Game Reviews

Game Ideas and Tips Based on The Tower

the tower is a fun action game that can give you ideas about virtual economies and game designThe Tower is a fun game from the makers of 2048 – Ketchapp (here is a link for iOS). If you want ideas for making great games, read on.

Simple mechanics – tap at the right moment

The goal of this game is to build the highest tower by adding bricks/levels on top of each other. Each brick is moving back and forth from right to left and tapping it at the right moment will place it perfectly on top of the existing tower. Missing the perfect moment to tap means that some of the brick is falling down and the building becomes narrow. The less wide the tower is the harder it is to land the bricks on top of it. Sound simple enough – it is! I personally find this mechanic extremely engaging. Another game that uses the same “tap at the right time” mechanic is CSR racing. While that game is far more advanced and rich in terms of the virtual economy and graphics, the basic mechanic is very similar – you have to shift gears by tapping at a very certain time and if you miss it you are likely to lose.

The height of the tower is the achievement and score

This game has an extremely simple system for keeping users engaged over time. Your goal is to always break your previous record. The only scoring and progress system is the height of the tower which makes for a very visual representation that contributes to users’ engagement with the score. Who wouldn’t want their tower to be the tallest? Of course, this system usually creates a problem of convergence – the higher the record the harder it is to break it. Lack of progress can lead to frustration unless there is a mechanism to handle it. In this game, the virtual economy gives the game an extra layer. Once users master the basic principals of building tall towers, they discover more depth that is introduced by the ability to turn collected coins into virtual goods that assist in reaching for the sky.

Focus on rating to get viral

The main social action in the tower is rating, there is no use of a facebook connect plugin here. There are multiple buttons to direct the user towards rating the game and before the user is redirected, there is a nice dialog that makes the transition smoother. There is one place for improvement here. For users who already connected on Game Center, I would recommend switching the rate button action to open Game Center instead of redirecting to the App Store. This allows users to rate the game without leaving the app.

Virtual economy with no in-app purchases – wait what?

One of the reasons I really like this game is that it uses virtual economy purely for engagement and not for monetization. This sounds almost crazy in today’s trends towards in-app purchasing but it shows the designer actually grasped the original purpose of virtual economies and their potential as a retention mechanism. While at first it seems like the game is about tapping at the right moment, the only way to build tall buildings is to master the use of the upgrades. After a few sessions, users already have one or two thousands of coins and can immediately start buying items that are priced in the hundreds:
  • Save Me
  • Extra lives
  • Headstart
  • Redo last move
  • Coin doubler
Most of these items are priced for real money in other games but the tower takes a casual approach and sells them for in-game currency. This adds the game another layer of complexity, increases retention and solves the game progression problem. A+ on the use of virtual economy here.
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