Among the new releases on Apple Arcade this month To be Garden Tails: Match and Grow, a serene match-3 puzzle game where the main objective is to build a garden and fill it with cute little animals. In an environment filled with adrenaline-focused video games, this new Apple Arcade experience stands out as a quieter, more relaxing alternative.
To learn more about the game and its relaxing origins, we spoke with Sandra Honigman, game designer and Dots’ leader of Garden Tails, to learn more about where ideas come from and how it tries to keep things light for the player.
We talked about the game’s efforts to overcome some of the negative stereotypes of the match-3 genre, including the lack of monetization and some mechanics that help players solve puzzles. its quiz. We also delve into how living in a major American city created the idea of a tranquil experience.
This interview was conducted remotely via Zoom and edited for clarity.
GameSpot: Match-3s like Garden Tails can be intense, especially when the number of moves left is reduced to 0. Is the idea of setting the game theme around a peaceful garden to relieve stress? Is that straight? Do you still want players to feel that little bit of tension?
Sandra Honigman: We don’t need stress there, no. The guiding idea for Garden Tails has always been relaxation and peace, that’s why we have Zen gardens, music, sounds, animals etc in the levels. We also don’t monetize the loss of levels, so we can improve that peaceful experience as there is no problem of earning too much stress, this is one of the biggest things that games have to offer. Other players in this genre do.
So the lack of monetization enhances your overall vision of making this a relaxing experience. Is it simply because people don’t need to have financial capital in the game?
Yes correct. We don’t worry about making money at all. Thanks to our partnership with Apple, we were able to launch it on Apple Arcade and make it a completely, one hundred percent, free game.
In a medium like video games, where explosions and bombardments tend to be the focal point, developing a game that focuses on relaxation is an appealing idea. Was this always the goal?
Yes, one hundred percent, that has always been our goal. Even before we had our story idea and the animals become characters, this game will always be about you sitting down with your phone and playing a very Zen game for a while. That’s always the plan
So when was the idea of Zen garden born? Was that focus created in tandem with the relaxation motif, or was the overarching Zen focus that led you to the idea of the garden?
Our first idea was gardening, but the animals came into play a little later in the development. Once we had them, they shaped the entire character of the game. Like other match-3 games, making certain matches will generate special tiles, in our case animals and each with its own unique character.
When you decide which animals to include, such as rabbits, bees, and others, are there animals you cannot combine?
We had the idea for these little groundhogs to appear instead of the bunnies, but we couldn’t figure out how to make the groundhogs look good in the puzzle.
The ground spider acts like a rabbit, speeding away and taking the flower bricks with it, but the pile of dirt the hedgehog will leave behind. It feels like a small pile of dirt that the hedgehog crawls out of that should last forever, but they can’t it is in forever, and that makes it feel a little hectic in what is supposed to be a very quick moment.
There’s a negative connotation around the term “match-3” that I’m sure you’re aware of in development. We’ve talked about making money already, but what are some other major obstacles you’re looking to avoid in your match-3 game?
We put a lot of faith in Playdots in making sure that the experience of each level is as friendly as possible. With Garden Tails, that means having useful things for the player right at the board, instead of things that are purely obstacles. There is a balance there; it’s a Zen game, but players also want to be challenged, which is what our previous Two Dots game does well. A lot of people like that game to take up the challenge, as opposed to this one which is a more relaxing kind of experience.
We wanted to avoid letting players think about every move in Garden Tails. Instead, we want them to go with the flow. For example, the bee power you can create by matching five or more flowers is the “explosion” tile pattern you’ve seen in other match-3s. In our game the bee explodes twice, which makes the game a little more friendly and a little more useful to you as a player.
We also wanted to make sure the experience in the garden is just as important as the levels themselves, so we let them intertwine in a similar way to other games, where you pay a certain amount of money. certain of a particular currency to progress. However, instead of having something very big and wild, we just focus everything on the garden and I think that’s one of our strengths.
I find the rewards you are awarded are very specific numbers. 230 of one currency and then another 40. Where do those numbers come from? Are they random selections or do they come from play?
Those numbers are really important to how fast the player unlocks the garden. During the planning phase, we sat down with these big spreadsheets that served as a baseline for how long we wanted the player to complete the garden, and that baseline correlated with the number of levels in each garden.
For example, our first level is the fastest completed garden in the game. After a level or two you will have enough money to buy a plant for your garden, but for the next level you will need to play a few more times.
I guess looking through that Excel sheet is exactly the opposite of the relaxation you’re trying to bring?
Right! We are ready to relieve stress.
Speaking of the relaxing part, you said earlier that every element in the game, from the animals to the garden to the music, all play with this theme. What kind of research have you done to exploit that feeling of relaxation or serenity? Did the team listen to relaxation apps, music, ASMR videos, or something else while creating this video?
A lot has to do with our location: we actually live in New York City and we are very Surrounded by the city. When in a big city like this, where do you go to relax? Park and garden. As New Yorkers looking for that peaceful experience, we took what we know as spaces where we can relax outdoors and tried to put that into play. For example, we’ll go to the Botanic Gardens, Central Park, and other parks in New York City for inspiration. We would basically take a day off and just go there with the group. We understand what distracts people, but we also know what inside that distraction can be peaceful.
What are some future plans for future games? Will the updates just offer more gardens and animals, or could there be a transition to a different “relaxed” style, like Beach Tails or something like that?
We launched last week, so we’re very focused on the early days after launch, but we have a lot of big plans. We have more content updates coming soon, including new garden, new animals, new music and new story. We’re also working on new features to expand the gardening experience, but they’re still heavily developed. As for when they will drop, we do not have a specific time, but our social networks will have information available.
Garden Tails: Match and Grow is available now on Apple Arcade.
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