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Why We Say 'I Do' to Weddings in Casual Games

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By Sara Hardin

Television history was made in 1994 when Rachel Green entered the Central Perk in her sopping wet wedding dress on the pilot episode of Friends. “The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate” turned the expectations for portraying a wedding on its head—instead of the glitz, glam, and giddiness typically associated with the Big Day, Rachel left her fiancé at the altar after realizing she didn’t truly love him. Thus, Rachel is thrown into the ragtag group of friends the world quickly grew to love.

Weddings and romance—happy endings or otherwise—are an excellent way to develop characters in any narrative, and casual game stories are no exception. Multiple developers—most notably, our own client Metacore—have even capitalized on the failed-wedding trope for themselves as part of their marketing, and there’s little doubt as to why; the idea of a love turned sour is compelling. If we’re immediately asking, “Why? What went wrong?” then the content has already hooked us.

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Grandma Ursula comforts Maddie in this ad for Merge Mansion.

While there’s plenty of room for gossip and drama in casual game narrative—in fact, it’s something we at Brunette Games are constantly encouraging our clients to explore—the same can be said for happy and healthy relationships. Watching a romance grow from nothing to a-lot-more-than-something is hugely rewarding for audiences. A great example of this type of relationship development is seen in The Office between Jim and Pam. By the time they shared their first kiss, viewers who had been around since the beginning were crying happy tears (and maybe I’m projecting since that was definitely my experience… but I don’t think I’m too far off). Their friendship turned forbidden-crush turned passionate-romance is a hugely successful representation of the art of the slow burn. The payoff continues as we watch them get engaged and eventually married, and their relationship arc remains one of the most enjoyable parts of every rewatch for longtime fans.

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“I thought they'd be good together, like PB&J. Pam Beasley... and Jim. What a waste. What. A. Waste.”

Even if a game’s narrative leans more “playful comedy” than “mysterious drama,” the potential for exploring budding romance remains. In Redemption Games’ Sweet Escapes, the diva poodle Cherry and cantankerous hyena Buzz are an adorable representation of when opposites attract. They even get engaged and married, a development that was warmly received by long-term players. This kind of relationship growth has huge payoff for games with hours upon hours of gameplay: If the audience is dying to see if a romance is going to go somewhere exciting, they’re eager to continue playing to find out more.

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Sweet Escapes fans root for the unlikely romance between Cherry and Buzz.

In addition to romance in general, we think mature romance deserves more time in the spotlight. In ZiMAD’s Jigsaw Puzzle Villa, side character Emilio starts the game having silently pined after Valentina for years. Valentina, heart shattered by a disastrous marriage to an unfaithful man, takes some time to come around to Emilio’s affections—but when she does, she’s ready to embrace the quality of love she’s always deserved.

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Twenty-somethings aren’t the only people falling in love, and they certainly aren’t the only ones playing mobile games—all the more reason to make space for this type of romance in our narratives. This is an area of representation that often gets overlooked. We occasionally find a sense of reluctance to explore the dynamics of existing marriages and long-term relationships in our stories, which feels like a missed opportunity; these situations lend themselves to drama just as often—if not more—than a new, blossoming romance. The conflict in these instances is often more nuanced, less petty, and complicated by years of intimate connection. The interest in these storylines doesn’t have to taper after the wedding bells have rung.

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All this to say, we hope to see more opportunities for weddings and multi-faceted relationships in our future. The appeal, charm, and heartstring-pulling potential can’t be overstated—happy ending, or otherwise.


New Release! Puzzle Your Way through a Charming Story in ZiMAD's 'Jigsaw Puzzle Villa'

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By Sara Hardin

Brunette Games is thrilled to announce the release of ZiMAD's new game, Jigsaw Puzzle Villa. Lisa Brunette designed the concept, story, and most of the characters, as well as wrote the dialogue for the first few chapters. I extended the story design, characters, and dialogue in the later launch build chapters, with help from Jenna Hume and Dexter Woltman.

In this endearing game, you play as Justine, a passionate jigsaw puzzler who finds herself falling in love with Spain when she attends a championship competition there. Friendships blossom, romance sparks, and beauty abounds as Justine helps her host and new friend Valentina give her villa a new lease on life.

ZiMAD's passionate team was a dream to work with on this project, and their dedication is clear in the beautiful art they've created to accompany this rich cast of characters. If you're still not sold, wait until you hear that you get to name a goat... one who's a surprisingly good listener, at that. We know you'll be as charmed by this game as we are. Check it out on the Google Play Store now!

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Official Description

Welcome to the Puzzle Competition World! Justine needs your help! Win the championship by solving jigsaw puzzles! Renovate the Villa! Solve a jigsaw puzzle, earn coins, and obtain fancy modern things for the house! Turn an abandoned mansion into a stunning Villa!

Enjoy your favorite design puzzle game and take part in the Jigsaw Puzzle Villa competition with Justine. Become a champion jigsaw puzzle solver!

HOW TO PLAY
1. Put puzzle pieces together to complete colorful HD pictures;
2. Gain energy, earn coins, and use them to decorate the Mansion;
3. Use boosters and hints to solve puzzles – re decor the House as quickly as possible!
4. Renovate the first room and go to the next one, which will be even more interesting! There are so many rooms in this old house!
5. Follow the captivating plot of Justine’s puzzle competition story.

You have an amazing opportunity to renovate and decorate an old Spanish Villa the way you want!
But remember, puzzle solving is an important mission in this home design game. You can choose the level of difficulty and the number of jigsaw puzzle pieces. Do puzzles to unlock more furniture for the Mansion!

FEATURES:
- immersion in exciting puzzle solving competition;
- combination of free puzzles and home design gameplay makes the game more enjoyable and entertaining;
- more than 1000 colorful HD pictures!
- opportunity to choose puzzle difficulty (more pieces – more coins!)
- hints to help with jigsaws;
- great variety of different furniture and house decorations;
- huge number of rooms awaiting renovation!
- exciting plot of Justine’s story;
- captivating dialogues;
- excellent graphics and sound;
- free game with in-app purchases – make faster progress through the story!
- regular updates with new levels and furniture pieces!

Do you like puzzles and interior design games? Download Jigsaw Puzzle Villa, an incredibly exciting decoration puzzle game!
Solve more jigsaw puzzles and help Justine win the World Puzzle Championship!
Villa renovation, home design, and jigsaw puzzles – 100% fun guaranteed!

Play Store


Our Case for Stellar Gameplay and Story Integration

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Brunette Games' Dexter Woltman, Sara Hardin, and Jenna Hume presenting at the 2022 Pocket Gamer Connects conference in Toronto.

There's little doubt that a great story adds value to a game, especially in the casual game space. But something that is often overlooked makes a huge impact on the success of the end result—how that story is integrated with the actual gameplay. Players notice when game designers go the extra mile to incorporate gameplay with the game's narrative, and proper integration will help a game's story really sing.

The Brunette Games team took our expertise to the stage with a presentation on this very topic at 2022's Pocket Gamer Connects conference in Toronto, and we think the lessons are valuable enough to share here on the blog in more detail.

Games Aren't Passive Experiences

The first step in successfully integrating gameplay and story is understanding how game writing differs from writing for other forms of media. People consuming a game's story aren't listening to it in the background on the TV—players are actively engaged, and the experience is interactive. They didn't download the game to passively watch something unfold; therefore, the story must be written in service to the gameplay. One way to accomplish this is to immerse players in the game's setting.

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The tutorial in Archosaur's Cooking Confidential is delivered by the PC's best friend, Elena.

Immersion can be achieved in a number of ways. One is to deliver tutorial messages through a member of the game's cast. Details like this transform dull instructional text into more of an interaction. More often than not, mobile game players are actively playing more than one game at a time, switching between them as their abilities recharge and their lives replenish. Something like tutorial messages may seem like a tiny detail, but unique touches add up to make your game stand apart from its competitors.

Keep in mind: The majority of players who choose games with narrative want to engage with the story and its characters. In other words, they want to be active participants.

Giving players the feeling they're directly influencing the game's world is another way to immerse them in the experience. This goes along with the idea that the game's visuals should work in tandem with the text and dialogue.

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In Redemption Games' Sweet Escapes, tasks are often sweets or food-themed. Instead of a normal tree, for example, the player might place a tree with cotton candy fluff instead of leaves. The player, while being actively engaged in the decoration element, is constantly reminded of what makes the game's world unique.

Story and Gameplay Should Support Each Other

The narrative goals of the story's characters should also support the gameplay goals. In Gear's M&M'S Adventure, Red runs around New York as he attempts to find the other M&M'S characters.

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This supports the gameplay in a few ways:

  1. The linear path Red walks on shows him moving through New York, supporting the game's visuals and travel mechanics;
  2. Red follows the path until he finds Yellow, the first M&M'S character he reunites with (fulfilling a gameplay goal for the player);
  3. As Red finds new M&M'S characters, they become unlocked for players to use in the puzzle gameplay.

The gameplay should also accommodate the narrative themes of the game.

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In Sweet Escapes, the puzzle items match the game's theme: sweets and sweet shops. The boosters and blockers are thematically tied to the story to create an immersive experience. This practice is a hallmark of ours and something we've both done on many other titles and seen other designers mimic.

The Effort Is Worth It!

Finer details go a long way when it comes to making a game stand out. While considering how a game's story and gameplay can work together seamlessly, remember the following:

  • Games should not be passive experiences;
  • Immerse players in the world;
  • Story and gameplay should support each other;
  • Even tutorial integration can make a difference.

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