a lighter background is really the right direction.

i think the 3 is a great piece of typography, unique but still extremely clear. it has the right "chunk" to fit within the rest of the game and each number fills the card out very well. the 192+ issue with the typography was somewhat of a concern initially, that's why i experimented with vertical type and also type that was much smaller that accounted for the 3 digit numbers first so the single digits were just the same size as the 3 digits, but that places the clarity deep into the game whereas it's more important to get the clarity off the bat.

the cutesy/geometric issues, i just don't see. i really feel like once animated, the game has a danger of being TOO cutesy and even distracting. i think it's the right amount of charm, it should be a charming game, not a cute game or a monolithic warbeast set in abacusland. besides, with the compromise teeter-tottering we're doing with the numbers being the focus and the characters being secondary, i feel the balance is already there how we envisioned based on zach's feedback and with things animated, the lack of character will be made up for.

i do think a couple of characters could go under the microscope like he mentioned. 96 for sure. it's a bit angry. why should they hug if they're angry? i think 384 and 768 are great. 192 is a bit weird, but maybe with the right snake tongue it can be pulled off. i dunno.

perspective wise, i want to keep pushing forward. i've given it a whole day's thought and it's keeping me from sleeping at the moment because i'm taking his criticism very seriously but as i mull it over with the keyboard here, i remember the thousand decisions made along the way. if there's any word i can use when describing my work on this game it'd be EXHAUSTIVE. we've been around the world and back again, literally. this design is based on the first one i came up with, and i'm happy with how we've evolved that base with all the lessons we've learned getting back to that original mockup.

to step back a bit for a moment.

i may be off base in saying this, but i feel this along with a few other fumbles along the way may be a slight case of sophomore slump paranoia? could be a strong word, but i think when making a game you do your best to listen and shift as you go, but the game's look clicked for me long ago when we found it. it's been at a pretty good and steady pace since and now maybe we're getting a bit wobbly because release is somewhat imminent. if there IS one thing that i feel is missing from the game it's a better, more metaphorical type menu system, something that could convey a hidden world, maybe a dash of sonder or something that would help frame the fiction of the game. that's where my thoughts drift to when i'm mulling over the quality of the game, i'm pretty confident, that once animated and polished, the second-to-second game is going to be an absolute joy to touch. and i know full well the game design, its core, is rock solid. part of me wonders about the points and if we could tighten that up so they're communicated a bit more straightforward, but that's frosting. something for later. anyway, the whole menu/ficiton thing is from the loss of "argoyles" as a guide/fiction and i've been searching for something like it to fill the holes ever since. i mean, the argoyles wasn't right for this game, it has gone through so many iterations, it just doesn't work, but it doesn't mean that that TYPE of thing won't be missed. that was the source of the silhouette "gallery" on the hallway with the wallpaper. sort of like a family of them. i think family could still work, and the stable does a decent job of that, but it doesn't provide any fictional context. every since you mentioned how some folks were confused by the title, i've been thinking on that and how we could maybe shift it to something else, but yea. that's where most of my uncertainty lies with the game.

i think the right direction is finding some kind bookend or tie-in. who are the threes? what are they doing here? what's their history? answer some big questions that we maybe haven't asked yet. that will fill that heart shaped hole that was made when we dropped the exciting idea of "The Argoyles".

From Asher

I think we can safely say that you've done your due diligence in the color department. Thanks for spending the time on that... the fact that black screen = white page really helps clarify why it's currently working.

Reading Zach's email was sort of strange for me. It mentions a lot of concerns that I had early on (like the darkness thing), but I'd pushed those concerns aside for the sake of moving forward. Hearing them again definitely shook my foundation.

Of course moving forward was the right decision, but I think there's a chance we were too quick to jump into autopilot "we've made the right decision now let's wrap this thing up" mode. Maybe animations will fix everything, maybe they won't.

I've been playing with the game while I write this and trying to think critically about it and man... I actually kind of really like the design of these little guys... Well most of them.

Okay a theory:

These are great: 3, 6, 12, 384, 768, 1536

These are weak: 24, 48, 96, 192

Brand new players breeze through 3(strong), 6(strong), and 12(strong). In fact they have to in order to complete the tutorial.

First timers usually end their game with a 48(weak) or a 96(weak). From their point of view the monster progression looks like a downward trend. This is only reinforced if/when they manage to create a192(weak). Frustration ensues.

Only the most advanced players see 384(strong), 768(strong).

Regarding 24: He's not bad. Just plain. But in terms of how much attachment I feel to him... it's definitely a downgrade from 12.

Regarding 48: I love him. He's a great character. But when new players are struggling to get their first 24s together, they are "rewarded" with this awkward looking dude. I'd much prefer if players ended their first playthrough on a more positive note. Maybe glasses-man should be 24 instead? Let people breeze past their awkward teen years.

In regards to finding the heart of this thing: As much as I want to pursue games with story+world, I've always been terrible at coming up with that sort of thing. Honestly I let teammates figure it out most of the time :)

But recently I've found myself thinking about the game as an exploration of identity. Like how the phrase "be yourself" is utter bullshit because "yourself" isn't a thing that exists until you create it. We start out as just the sum of our nature+surroundings (1+2) and eventually we coalesce that into a sense of self that we can define and present to others. (3) And then eventually you get enough perspective to self reflect (3+3) and decide how to change.

And the metaphor actually holds up because your constantly learning about new ideas (1s) while dealing with genetics (2s) and also memories of how you dealt with stuff in the past (3s, 6s, 12s...) and really the trick is about how to line them all up and figure out how to grow.

It's a super intellectually-based metaphor with no earthly elements (like argyle), but that's definitely where my head is at.

Anyway... this was definitely a bump in the road, but I think it exposed a lot of questions that needed to be asked.

From Greg


i hear what you're saying about 24, but if you remember, we did the cards like this because they feel like they get progressively bigger and etc. there's kind of a maddening difference between what an individual likes and thinks is "cute" or desirable and a systematic progression of larger, more powerful characters. if zach and amy like the cute guys in the beginning, that's fine, but making them all look cute like that will wash away the feeling of progress with each character. i'm not saying there's no room for revision of 24, 96 and 192, but it's easy to isolate certain concerns and then forget about all the other holes in the dam we've had plugged for awhile now.

i played a bit with some shape stuff: but it also would change everything down the line and doesn't fill in the slot. if we make something in 24 look like it has cheeks and has special outside the card stuff, we need to add that to every other card. but right now i'm not worrying about that.

as far as the dna and genetics stuff, i also think it's the strongest metaphor. it could even be like this: or this: which would cover up my concerns with teaching the 1s and 2s go together, 1s and 1s don't, 2s and 2s don't, but 3s and 3s do, weirdness. i think the problem with the "combs" is the right/left issue, but it's somewhat indicative of two sides of a DNA helix or something. i could push that further...

one cool thing about GC/TA would be that depending on what is combined, they could have slightly different hues (the 3s faces). could get weird when combining two different hues together, maybe they're added or some sort of color calc is done, i dunno.

alright, so just going to keep fiddling with 24, 96 and 192 and see what comes up. keeping in mind the self-reflection, genetics stuff. also, a name could pop out of this as well, so let me know if you have any ideas on that.

for the animations, what needs to be done? sizing things down to half on an individual basis is fairly time consuming. but if we size down the sprite sheet, does that fuck everything up?

From Greg

my big takeaway from all this is that the true problem is that the characters don't change enough, they don't provide enough wonder or a feeling "i wonder what'll be next?!" or at least, that doesn't happen soon enough perhaps.

here are some meditations on 24 that i did this morning: ok, gonna go eat breakfast etc.

From Asher

So after all the soul searching and all the decisions we've gone through, I'm really of the firm belief that the numbers are a Good Thing. When we got rid of the numbers people couldn't wrap their minds around the game and got scared off pretty easily.

WITH the numbers, the game is clear and honest about what it is: a puzzle game. It's clear how all the numbers relate to each other. You can see the progression without having to run your brain through a metaphor. It's simple addition.

I feel like context for this game will help the same way the word "royalty" helps you understand face cards in a deck. It's easy to remember the progression and you understand why the queen+jack are hanging out together, but the game operates independently of it.

Anyway I'll give animation a shot with the current sheet. But it won't run on device. (At least not any of my devices) At some point we're going to have to figure out a better pipeline for iterating these guys.

From Greg



just some thoughts. again, breaking out of the card silhouette, but i dunno, if we can do the ears, the beards and stuff could work too?

those aren't final, i don't like the pirate's eyes and i'm not sure the pirate even fits really, but yea. i think beards are kinda cool. so that's what this email is about. beards.


i think 24 is too early for a scarf for sure. but i think once we're into 96+ things get more rare and should be more exciting.

here's what i've come up with:

From Greg

had a flash of an idea about 1s and 2s being black and white (ish) and the 3s being colored:

here's a smattering of some of them:

somewhat interesting:

but again. back to the original.


i'm pretty happy with the current lineup, should i get back to animating these guys then?

From Asher

Playtested the game a bunch at a party last night. Honestly this game is not meant for parties, but still picked up some interesting things.

Most notable: People are really confused that the 2s and the "gold" card are the same color. Maybe the gold card should be... gold?

Secondly: I'm gonna see where I can trim the fat off the tutorial.


Looking excellent dude. I'm super happy with how these guys turned out.

Hmmm maybe leave the chain out of 96's animations and we can do actual physics on it as it gets swiped around :D (I've already concluded that we're going to have to manually lay out all the different cards in editor so having certain cards be special should be cake.)

I think that 384 is still not quite the same level of quality as the rest. (It's nice that we're down to ONE though!) The hands are kinda creeping me out. Maybe if we want to transition into the cards having things sticking out we could do majestic horns or something?

I love love love 1536's antlers. Very concerned about the wings, though. Imagine having two 1536's next to each other. How would that layer? Maybe the wings just expand when he gets formed and then fold back to the side? Similar concerns with 768.


From Greg

i agree about the tutorial. one thing on that, that i see people consistently get stuck on, is the walls. i feel like focusing in on the wall animation would potentially help us cut some wall stuff down. getting people comfortable with the basic controls and feel of the game is pretty paramount. once they understand that, i feel like it's not terribly complicated. that's kinda why i'm sidestepping it in the website gif thingy.

also there's that idea of 1+2=3 and just add squares as you go, the elegant tutorial, and then that's just your first play through. i'm not sure it's the way to go, but i've learned a lot between hundreds and ridiculous fishing about on-ramps and i really feel like the success of those two games, especially RF, have great on ramps. like the way it's woven into your first playthrough as opposed to a seperate broken out teaching session. i think that could be really awesome if we can pull it off.

here's some boxing gloves and tucked wings:

agreed about the monocle, that'd be awesome. :) !!! i DO think the horns and all that on the 1536 are pretty bananas, but man. i just really really want 1536 to be a bananas achievement. if you have 1536, how many hours have you played threes? don't you already have the thing memorized and don't worry if a 192 is clipped a bit?

i'll see what i can do with the majestic horns, i was patterning some stuff on that style, but it was more demonic previously...

hmm, ok:

so i think that looks really cool, but it's a bit too much for 384 maybe?

From Greg

i toned them down, i think it works now:

768 still has the crazy wings and the red eyes, teeth etc.

From Asher

Now THAT'S a good lookin lineup.

From Greg


here's the gold guys:

but yea, not sure how they'll look in a full screenshot, i'll keep playing with it. it could just be black instead of red too. but yea. get at it tomorrow morning :)

Development Plan and Tutorial Stuff

From Asher - 11/6/13

Okay I feel like I'm flailing around because tasks are piling up and I'm not sure in what order to tackle them. So here's a rough schedule just for the sake of writing it down and itemizing what needs to be done.

Green = done

Yellow = in progress

Week of 11/4: (this week)

Design New Faces

In-Game Challenges

Wall Animation

Week of 11/11:

Animate New Faces

Design Tutorial v2

Implement Tutorial v2

Playtest Tutorial v2

Week of 11/18:

Layout new faces in editor

Figure out color-replacement

Pupil System

Animation System

Playtest More

Week of 11/25:

Art-up Tutorial

Palette Changing System

Sound Effects


Week of 12/2:

Integrate Challenges with GameCenter

Art polish

Week of 12/9:

Polish faces (monocle+more)

Polish everything

Obviously I'm forgetting stuff and obviously things will take longer than I expect, but it's looking like there's a small chance we'll be done with core features by mid-december !

Lemme know if I'm forgetting something

From Greg

right on, this seems accurate as far as tasks go. i am going to try and go ahead of schedule on them, i think i can get animations done for the new faces by friday night, who knows though. maybe monday. i'm working all the time on this pup, my hope was to get work done on it before thanksgiving. i think that's possible as long as zach doesn't email us again :P haha

do you wanna talk tutorialv2? I could put together some mockup slides if that'd be helpful. are we gonna do a in-game interface of any kind of the challenges?

From Asher

Okay if you want to get ahead of schedule then I might have to shuffle some tasks around so that you're supported ASAP. (I imagine you'll be laying out the faces and arting the new tutorial etc etc)

I'm down to talk about a new tutorial ideas. I'm free tomorrow anytime after 11am pst.

Still figuring out the challenge interface. The idea is still fresh, which means it's pretty clunky. But basically challenges show up 1) When a game finishes 2) in the "challenges" menu.

Currently the challengeable records are: your highest score, your highest tile, the most 3s you've gotten on a board, the most 6s you've gotten on a board, the most 12s... etc

I'm not totally satisfied with the current end game flow I've got which is:

Board completes -> Board Counts -> Swipe to see new records -> Swipe to sign -> game over

A bunch of problems with this. "Records" sound lame. I don't like that it adds another step, because I think we're already pushing how long it takes to restart. It'd be nice if we could make it an overlay like in team fortress.

This part should also take care of the task of "Congratulations, you beat that challenge that [username] challenged you at!"

The challenge menu is a list of all the records you're currently qualified for, which is mostly based on what tile you've reached.

Every record should have your current progress on it. If you've been challenged -> it displays your challenger and their progress. Else If you're beating a friend -> it displays their user name+progress and presents the option to challenge Else If you're in last place on your friends list -> it displays the friend who is beating you and their progress. Else If none of your friends are playing -> it should just be your record.

Tapping on the record will open a "Challenge" screen and will list out all your friends applicable to challenge. (Anyone who is <= your current progess.) You can select as many people as you want or cancel out. (GC doesn't have this functionality built in for some reason. We gotta build it ourselves.)

And then some kind of "CHALLENGE HAS BEEN DEALT" screen.

Whew. I think I finally understand why no one's done challenges right. This looks like a bunch of work. But I think it'll be worth it for a lot of reasons :D

From Greg

just a moment here, i'm gonna skip a lot of your email, come back to it. i think for the menu we should still have the sliding/stable thing with all the cards you've earned on the title screen, but that part of the menu should be earned... it can be right on the title screen. dangers there could be finding a 192 on your first try, which is probably gonna be rare, but still could happen.

i think the old way of doing it could work though too. where we have a list of the cards and we give stats and things. might be kinda nice. but then, i'd be itchin' to get these super 200% larger cards animating in an idle way to make them feel more alive.

here's the two mockups:

i do think we could do something with earning the stable though, maybe if you get 192 on your first try you get a certain amount of points that you can spend on unlocking that feature. it's messy and a bad idea, but just brainstorming. hmmm.


ok i gotta run for a sec but on your points...

end game: i agree. i think "board complete" is a superfluous step in the process. i feel like the cards should immediately start flipping and turning dead, counting points once you lose. tetris does it, pj did it too, why not? the counting/flipping thing is slow enough to enjoy and see what's up anyway. then you should see the dead cards, still can analyze the pattern. then you swipe to enter your name and then see your score. can't records come up after the board is flipped and dead, or yea, let's pop it up in the corner as a badge like TF2. here's a quick mockup: we could also do a vertical flag thing: and this stuff would slap on after the dead count up, so an extra little reward, i think it's the most rewarding at that stage anyway.

i think in general we should keep "tiny game" in mind at all times so while it'd be nice to have challenges, let's make them feel sort of tiny, but still rewarding. design things in an invisible way so they're nice little surprises rather than larger chunky menus full of stuff showing it all off.

that said, obv we should have that awesome challenge menu, i think it can feel nice and fun to use but still very powerful.

to this one:

"Else If none of your friends are playing -> it should just be your record."

we should add the recommend the game to a friend or some sort of option that way. iirc i think that's possible...

ok cool, challenges will be super cool, especially now that i can visualize the function of the menu and what that'll mean for the game etc.

ok, let's chat when i get into the office, have to run an errand, i'll be on later this morning and etc.

How the Music is Made

From Asher - 11/10/13


(first draft but still oh man)

Listen to the first draft!

From Greg

oh cool!

alright. hmmmm. so i've listened to it a couple times, and i think it's a cool track. i don't wanna be a stick in the mud of some enthusiasm but i just not sure about what would actually fit. to me, it's kinda serious and brooding. to be completely honest, i really can't imagine a genre that would be more appropriate for threes than to have zero sound. i think we could use a catchy title loop of some kind, something... "tiny" and nice JUSt for the title screen and some menu stuff, but nothing is more tiny than hearing cute squeaks and peeps of the guys as they animate and hug while you play the game. i just feel like the onus, not only on this game specifically, but this type of game, is the sound effects. we should treat those like the music of the game.

maybe this is kinda the thinking anyway and i just missed the memo, but if it isn't i'd really strongly vote for no music in the game itself. just some light sprinkling through the menus to sort of make a bookcover out of the game, which should feel tiny and somewhat quiet. that'll make the reward of merging two guys together even better. as well as little coos and etc. from the "gallery" as they go through their idle stuff.

From Asher

Okay sent you a build with the new walls. Opinions in the notes.

Regarding the music I hear what you're saying. It seems in line with "Tiny Game" to keep everything about the game as minimal and out-of-your-face as possible. But I'm going to politely disagree with the idea that the game would benefit from being totally/somewhat musicless.

The nice thing about Threes right now is that it adapts to many different kinds of play styles: people who play for seconds at a time and people who sit down for hour long sessions. And everyone in between. The music is there for the long-players, the people who want to lose themselves in the game.

Tons of people will play with the game entirely muted because they leave their phones muted. Some people will play with their own music instead. But for the people who load up their iPad at night and turn on the game in the quiet of their home... I want it to feel rich. The music takes care of that.

The music is way too intense as is, but that's just how Jimmy works. Do you remember the first track he submitted for Puzzlejuice? It was like flying through cyberspace in the 51st century. It's just gonna get more mellow with time.

Anyway AWESOME excellent with the animations :D Gonna figure out the pipeline tonight/tomorrow so that you can start laying out the faces in game asap.

From Greg

for the music, i don't think we'll really see eye to eye on it, i'm not sure it's healthy to bicker about it when we're on such different sides of things. i don't think music is gonna ruin the game by any stretch. part of it is also just making sure to take extreme care with sound effects. i feel they are REALLY important in a game like this. excising the music would allow us not to rest on bgm to fill in the gaps. but probably the last thing i'll say about it is i'd love something a little more pensive and slower, not completely like this: since i think it's a bit dark/surreal, but maybe the kids version of that. there's just something playful in the right way about this instrumentation or at least the cadence of the whole thing. especially this song: where there's a bit of a weirdness but also hope to it. these characters are a bit odd and maybe even... plump. i just feel like the feeling fits our game. we can color the emotion of the game and make it all work together with the right music. also this one: those are the lightest of the tracks off that soundtrack. the rest are fairly macabre. again, the last thing i'll say since i know it's a bit out of left field and also might be a stretch for jimmy. but if i did have an opinion on what music to put in the game, that'd be my opinion so far.

From Asher

Okay! Sent your feedback to Jimmy. He said he's going to tinker :D

Oh man Asset Server is x1000 better than Perforce for our needs. Got it working in no time flat and we won't have to deal with the messy checkout process. Go ahead and delete Perforce. You might have to delete your Unity folder too? Sorry if you lost any changes :(

Gonna be setting up the scenes today to let you play around in them. Don't make any changes yet because I don't know how good the merging process is yet.

But go ahead and pull the latest so we can make sure you're up and running.

At this point, Jimmy is working closely with Asher, who passes Jimmy this feedback from Greg. Please read Jimmy's post regarding the inner-workings of his process here, and while it doesn't include all the emails, it definitely includes important commentary about his feelings on making the Threes music and stepping outside of his comfort zone.

Here's a quote from his incredible tell-all piece:

"I was very unsettled by how intimidating I suddenly found this project. I was excited at the idea of broadening my musical style, but as I played the game alongside the Waking Life music, I felt like nothing I could write would possibly be as good as the reference material, and that’s a very scary feeling for any composer."

Back to the Tutorial

From Greg - 11/12/13

menu thoughts:

i think we should go with the idea that the top left button will be the "back" and the top right, the "forward".

in the game over, score review you see [retry] [gamecenter] [menu]

so in the intermission we should have [back] be in the top left and [quit threes] be the big glaring and very obvious button.

on the title we have: [tutorial] THREES [more]

in the store we have: [back]

which makes sense for the "back" being in the top left and the big one that's pertinent being on the bottom.

it's all about building that muscle memory with the buttons and keeping their placement in accordance with expectation is important.

tutorial thoughts:

so a couple things here, first off, here's a the big "map". this is important to have so you can see my notes above each slide to stitch the pieces together.

i'll export individual images to a dbox folder as well.

basically, i decided to hold off on the "highest color" card until later in the tutorial because i think it's too weird when it happens naturally like this and so early on.

also, there's a lot of wall/sliding knowledge up in the air on the first slide, but i feel there is a LOT of practice in this 18 step tutorial. it's much smaller than before, doesn't require clippy and feels more modern. we can make it even smaller by cutting out the 2nd (2 + 2 != 4) section, that's pretty reiterative but i don't hink it hurts to give players more chance to work with the system before throwing them into the game.

honestly, i'm pretty psyched about this, it feels like it'll be mostly natural. could be overly optimistic though. :)

ok, cool. that's enough for one email.


asset server sounds awesome! i'll get in on that tomorrow maybe? do you want me to tinker today? i can grab it no problem but i don't have any work on the project itself to do today so i figured i'd just continue with my list i wanted to tackle. i may have a lull and just do it though but may bail if it gives me guff.


next i think i might try an iPad mockup. i still feel murky on the challenge menu/notification subject. i think that's precisely the issue, it feels etherreal, like we don't have a concrete metaphor or idea about how to communicate it all in one place. hmmmm, alright more later, but if you've had any ideas or can more clearly outline anything let me know. :)

From Asher

Menu stuff: In the current state the left/right metaphor is consistent. Left is out/exit/less. Right is in/deeper/more. It's also how most apple menus are laid out, which helps us.

(In fact it occurs to me that the game over screen is the only place in the current game where the left/right consistency breaks. I've totally been hitting the "retry" button every time I mean to go back to the main menu. Hmm.)

Also in the current layout to exit the current game you tap the "out" corner twice, which makes sense to me.

Anyway that's my two cents. The appleishness of the current layout is the most convincing thing for me. But if you want to switch we'll switch.

From Greg

from what i can tell, we agree. my case is just about the quit screen like you mentioned. i feel like having quit be a different button that's big makes sense and keeping the go back habit in the top left there is the way to go.

anyway, let's talk later about the tut and other stuff too.

Discussion on Scoring

From Greg - 11/12/13

wanted to briefly talk about score for a sec:

curious, how does the current score system work? i tried peeking but that didn't quite work. from what i glean:

i tried calculating in my head a more transparent system like this:

but that breeds some problems at the higher cards, like 2 768s are pretty dang close in point value to 1 1536. it's a couple thousand off, but i feel the difference should be greater. so yea, that's probably not gonna work, though i do like how it escalates.

it seems ridiculous but factorials would achieve a VAST difference between each card value: so basically if you get a 768 AT ALL, you have beaten everyone else no question that has never seen one before. it's an enormous victory and it washes everything else out. it does a good job of putting the high cards on near godlike status. anyway... that's my point thoughts. i kinda like fibonacci here: seems like a good distribution. it takes about three 768s to equal one 1536, so they are still really powerful but not crazy over the top like factorials would be. doubling kinda makes sense with threes logic in a way too. more separation there, at least more than fibonacci.

in the end, i like how the score works, i think, but i wish it was transparent. anumber of players and testers have asked me how the points work and while i generally know how, i don't specifically and that's a thing that i'm kinda into, the points and system being fairly atomic, or at least simply understandable. like right now we've got this 0 problem, where the 1s digit of most scores is a 0 or 5. it's fine, but it kinda makes you wonder why we don't just divide everything by 5 and it'd still be all the same. that way we'd have "ooo, you beat me by 2 points!!!!" kinda stuff happening.

one errant thought: it'd be cool if we could somehow check for impossible scores and not submit them to gamecenter to thwart cheaters. or maybe not do anything at all and just... know.

ok this has been score talk.

From Asher

Hmmm this feels super Threesy:

gonna sleep on it

From Greg

hmmm yea i like that, each next one is just about triple the previous so 3 cards of a lower tier = 1 of a higher. that seems fair.

ok, so i laid these puppies out. they're good to go, was easy enough. :) something weird though, even though my folder looks like this: the commit reads that the .bytes file is deleted?

Zach Returns & The Face of Threes

From Greg - 11/13/13

hmmmmmmm, zach and i were skyping and then he made this:

hmmmmmmm. smee?

From Asher

Ahaha that's adorable cap'n. I'm not opposed in the slightest.

Okay tutorial day. Lemme get my thoughts together and then emails inbound.

From Greg


so.... hmmmm:

and then...

i think the 3, 6 and 12s are too small probably but yea, that's the extent of it.

i'm not totally sure, but i think it opens up other colors for sure. welp.

gonna tinker a bit more.

From Asher

OH MAN this making me super happy greg

From Greg

:) i think we found it.

these moments always remind me of some BS quote from the alchemist:

(when) you are trying to realize your destiny. And you are at the point where you are about to give it all up…. I always appear in one form or another. Sometimes I appear in the form of a solution, or a good idea. At other times, at a crucial moment, I make it easier for things to happen. (24)

From Greg

lineup so far:

i'm happy with everything except for 12. may take some massaging of surrounding guys, also 1536 is a bit weird this go-round. regadless, gonna push on and make the rest of the changes to the game get a feel for things as a whole.

From Asher

GREG how about we try leaving the walls up all the time? And then only lower the wall when a new dude spawns in.

Fleshing out the tutorial... we're going to have to CLEARLY IDENTIFY the walls as walls. More soon.

From Greg

i think that could make sense but i feel like propping up the wall that you're gonna smash into is more evident since it appears as opposed to just stays, ya know?

btw, here's some updated colors:

From Asher

Gonna try it out. The wall popping up is such a fleeting/transient moment. I think it makes more sense to be able to look at the game (without touching) and get a sense of what will happen. Too many things are invisible in the game atm.

Mmmmm tasty colors on the left. The white on white is a little rough though.

Mapped out a first half of tutorial. Gonna throw it in and see how it works. Added some subtle language tweaks and reinforcing of some super core concepts.

Still struggling to figure out how to effectively teach the merge rules. I've seen too many people sort of half learn the rules ("okay 1's and 1's won't add together... why isn't 3+6 working?" etc)

Asher heads out on a roadtrip and we’re feeling really good about the new direction that Zach primed us with for the faces. It allows us to go for a different, lighter color scheme and we’re feeling a lot better about the direction of the game.

Finalizing the Colors and Faces

From Greg - 11/14/13

ok cool! where you guys goin? don't worry about working or whatever, it wouldn't be a vacation that way, but if you could just sound off on the emails i throw your way and give me feedback that'd be enough for me to keep working at the pace i'd like to. thanks :)

here's a couple taglines perhaps?

testing out the website colors [attached] and stuff like that.

here's some wall ideas:

kinda most excited about this one:

ok cool, headin' in to the office, more later :)

From Greg

pretty set on how this wall works and this palette now:

i think this pup is the fuckin' winnnnnnnnnnnnnnner!

gonna spread it all around town (town being the rest of the mockups)

From Asher

Quick q: how do things spawn in from the top?

From Greg

i thought i put that in a screenshot, but like this:

we could fade out the buttons too anytime you didn't touch them, might get busy with all that animation but yea...

From Greg

some more taglines:


zach and i had a little brainstorm thing after i showed him the new thing. mentioned there's not as much progression as there once was with the faces, so... is maybe my best shot at being real discrete about it, also some other ideas:


headbumps (phrenology):

waaaay better haircuts:

here's the haircuts in a mockup:

seeing them in game though, hmmm. maybe if they were... cut down!!!!! a bit. sry. yea. hmmmm

also attached an updated website that i've been toying with.

From Asher

I like the colors in the first progression you posted, but it sort of screws with the 3Dness of it all.

But honestly I'm not too concerned about the progression? It'd be nice, but in the current state it puts more focus on the games+numbers. And then when the horns show up it's a super delightful surprise.

Ahaha "grows on you" kinda gives the same impression as "acquired taste." Some strange implications.

A tiny puzzle that grows with you ? Hmmm

From Greg

i like the verb "grow" especially "grows on you" since it's somewhat a cliche and culturally recognizable but also has a lot of different meanings for the game since the game is essentially about growth and also the characters, growing your "self".

also, saying like "it'll grow on you" is more of the acquired taste thing and a matter of opinion while "that grows on you" is saying it's a fact that it grows. i dunno.

i hear you on the haircuts/accoutrements. it was worth a poke or two anyway.

From Greg

so... i figure we will have more room hopefully for more cards maybe?

i'm working on 6144, and i think we should def cap it there. who knows though.

i like mr. spider. :)

ok wait, got it. we've got a lion.

is a lion even possible? 6144?

From Asher

Ugh love the spider+lion+whale. I am totally in favor of not having an "ultimate" piece so that it seems like the game could really go forever.

Don't really like the hairpieces though.

Awesome awesome awesome. Can't wait to see these guys in the game :D

Finalizing the Colors and Faces

From Asher - 11/19/13

Okay whew. Spent the day figuring out the layout and wording and flow and pacing and priming and whew. No in-between slides. all learning-by-doing and then smoothly turns into gameplay. Gonna implement tomorrow so I can playtest this week.

Okay now to deal with the life that I've missed these past couple days.

From Greg

rad rad rad !!!! i can sorta make it out :)

A little while longer, the new tutorial comes through and we talk about it.

From Greg - 11/25/13

ok!!!! so i think i've switched over all the graphics to the new colors, could be mistaken though. that'd be using the classic exported folder though so they won't be animated yet or anything.

the challenge screen is still up in the air. we may need to talk more about that and brainstorm.

i can spend today getting acclimated to the color switches and so on and all that and hopefully switch the graphics around. :)

new tutorial looks like a big improvement! i do still feel like feeding them 1s and no 2s would get across the idea of 2s and 1s not being addable, ala: i think the beginning is probably important for calling out the walls and so on like you have it now. but i still hold to the idea that keeping things linear and not breaking/changing the cards that are on the board (keeping them continuous) is important for new players feeling comfortable and learning best. it's not that much different from what you already have with the new tutorial but i just think giving them the two row 1s and 2s and then throwing them into a screen with 8 or so cards on the board and showing them the swiping slowly, while faster, is ultimately overwhelming. once i make the 24 from those cards on the next step, then getting the 3 6 12 and 24 on the board all of the sudden is also another jarring experience.

again, i just think that this: teaches without feeling like a lecture at all. the current tutorial is much better on that note than the old one, but could we at least try this one as a base? it wouldn't require any special screens and all we have to do is change text and throttle the cards that are fed. while the current tutorial is better at teaching the game than the old one, i think the current one you just popped in might make other, more seasoned players (used to puzzle games) check out a bit, whereas my proposed tutorial engages players at the level of play where they don't feel talked down to but investigate the system on their own accord in a safe zone that we create. at least that's the hope. "show, don't tell." that conceit is paramount in a video game, especially one that clearly doesn't involve reading/watching, but doing.

if this "base" doesn't prove adequate, then we could add back some of those steps/parts piecemeal as needed so it wouldn't be a total loss either.

alright! that's my Big Tutorial Speech.

ok, hit me up! i'm going to be trying to hit things hard until i leave for thanksgiving which will come to about wednesday night. hopes are that i can get all the animation mockups done for the game and card faces and get the colors switched over in unity and maybe have a build i can test on family over the holiday?

From Asher

My plan today is to actually spend some time on some polish we're sorely needing (specifically: the loading time of the game. Maybe some better menu transitions?). And then post lunch I want to see if challenges actually still make any sense.

As for the tutorial...

I'm not going to lie: I am super super happy with how the current implementation is working. I haven't tested it on many people yet (3), but one of them never plays games and the other two play games a lot. They all finished the tutorial in < 2 minutes and fully understood the game when they were finished.

Gave the tutorial this morning to one of my gamer friends who had never played Threes. He breezed through the tutorial FAST, but at every teaching moment I saw his eyes light up and he kept saying "ohhhh cool." This tutorial is making people visibly excited for the game, which is something I haven't seen for a long time and something I think we desperately need.

I've written this email over a bunch in the interest of handling this delicately, but here's the gist I've settled on: I strongly believe that "show don't tell" is the wrong approach for teaching. All players learn differently. We want to show AND tell.

There's definitely the crowd who we could hand this game to without instructions and they would figure it out. (In my head I'm calling them the Puzzlescript crowd.)

And then there's people who won't know what to do unless you tell them and give them explicit goals.

And THEN there's the people who will blindly follow directions, but not understand what they're doing and be confused later.

So we want players to do three things: Listen + Do + See. The merge sections of the tutorial have all three of those things. Listen: There are instructions. Do: You have to merge the things together. See: You clearly see the results of your actions.

So that combined with how quick the tutorial is makes me want to table this discussion for a while. I am much more interested in moving forward right now than going backwards. I propose that we sit on this and collect more data and get closer to a finished game.


Okay time to do fun programming stuff.

From Asher

Lighter note:

I was thinking about music and sound effects today and about how fun it would be to make the little noises that these guys will make.

But then I thought: hey why not get our friends involved? Recruit a bunch of our indie friends to make silly noises and then use those as sound effects for all the different dudes. This sounds super fun and might build some good-will.

Basically get twelve people to sign up-- they each pick a different creature, probably based on the pitch of their voice. And then we give them a bunch of basic sounds to make "excited" "sad" "crazy" and then have some fun with it :D

On a related note: Do full sprite sheets make sense for the creatures any more? Or should we be animating their mouths/eyes individually now because they're so simple. If we animate their mouths separately we can have a lot more freedom with when they actually make noises.


From Greg

alright, i understand what you're saying re: the tutorial. i'm not upset or anything (definitely know that! :)), but i did want to state my case. i think we both have clear and sound beliefs for good reasons. i know that my route might let certain people slip through the cracks that learn differently for whatever reason, but i also think it catches more of the _right_ kind of people. the people that most likely LOVE the game. i try to make the game i want to play and i think through that the game takes on a personality because of what it isn't or what's cut away. when all angles/bases are covered, it can tend to drown out the signal and (potentially) confuse _all types_ a little more than it would if it was just one elegant way. i.e. Zelda tutorials and "Nintendoization" takes this to the Nth degree. it might be a case of leaving X on the table to take that hard angle, but i definitely feel it's a large part of Hundreds' success. i feel ridiculous fishing's tutorial is maybe "less elegant" but in some ways more of the route that's optimal for Threes. kind of a hybrid. it slides into place alongside the gameplay with definite signposts and "tilt the phone to avoid the fish" etc. in a step-by-step basis that definitely tells folks what to do. That's kinda the direction i was hoping to run with this continuous field of play, adding pieces when appropriate, learning as you go through plain text and player action, sort of a hybrid. anyway, let's not belabor this. plenty of other things to tend to. we are probably at a bit of an impasse here but let's just move on. like i said, the tutorial is much better than before. no hard feelings on my end! :)

re: animations

yea i don't think full sheets make sense, or at least, make sheets of the features like we already have. especially for flipping them so they can look at each other whilst hugging: i.e., i am still wrestling with animations and how to make them work. my current mockup is full of blinking. there's not nearly as much opportunity for animation here with these faces so that becomes more of a challenge. perhaps it's a challenge that shouldn't be taken on anyhow with the new faces... still tinkering.

re: sfx

yea that could be cool! definitely just taking some foley and stuff like that and speeding it up would work pretty well.

re: colors and etc.

mostly right now i'd like to crack into the colors and switching everything over. kinda feel like i have my legs on two wobbly surfboards with a crocodile underneath my crotch. also, did you see this? do you dig that for a "gold rank" card? or should we just stick with the eyes? it's gleaned from the icon and i never got a word from you on it either way.

re: xcode build

getting this again when i build: i forget how to manage it and did a search through gchat and gmail and couldn't find specific directions. i know i need to add some kind of library and also a couple settings in the plist. maybe if i don't figure it out (through search etc.) by tomorrow afternoon we can tackle that so i have a build on my phone pre-turkey.

From Asher

Whew good I'm glad we got that out of the way because we definitely would be at an impasse: I refuse to let people fall through the cracks in a game this small :)

Animations: If we break the animations into things like eyes_blinking, mouth_grunting, mouth_merging etc then we'll be able to control things through code, so maybe that's what we should do?

sfx: obviously it would be a lot faster/easier to do this ourselves + software, but I'm pretty down to add some fun into the development process of this thing.

colors: Hmm I think the gold mockup is a little too misleading, unfortunately. It makes me want to mash up red/blue blocks into it to see what will happen. The happy eyes are a good solution.

xcode: Sent you new setup instructions

Reminder Unity Stuff:

Build the atlas in TexturePacker

Set TexturePacker to export these two files

Data File: ATLASNAME.txt

Texture File: ATLASNAME_png.bytes

Drop those files into Threes > Assets > Resources > Atlases.

Open Unity and press "Cmd+T" to rebuild atlas data.

When the little spinning indicator goes away everything should update accordingly.

Currently: The only atlases we have are allFaceAnimations, ThreesAtlas, and ThreesAtlasPre.

allFaceAnimations: Every tile asset

ThreesAtlas: All the menu/tutorial assets

ThreesAtlasPre: Tiny atlas for technical stuff.

New Unity Stuff:

Feel free to mess with ThreesAtlas, which is where all the menu stuff lives. All of the source files are in the "CompleteAtlas" folder in argoyle. If you replace those and follow the instructions above then everything should go smoothly.

Any other specific things you want to do then feel free to iMessage me.

(Btw: if you save a Unity scene and all the textures disappear, Cmd+G will restore them.)

Asher Kills Undos

From Asher - 11/27/13

Okay late night working stuff:

Updated Unity! You should do the same. You're going to have to go through the xcode setup stuff again, sadly.

Moved the animation layouts into their own scene. They were taking up a lot of memory we weren't using which means...

Game loads way faster! But even better...

New loading animation! Much more threesy and also has natural stopping points for loading stuff.

Also I've been thinking about Future Stuff:

Okay I seriously want to put my brain on challenges tomorrow. Partially because I want a "challenges" button to replace the "Undo" button. Oh did I mention...

I want to kill undos. I don't think anyone will use them or care about them and it adds that ugly "Includes In-App Purchases" banner to our game.

I'm going to add a simple "Tweet Score" button on the recap screen. I guess it'll replace the GC button. How do you feel about tweeting an image to go along with it? It could be a glamour shot of your highest Number. (And the images can be nice and big and we don't have to atlas them.) Theoretically it could also be your final board layout, but honestly I don't think people will care about that. (especially people who haven't played yet)

It occurs to me that reaching a new rank in the game (IE: 192->384) is suuuuuper underwhelming. It'll be nice when we've have the hugging stuff in, but we're going to need some extra oomphf on top of that. Uh... particles? Text popups? Something else? It needs some thinking about.

And finally we're gonna have to figure out the HD/SD pipeline. We kind of already have one? We're exporting from illustrator at 144ppi and then TexturePacker is scaling it down to half. Super easy to export a full size atlas in parallel. I suggest exporting your flash animations at 144ppi so we can do the same thing with them.

But oh man does it feel close? It feels close. I think we're finally climbing the "oh hey it's fun again" ladder to release!

Working on the Tutorial Again

From Greg - 12/2/13

yo! back from break. had a chance to test the game amongst family and friends and have been ruminating on a list of things to try/do leading up to launch (or at least "Solid Beta"). wanna go over it on the phone? just let me know, free anytime today. in the interim i'll be jamming on the animations and tweaks etc.

From Greg

little preview guy:

We talked on Skype and Greg offered to code some version of the tutorial changes he was thinking about. Over the next week or so we do a lot of technical things, rework animations with the new faces and figure out how to setup the final game.

From Greg

just committed the last of the tutorial tweaks, and also the ip5 positions for the top and bottom pieces of text where applicable.

i'm still seeing the ip5 positions only modified on first load of the game, then i play and go back to the title and things are back to their original ip4 layout position. honestly, this might be better to tackle when you have access to an ip5 since i figure it's getting fairly maddening by now.

also, i mentioned in the commit comment, but the menu buttons are gone while playing the game now.

if i'm getting annoying, which i kinda feel like i am, i can bug off and we can tackle these things later (or maybe they're temporary anyhow).

ok! :)

From Asher

Okay committed a fix for all your ails??? lemme know what works and what doesn't.

From Greg

alright! so i've added some icons for the music/sfx buttons and some other tweaks to that menu, but i'm not sure i should commit, since i'm sorta knuckle deep in the tutorial overhaul.

i've still saved out the previous one as tutorial2, with corresponding tutorial2.cs but if you don't mind switching over what's active and all that, i can commit. let me know. the game is looking real solid, i think the only thing i'd like to get in there is the merge animation. the other anims would be good too, but the merge i think will make the most difference.

regarding the tut: basically, i've poked and tinkered and i get taht congrats set up a "clear" of the current on a Next() and so on, so i've renamed some things to workaround that, and am having things left over, but that's not the real issue. right now, the tut hinges on being able to spawn just "x" of a certain kind of tile. like when there's a 3, i want them to swipe and pull in a new 3 from the side they swiped, then i have the "nextRank (2) = next()" deal, which works great, but i'm trying to manipulate with PredictFuture(); by putting an int in there (4) seems to produce a "6" or rank2. i was considering duplicating that function (found it in Threes.cs) and making my own that would be more literal and configurable. is that what i should do or am i missing something?

if you have a moment, some psuedo code or the like would be greatly appreciated so i can run with this. once i have that bit, i should be able to muscle through the rest. then after this deadline we can tackle and brush things up for a playtest later in the week hopefully.

Eventually, Greg gets the tutorial somewhat pieced together with his horrible coding skills and a lot of help from Asher.

From Asher

Tutorial thoughts: So my plan has been to strip out the "Drag to see the future" slide and replace it with just a "Make 24" puzzle, but it occurs to me that you're kind of building that puzzle now.

I think a hybrid between our tutorials makes sense... where first we explain the rules clearly and then we give them a safe place to get used to the spawning/merging, which then transitions into the full game.

The awkward bit is that at some point we do need to clearly articulate the goal of the game. Not sure where that goes.

So yeah looking forward to your tut and hopefully smushing our two ideas together.

From Greg

cool! yea that's kinda where i'm steering too. the goal thing is weird, and i think just about all we can do is warn them with a dialog, maybe constant at the bottom while they're in the game proper for only the first time?, but showing them would feel really punishing. yea i kinda dig that, at least as a band-aid for now.

From Greg

ok, i've taken off the "extrude" setting in TPS and added an inner padding of 1. a lot of the numbers were getting cut off and this seems to fix it. the 6 still feels cut off on the right, but it's much much better now. even the facial features are looking pretty pixel perfect with this.

also did some slight, imperceptible tweaks to positioning stuff on the more menu.

and finally, polished up the new tutorial.

i'm hopefully gonna grab someone to test it in the office (kleenex, i've been guarded about who sees it there) and see how it plays but i think you're right about the ending feeling ho-hum and i think maybe a longer more paced buildup to the end could do the trick. i also think the 2s come in too soon. let me kinda explain what i'm thinking:


i think this is too easy to miss. the 3 and 6 go nope (eventually) and then that's it, i think maybe there should be 2 tries to combine them and then bring in the other card on the third. with this, we'll need bottom-text feedback with each try like "try harder!" and maybe a bigger nope graphic, like they're getting more annoyed.


Again, same issue. i think the player needs more time with the 1s pressing up against each other and then just like before with the 3 nopes, we absolve them with a flurry of 2s.


I think we should consider, after giving them 4 2s, adding a "Make a 24" at the top as a new step. then once they do, give them 4s to reteach the 1+1 != 2 therefore 2+2 != 4.

so it'd look like this

090 twins doubling

095 first nope

097 second nope

100 1 will only add with 2

110 make a 24

120 2 will only add with 1 (but instead of giving them 4 1s to clean it all up, give them 4 1s then begin the constant flow of cards, ratcheting things up by a tick or two)

130 make a 48

140 this is threes! (they're already in the steady random flow of getting 1s 2s and 3s and the game is going, we're picking up speed!)

150 make the highest number you can

160 throw in "next" part (bottom text = "see what's coming next, above!")

170 add in menu buttons (good luck! it's gotta end sometime = bottom text)

180 piecemeal hint #1 (try and keep the 1s and 2s together)

190 piecemeal hint #final (it's all over when the board fills up, so keep adding!)

so basically, same thing, just more drawn out and more of a "here have the next piece of the puzzle" kind of thing. let me know if i'm rambling more than making sense, totally possible.

Asking Friends for their Voices

From Asher - 12/10/13

So I was like "oh man sound is great! Let's see how much sound I can get in tonight!" Let's try voices!

And then, after doing four different voices, I realized that I hate doing voiceover. Let's do that thing I was talking about instead where we ask gamedevs to do it instead! :D

Sanity check this email (that can be modified on a per-person basis)

Hey _____!

How's it going? Sorry to email you out of the blue, but I had a fun idea and I was curious if you would be interested in helping out with a tiny game I'm working on. <3

Greg and I are wrapping up work on our latest game Threes. The pitch is that it's a tiny puzzle game you can play forever. It looks something like this.

The game is pretty much done, but there's one piece of the game that Greg and I just can't accomplish on our lonesome: voices. Every number in the game is a tiny little character with its own personality (dopey, sleepy, wears headphones, is a pirate, is a spider, etc).

There's twelve characters total and I would like it if they all didn't sound like the two white guys who made the game!

Let me know if saying silly things into your microphone sounds at all like a fun time and I'll send you a list of possible characters for you to play. The lines are tiny (sensing a theme?). On average each line is about 1.5 words each.

You will be credited (of course) and we will be eternally grateful (of course).

Thanks in advance!


People I'm on good enough terms with to send this to:

+ Rami

+ Zoe Quinn

+ Sean Plott

+ Dom2D

+ Colin Northway

+ Sarah Northway

+ Richard Lemarchand


and now I'm tired I hope I can think of more in the morning. I also have a bunch of just normal non-gamedev friends I can ask (especially if we need more girls).

From Greg

looks good! read it twice

to add to the list, these are known fans of the game, all dudes :(

+ Max Temkin

+ Zach Gage

+ Adam Saltsman

+ Chris Bell

+ Shay Pierce

+ Matt Rix?

other game friends

+ Phil Tibitoski

+ Rob Lach

+ Doug Wilson

+ Andy Moore

+ Kyle Pulver

+ Alec Holowka

+ Chris Makris

+ Clemens Scott

+ Dick Hogg

+ Beau Blyth

+ Tiff Chow

+ Steph Thirion

+ Danny B

+ Eddy Boxerman

+ Andy Nealen

+ Tyler Glaiel

+ Erin Robinson

+ Steve Swink

+ Matthew Wegner

+ Daniel Benmergui

sadly, these are mostly white dudes. :(

maybe we could add some more diversity with a call for help on the TF? i dunno. or just go local and break open to people that aren't game developers. with that, we probably wouldn't have a problem.

Upsetting Texts from Adam Saltsman

From Greg to Asher - 12/10/13

ok, so adam kinda sounded off. he feels the corner strat is an issue, here's the convo kinda smattered through c+p

From Greg to Asher

sorry, emailing in hopes of not keeping you up, but ive got a brainworm

what about a "zero" that deletes all things it moves into. could be good if you wanna clear certain stuff, could be bad because it has to go off the board ( maybe an arrow like we had before)

hmm dunno. just errant idea in bed. adam's point about a thing that's good and bad has me spinnin my brain

Then Adam emails us directly and we eventually pipe in Zach for possible ideas.

From Adam to Greg & Asher

hey amigos!! the new build is a fucking like FTL jump beyond any previous build. i love it very much. the UI is *amazing*.


i have one single solitary concern/gripe/whatever, which i talked to greg about a bit tonight, and which i think maybe we can chat about more tomorrow, but it concerns the ol "corner strategy". i wanted to jot down my thoughts tonight so i could A) sleep on it better and B) we would have some stuff to pick apart tomorrow:

1A - corner strategy is a kind of inherent issue witht he core mechanic of folding/subduction/whatever it might be called. so long as that is how the basic gameplay works, pushing into a corner will ALWAYS be advantageous, its just the maths

1B - it's not JUST the folding that makes the corner play so powerful. the Next window, combined with the knowledge that the new tile will appear from the side you pulled away from, makes it kind of indisputably dominant

1C - corner strat MIGHT be infinite, but even if it isn't, it is undesirable for a wide variety of probably obvious reasons

1D - this old prototype of mine actually has some kind of similar issues there's something you might call the "PEZ Effect" that lets you work very locally on the puzzle board instead of thinking globally... i can go into that in more detail if you want! 2 - high

spawns are not an adequate solution to degenerate corner strat, since the player can just scoot one space out of the corner and place a high spawn conveniently before returning to the previous game state. arrow tiles are not an adequate solution either. they essentially function the same way as the high spawns, which does not address the core problem of folding/prescience

3 - obviously you don't want to introduce anything more than necessary, the core ingredients are so perfect and minimal

i think the best most fundamental way to combat corner strategy's existence is to add something like the triple-word score from scrabble. I don't know how that would manifest in this game, but i think the game needs a reason for players to make a counter-intuitive play in the long-term development of a winning strategy... concrete medium-term goals that require multiple steps to achieve and are a departure from or otehrwise directly affect the business as usual of the game loop and can propel the player forward in the rankings...

e.g. in scrabble you can make a shorter word in a weirder spot than is strictly optimal in the short term, in order to begin working toward a later triple word score, while spending some useful vowels but saving your big scoring consonants... that's SO powerful. i think a lot of games i admire right now basically work this way - desktop dungeons, 868 hack, etc. Tetris'ing in Tetris is another good example. Not necessary, risky, but scores big points... in drop7 you can deliberately build mountains of garbage in order to boost the chances of a strong chain, even tho you risk wiping out on the top of the screen if it doesn't work out...

i've no idea if this is helpful or not, if not i wholeheartedly apologize... i feel like my advice is boiling down to "hrmmm add moar risk/reward plz" which is dumb of me i think is what i'm feeling. hopefully by tomorrow i'll have more concrete suggestions!

talk to you guys soon,


From Adam to Greg & Asher

OK OK i just brushed my teeth and had this idea. this is not an idea you should do probably but i think it sort of illustrates my line of thinking: what if when you get 4 in a row of any number, they auto-collapsed AND doubled?


say you got all 3's in the second row (or any column), whatever was the last 3 added to that row, all the 3s collapse into that spot... but isntead of adding up to 12, like you would expect, they add up to 24.

likewise, if you managed to get all 6's in the third column (or any column), whatever the last 6 added was, all the 6s collapse into that spot, adding up to 48 (instead of 24)

again, probably not something you would actually implement, but hopefully it illustrates my like hopefully-corner-strat-dominance-fixing "optional secondary objective" idea! ok for real sleeping times!!

From Greg to Asher & Adam

i kinda dig this, but with 3 cards for... consistency. it's easily teachable and doesnt require a new card type like i was runnin through last night.


asher put up a new build that sorta does this but adds a non combinable star. after playing a bit i think i like 3 threes making a 12. that's maybe enough impetus to go for it and it maybe it disrupts enough?

This e-mail is coming from inside the iPhone!

From Greg to Asher & Adam & Zach Gage

some morning brainstorm earlier and talked with zach and ccing him in because he's interested!

i think the merge 3 to get 12 could be worth trying. [3] [3] [3] = [12] but that might not be penalizing enough.

also, and these may be crazy but part of my brainstorm this morning:

tap 3 of a kind and they merge where you tap (maybe certainly too out of the feel of the game)

reduce the "next" to 3 colors instead of explicit info about the white card. so just show next is a blue, a red or a white. hiding the white card number

do something more with 1s and 2s. maybe 3 1s = ??; 3 2s = a ?? (probably real bad idea)

have a 1, 2, 3, 6 in a row and merge = ???

talking to zach this morning: make an inert "rock" and then adding 2 rocks together deletes the rock. but the rocks are rare, etc... (we talked more, feels too punishing) had this as a counter: but yea

are we using a bag system? (i have no idea what that means exactly)

From Adam to Greg & Asher & Zach

hhmmmmmm. i did a run through on the new build this morning. the stars are pretty interesting. there is definitely a big risk/reward thing going on, which i think is super positive. some possible downsides:

1 - as long as you always star your 3s, then you only have to combine two of a kind going forward. starring 3s is a little tricky but this feels like it could probably be gamed and feels a bit odd

2 - if NOT getting stars, and doing the old corner strat, is still infinite, even if its more boring, its probably still going to be something people do (like oh, stars are risky, i'll just avoid those, because eventually i get ~infinite rewards anyways)

I was wondering about a variation where you simply collect stars, rather than introducing a new tile type, but i think that has its own issues and definitely fails at #2 anyways...

NOTE: bag system means that you work out of a shuffled array, which introduces this degenerate strat in Tetris

ALSO: i'm not super confident that rocks will modify corner strat, that sounds like basically high-spawns again to me

From Adam to Greg & Asher & Zach

OK. here's the craziest idea i can come up with: what if folding/matches happened automatically. Like say you pushed a 3 next to a 3, it would suck up the 3 automatically. The "newest" number to arrive would always be the "winner", i.e. would suck up the neighbors.

also still wondering if it might be interesting to inject more than one tile at a time when possible... like the Next window could have 4 tiles visible, and when you slide in a particular direction it would highlight the number of tiles it was adding in (either just the first, or the first two, or first three, etc, depending on how much your stuff slides that turn). it would keep the grid completely full every turn, which might be interesting?

hiding numbers in the Next window SOUNDS good to me at first but i think since the most important thing for corner strat by and large is keeping the red and blue straight it might not be that much of a change really :-/

[/insane babbling]

From Adam to Greg & Asher & Zach

OK OK OK so soooooo something that would DEFINITELY help even if it's not actually a complete solution (AND would fix my other gripe with this game) is to ONLY send in a new tile if any of the tiles in the level just moved. for example, if i swipe down, to force a tile in on the top, it should only actually give me a tile if i was able to move any of my pieces.

this would eliminate scenarios where whilst goofing up a preview slide i accidentally got a tile i didn't want, and would provide a LOT of friction against the corner strategy. i don't think it's ENOUGH, probably, but maybe combined with hiding numbers in the next view, it might be just barely enough?


PS PS PS - here is ANOTHER IDEA, if neither of those work... what if tiles got "damaged" when you pushed them against walls? like if any tile is pushed against a wall 3 times it breaks?

From Zach to Asher & Greg & Adam

reading adams notes I’m no longer sure fixing a bag would totally fix it. greg: a bag is a way to do random, vs. true random. Like. if we’re rolling a die, thats a random number 1-6 every time. a bag is if i have 1-6 tiles in a bag, and every time you pick one you remove it and we only fill the bag with a new 1-6 when it is empty.

I like adam’s idea about only adding a new tile if your pieces move. I still haven’tdone the corner strategy so I don’t entirely understand it, but if this would provide friction it might actually be pretty nice. It feels like the adding tiles when you don’t move is already a bit weird in the game since it’s an unconventional strategy that actually has huge importance to surviving full boards. On the other hand, it might totally make everything else devolve into a lot more randomness.

As for the other suggestions, the more I think about this, the more I realize that if the corner strat is infinite, than a carrot will not work to fix it. All it would do is sort of hide the corner strat a little bit, but no carrot is going to be as good as an infinite strategy.

Here are a few sticks that essentially sequence break your game and prevent the corner strategy:

- the aforementioned rock that can only be combined with another rock to remove it

- a monster that disappears after it is fed 4 numbers, any 4 numbers, and gives you 1000pts. (this could only show up after you have at least a 384 block, would not need to be tutorialized, and would become a weird thing of lore like the yeti in ski free)

- a block that changes to a random number every time it is moved (but not every time the board moves, so if it doesn’t move, it doesn’t change)

- tiles that are hidden (like in drop7) until a match is made next to them

From Asher to Greg & Adam & Zach

Processing all this, but one note: without the bag system the game sometimes ends up spawning all 2's, which is basically murder in this game.

Unless 2's/1's did something special in enough quantity......... Hmm. 3x1 is 3 and 3x2 is 6, which are valid numbers. Maybe that's worth trying.

Also if it wasn't abundantly clear: thanks for helping us work through this guys!!

From Zach to Asher & Adam & Greg

I too am pro-bag. I think your easiest/most valuable things to try ATM are still:

1- no new tile if no move

2- hide the number in the Next view

I am suspicious that might be enough. The thing about cornering is I think it is sort of fragile. If you just push back against it a little it might just fall apart (or so I hope!!)

From Asher to Greg & Adam & Zach

Also I'm considering the arrow tile again. It's just a tile that would point in a random direction and you have to get it off the board in that direction. This would make players vary up their swipes.

Gonna try the easy things first though.

Asher puts together a new build that doesn’t show the number on the white card coming in and also disallows swiping in a new card if there are no available cards that can move.

From Adam to Greg & Asher & Zach

latest build is very good!! i really like this version. curious what you guys think

From Greg to Asher & Zach & Adam

hmmmm, hard to tell. corner still seems to work for me, but i've yet to get a 384. maybe bad luck. i dunno. kinda feel like my vision is clouded.

From Adam to Zach & Greg & Asher

i only gave it one run so far and got two 384s, but i had to switch corners multiple times, and legit game-overed before i could get them to 768... it felt preeeetty good

i think its important to keep in mind that cornering will never "go away" - it's an inherent part of the core overlap/folding mechanic as it currently works... you push against walls and stuff folds in... that creates vectors toward the corners. the important thing is to make sure that that strategy is fun and interesting, i think... in the latest build it felt pretty engaging!

From Greg to Asher & Adam & Zach

right, yea! i just got a 192 and it was due to a hairy start. i think it's definitely better! i just hope a 1536+ is still possible. probably?

From Adam to Greg & Asher & Zach

well hiding the number definitely ups the challenge, that's for sure. the thing i'm not 100% sure about is the new thing where pieces only appear in columns that moved. i feel like that's actually pretty interesting and that i didn't use it enough?

From Zach to Greg & Asher & Adam

I think you might be good. I got killed using corner with a 384. 7488 points.

Weirdly, now I am sorting wishing for a carrot because corner worked pretty amazing until I got to 96s, and then still pretty well.

On the other hand. That might be totally fine. The beginnings of puzzle games are pretty easy usually. Here's one small suggestion-

In the early game, occasionally add a single higher tile than are on the board to the bag if the player has unlocked a higher tile in a precious game. That'll destroy corner. You could even have those tiles specifically show their number in the next box, since they're extra important and weirdly special.

They could be both a carrot and a stick, and speed you through to the part of the game that you've already mastered


Sent from my iPhone

And the discussion continues into some avenues we ended up not exploring, but thanks to Adam breaking the game we were able to patch it really quickly. Later we’d go back on our decision a tad bit and add the “+” to the next card to give player’s a tad more info in mitigating those potentially problematic high cards.

Now, less than two months from release and even sooner until we eventually submit our final build to Apple, we have a lot of polishing and promotional stuff to do. The website design isn't completely finished but we're happy with where it's heading. Though we're not sure what to do for screenshots of our very still, very turn-based and unilaterally colored game, we think hope to settle that next. There are a lot of questions and worries remaining, but after we hurdled this huge design flaw with the help from Zach and Adam especially, a lot of the battles had been fought, some multiple times by now.

One last big battle was still brewing though. The very serious business of... hugging.

Hug Battle

From Greg - 12/19/13

hmm, when the depth sorting works for me, i think it's on the right track. just the horizontal merge though. check out what i was originally thinking in that swf for the vertical guys. i'm not sure it's the answer so i've mocked up some other options in illustrator: and then:

i dunno, i think vertical is so army, we should just do one side hugging and i dont think anyone will notice really: 384 is a mess with both in the way i've done it in the swf. but with just the active guy hugging:

i think the yellow arms could make a difference. in that case, maybe weeeeeee do it all "active hugger" and roll like this: here's yellow arms with full body width hugging like we have currently: or hereeeee: d

so yea, that's my proposal on that stuff. and with this we should make the vertical 1:1 as well, like the horizontal is. the easing on the horizontal is kinda nice, but it's also not hugging at the halfway point. also, you'll notice that they "grab" each other at the very middle of the merge and then it'll look like they're pulling them into the next card. sort of shows the full hug earlier too. maybe you tried that though and it looked weird for whatever reason. horizontally, i think it's pretty dang close. there are some other finer details on the horizontal hug, like how it pops out, maybe i need to give you a spritesheet for smoothing that out. or how the hands need to come out a bit further.

ok, so that might have been a lot, happy to chat about this today, let me know. :)

also, not able to build to my phone, seems like i'm missing storeKit.a in the project?

From Asher

Oh yeah I think yellow arms are definitely the way to go. Much more readable and closer to being understandable.

But, bare with me... I have to talk this out... I think there's some fundamental problems with the hugging idea.

Namely: I'm not really sure that there's a way for us to actually make this look like hugging. Taking a step back and forgetting that the orange pipes are arms, when I look at this: it's just sort of confusing. It looks like a bandana and then also a hanging chad.

[Note that the swiping happens so fast (and slowing it down would be painful) that we can't really rely on the motion to define the hugging. I think it has to work in stills.]

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that these guys' anatomy is really kind of baffling. I don't know how their arms work or where they come from. Here's me trying to figure out where their shoulders are:

Anyway those are my thoughts. I love the dudes without arms and I think the arms might be doing more harm than good =/ I'm trying to figure out how to make this helpful, as we do need some way to show that the dudes are "going to merge."

OH OH maybe we could have them jumping up and down (slightly offset so you can see both of them. Maybe some tilt) when they're about to merge? And then when you let go they settle down, overlap, and flip. Very simple and works with their current body shape.

From Greg

right, well for one, i mean, i see what you're saying when they are motionless, but these will always be animated and in context there in the game. i think sliding in over top of something is the most satisfying and natural thing so the reaction/animation should coincide with that. one way it'll also look better is with the merge facial sprite in there. it faces to the right (flipped if on the left) and works better with the arms and the full-body width kinda hug. i tried some very very tiny arms, but it's even less readable i think: granted, it's a very quick iteration...

i guess moving to the animation states stuff, things that are a bit more safer would be a good next step if you wanna put a pin in this and move forward, we can revisit after that.

Trailers and Battery Conservation

A couple weeks go by, both Greg and Asher are away on vacation visiting either for the holidays.

From Asher - 12/30/13

WHEW okay caught up on email. Tiny deers are unfortunately in the Argentina part of Patagonia, not the Chilean part. Had to befriend some giant llamas instead.

I peeked into tinyfaces.swf and damn these are looking good.

I'm gonna start working for real on January 1st!

My first order of business is going to be the merge animations. 1+2 merge first because I have some idea how to handle them and it'll look goood. Still wobbly feeling on the hugging, but we can talk that out later.

But yeah dude after you finish up the animations and we figure out a final mergelook, I think you can go on low-alert for a little while. I imagine I'm going to have to spend a week on hooking up challenges, and then a week on bugs+polish.

I guess the main question floating in the air is the trailer/marketing?? I was thinking about Rami's comment and our original IGF trailer and I really really like the idea of selling Threes as a part-of-life. Threes is not an immersive digital world to get lost in, it's a tiny game you carry with you and play on the train or while you're waiting for a friend or about to go to bed.

I sort of like the idea of a trailer that's similar to our original IGF one, but maybe cutting between a few different locations. I like the visual of low-lit/low-contrast modern world and then this bright little game is poking out of people's hands.

And okay here's a controversial statement that I might disagree with later re: leading with the gif... I'm starting to think that it's not a priority of the marketing to teach the game. I know we want to avoid the problem of asking people to buy a game before they know what it is, but I think what the game is and how it works are two different things.

The game is a 1) small 2) ever-challenging 3) card-sliding game 4) with numbers in it. We've been hammering on 1+2, but I think 3+4 complete the picture of what the game actually is and feels like.

I think the gif still has a place on the webpage and something to be handed around, but I think a trailer will be more effective at straight-up exciting people.

Does that wall of text make sense?

From Greg

Yea i saw that tweet as well, and i have a lot of feelings about it. i was up last night stress-thinking on it...

we're never gonna KNOW if we made the right choices. the longer we draw things out, the more time we have to second and third guess things. Rami has thought about THREES marketing for much less time than we have. It's not a bad idea, we've had it ourselves. Showing the game played in all manner of spaces and how it fits into your life. Initially, I thought about how this would go and it all seemed so universal. basically, the takeaway would be "you can play this anywhere." it's a truism for every single thing you do on your phone. it's more of a phone trailer than a game trailer. then i went a bit further...

1) do something where two phones (white and black) combine (use stop motion) to make a gold phone with a 3 on the screen. (feels empty and where do we go from that?)

2) simulate threes in the real world in different environments with different hands playing it from the same perspective: straight on. (could be cool)

3) paper craft something

4) tiny faces, show off the theme, sparse on the gameplay itself...

with 1) and 2) i don't like live action for this. it feels too big, too real and it doesn't jive with the site. 3) would be the same, doesn't jive. 4) could, but what are we really communicating with it? "hey! here's a cute game!" who cares about that?


i just think the .gif is so smart and fitting. i think the product of this conversation should be WHAT the .gif is rather than doing a different trailer. the latter feels like a fear-based reaction while making a .gif is a confident and bold move that clicks with us. i think the content of the gif is the problem, not the gif itself...

so here's my proposal...

gif, same size (roughly), scale and colors as we have currently.

explains threes in an incomplete and upbeat way

explores threes being played in different environments through simple/snappy transitions

while the game is continuous and the phone stays in the exact same position, also hands change. (right, left, different colors, masc/fem)

cycle through different environments/hands faster and faster settling in on some crescendo

that breaks with THREES or something... (this is fuzzier and should be riffed on further)

note: if i do the environments simple enough we could have a lot of them and i could make them so they go ahead into the future so it feels like they're playing for decades from now etc...

ohhh! "a tiny puzzle you can LOVE forever" ??? whadya think? then we can use that infinity heart in more confidence perhaps. not sure, maybe it's too presumptuous.

From Asher

Not on my computer, so this'll be brief but I think you're totally right on all fronts. Loving the sound of the direction of the new gif.

I like the sound of "love forever" but I'm not sure it's really communicating the idea of this-game-will-never-stop-being-challenging (Though honestly I'm not 100% sure if "play forever" gets the point across either) hmmm

a tiny puzzle that grows

From Greg

i had hands:

but yea, that's the idea. not super happy with how the game itself looks at the moment but yea...

From Greg

hate* hands... not had. i still have them. should probably get insurance or something actually...

ok, so yea stuff like this: on the bus:

updated a still on the site quick and dirty:

From Greg

ok, so did some more work on the new gif trailer so i have some mockups. i'm still working on different hands, but yea. just figured an intro and then start in with the hands... maybe the intro isn't necessary, but it sort of builds up the crescendo kinda thing...

also, i kinda feel like "a tiny puzzle that grows on you." is more accurate and reads better than "a tiny puzzle that grows". retains that double meaning and maaaaybe a bit cliche but i'm not sure that's all that bad in this case...

From Asher - 1/2/14

Holy crap! This is looking great. I can totally imagine it speeding up and cutting through all these environments. This is definitely the right way to go <3 <3

From Asher

fun random thing: Apparently I inadvertently designed this game for my family??

On vacation my mom and sister kept fighting over my phone to play Threes. When I got home on Sunday (just FOUR days ago) I gave my sister a Testflight and holy crap she's the last one on this list:

From Asher

Also on the trip I was pretty scarce on power outlets outlets, so I had to restrict how much Threes was played because the game absolutely murders battery. I'm pretty sure it's 100% the framerate of the game. Maybe we should have a "low-battery" option that drops the framerate down to 30?? Or is that an inelegant solution on our part? Hmmm.

From Greg

haha that's awesome!!!!! :)

man, can't wait to get this out there. a thousand high fives. but yea, the 30fps thing is totally fine i think. even go lower if you want, and we have room in the options i believe.

From Greg

so here's the latest version:

the end "time-shift" isn't started at all but will start soon. basically though, i had it at 640x480 and had to cut it to 600x400 and it's a tad cramped but we're still 9k over 1mb... not a ton and can shave it here and there, so hmmm. we're at the limit, it's currently 1000 frames and the ending is as abrupt as it can be so i may cut out the desert scene and just roll everything back scene wise so we have some room. it does technically end with the board being completely full so that's cool, but to do it in even less moves would be a real challenge. it already kinda throws it in the gutter the last 10 moves. i dunno. anyway, that's that. will have more later.

here's the woeful gif 9k overage settings:

Final Statement

And that's it. Over the next couple weeks we iron out bugs, implement GameCenter, Achievements, Challenges and other miscellaneous things like that. You know, the easy parts that take up the majority of cloner's time...

If you read this whole thing. Thank you. Wow. If you scrolled down here and skimmed it or just wanted to see if there was a prize at the end, well, you're here. It's about the journey, man.

Hopefully this post points to what we're getting at when we say that making these tiny games is littered with hard and painful times that are full of uncertainty and self-doubt. You never know if something is really going to work. It's not easy. But cloning or ripping off a design in a week, that's a bit different isn't it?

~ Asher & Greg