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Another Game Concept
by Matt Powers on 05/07/14 05:11:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


A couple weeks ago I wrote an article entitled, "A Game Concept," which was well received by Gamasutra readers.  In that article I shared one of my game concepts and asked for feedback from the community.

You can find the previous article and game concept here

I received a number of comments on what I could do to improve the concept.  Continuing this spirit of collaboration I thought I would publish another game concept. 

With this concept I tried to take the input from my previous article and apply it to this write-up.  I want to thank the people who provided feedback on the previous document.  I took the comments to heart and added (hopefully improved) the concept you will find in this document.  As I did with the previous concept, I welcome all comments and feedback.

Economy of Scale

I have created a handful of game concepts recently, and part of my thinking while creating these concepts has been about the development, marketing, and sales of these games (if it ever came to the lucky conclusion that these concepts would be made). 

The plan I thought would be best went something like this:

  1. Develop prototypes of at least 3 of the concepts at the same time.
  2. Pick the strongest of the three and continue into development with that design.
  3. While the first game is being developed, tune the other concepts or perhaps even throw some away if they are not working.
  4. Eventually, get one game done and at least 2 other prototypes ready for development.
  5. Ship the first game and be ready to move quickly on one or both of the others.

Developing multiple games at the same time can provide development savings, marketing, and PR savings as well as many cross-promotion opportunities.  For example, the games are all 2D and would require a physics engine.  Having this in common could ease the time and cost of developing the prototypes and the full games.

My ultimate goal would be to have at least 3 games which could be released within (let’s say) 6 months of each other.  The games would both advertise each other as well as provide bonuses for players who have more than one game in the series.

Examples of an option:  When players purchase PowerPoints for one game and own one or more of the other games, they automatically (and with no additional cost) gain 1 PowerPoint for each of the other games.

With the crowded market for games it is increasingly difficult to get new games noticed.  Designing incentives for players to play your game is critical.  Finding new ways to market and get your game in front of other people is very important.  In the case of my concepts, the goal is to create a "family" of games which would cross-promote each other.  Built into these games is the ability for players to share (on some level) the "points" received in the games.

More about Me

Before we get further into this, I wanted to share  a couple facts about me that I feel are pertinent :

  1. I am a producer and do not consider myself a designer.  I do feel I have design knowledge and can provide very good input and feedback on game play.  When I started making games in 1993 I was a programmer and project manager.  I soon moved to full time producer and have been the Senior Producer on games for most of my career. 

    As producer, my goal is to facilitate the creation of the game.  I work with every facet of development and publishing to get the best possible game done within the constraints given to me.
  1. For me it is important to have a strong designer that I can work closely with to help ensure quality and fun.  My expectation is that a good designer will polish these game concepts into even better games.
  2. I have never worked on mobile, social, F2P, etc.
    In the 20+ years I have been developing games I have worked on just about every console but no mobile titles.  These concepts I am sharing with you have been my efforts to prove (to myself mainly) that I understand the dynamics of a mobile game. 

    Recently I had a handful of interviews with mostly mobile/social game companies.  It has been clear to me that my lack of experience in this space has worked against me.  Though 20+ years of video game production experience might be a plus, there is clearly something I am missing in order for me to work on a mobile/social/F2P game.  Hopefully working on these game concepts will help strengthen these areas.

As with my previous concept - I welcome all feedback and comments.  Let's get to it; let's take a look at my concept:


StackIt! by Matt Powers.

This is a quick concept overview of the mobile, free-to-play game, StackIt!

Stack your blocks to reach the goal.  Don't let your stack fall or you will lose points.  Earn points, challenge your friends, master the most difficult stacks!

StackIt!  Is a game of using various size blocks to create the tallest (and widest) possible stack that remains balanced and does not fall over.  Players gain maximum points by using as many blocks as possible on the given playfield in their stack.

Game Type:                   Puzzle
Audience:                       Casual Gamers
Game Look:                    2D, light, fun artwork
Age Range:                    All ages
Selling Points:
                                          Easy to learn puzzle game
                                          Compete against friends (on and offline)
                                          Share PowerPoints with other games in family
                                          Part of the "Matt Powers" family of games

Similar Games

  • Jenga (reversed)
  • Tetris


  • Gamers should be able to pick up and play the game without  instruction.
  • Easy to use and intuitive interface for moving and stacking Blocks.
  • Players have multiple ways to "solve" a Playfield.  Different solutions provide different point totals.
  • Ability to challenge players either head-to-head (on or offline) or against "best scores" on playfields.
  • Earn PowerPoints which can be used to purchase items such as:  playfield skins, powerups, level unlocks, etc...
  • Share PowerPoints and unlock features of other games within the same "family" of games.

Quick Overview

  • Goal is to stack as many of the provided Blocks without the Stack falling over. 
  • Blocks could be a variety of shapes, sizes, and weights.
  • All Blocks put onto the Playfield must either touch a Knuckle or another block.
  • The Knuckle is the point where the stack begins.  There may be more than one Knuckle on the Playfield.  The Knuckle is not necessarily always at the bottom of the playfield.
  • Players drag a Block from the Box 'O Blocks and place it wherever they like on the playfield.
  • Players have a Box ‘O Blocks from where the Block is picked.  As the Blocks are removed from the Box, additional Blocks are revealed.  The number of Blocks initially visible and usable to the player varies.
  • The Blocks are a variety of shapes and sizes which means players will often create precariously balanced Stacks to use the Blocks.

NOTE:  Art style/look is not meant to be represented in this concept.  The envisioned style is simple - perhaps a bit whimsical.  It is intended that  players would be able to modify the look of the Playfield and Blocks by acquiring PowerPoints.



  • A Stack is the group of Blocks the players have built up
  • There can be more than one Stack on the Playfield, but for this to occur there needs to be more than one Knuckle
  • To be a valid Stack it must be balanced and cannot fall over

Knuckles - A Knuckle is a point on the playfield where a Stack begins - the first balance point.

PowerUps - Powerups are items on the playfield.   If the players' Stack touches the PowerUp, players can collect it.

Barriers - Playfield Barriers are wall-type objects that can block the players' stack (players will need to stack around the Barriers)

Destination - the Destination is the goal for the players.  The goal is for the Stack to reach the Destination.  There may be more than one Destination on a Playfield.


  • The Playfield is where the players stack their Blocks
  • The Playfield always contains at least one Knuckle (which would be the starting point)
  • There  could be more than one Knuckle
  • The Playfield could also contains Barriers and PowerUps
  • Once the Blocks are placed on the Playfield they are not locked in place.  The Blocks may be moved or rotated on the Playfield at any time which allows the Stacks to be adjusted as the Stack grows.

Box ‘O Blocks

  • It is important that the type of the Block, the weight of the Block, and the balance point(s) of the Block is somewhat clear to the player
  • Blocks can be rotated
  • There are many types of Blocks such as:
    • Various Shapes – such as squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, rhombus, etc…
    • Heavy/light Blocks – Blocks with varying weights that need to be balanced out (depending on where they are stacked)
    • Moving Blocks – Blocks that may move slightly (or turn) during course of the Stack
    • Sticky Blocks – Blocks that, regardless of where they are stacked, will not move/slide
    • Challenge Blocks – complicated shaped blocks that if used in the stack gain the player bonus points
    • Etc…

Block Themes

  • Blocks don’t necessary have to be actual “blocks”
  • Blocks could be types of fruit, household objects, pieces of candy, etc… 
  • Varying the themes of the Blocks in the Box creates more variety and fun in the game and playfield

Stacking Up or Down

It is possible for Knuckles to not be on the bottom of the playfield.  This will mean in order for players to utilize maximum playfield space (and hence then use more Blocks which gets more points ), they will need to “stack down”. 

Initially, stacking down may sound unintuitive – think of a mobile.  Playesr can hang Blocks from Blocks above.  This may occur even if the Knuckle is at the bottom of the Playfield.  Players may stack up and then hang some Blocks off the corners of stacked upper Blocks.

Stacking Down – with any Block, players can opt to “hang” the Block from another Block instead of stacking the Block on top of another Block.  Hanging is an option players pick when placing the Block onto the Playfield.  The Block is hung from another Block by a “string” (which is visible).

Game Variations

  • Players can be given all (or most) of the Blocks from the beginning and can pick the order they like
  • Players are only given a couple Blocks at a time and must use a Block (or PowerUp) before getting a new Block
  • Blocks can come down/appear “Tetris style” and players must use them in a stack within a certain period of time.
  • Etc…

Balance option (uses the devices movement sensors)

  • Players can play with the option to turn on the “Balance”
  • The Balance utilizes the hardware devices ability to sense movement
  • Players get a bubble level (similar to what you would use in construction) on the screen.  The bubble level reacts/moves based on the movement of the players' device
  • Moving the device effects the Playfield
  • If players moves their device too much, they can knock their Stack over
  • Can be used in two player games

Freezing Time or DTC (Digital Time Control)

  • Players have a time bar which fills up automatically as they play the game
  • The amount of time players have saved is carried over to each level
  • Players can use this time up by either pausing the game or rewinding the game
  • Players can also build up time units with PowerUps
  • Pausing the game is often necessary to stack two Blocks to balance each other out (or create a complicated Stack all at once)
  • Pausing can also be useful to stop a Stack from falling over.
  • Players can rewind if their Stack has fallen over
  • Players may want to rewind if they want to change how they have created their Stack
  • Using the DTC does not penalize the players point total (as a collapsed Stack would for example)


  • Box ‘O Blocks Reset – gives a new set of Blocks in the Box
  • Block Swap – Players can swap a block on the playfield for a block in the Box
  • Bonus Points – As it says, bonus points
  • Time Freeze – Add to the DTC meter
  • Change Weight of Block – Can modify a Block's weight
  • Quake stabilizer – Stops any quake from upsetting the Stack
  • Etc…


  • Players get points for the amount of Blocks they use
  • Players get points for using all Knuckles on the playfield
  • Players get points if all their blocks are connected
  • Players can gain bonus points by using the “Challenge Blocks” in their Stack
  • Players can gain bonus points by picking up PowerUps from the playfield.
  • Points convert to PowerPoints which can then be used to purchase Powerups, unlock levels, unlock Blocks, etc…


  • There could be playfield events such as “quakes” that occur.
  • These quakes would only occur on advanced/higher levels
  • Players get notified prior to quake; “Quake coming in X seconds….”
  • If Stack is unstable, then the quake could knock it over
  • Other playfield events are possible….


Pass and Play - Two players take turns stacking blocks until one player knocks that stack over or is unable to place another block

Online - Players get the same Blocks and the same Playfield and see who can stack more (either with time limit or without)

Beat My Score -Players can share their scores (via Facebook for example) and their friends are challenged to beat the score (on same playfield with same blocks)



As with my other game concept, PowerBall!, this game also utilizes PowerPoints.  PowerPoints are the commodity which is earned (or purchased) while playing the game.  And the player can use PowerPoints in a variety of ways:

  • Purchase PowerUps
  • Purchase game skins for different looks to the Blocks and Playfields
  • Unlock future levels
  • Transfer PowerPoints to other game (such as PowerBall!)
  • etc...

Family of Games

This game concept is meant to be released with a plan of staggered releases of other games within the same game "family".  Currently, this "family" is defined as the group of game concepts designed by Matt Powers.  This family of games share attributes and traits which will appeal to gamers.  These games would promote each other.  These games would allow the transfer of PowerPoints between each other.  The goal is develop, release, and promote games together and have these games work together.



There is our concept to start.  As with my previous concept I have questions for you:

  • Does it sound fun?
  • Does this write-up convey an image to you?  A style of game?
  • Is there enough information in the concept for the development and publishing team to understand the goals of the game?
  • Enough for sales/marketing to evaluate and make predictions?
  • Enough for design team to detail out the design?
  • Enough for the technical team to identify the risk areas?
  • What do you think of the idea of a "family" of games?

I would love to get your input. 

In Conclusion

If you are enjoying these conversations and game concept articles, let me know and I can release more of my game concepts.  At this time I have 5 game concepts in this "family" of games.  Besides PowerBall! and StackIt! I also have been working on Zugz!, Go Go Robot!, and Pave The Planet!

I was asked by someone if I was worried "that someone would steal your ideas?"  And my answer?  No, someone "stealing" my ideas is not a big concern of mine.  In fact, it would be a compliment.  I am more worried that these games will never get done.  Don't get me wrong, I would prefer to be involved with the development of these ideas, but having them developed at all is better than nothing.  If someone is interested in creating these games - that would be super cool.  And if they made the game and gave me some sort of credit?  Even nicer.  But for now, I thoroughly enjoy sharing with the community and getting your input.

About the Author

Matt Powers has been making video games for over 20 years.  While currently unemployed and looking for work, Matt has had time to write many new game concepts.  

If you liked this article or have any questions about it please leave a comment. 

For more articles written by Matt Powers you can visit:

If you would like to contact Matt:

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Abby Friesen
profile image
Hey Matt! I haven't read through your previous article / concept, so I'm coming in cold here. I'm a game designer who enjoys little puzzle games and well-written documents and I really enjoyed reading about your concept. I don't know much about the marketing side of things, so I can only comment on the design itself. Here's my reaction:

-You say the game is for all ages, but I'd pick an age baseline to use as your guide while making the game. Younger children have a more difficult time with fine-tuned motor control and their movements might be too sloppy for a game about precisely balancing things. You could choose an age and then have them playtest the game every now and then to use as a test to see how easy the game is or if you could improve a feature.

-Flesh out how players will see things like weight of a block, its balance point, and how well balanced the stack is as a whole. Will players be able to see the balance points of other blocks while they're dragging and placing? Is this a feature that can be turned on and off? Will blocks be able to "snap" in line with the balance points of what they're being stacked on?

-Potential problems may arise where the ability to place blocks anywhere leads to a stack that very very slowly tips because something is a couple pixels too far over. Players may end up having to nudge the same block back and forth trying to get it in exactly the right spot. The snapping ability above may be an optional way to help players do this.

-Oh! Another way could be to have that pause feature where players can stack blocks but gravity doesn't take effect yet. During this time they could get visual feedback displaying how unbalanced the stack is and where things would tip once the game is unpaused. I would probably use this feature a lot so I could move things around and plan them out without committing. During this time, perhaps players could drag pieces around and restack freely.

-What do barriers look like? Can pieces be stacked on them or do they descend down from the top of the screen and have no place on which blocks can be stacked?

-I'm trying to imagine what it looks like when the stack starts tipping and the player tries to rebalance it. I feel like in my haste to grab and tip something back over I'd end up knocking things off the stack anyway. Can't really comment without a prototype to dink around with though.

-How do Moving Blocks work? They sound scary to be putting on my preciously balanced stack! That area could use some fleshing out.

-PowerPoints makes me think of Microsoft PowerPoint. Maybe this is a sign that I use PowerPoint too often.

-Don't forget to outline how the game flows: are there "worlds" of levels? Can players go back and replay to get a better score? How does the next level unlock? Are there multiple challenges players can accomplish in each level? To encourage replayability, players could perhaps go back and play levels again but have to beat them in a different way to get a better score.

-I'm tempted to suggest custom level creation. Players choose where to place knuckles, where to place the goal, and pick x amount of shapes to be available to the player. It'd be fun to make a super hard level for a friend to beat, or to share my level with the world. It'd keep the game alive and breathing once someone beats all the levels.

Sorry if you addressed some of these already, I only read through the concept once. It sounds like a fun game and it looks like you've figured a lot out already! Good luck with it.

Matt Powers
profile image
Thanks a lot Abby this is some great feedback. This is why I like to work with designers - attention on the game design. Not being a designer myself I can sometimes forget some important details.

A lot of good notes. What I take away most (and that I need to look at my other concepts on) are the details of interface. How the player interacts with the game/system is so critical. Also how the game communicates back to the player.

And I'm glad to hear you think StackIt! Could be fun. Still a long way to go before we see a game but the concept is the first step.

Thanks again.

Pete Devlin
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Hi Matt, I read this fairly late so wasn't able to really put together anything constructive, but wanted to let you know this was an interesting piece and your right when you say the best thing is to share your ideas-They grow legs and take on a life of their own when others start inputting.

Matt Powers
profile image
Hi Pete - thanks for the comment. Just leaving a note such as you did is useful. If not for comments I would wonder if anyone is reading my articles.

I'm happy to share whatever knowledge (or concepts) I have. All part of being in this community. Thanks for taking the time and sharing your thoughts.

Will Nations
profile image
Does it sound fun?
- The concept seems like it would serve as an enjoyable challenge to me. I am noticing a trend, however, where the player is free to make tasks as simple or as hard they want based on how much they end up pushing the boundaries of the mechanics. *Use more or less of the toolbox kit to accomplish the task.* It very well could just be me, but I could see myself getting frustrated at the prospect of encountering a level that I could "beat", but only by refusing to go the "hard" route of doing the extra stuff. Furthermore, I don't see any indication of how intense a player can make things (you don't mention a resource cap or any limits of any kind during gameplay). This ambiguity could lead players to continuously attempt to make things as hard as possible in pursuit of a high score - maybe far harder than you ever intended a particular level to be - and ultimately get irritated by their inability to complete tasks. In short, they would leap forward out of their mastery range (where it's just hard enough to be a challenge) and arrive at "higher difficulty" too quickly, become frustrated by *their* mistake, and quit (**technically, it would be your mistake for not handling this eventuality).

Does this write-up convey an image to you? A style of game?
- YES. You have done a very good job of communicating the general concepts, mechanics, and gameplay elements you wish to implement. In this regard, the document does very well overall. There are a few other ambiguities I'll mention later, but yes, this is good.

Is there enough information in the concept for the development and publishing team to understand the goals of the game?
- Since I haven't really entered the industry at all, I can't make claims about what professionals would actually need to get running, but I -can- tell you what I see from my own account. You can tell me whether these are things they would need to know (which you may need to address - not sure if that'd be your job). I can tell you that from a development standpoint, I perceive the need for an array of diverse and enticing art assets for block assortments, environments, and powerups/obstacles. I know that the design of the physics engine and user interface will be extremely important and a lot of time will need to be spent fine tuning these with player testing so that we don't have players moving blocks much more so or too little than they anticipate through their interactions with the screen. In addition, the likely event of using large fingers to manipulate placement directly (as I assume the default method would be) is dangerous because it blocks about 30% of the view surrounding the block they are moving, and it is how this block interacts with others next to it (very minutely) that will have a substantial effect on the results of the player action, i.e. control scheme natively hinders the player's ability to accomplish tasks = not good.

Enough for sales/marketing to evaluate and make predictions?
- Again, no idea. Obviously the control interface and flexible difficulty issues mentioned would make for potential pitfalls in the user experience leading to a loss of purchases (sales issue?). As for marketing, I think you give enough visuals and enough diversity of game modes and mechanics to make for a productive game trailer (doing a montage of gameplay). Especially making a comparison to Jenga at the beginning like you did. That was an extremely popular game that I and many others have poured hours into. Connections like that in particular will likely get people excited. The trick is to make sure your game revitalizes that sense. Again, I -think- this is what marketing deals with? Not sure what else to say...

Enough for design team to detail out the design?
- As mentioned, you give plenty of information concerning mechanics and game modes to get a designer's internal engines revving (I know mine is). You've done this rather well, explaining the general ideas you've had very well. As long as you can manage that, the designers will be able to effectively refine and elaborate on the ideas you've presented, so long as you guys can all arrive at the same page concerning the direction you guys head in with the designs. Also, risk areas for a designer include that "difficulty" stuff.

Enough for the technical team to identify the risk areas?
- I suppose this is where the control interface issues come in. And if so, then I, as an untrained amateur, have already been able to identify some risk areas. Therefore, I think it's safe to say you've done enough to facilitate a professional's work.

What do you think of the idea of a "family" of games?
- I think this is a fantastic idea overall. There is the potential to get some great interplay between the games which is obvious. There is one potential havoc that could ensue however: In order for a game to be enjoyable and desirable, it requires intrinsic motivations to be generated in the player (I like to play the game because the game itself is fun). This requires that all games in a family to be balanced not just internally, but also against each other (which is MUCH more difficult as they are completely different types of games likely). The reason is that there is a risk that a player might really love Powerball!, but find that they can get PowerPoints much more easily in Stackit!. As a result, they begin playing Stackit! NOT because they like Stackit! a lot, but because it will give them lots of points in Powerball!. Ergo, people will feel like they are "grinding" which is functionally equivalent to a chore. The players will probably put up with it for a little while, but then they will become irritated at how the "fastest method for getting points" will actually involve doing something they don't enjoy. I get the impression that players will usually take the most efficient route, even if it isn't enjoyable to them, so you won't be able to stop players from doing this if an imbalance like this exists. The effect is compounded when people find that they don't like the one game that easily nets them the most points since the "chore" mentality is enhanced.

5 more things:
Gameplay Suggestion - Adding a possibility of modifying the gravity in a level, i.e. in THIS stage the gravity falls upright at a 45 degree angle?!?? The nuance of it will present an intriguing challenge for players.

Barrier Suggestion - I later discuss the prospect of a turn-based alternative to gameplay. I believe that barriers would also be more enhanced this way because placing something over a barrier could be deemed an auto-failure, rather than just an extra block in the pathway. This would require much more strategic gameplay on the part of the player, to ensure no blocks fall into the zoned off area.

Moving Blocks - These seem like an absolute bane for a real-time game about maintaining a fragile balance. If the player is trying to be careful to balance an array of blocks, doing it on top of a moving block would be next to impossible. That is, unless the moving block's movements do not actually affect the physics of the stacked blocks (only their position), in which case, ignore this statement.

Strings & Ropes - You have a few images of blocks "hanging" and you mention the player action of doing it, but you never give an indication of "how" this is done. Are there string or ropes? Are they a resource? Is there a limited supply? Can you modify the angles and lengths? Do they give points? If so, a player could potentially infinitely create contrasting tensions to maintain balance and rack up points. If they are limited, you will still have to handle this type of abuse whilst still making them a necessary means to the destination. Do they have durability? Perhaps they could break if too much tension is given to them. Warning players of this possibility could give them added pressure to be wary of their usage during gameplay. If you have moving blocks, could we have springs, wheels and axles, and/or pendulums as well? Will players be put in scenarios where they need to construct these on their own?

Time of Games -
You describe the game such that it would be in real time with a pause skill that builds up over time. While that COULD work, I get the sense the game would be much more enjoyable as a turn-based game in which every turn is a "paused" state and after the end of a turn, some X set of seconds (or fractions of a second) occur in the game time. This way, a player can get enough feedback to realize when there is a problem, but won't necessarily have the precision of their placement affecting the game results on a constant time scale as they try to fix it. That is, I wouldn't want to be trying to position a block and then have that process itself create an even bigger issue immediately. It seems better to try and tackle this game as a planning and strategy game as opposed to primarily being an execution challenge. I see myself enjoying the game more by strategically placing the blocks at my disposal and then testing my experimental positioning. Perhaps the time in between turns could be shifted dynamically during gameplay based on the player performance or combos or score total or something.

There is another reason for this turn-based method: I assume that several people will want to be able to try the pass-and-play mode you described. It would likely be one of the biggest multiplayer pulls of the game - truly incorporating a "Jenga" feel as you take a turn that is easiest for you and yet results in a disastrous turn for the opponent. This way, however, the dynamics for multiplayer in a real time game don't match the single player mode. If every single action is a single turn for one player, and the game can traditionally be played to correct mistakes in real time by quickly placing another block, that option is unavailable in multiplayer. Therefore, multiplayer is a completely different feel compared to single player. It's absolutely impossible to use the "rotation" control method as well with pass-and-play on a real-time game. Passing the mobile device could result in movements with the blocks. If it were a paused method, they would only need to worry about their movement of the device during the "real-time" period of the turn-based game in between turns.

You also need to think about how multiplayer turns are decided as the game is dangerous as it stands. First player gets an advantage by making an unstable stack whilst the second stabilizes it, consumes their turn, and then must pass it back for the first player to make it unstable again. This results in a cycle where only one player has fun, if at all. The second player is unable to "trick up" the first player very easily. A better method may be to have the game instead track stable and unstable states. A player's "turn" would be over when they stabilize a stack and then make it unstable again. They would probably be given a limited number of resources for their turn. The fewer resources they use to fix the problem created by the opposing player, the more resources they can then use to create a dangerous scenario for their opponent. This gives much more opportunity and flexibility to both players involved.

Matt Powers
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Hi Will - thanks for all the great feedback. Certainly a lot to think about.

I am curious what the community thinks of your comments. Do people agree with his feedback? Disagree?

One item you mention I have an immediate comment regarding. About how the concept allows players to solve the puzzle any way they choose - they could take an easy or hard route. This was also somewhat mentioned in the comments on my PowerBall! concept. My thinking is that these games can be thought of as "Sandbox Puzzle Games" or perhaps "Choose your own puzzle." Do people think this works or do we need more specific solutions to puzzles?

Will Nations
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Since no one else is responding, I guess I would just say that I think the concept of a "Sandbox Puzzle Game" as you've described it is a good one. I was more just trying to indicate that if you make it so that a problem can always be solved in a more complicated manner, then people are encouraged to replay the level again, in a more difficult manner. This is good. On the flip side, if you don't provide SOME kind of "cap" like tiers of score goals with various rewards or something like that, then the players are unable to get a sense of accomplishment because they will never feel like the level is "finished". They are never provided with an external means of evaluating themselves aside from, "Well, I guess I've used a lot of stuff now. Yay for me". What a player will want is, "Yes, this game thinks I'm awesome! Now I get rewards and get a sense of progression!"