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Read Us on Pocket Gamer! Burnout: Six tips to keep you and your game story fresh over the long haul

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In his article featured on PocketGamer.biz, Writer | Designer III Dexter Woltman provides insight on staying fresh in an industry that thrives on creativity. The advice outlined in this article may be just what you need the next time you feel burnout around the corner.

Burnout is a common issue for writers who work on the same project for extended periods of time, but never at Brunette Games. Our collaborative team approach assures a fresh perspective on every project. But even if you’re a solo writer, you can follow these tips to keep your game story—and yourself—fresh over the long haul!

Read the full article on PocketGamer.biz.


Get the 'Dreamslippers Series' 75% Off, Now through the End of July

Boxedset

We've enrolled Lisa Brunette's bestselling Dreamslippers Series in the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale, and that means 75% off the ebook versions of all three novels, plus the boxed set + bonus novella.

Released between 2014-16, the Dreamslippers Series follows budding sleuth Cat McCormick and her family of dreamslipping psychics as they use their ability to solve mysteries and catch culprits. The series has received praise from Kirkus Reviews, Midwestern Book Review, and an army of book bloggers, not to mention top ratings from Amazon reviewers - 4.3 stars on 79 reviews for the first novel in the series alone.

Here's the trailer for the first book in the series, Cat in the Flock.

The sale ends on the 31st of July. Happy reading!


All Cards on the Table: Balancing Story, Gameplay, and Deco within the Solitaire Genre

Ava's manor
Ava’s Manor: A Solitaire Story, a game we consulted on for Mighty Kingdom and Uken Games.

By Jenna Hume

It’s 2022 and well past time to acknowledge the impact story has had on the mobile game landscape. Many of the most successful mobile games out there include a fleshed-out story or storytelling elements at the very least. Check out this article Brunette Games co-authored with Om Tandon to learn more about storytelling’s effect on the mobile gaming space. Many of these successful games employ a core loop, balancing puzzle gameplay, story, and deco; we often co-design this core loop with our clients.

Strangely enough, one puzzle subgenre that isn’t leveraging this core loop is solitaire. We recently took a long look at 17 randomly-selected games within this category. Of these 17, only 5 games contained any kind of story. This is a small pool but does provide good insight into the genre as a whole. Of the 17 solitaire games we focused on, 11 included some kind of unique feature to draw players into the game. Prime examples are Solitaire Grand Harvest—a game our team consulted on—with its farming theme and Fairway Solitaire—owner and CCO of Brunette Games, Lisa Brunette, worked on this one while at Big Fish—with its golf theme. However, these are the only two solitaire games that seem to succeed with solitaire gameplay and unique features alone. If this is the case, then the question is: Why don’t more solitaire games employ the above core loop?

The Problem with Solitaire Games

While match-3, blast, and collapse gameplay are unique to mobile games, solitaire has a much longer history. It originated as a card game in the late 1700s and took off in popularity across Europe and the US throughout the 1800s. By the time it hit the virtual realm with Microsoft Solitaire in the 1990s, solitaire had already won over countless lifelong players. 

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Thus the problem with solitaire games is also the key to their popularity. Mobile solitaire games are popular because players today still love solitaire and appreciate the new takes on it that the mobile space can provide. But developers are all too aware that players want to play solitaire games because they’re solitaire fans. This is also where many solitaire game creators go wrong. They assume players who like solitaire games only like solitaire, so they create games that only feature that mechanic, and nothing else. With so many solitaire games on the market, though, that’s not the best way to stay competitive.

Case Study No. 1: Solitaire Fairytale

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Solitaire Fairytale is a solitaire game with cute art… and that’s it. Instead of using story and a meta gameplay element such as decorating to create a strong core loop, the developers opted to extend the typical solitaire play only with fairy tale-themed backgrounds. The problem with this simplicity shows with the game’s numbers; according to Sensor Tower, Ava’s Manor far outperforms Solitaire Fairytale despite the two games being released around the same time.  

With story and another core feature like deco, it’s quite likely that Solitaire Fairytale would be more successful. Simply put, without a core loop, Solitaire Fairytale just can’t compete with the other, more interesting solitaire games on the market. It’s unbalanced without any element other than solitaire, which is why balancing gameplay, deco (or another meta gameplay feature), and story is so important. Any element alone—gameplay, deco, or story—isn’t enough to make an overly successful game anymore when there are balanced games in the casual mobile space.

How to Balance Solitaire Gameplay, Deco, and Story

Achieving a balance with story and other features in any game can be tricky, but the solitaire genre comes with its own unique set of challenges. What does solitaire have to do with the story? How does deco (or another feature) fit into the story? These are major questions to ask when beginning to craft a narrative for a solitaire game. It’s important to keep the core loop in mind and focus on how each part of the loop interacts with the others.

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Achieving balance with this core loop is key to a game’s success. Story should be just as important as gameplay, gameplay should be just as important as deco (or another feature), and deco should be just as important as story. This is where gameplay integration comes in. 

Case Study No. 2: Ava’s Manor: A Solitaire Story

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So why does Ava’s Manor outperform so many other solitaire titles? Its gameplay integration holds the key to its success. Let’s take a look.

Story

The story of Ava’s Manor focuses on the protagonist Ava, who’s a mystery writer struggling with writer’s block. When given the opportunity to stay in a grand manor in Europe, gifted to her by her mysterious uncle, Ava jumps at the chance for a change of scenery. In Europe, Ava encounters mystery (and some romance!) at every turn, with her faithful dog, Marlowe, at her side.

Ava’s Manor’s story blends with the other elements of the core loop well. The story naturally integrates with the decorating mechanic as Ava renovates the mansion. The game’s opening introduces the gameplay by having Ava claim she needs a moment to clear her head before speaking to Cooper, the mansion’s landscaper, for the first time. The European countryside and old manor provide the perfect setting for a solitaire game.

Solitaire Gameplay

In Ava’s Manor, the gameplay supports the story as much as vice-versa. For example, some of the gameplay’s boosters are mystery-themed, such as the broom booster that looks like a brush a crime scene analyst would use. The same goes for the solitaire background that resembles the English countryside. These are subtle references, but they can add a lot to the overall game experience.

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Deco

In terms of story, deco fits right in and offers support. With Ava staying at the manor, it makes sense for her to clean it up. Using Marlowe’s antics as further need for renovation works well but isn’t overused. Periodically, there are moments where the deco reveals something surprising that supports the story’s mystery. For example, Ava begins a new task to clean up the fallen chandelier and finds a boot in the rubble. With the chandelier’s cut wire and this boot, the player begins to wonder if someone could’ve caused the chandelier crash and why. This is a prime example of deco supporting a game’s story.

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Key Takeaways

Solitaire games are their own beast, but incorporating story with them is possible. Here are three things to remember when working on a solitaire game:

  1. There’s room on the market for more story-focused solitaire games: Ava’s Manor is a great example, but—as the sheer number of successful match-3 games has proven— it’d be great to see more games like it. 
  2. Solitaire and story can work together: You just need the right story!
  3. Complete integration of story, solitaire gameplay, and deco is possible: Integration takes time, thought, resources, and effort, but all of these things are well spent when the game succeeds. 

Still struggling with integrating story and solitaire gameplay? Our skilled team of writers can help! Visit the contact tab on our website to find out how to best get in touch with us.