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Galaxy Swap

Game Specs

Project Overview

Objective: Create a Match-3 interactive demo that runs on handheld devices

Team: 2 Designers

Tools: Unity, Figma, Adobe Illustrator

Download android demo and play for yourself!


Tech Debt: This was a smaller team, so we were constantly managing feature scope to ensure we could create a polished product

Time: 10-week project timeline

Small Team: There were no artists on our team, so we had to closely monitor asset cohesion throughout the development cycle


1. Establish a clear player progression through difficulty ramping

2. Deliver weekly prototypes for review to support an iterative process

3. Research and implement UI/UX best practices for mobile games

4. Keep players engaged throughout the match loop

4. Collaborate with the team to ensure a smooth transition from tech demos to a polished state



The Hidden Treasures: Match-3 What works?

Clear color and shape delineation between match items

Busy border items lead to unclear eye tracking

Breaks information architecture best practices: less important items like the pause button are more centralized than crucial game information

UI elements overlap with gameplay space making it difficult for players to complete touchscreen actions

Township: Match-3
What works?

Large amount of empty space around the gameplay area leaves the player's eye focused on relevant data

Multiple forms of feedback on item state changes: particle emission, SFX, item shake, etc.

Follows proximity best practices: clusters objectives, gameplay, and powerups together

Utilizes animations to draw attention to scene changes on win/lose states

Game Feel

Because there's so much time between player input in a Match-3 game, one of our core goals was to make that "rest" time feel engaging and interactive. (Hover to play videos)

Feedback Items

There were multiple gameplay states that needed to be clearly communicated to the player by at least two forms of feedback:

- Item selected

- Objective updates

- Unsuccessful match

- Successful match

- Objective complete

- Turns remaining

Item Selected

Feedback #1: Selected tiles wiggle until they are moved or deselected
*This is a rare example where there is only one form of feedback. We found in playtesting that brightening the selected items or playing an SFX annoyed players and the movement alone was enough to communicate the changed state

Unsuccessful Matches

Feedback #1: Tiles wiggle and return to their original positions

Feedback #2: Error SFX plays to alert the player to failed state

Feedback #3: Absence of successful match feedback

Successful Matches

Feedback #1: Tiles shrink and then "pop" with accompanying SFX

Feedback #2: Matched tiles spawn short lived particles to draw attention

Feedback #3: Matched tiles disappear from play area


Feedback #1: Count updates

*Another example of only one form of feedback as the turn counter borrows from the objective feedback. The player's attention is already on the panel, so the clustering of the items helps the player keep track of turns as well.


Objectives are crucial to communicate how close the player is to the round's end state. This feedback is essential to players and needs a lot of feedback attached.

Feedback #1:
On match, particles representing the match items fly towards the objective panel to draw attention to the updates

Feedback #2: Accompanied by SFX, objective icons "pop" similar to the matched icons when they are hit by the particles

Feedback #3: Objective counters reflect the changes and give players specific counts

Feedback #4: When a single objective item is complete, the count is replaced by a star signifying that objective has been met

Creative Solutions for Unexpected Problems

We ran into a tech problem during our project where we struggled to get the top row of match items to adhere to the UI mask. Rather than put an unknown amount of development hours into this single problem, I came up with a creative solution to turn the drawback into a feedback opportunity!

Knowing the incoming tiles
interferes with the intended gameplay, so I covered them with a progress bar that aids the player in tracking how close they are to finishing their objectives.

Progress Bar

Feedback #1: Progress bar fills with a bright and vibrant color as player progresses

Feedback #2: Slider provides a large anchor point for player to see progress at a glance

Feedback #3: Particles emitting from slider increase as player completes objectives, increasing excitement and tension the closer they are to winning!


Level Sequence

Another goal was to create a full gameplay demo with some kind of level progression. We chose to create a contained amount of levels to better display the loop without overscoping the project.

Before creating the progression in each level, we needed a level hub to help players navigate. Like gameplay states, this hub would have multiple flows that needed communicated to the player:

- Active Level

- Locked levels

- Completed Levels

Active Level vs. Locked Level

Feedback #1: Full color and outline

Feedback #2: Close to the center of the screen

Feedback #3: Moving particle behind the island to brighten focus and draw attention

Feedback #1: Greyed out

Feedback #2: Offset from center to draw focus to active level

Feedback #3: No moving parts to divert attention and convey "locked" state

Completing & Unlocking a Level

Feedback #1: Stars "burst" and SFX play

Feedback #2: Camera movement to draw attention and center new active level with unlock SFX

Feedback #3: "Passing" the background particle from completed to active level

Win & Lose

Similar to objective updates, win and lose screens need to effectively communicate with the player so they understand the change occurring onscreen. Feedback in these states are also meant to evoke emotion from the player as they celebrate their success or lament their loss and try again.

Win Screen

Feedback #1: Star bursts with SFX that establishes the "win" schema that is continued by the star bursts on the level select screen

Feedback #2: Text movement/background particles to encourage excitement

Feedback #3: "Success" music stinger to engage player in celebrating their win

The "level complete" screen stays on the same background as whichever level was just beaten to give the player a sense of place within the level progression.

Lose Screen

Feedback #1: Reveals number of tiles left to succeed, giving the player that "I'm so close to winning" feeling

Feedback #2: The text moves in a downward motion to convey the loss and "sinking" state

Feedback #3: Particles swirl around the objective tiles to draw the players attention to how many matches they had left

Like the win state, the lose screen stays on the level background. An added bonus of losing is getting to see the pretty backgrounds again!


Post Mortem

Extra Features

A trademark of many Match-3 games are interesting progression enhancers/inhibitors like:

- Powerups

- Tile mechanics like ice, trapped tiles, etc.

- Friction created by lives/energy

- Monetization features

Because of our small team and limited time, we weren't able to focus on more ancillary design items. However, if we revisit the project these are some spaces that can be a fun challenge for designers!

Level Growth

Similar to extra features, we kept our level design very simple and straightforward to allow time for polish. I would love to be able to engage in more level design with complicated grid shapes, objectives, and movement patterns in the future.

Publishing on the Play Store

We're currently looking into publishing on the Play Store, so that will be the most immediate next step for this project. We'll be revisiting some polish items before that time.

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