In a recent post, I mentioned that I've been finalising the code/test for the special gems in my game. This is progressing well, but has shown up an issue with my Game Design.
Over the Christmas / New Year period, when I was deciding to commit to this project, I took some time to document what features the game would have. I did this not because "thou must have a design document", but moreso because I wanted to assure myself that my game had a chance of standing out from the hundreds (thousands?) of other matching games out there.
This was a pretty informal process. The relevant (to the current issue) section of the design document is reproduced below ...
What this chicken-scratch is saying is ...
If you match 6 gems, you generate a "Special # 2 - White" gem. White gems match any color, and when matched, remove all gems of that color from the grid, scoring 100 point per gem removed.
If you match 7 gems, you generate a "Special #3 - Cross" gem. Cross gems match any color, and when matched, remove all gems from the row and column from the grid, scoring 100 points per gem removed. There's a note that says they should remove at least 23 gems, so score at least 2300 points.
Matching 8 generates a "Bomb" gem. When that is matched, it clears the grid, removing all 144 gems and scoring 14400 points.
Matching 9 generates a "Life" gem, which when matched allows the player a free Shuffle.
Some of these effects may sound familiar from other games. Certainly, when I put this together, I thought they were "conservative". What I hadn't factored in was that my grid (12x12) is significantly larger than most of the matching games out there. I though that the bigger grid would make my game harder (a good thing), but my testing shows it to be way too easy.
To the point of this post: I did a design. I can even refer you to the 45 distinct match 3 mechanics, I found in my research. I'm honestly not sure any amount of iterations on the design would have shown me the flaws I'm encountering now.
The first being that, especially during cascades, a big grid has more scope for movement, which will occasionally throw up bigger matches. Conversely, if you remove all green (for example) it takes longer for the refill to push green into the bottom half of a 12 row grid, which means there's much more scope for additional large matches for several moves to come.
The second being that my 6 gem match "White" gem is simply OP. Since there are 6 base colors, removing all gems of one color removes ~1/6th of 144 gems, or - on average 24. Which is the same as the (in theory, but supposedly exponentionally harder) 7 gem match.
So, did I skimp on design, or is this par for the course? I always knew I'd need a balancing pass, but to be honest expected that to be around scoring. Comments are welcome.