Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Threes is a beautifully designed, addictive puzzle game that's both incredibly simple and deceptively complex.

When the game starts, you'll see numbered tiles on a 4x4 board. Starting out, you'll have 9 tiles, and the tiles will be numbered either 1, 2, or 3.

Basically, you slide adjoining tiles together (either vertically or horizontally), and the rules are very simple: 1s only combine with 2s (and they form 3s). From that point on, only matching tiles can combine with each other. So two 3s, for example, make a 6.

If you move one tile, everything in that tile's row will also move, if it's possible. Here, take a look at this screenshot (from the press kit):

In this case, if you moved blue "1" to the right, the red "2" above it and the "6" below it will also move. This makes the game far more interesting than just moving single tiles around the board. As a note, you wouldn't move that way--you'd move the blue "1" up to combine with the red "2"--but you can see how it works.

After each turn, another tile gets added to the board, and when the board fills up and you can't make a move, the game is over.

You can see that a simple starting board evolves over time into a much more complex situation.  You're constantly managing the board, and it gets progressively more difficult.

So this is a nifty game, and it's terribly addicting in the very best way. It's also the absolutely perfect five-minute game, so I'm constantly playing when I have a few minutes away from the computer.

Buy this (Android and iOS), if you haven't already. That's not why I'm writing about it today, though.

Here's why: Threes. That link goes to a long, long post about the development process for the game, and it's completely fascinating. It's incredible how much thought and obsessive-compulsive attention went into every single detail of the design, and the post is full of sample art and even playable prototypes.

It's a wonderful read, incredibly interesting, and it helped me understand that our obsessive attention to detail in Gridiron Solitaire is not only not unusual, but it's entirely necessary. That's how good games get made.

Good little games, anyway. Something like Skyrim can't pay attention to detail at the same level, but Skyrim has a vast kind of magnificence that makes it something else entirely. Little games, though, need a tremendous focus on every little thing.

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