DeNA embraces the puzzle battle genre with Monster Match on mobile [Interview]
DeNA’s Monster Match was released earlier this month on iOS and Android, giving mobile gamers another outlet for puzzle / battle gameplay while on the go. The game challenges players with forming and upgrading a team of monsters as they take them into battle against hundreds of different enemies.
Monster Match mixes puzzle gameplay with elemental battles. Players tap and drag their finger over symbols that match in color, with matches being available vertically, horizontally and diagonally across the game board. The more gems are matched in a single swipe, the more damage is done to the opponent, with the game tracking each monster’s elemental affiliation (and therefore appropriate strength and weakness).
We had a chance to chat with Monster Match Product Leader Roger Royce to learn more about Monster Match, and what players can expect from the game as it grows.
Inside Mobile Apps: It likely goes without saying that Monster Match has a lot in common with games like Gungho’s Puzzle & Dragons. Can you go into what inspired the team to make this kind of game, and what makes it different from its competitors?
Roger Royce: Inspiration for Monster Match was drawn from a variety of games, such as Puzzle Quest, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, Dungeon Raid, and Puzzle & Dragons, to name a few. The puzzle battle genre has been forming over the past 15 years and each of these games proved that the hybrid could lead to some compelling gameplay. The Monster Match team adopted this proven formula, then infused new ideas and UI/UX to create an updated experience for its players.
Monster Match’s inherent gameplay design dictates rewarding experiences with every turn. One of the first things players will notice about Monster Match that sets it apart from its competitors is the innovative puzzle mechanic. Our team designed a new system that is engaging and approachable because it limits gameplay friction and restrictions for casual players. There is no turn timer so players don’t feel rushed to make their moves. Most other puzzle games require the player to match or trace at least three like gems, whereas we simplify this by letting you match a minimum of two. Additionally, we let the player trace gems in any direction, including diagonals. There is even the ability to un-trace matches if players change their mind mid-turn and see a better move on the board elsewhere.
IMA: Many of the creatures in Monster Match are adorable in their original versions, but become more gritty and “dark” in later evolutions. Is there a way for players to keep the cute and cuddly critters, without losing out on power?
RR: One of the special aspects about Monster Match is that the game appeals to players with different interests. These interests include both gameplay and art style so we attempted to cater to a broad audience. Although the majority of the monsters grow from what we call a “cute” to an “edgy” evolutionary form, we purposefully included some exceptions to this trend with our initial release set. Check out the Panda family to see an example of a monster that maintains its adorability right through its final form. At this time, we don’t have plans to let players de-evolve their monsters, but we are releasing new content every week so everyone is bound to find a monster that suits their visual preference.
IMA: Limited time events look to be a big part of Monster Match’s future. Can you explain a bit about what players can expect in each new event in terms of gameplay and prizes?
RR: Content is king and in the world of Monster Match; new, exclusive content is available weekly. Every player can compete in the Special Event Zone where heightened strategy and dedicated monster teams are recommended to climb to the top of the leaderboards. As boss enemies are defeated, players earn EP (event points), which unlocks a variety of prizes at predetermined tiers. Some of these prizes include vouchers to refill stamina, continue failed puzzles, guarantee capture and even summon new, rare monsters. At the end of the event period these same EP totals also award more rare prizes based on leaderboard rankings, like exclusive evolved monsters and material monsters that can power level your team with tons of XP. Playing the weekly events is the best way to earn lots of free content.
IMA: Are there any plans to bring player-vs-player combat to Monster Match?
RR: We’re considering player-vs-player combat for the game, but in the immediate future we’re focused on addressing feedback from the fans and optimizing the existing features.
IMA: What’s the timeline for new permanent content additions in Monster Match? For instance, in addition to the seven islands already in the game, will new areas or evolutions for monsters be added?
RR: New islands, stages and monsters have already been created, but we are still keeping a watch on completion rates for our existing content. We want to avoid the “dog with too many toys” scenario and allow our players to master the current stages before adding new ones with additional twists and features. Also, all monsters have at least four planned evolutionary forms (excluding material type characters). There are already over 300 monsters to capture in the game and 130 puzzle stages to complete. More content is coming soon, but we’re mighty proud of how much was already available at launch. Be sure to check out the game’s Facebook page for regular updates about new content releases.
IMA: Why do you think these puzzle battle games have been so successful on mobile devices?
RR: Mobile game players are usually classified as either casual or core, allowing games like Rage of Bahamut or Candy Crush to easily target their expected audiences. What’s so interesting about this new wave of puzzle battle games is their ability to hybrid both the casual and core experiences without forcing unfamiliarity. Games like Monster Match are a gateway for casual players to dabble in more core experiences like leveling up their monster teams yet it also offers core players a chance to relax their brain and go zen by playing a simple and rewarding puzzle. By distributing these puzzle battle games on mobile devices, we’re able to reach crossover audiences that never expected to have an interest in both puzzling or battling type games.
IMA: Anything you’d like to add?
RR: Sure. Allow me to share just a couple fun facts about the game’s development.
The earliest concept for Monster Match borrowed heavily from Native American tradition. Monster designs looked as though they were carved out of wood and your team was stacked as a totem. It was an intriguing concept but we had some concerns about widespread appeal. However, you can expect a future in-game special event to revisit this inspired art style ;)
Michel Gagné, best known for his work on Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Star Wars: Clone Wars and the Iron Giant, animated many of the effects in Monster Match. It was an honor to work with one of the best, classically trained animators of today.