Metagames and why we released a broken product.

One of the most interesting aspects of launching Placescore is that we’re trying our hands at a mix of the MVP and MDP ways of doing things.

That basically means: Move fast, break things, repair them and keep an eye on stuff that makes the user smile. I think we nailed it with our first version of Placescore. It works well, it feels kind of friendly and: It’s broken.

Harsh words but as some of you already have noticed, there is a huge problem with Placescore as it is: The highscores are getting too hard to beat.

“But that’s the point of highscores!” you might mumble and you’re right. The problem is that Placescore as a game isn’t the “Combine three dots of the same color”-part, no, it’s everything around that. Placescore might be the first “metagame” you’ve played. The match-3 mechanics is not more than that: A mechanics, a way to get a score to put on a location. And that’s the game, putting scores on locations.

Now we have the delicate situation that a lot of you are playing Placescore. Several thousand players in under a week. Absolutely incredible. Some of the more popular places have highscores far above the 600 points mark while most of the players are struggling to get over 300 points. That’s not a good position to be in.

  • The one with the highscore doesn’t have to fight to keep the location and gets bored.
  • Nobody wants to try to beat a score that’s so far away from what they usually achieve that they just don’t stand a chance..
  • Lists look better with three points on them.

We tried and thought about several different solutions:

“Rotting” scores

Your highscore loses value after a few days. Just a small amount of points per day. The problem with that: You never had a highscore. Everything feels in flux, we wouldn’t be able to display highscore lists, because “your” score isn’t really just one number, it’s a range of them. We tried this approach in the beta and it was a clusterfuck and didn’t feel right.

Seasons

Every month or so we archive the points. Huge wipe, all points gone, every owner of a location gets one point per place. Overall highscore based on owned locations per season. Works well, with just one problem: At the start of every season the list of places would be absolutely empty. New players would think nothing is happening and old ones would be frustrated.

Here’s what we’ve settled on:

Rounds

Rounds will change how Placescore feels quite a lot, but I’m sure it’ll be for the greater good. Every place gets a countdown of, let’s say, seven days. It starts with the first highscore and ends after exactly seven days. All highscores per round behave exactly like they do now: If you’re better than everybody else, the place is yours. The person who owns a place at the end of the round gets one point on their overall Placescore highscore.

This means we introduce two new elements: A countdown on every place that… well… counts down and a number that is displayed in the users upcoming profile that gets bigger with every round won.

That’s it. We don’t even need a tutorial, the countdown nicely shows that something is happening in X days and the overall score is the perfect place to have a little description of what the user has to do to gain points.

There’s one more thing, though. Highscores are what Placescore is about, so we don’t want your incredibly high score to be lost forever when the round resets. So we’ll redesign the screen you see after every game. It’ll feature two lists: The top 10 scores of the ongoing round and the top 10 overall scores. That’ll suffice to show everyone that you’re unbeaten, the best and in general a great person.

Problem solved. We’re building this functionality over the course of this week and the following weekend. I’m very excited to see it in the hands of a few thousand players.

The best thing about all this is that we’re laying the foundation of something we’re very much looking forward to: More than one game to score highscores. More on that topic soon. It’s going to be awesome.

So go download Placescore from the App Store!