I'm not the biggest fan of plain old ordinary Bejeweled, but if you take Bejeweled and:
- shorten the session length to 1 minute
- add friends leaderboards
- add a somewhat random incidence of score multipliers
then you've found my digital crack.
Friends' leaderboards are obviously compelling - but what about those other two things? Are they obvious?
First - session length. If you like a game, wouldn't a longer session be better? Nope. All other things being equal, a shorter session length is better than a longer one. If you like the game, you can always play it again, and the lower your time commitment, the more likely you're going to re-up. So go ahead, take your game, make it shorter, see what happens. You'll probably find that you have balance issues - those 'guns vs. butter' decisions you were making early on thrown out of whack. But that can be fixed, and the tighter game loop is probably worth it.
So why did it need random multiplier gems? I've heard hardcore guys say it takes the skill out of the game, if a n00b can rack up a 150000 point score just from a lucky draw - and people who invest more time are more likely to get the big payouts, so don't multiplier gems wreck the game? Nope. I'm more or less quoting Richard Garfield here: "Everyone says they want their games to be less random, but nobody really does." Paraphrasing, rookies want to be able to win occasionally, otherwise they won't play, and the skilled players will have nobody to play against. (Also, a lot of players who think they're skilled aren't as good as they think - a highly variant game lets those players feel like a badass when a less variant game like chess might throw their actual lack of skill into stark relief.)
And there's another thing going on with the multiplier gems and that's a slot-machine schedule of reinforcement. For a tiny investment (one minute of your time) you might get that big payout. Behaviors that are reinforced intermittently are resistant to being extinguished - check that out, I did learn something with my psych major.
When I find myself drawn back to Blitz, I feel about like those wirehead laboratory rats of legend, the ones who would continually pull the lever to get the electrical stimulus until they starved. It makes one ask if maybe Blitz is a bit unethical - are we being manipulated by PopCap? All I can say is that since guys who work at Popcap are continually at the top of my leaderboards, at least they're drinking the kool aid too.
And the fact that the PopCap guys are always at the top shows that there is still skill involved, despite the variance. It's hard to put that skill into words - the ability to see the matches is paramount, and that seems to be something you can only learn by practice. There are also strategies, to be sure, but most of the strategies seem to be less important than just being able to make a lot of fast matches.
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