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I am making my first game and it is coming out too simple. Are there standard "techniques" to making it more difficult?

The game is pretty simple. Picture the game 2048. When you slide in a direction the blocks all slide that direction and collide or merge. But instead of merging numbers (like 2+2=4 in 2048) it merges colors, so a yellow block hitting a blue block makes a green (and red + yellow = orange, etc.) Then if you merge a primary color (blue) and a newly created secondary color (green) it makes a tertiary color (in this case "blue-green").

At that point you can tap on the tertiary color (what I have deemed a "tertiary-bomb") and it will destroy all of it's primary colors, so "blue-green" will destroy all "blue" blocks. You lose if you can no longer move, same as 2048, but it seems to be far too easy not to get stuck, by creating bombs.

How would an experienced game designer make this game less trivial?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Add a mystery block which, when broke, infects other blocks with random colors, thus increasing the permutations of the on screen board. \$\endgroup\$ – Krythic Dec 23 '16 at 2:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Krythic not a bad idea, not bad at all, I preferably would like to find a way to lock down the "standard" logic before introducing "wildcards" but something like that would certainly help make it more difficult. \$\endgroup\$ – DasBeasto Dec 23 '16 at 2:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ I see some votes to close this question as opinion-based, but I'd like to argue that this is exactly the kind of game design question StackExchange is suited to answer. It has a concise description of a mechanic, a clear observed problem, and an explicit goal we can use in evaluating proposed answers ("does this make winning harder / losing easier?"). There's some leeway for style and opinion, sure, but other exchanges handle this fine with the voting system. I'd say this question is sufficiently well-defined to gather some constructive answers. Not every question needs to be unit-testable. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Dec 23 '16 at 4:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ What happens if yellow slides into yellow? \$\endgroup\$ – Pikalek Dec 23 '16 at 4:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pikalek nothing at the moment. Same colors are blocked from combining as they don't merge into a "next level" color (primary to secondary to tertiary) \$\endgroup\$ – DasBeasto Dec 23 '16 at 4:55
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Consider the player's options / resources & look for ways to limit them. Here's a technique taken from Jesse Schell's Art of Game Design (which he in turn credits to game designer Rob Daviau):

List out all of the assumptions you're making & consider ways to invalidate them. Here are some examples based on what you've described (or left out) about the game so far. Your description leads me to assume:

  • Turn based game play - what happens if you add a time limit?
  • Fair random number distribution - what if you periodically skewed things favor certain colors based on pieces in play?
  • Equal value in clearing any color - what if clearing certain colors was worth more (either in terms of points, more time on the clock or free bombs)?
  • Any tertiary piece can become a bomb - what if:
    • they were a limited number per minute?
    • only certain colors could bomb others (i.e. can only clear red with [red red blue] combo)?

Some of these will undoubtedly be complete nonsense. That's okay. If nothing else, the bad ideas will reassure you that the base assumptions they failed to invalidate were good decisions. And some of the time you'll encounter a really interesting twist that you wouldn't have considered.

Note: it can be difficult to realize your own assumptions about your own work. If you have a prototype, consider letting person A watch person B play the prototype & then ask A what they perceive to be the ground rules of the game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Really good answer which deserves some more upvotes before this question gets closed for looking more subjective than it actually is. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Dec 23 '16 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ "List out all of the assumptions you're making & consider ways to invalidate them." That is what I exactly what I did and I figured out a way I believe makes it more challenging! Great piece of advice. \$\endgroup\$ – DasBeasto Dec 23 '16 at 20:22
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Trainyard had a mechanic where if you allowed all three primary colours to mix (eg. a secondary plus the other primary, or two dissimilar secondaries), you'd get a murky brown colour which was effectively dead weight. You couldn't get rid of it once you'd made one, so you had to plan your moves carefully to ensure the wrong colours never came in contact.

A mechanic like that might be a way to add escalating pressure, creating blocks you can't eliminate (or maybe only a tertiary bomb can eliminate them?) and restricting your moves.


Another angle you may want to investigate is nerfing the tertiary bomb, as the current version sounds quite powerful considering it can be made in just two steps. Some possibilities:

  • Tertiary bombs can only destroy (chains of) adjacent blocks, so there's some strategy to arranging them before detonation.

    Or they can only destroy a muddy brown block, as a way of recovering from a previous mistake.

  • Tertiary colours aren't bombs, they just turn back to their dominant primary if mixed with that primary one more time (diluting the other primary out).

    Combined with the above rule about muddy browns, primaries are your safest colours because they blend with most things, and compound colours are liabilities. Tertiaries become a way to remediate a secondary back into safe primaries again - so the strategy becomes about managing how many compound colours you have in play at once.


A third angle is to restrict the moves the player has available. For example, if two colours share a primary, but aren't similar enough to mix into a single block, they "stick" together when they touch, until one of them changes colour or is eliminated.

This bars one of the avenues for merging the block with another, since now it has this other colour in the way. And it can stick out like a shelf, interfering with the transport of blocks in the adjacent row/column.

If the player isn't careful, they could turn their playfield into a big tarball of almost-but-not-quite matching colours, limiting their flexibility to respond to new situations.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is fantastic! I'm not sure the route I'll take yet but these ideas certainly spawn thoughts that I wouldn't have come up with so I want to thank you! If these come to realization I will certainly credit you somehow. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – DasBeasto Dec 23 '16 at 4:52

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