I'm currently developing a puzzle game for Android that is sort of along the lines of Alchemy.

I was wondering what makes games like Alchemy or Bejeweled so addicting? How do I keep players interested in the game to want to play it over and over? Is it the scores? Level advancement? The challenges? What should I be doing to try and keep a player engaged with a puzzle game since they are often quite repetitive?

  • \$\begingroup\$ amazon.com/Theory-Fun-Game-Design/dp/1932111972 \$\endgroup\$ – stairmast0r Mar 7 '12 at 19:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ How come isn't this question on hold or closed as too broad or sth like that when much more precise ones are? \$\endgroup\$ – NPS Mar 12 '14 at 14:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NPS There are nearly 20k questions on the site. Many, like this one, were asked before we knew for sure what kind of questions we wanted to allow (in 2010). If you see a question like it, instead of posting a comment you can vote to close or flag it. \$\endgroup\$ – MichaelHouse Mar 12 '14 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ But I don't want it closed. Or any other that's like it. I was just curious about inconsistency. \$\endgroup\$ – NPS Mar 12 '14 at 17:50

A puzzle game like Bejeweled or Tetris has randomly generated "levels", usually with a slow progression in difficulty. That alone can make a game interesting. Trying to get as far as possible, getting a "lucky streak" or scoring the most points.

One thing that's really important is that the gameplay feels right. Controls should be simple and intuitive, graphics and sound should support and enrich the gameplay. Clearing a level or scoring multiple points with one move should look and sound great, so that the player gets some sort of audiovisual reward.

It's a bit different with puzzle games that have pre-defined levels like physics-puzzles or games like "Slice it" or "Trainyard". The main goal there is to beat the game, eg. complete all levels. Additional replay-value can be added by adding better scores for fast or "flawless" solving of the puzzle.

Another important factor is progression. Either by trying to beat your own scores or scores from other players in a leaderboard. Once you mastered a game and you have the feeling that you can't get better, you'll most likely also lose interest in it.

The most addictive puzzle-game I've played recently is probably Puzzle Quest. It combines a Bejeweled-type of game with a fantasy story and RPG elements. Not only the puzzle-solving is addictive, you also want to progress in the story and "level-up" your character... addictiveness overload ;)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the great input! The twist I'm taking with my Alchemy-like game is adding rpg elements (levels, exp, hp, mp, spells, etc.). \$\endgroup\$ – Bryan Denny Nov 17 '10 at 0:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ How is this gonna be any different than Puzzle Quest? You have to find some element that is new, or an old element that you can make even better. \$\endgroup\$ – shadowprotocol Nov 17 '10 at 4:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @shadowprotocol well, Puzzle Quest is more built on top of Bejeweled where there is gem swapping (mine is about placing runes on a board adjacent to similar runes in color or symbol). I'm more focused on the actual puzzle play than the heavy RPG elements that Puzzle Quest has (moving around a world map, quests, dialog, etc etc). Mainly to keep things as simple as possible (for both the player and developer ;) ). \$\endgroup\$ – Bryan Denny Nov 17 '10 at 10:14

From a game developers point of view, I would say the most important thing in creating an addictive and fun game is to prototype early! And iterate your ideas, tweaking gameplay in the beginning stages of development, not the end. That way, if you find that the game is not fun and addictive, then you could chuck it away, and not worry too much about wasted resource.

Also user testing and hallway testing is important. Usually the developer is "too close" to the game to make good game-play decisions.


A huge deciding factor for me in whether a game is addictive or not, is how long it makes you wait at critical points, such as when a game is over, how long does it take and how many clicks does it take to get you to the starting point of a new game?

Too many screens and too many delays at this point make it so that players just couldn't be bothered playing another round.


Steve Yegge (everybody's hero) talks about collecting guns in borderlands, and the token economy. Collecting stuff seems to be a big thing. Also, flOw teaches us that gradual ramping up of difficulty is important.

Although (as Krom points out), these are not particular to puzzle games. The game flOw's base thesis I've not read, but the idea's are embodied by the concept of Flow in Psychology, gradual skill and difficulty ramping up to maintain interest by the player. Although Steve talks about collecting guns, it is the collection of "stuff" and it's rarity that may keep people coming back. Steve also talks about the splitting of leader boards. The more metrics we have to measure ourselves against, the more effort we may make to meet those metrics, or to go crazy in one. combinations of a certain colour or shape? Recent success 10000000 on iPhone has has a shitty match three game but has a meta game on top of it, adding a story.

None of these things have any impact on the base mechanic of Alchemy, but without some constant shift of difficulty or peripheral activity, the mechanic will be learnt, understood, mastered, and left behind.

Krom, is that better?


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