Creating Match 3 Games in Unity

How to create quickly a match 3 game in Unity? Or any kind of match game? I have been working on an original match 3 game (an applied game actually) together with Unity 2D guru Daniele Giardini and I took some notes, which I present in the video below. This is not a tutorial: I just point out some concepts you will probably need to deal with.

Consider also that this is all done with Unity 5, which by introducing 2D, sprites (and also new UI) has made it much simpler to create this kind of games. And as in all my games, its actually Unity plus Gamelogic Grids component, as in my models (and probably in games in general) grids are pervasive.

Here is the video:

I started writing my tests from GameLogic match 3 sample project. The code project is based on GameLogic’s Grids for Unity component, and I’m using as much as possible the DOTween’ component for smoothing movements and effects.

The GameLogic fellows compiled an exhaustive survey of match games, including a wonderful infographic on match game structure spectrum:

2015-09-18 16_28_08-Microsoft Edge

Subtleties of match 3 game mechanics

explodingSubtleties of game design mechanics emerge once you are creating a prototype: sequential matching, peculiarities of click / swipe matching, generative universe (no need of generational AI) … discrete / continuous matches … .

If you believe that game design is basically a formal activity, mainly to do with mechanics (which actually I believe to be too simplistic) you need to be a developer at least at some level, because in building the prototype you understand the mechanics, with all its possible variations.


Match Game Mechanics: An exhaustive survey.

GameLogic Match 3 sample project.

Grids for Unity GameLogic FAQ.

Match 3 game draft in Unity tutorial with full code.

You Must Build a Boat.

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Post gameplay feelings: “This feels like a complete waste of time”

Why playing some videogames leaves you with a sour taste, with the feeling of having wasted time and even that you have somehow debased yourself?

A short reflection on post gameplay feelings, published on Medium here and then featured on Gamasutra.


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Storytelling flow in videogames – DAG pod 23

In this podcast Daniele Giardini and Pietro Polsinelli (myself) discuss story flow in games – and how game endings are told. We roam from The Witcher to Sunless Sea, crossing game genres. Hear us here:

At the end of the podcast we read and discuss a quote from If Games Were Like Game Stories…

My favourite moment from Papers, Please was when someone gave me a banner for a sports team named the Arstotzka Arskickers. I had a choice of whether to put it up on my wall, or not.

Compared to all the other decisions… taking bribes, separating families, conspiring to take down the Arstotzkan government… this was a small and silly decision. I put it up on my wall, of course.

But the reason this is so memorable to me, is because the game actively acknowledged this small act! A few people commented on the banner, some remarking it’s tacky, some cheering “Go Arskickers!” And then, of course, this decision bites me in the ass when the inspector comes by and tells me the decoration is against protocol, and fines me.

Games and books quoted:

The Witcher 2 Witcher 2 cover.jpg
The Witcher 3 Witcher 3 cover art.jpg
Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow.jpg
Bioshock Infinite Official cover art for Bioshock Infinite.jpg
Bioshock (one) BioShock cover.jpg
Lord of the Rings Movies Ringstrilogyposter.jpg
Dark Souls Dark Souls Cover Art.jpg
80 Days
Shadowrun Shadowrun4A.jpg
Kardashian Hollywood
Sunless Sea
Flick Kick Football Legends
Alessandro Baricco
Papers, Please
Football Drama Football Drama


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A podcast & sources for (romantic) game polish and feel – DAG pod 22

In this podcast Daniele Giardini and Pietro Polsinelli (myself) discuss the notions of game polish and feel.

Here is the podcast:

There is also a video of the podcast here:


Game Feel: the book.

The game Goscurry.

football drama prototype

The Football Drama site.


DOTween tweening component site. Easings

Finally, Vlambeer talk on game feel.

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Unity3d: Using A* and grids for entering a football field

Just played with the A* algorithm and a grid to make players enter a field and assume the initial 4-4-2 classical formation. Notice there are dumb and smart teams A bocca aperta [Read more…]

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Beyond mechanics: games with depth – DAG pod 20

InMinimax this dreamy podcast Daniele Giardini and Pietro Polsinelli (myself) discuss the notion of depth in games. We don’t reach any definitive conclusion, but we have fun Sorriso [Read more…]

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Prototypes and practice vs. theory

People in Love gameFollowing my own preaching about the importance of prototypes, I’ve put together a quick and dirty prototype of People in Love, a game about urban design and quality of life. Or about love. The prototype is here and I got some interesting feedback.

Now what happens? Well, I throw away the prototype and build a new one. Based on user feedback? Well, not exactly.

This first prototype (actually n-th, first shared with more than 2 people) got me to find a way to include graphical narrative and hence give depth to play, which will be my next prototype. No tester asked for this in clear words, but it is what puts together the feedback I had.

This on the background of my testing many creative games and extensive readings on games and narrative. The critique of your prototype is non trivial and requires a background theory.

User will provide a refined usage feedback in action, but likely a rough and maybe misleading theory about it (Jeff Atwood wrote a beautiful post on this). You have to know the context and put the puzzle together.

So prototyping is a productive tool if in the context of an intense research; it lives by research, it is a form of research, not a replacement of it.

Feeling better now I said it clearly :-)

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Learning to design a learning game (how Tonzilla was born)

Let me talk a bit how I started developing the idea and the following design of Tonzilla, my first serious game that will be published this fall.


I had two goals in mind:

my first goal was that I wanted people to express themselves more and better.

Simple topic isn’t it? It can be translated in many ways, and I declined these lines:

  • people need to not be shy
  • people need to know their expression instruments
  • they have to train on them

as color, I couldn’t develop anything that wasn’t fun to play, serious or difficult topics are easier to deal with if you have a minimal fun with them.

So… what’s our primal expression instrument? Our voice.


A game where we have to use our voice, and train it to liberate our expression engine, having some fun with it…

I started feeling something nice in this idea.

Since the consciousness and main behavior of a human being gets formed in the first 7 years since birth, it’s much better to start being free to express ourselves as young as possible.
So this game should be playable by kids.
An old guy can play a child game, but a kid usually doesn’t play an adult one.

(Later I then decided to dedicate mostly to K12.)

My second goal was that I wanted people to feel better the relationship between themselves and the outer world

So… what is our interface with the world? mostly our body.
We usually care about its health or its aspect, but what about its spatiality?

What if the player had a giant body? Should she care more about how she moves and touches things? What would be his POV (Point of View)?


My Skills

So I had some ideas I wanted to put into my game.
But how to translate them into gameplay?
What should the player do in this game to start dealing with his voice and having a giant POV?

I asked myself: what skill & technology do i know/like?
I’m good with audio signals, I know musical theory, I have basic in 3D space and I think that Virtual Reality is such an interesting topic… uhm.
I also know what could be fun to do in a virtual world where you can use your voice freely.. I even have a 5yo son I play the piano and sing with…

Marketing Research

Let me search a moment around: how many published voice controlled games are there around? How many of them have Virtual Reality integration and have levels that help the player improve their vocality?

Very very few, maybe one (in the future!). It was a GO GO.

The Idea

Here was my idea: the player was a grown up giant in a big world, and the sounds emitted by his voice could interact with the objects around. Different kind of sounds, different effects.
Would be fun to destroy buildings with a scream, to blow away clouds, to levitate rocks with a hum, to generate beats with rhythmic sounds…


Wow.. nice!
Dressing this idea with things that could be easily picked by kids and everybody revealed that you could be a giant monster arriving in town and, like Godzilla teaches, you can destroy everything! This is was a very simple description of the game, and the marketing dept. approved.


Let me see if I really can achieve this game plan with the technology I know: I can develop with Unity, I know the basics of audio signals (FFT and spectrum analysis), I can create simple 3D worlds, I have Oculus.. yes it can be done.

But I want kids to play with it soon.. so I wanted to make both an Oculus Vr version, and a mobile tablet/smartphone one.

There weren’t technical obstacles (you know maybe sometimes you have an idea which is very difficult to be developed with current technologies)


Final Steps

I’m not a good designer at all, so i needed a design partner. Luckily I found Emiliano Granatelli (TodaviaNo) who was an old friend, huge designer, and like me was just wanting to enter the gamedev world.
Working with him we got the title “Tonzilla” (it sounds very similar to Tonsil), with a VR^2 standing for Vocal Rampage and Virtual Reality
also the story of being a child reading a Godzilla comic sitting on the WC, and getting asleep you would them dream the gameplay.


the graphic style was defined by trying to find a simple / low poly world with very nice looking.. old comics were in B&W, so why not to use that?

tonzilla_alpha_00 tonzilla_screenshot11-1024x655 tonzilla_screenshot10-1024x652

You’ll see the rest of the development, and the nice features we’re keeping secret until you’ll discover them in the game (no spoilers here 😉

Features and Levels

As prototyping started giving something real to play, keeping short iterative redesign many many new ideas came out: I can track pitch shifting, or recognize melodic patters, many interactive.. “destroyable” objects went into scene.. from cars, to helicopters, from giant radars to trains.

If you destroy a helicopter the pilot jumps out and parachutes, running away when on the ground.

Important: NOBODY GETS KILLED in this game.. humans flee (if scared). the player can interact or destroy quite everything.. but no live gets killed. It was my decision on nonviolence.

To start I wanted to design just one level, adding several different missions in the same environment (like: destroy all helicopters, roll the giant ball, push 10 buildings… turn on the Vulcano): one level, several mission, fast more fun.

Then we added the “blast lab”, because a giant doesn’t emit only sounds… many other things can be emitted.. but this is part of the surprise (which the player has to discover by himself)


I had never designed a full game, and this experience was (IS, I haven’t finished it!) very interesting: I could put into this project a lot of knowledge i collected and experienced in latest 20 years (from music to psychology, from programming to design, from marketing to symbolism and allegorics).

In next article I’ll talk about the first months of development! Stay tuned!

You can follow Tonzilla development at or Twitter or Facebook.

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10 different books game designers could read

I was recently made temporarily unhappy by reading 10 books every gamer should read from The Guardian.

Apart from the misleading title, the article is sort of ok in the sense that it presents books that have repeatedly inspired some game designers in creating games, and in this sense it is a historical reconstruction. But looking at literature is a unique opportunity for searching new roads and new ways to get inspired for your game design: so let’s not consider the little world of literature “for games”, but simply intense, inspiring literature! [Read more…]

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Fermi estimates for your crowd funding

I am working on a Kickstarter project (whose details don’t matter now, see the end of the post) for which I will ask for a considerable amount of funding: 60.000$. As happens for large numbers, it is very hard to visualize them, and grasp their full meaning and consequence.

But yesterday I did a simple calculation in my head: 60.000$ in thirty days means 2.000$ per day, which for around 10$ per pledge means 200 pledges per day. 200 pledges per day? It is hard for me to imagine getting 200 people to support me in the total Kickstarter campaign time span, how on earth am I going to get 200 pledges per day?
A visual representation of how many 200 pledges are:


That is a lot. Well, I hope that going a bit deeper in the analysis will somehow calm me down: ignoring looming reality is not usually a wise idea. Actually that is why I am writing this post A bocca aperta . So let’s consider the matter further.

Fermi estimate

Making a Fermi estimate or Fermi problem typically involves making justified guesses about quantities that seem impossible to compute given limited available information.

I’ll try an estimation for my crowd funding campaign:

– Aiming to 60.000$ in 30 days, with an average pledge of 20$ (generous people) means 100 pledges per day, including sunny days, football finals and royal weddings, when its harder to get attention.

– I suppose that 1 out of 10 people singularly contacted do pledge my project.

– Suppose that 1 out of 30 people singularly contacted also do promote your project, say by tweeting about how great it is. They get 3 pledges done on average.

So let’s see according to my wild speculation what is the daily work required: to get 100 pledges you have to prepare and send carefully written messages (mainly through e-mail, but also through social networks)… you need 500 brand new messages per day A bocca aperta

This is visualized:

500 messages!

 This looks impossible. Well, how is it that so many campaigns succeed? (I’m thinking Kickstarter, with a success rate of 44% – Indiegogo is behind.)

One factor to be considered is the power of the crowd funding network and the network of pledgers: assuming that 1/10th “network effect” from previous pledges, you “just”  need 20 new users pledging a day to just make it:

Data progression
Graph of pledges

If you include in this network effect upgrading pledges (which is quite common), this may look less wildly optimistic. maybe. Another mitigating factor is that campaigns can have few very high value pledges which can boost the entire campaign (like mine does). So say that brings it down to 18 new pledgers per day – which for my earlier assumption means 90 effective messages. That looks very hard work, but not impossible for a motivated, determined team. So this is my Fermi number, and it looks like this:
Ninety messages

Here I am considering just “reaching the basic goal” – but beware that turning that in an effective production requires way more than this, because all kinds of costs (payment fees, taxes, accounting, fixed costs, campaign costs..) should be considered. Also you should also take into account the likely higher cost of production for more expensive pledges. Computing your campaign income depends on your pledges distribution and to which stretch goal you get to; maybe I’ll get in depth about this in another post.

Still I fear that the crowd funding success function behavior is even more complex then I can imagine because of underlying quadratic behaviors that are not easily understood by those trying.

Is the number of contacts needed to get n pledges the square of n? This would make higher bidding projects way less likely with respect to those that require less pledges per day, and would make my case impossible.

Consider Metcalfe’s “law”: the value of a network is the square of the number of relations that hold in it. So maybe it makes sense to consider successful pledges as a cumulatively building relationship network, which can influence and get new pledges in a triumphant quadratic progression, as done in the graphs above Sorriso?

Ok, so there is no way to predict anything exact here. The only way I see to get more realistic estimates is through experience, which I currently lack entirely.

But it looks that no optimistic evaluation will spare we crowd funding proponents from contacting a whole lot of new people every day of the campaign, and we’d better have something quite uniquely interesting to tell and/or show. It is probably wiser to make some sort of planning on how to do this before the campaign starts.

I’d be glad to revise and extend the content of this post on your feedback: thanks!

My project: Genio

Genio the strategic Renaissance game

Leonardo - the EngineerThe crowd funding project I am working on is about Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance and the conceptual innovations it introduced, dealt with within a videogame. Pledges should cover developing the game, called Genio, and also eventually creating Leonardo machines real prototypes (this is a stretch goal), as I am working with a Renaissance technology researcher that already provides working Leonardo machine models to museums.

Creating fun, beautiful games with depth requires a considerable effort and hence, money. Consider that just to create the game prototype and presentation video, ignoring the huge amount of time spent by myself (yes, I am totally aware that this is an economical mistake), the pure cash costs amount to about 10.000$.

So I have to ask for at least 60.000$: wish me luck!

Genio game cards

As for building up a marketing plan and a set of contacts before the campaign starts, I am indeed working on that, by expanding a contact list of journalists / bloggers, maintaining a Facebook page on the theme, contributing to Indie games, talking at events and networking.

Updates about the project can be found in my Twitter stream.

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