|Platform(s)||iOS, Android, Xbox One, Windows Phone, web browser|
Threes! is an indie puzzle video game by Sirvo, an independent development team consisting of game designer Asher Vollmer, illustrator Greg Wohlwend, and composer Jimmy Hinson. The game was released on February 6, 2014, for iOS devices and later ported to Android, Xbox One, and Windows Phone. In Threes, the player slides numbered tiles on a grid to combine addends and multiples of three. The game ends when there are no moves left on the grid and the tiles are counted for a final score.
The basic game was prototyped in a single night, but the team spent over half a year iterating through variations on the idea with visual themes such as sushi and chess. By the end of the game's 14-month development, the team returned to the game's simple principles and numbers theme.
The game received what video game review score aggregator Metacritic described as "universal acclaim". Reviewers found the game "charming" and "addictive" and compared it to Drop7, Stickets , and Triple Town . Eurogamer and TouchArcade awarded the game perfect scores, with the latter calling Threes "about as close as it gets to a perfect mobile game". Other developers released similar games and clones within weeks of the game's launch. Apple Inc. named Threes the best iPhone game of 2014.
The player slides numbered tiles on a four-by-four gridto combine addends and multiples of three. For example, ones and twos merge to become a single "three" tile, two threes merge into "six", and two sixes merge into "12". Swiping the screen up, down, left, or right moves all of the tiles one square (if possible) on the grid in that direction and adds a new tile to the grid in the same direction. The color of the incoming tile is shown onscreen. Players can preview moves by sliding the grid without letting go. Each kind of number tile has its own personality, and new kinds of number tiles are introduced with a screen full of confetti when first unlocked.
Games of Threes typically last several minutesand end when no moves remain on the grid (usually when gridlocked with a single high number tile and many low number tiles). When a game is finished, there is no "game over" screen, but players receive a final score based on the rarity of the tiles (rather than the tile number values). The object of the game is to earn a high score. Outside of the game, players can review their scores and set Game Center challenges.
There are a total of 12 kinds of number tiles in the game with values from 3 through 6,144. There is also a 13th character that is unlocked when two 6,144 tiles are combined; this character is marked by a triangle rather than the number 12,288. When this character is revealed, the game ends and points are totaled as usual.This feat was achieved and documented by Twitter user Threesporn in 2017 and publicly acknowledged by developer Asher Vollmer.
Game artist Greg Wohlwend to Polygon
Threes was conceived by game designer Asher Vollmer, 's March 2013 release. Vollmer presented an idea similar to the final product in its simplicity: pair tiles as multiples of three. Vollmer considered Drop7 an inspiration for the game, and played it for two years before making his game. The first Threes prototype was written in a single night. With Wohlwend, the two-man development team spent at least half a year of the game's 14-month development iterating on this main idea.who worked on the game with artist Greg Wohlwend and composer Jimmy Hinson. The three, as Sirvo LLC, had previously collaborated on the 2012 iOS word game Puzzlejuice . Wohlwend had worked on games including Ridiculous Fishing and Hundreds . Threes development began before Ridiculous Fishing
Some of the iterations included new numberless visual themes and new game mechanics such as a monster who ate tiles and a wall that blocked certain movements.Early Threes designs had no inclination towards minimalism: the pair felt that the game needed to appear more complex so as to interest players. Wohlwend sent Vollmer designs including sushi-themed tiles that paired fish and rice, a chess theme that paired chess pieces, themes about animals, broccoli and cheese soup, military insignia, hydrogen atoms, and textile patterns. Their test audiences were confused by the close to two dozen themes tested in total. Vollmer commented that these ideas made the game feel "unwieldy and unnatural" and that he always preferred the game when the changes were reverted. They received a "wake-up call" from fellow game designer Zach Gage, who encouraged them to return from their foray into complexity. The final game returned to its original theme of numbers. Speaking in retrospect, Wohlwend said the game "always wanted to be simple". He noted that players "think math" upon seeing the game's numbers, though the game is more about "spatial relationships" and just happens to have a "number theme".
When returning to the fundamental and original game concept—pairing tiles as multiples of three—the developers felt their experiments informed their final game development decisions. The theme of individual tile personalities extended to the final version, as tiles have faces and express emotions when paired. For example, the 384 tile has a pirate personality with a large tooth and a pirate eyepatch. Wohlwend has said that the number tiles grow in character with their size. The idea for character faces beneath the cards remained from previous theme iterations, and the character voices were provided by indie game developers. Of the development process, Wohlwend called it "tough and frustrating and sometimes hard to see if it was worth it". Vollmer credited thatgamecompany for teaching him applicable lessons of restraint during his time there. The game was released by Sirvo for iOS on February 6, 2014, and ported by indie developer Hidden Variable Studios for Android on March 12, 2014. The team chose to release for iOS first due to the small team's difficulty testing across Android platforms. Hidden Variable also developed an Xbox One version, which was originally announced at Microsoft's E3 2014 press conference, and released on December 5, 2014. The release supports the console's "snap mode" (to play in the corner of the screen while the player watches something else) as well as online leaderboards and a "night mode" darker palette option. A free Windows Phone version was released on April 27, 2015, and a free web browser version in December 2015. The browser release does not include advertisements, unlike the free smartphone releases. In a post-release infographic, Sirvo wrote that the average game length was 20 minutes, even though they designed the game's sessions to not last longer than 10 minutes. They also reported that 93 percent of players in China used unlicensed copies of the game.
The game received what video game review score aggregator Metacritic described as "universal acclaim", with a 92% rating based on 19 reviews.Eurogamer and TouchArcade awarded the game perfect scores, with the latter calling Threes "about as close as it gets to a perfect mobile game". It was an honorable mention in the 2014 Independent Games Festival's Excellence in Design category. The game reached the top of the Apple App Store paid app sales chart shortly after its release. Re/code reported that it "dominated" the chart in the following weeks and became one of the 25 highest grossing apps on the App Store. It later won a 2014 Apple Design Award and was named Apple's best iPhone game of 2014. Reviewers found the game "charming" and "addictive". They compared the game with the luck of Drop7 , the challenge of Stickets, and the "match-by-combining" mechanics in Triple Town . Reviewers also praised the simplicity of the tutorial and noted how their attention on combining large number tiles contrasted with their need to watch the board's movements as a whole.
Ben Kuchera of Polygon wrote that the game was "a brilliant little puzzler" and commented on the difficulty of designing such an accessible minimalist game. 's Kyle Orland wrote that he expects the game to join Drop7 and Super Hexagon on his phone for the rest of his life and Crypt of the Necrodancer designer Ryan Clark called Threes the best iOS game he had ever played.Dan Ryckert of Game Informer noted that the game had all of the qualities of a successful mobile game: accessibility of short game sessions, easy to learn and tough to master gameplay, room to make and try strategies, and gameplay mechanics suited for touchscreens. He added that his progressive play strategy adaptations for higher scores made the game joyful. Ars Technica
Mark Sorrell of Eurogamer compared the game's "profoundly and offensively banal" aesthetic to a "hipster restaurant" with good food but a smug ambiance, citing the soundtrack's "whimsy" and the art style's similarity to iOS game Letterpress. 's Andrew Webster compared the game's addictive mechanics to Sudoku and its style to Letterpress and Spelltower. Nick Statt of CNET thought the game had Tetris 's beauty and Dots 's visual appeal. He cited the game as an example of "flow" design principles at work, where the game is designed for players to enter a state of focus and self-awareness. Re/code 's Eric Johnson called the game a descendant of Sudoku, Dots, and Rush Hour . Pocket Gamer 's Mark Brown thought the game's randomness kept its gameplay interesting and MAME creator Nicola Salmoria wrote an artificial intelligence to play the game.He praised the game's mechanics. TouchArcade compared the game's scaffolding mechanics to the turn-based roguelike Hoplite, and The Verge
Edge wrote that the game "can feel a little insubstantial" in its lack of gameplay variety, though its "charm and craft" will make players return. 's "European art film", Martin found Threes more whimsical in nature and extended Ian Bogost's statements in The Atlantic about video games as "haute couture ... design objects" to Threes.They wrote that the soundtrack is cheerful and memorable with an "indie romcom feel". TouchArcade added that the soundtrack "fits the game perfectly" and recommended playing the game with sound activated so as to hear the tiles' personalities. CNET thought the music became repetitive, but that the tile voices were "a little creepy" without the soundtrack. Garrett Martin of Paste wrote that he heard the influence of Jon Brion and alluded to Paul Thomas Anderson's early films. Comparing Threes to Hundreds as the "quirky American cousin" to Hundreds
Outside developers released games that closely resembled Threes —known as "clones"—within weeks of its release, including a browser-based version, an "unofficial sort-of-knockoff" Android app (Fives), and another iPhone game, 1024, which advertised itself as "No need to pay for Threes" and was later ported to a browser version. A later clone of 1024, the browser game 2048 , became popular online and spawned "dozens of parodies". Journalists, including those at the Los Angeles Times , did not acknowledge the game's connection to Threes. The Threes team was "puzzled" by the popularity of these releases, especially those that did not credit their game for the idea. They criticized 2048's game design and compared the game as the Commander Keen to their Super Mario Bros. in a 45,000-word post outlining their full 14-month development process. Gamasutra's Leigh Alexander described the situation as a "unique tragedy". While Threes itself had a positive release, its success was tempered by the number of clones (with 2048, in particular) that shared the limelight. Threes designer Vollmer would try to remove the clones from online stores but ultimately accepted that the game would be copied and resolved that his future games would not share the same fate. Eurogamer listed Threes as one of the top 10 games of the generation.
Bejeweled is a series of tile-matching puzzle video games created by PopCap Games. Bejeweled was released initially for browsers in 2001, followed by five sequels: Bejeweled 2 (2004), Bejeweled Twist (2008), Bejeweled Blitz (2009), Bejeweled 3 (2010), and Bejeweled Stars (2016), all by PopCap Games and its parent, Electronic Arts. More than 10 million copies of Bejeweled have been sold, and the game has been downloaded more than 350 million times. By February 2010, Bejeweled sales hit 50 million. The figure includes the original game, plus the Blitz and Twist versions. An arcade version was released in Q3 2013.
Vlambeer was a Dutch independent video game developer based in Utrecht. Founded in 2010, the studio was composed of Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman, and closed down on its tenth anniversary after the two recognized they were moving in different directions in the industry. The studio was known for its games Super Crate Box (2010), Serious Sam: The Random Encounter (2011), Ridiculous Fishing (2013), Luftrausers (2014), and Nuclear Throne (2015), as well as for its stand on video game cloning.
Ridiculous Fishing is a mobile fishing video game where players use motion and touch controls to catch fish and subsequently shoot them out of the sky for cash. The game is known for its developers' battle against a cloned version of their game released by another company. The game was developed and published by Vlambeer—Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman—and released for iOS on March 13, 2013, and later that year for Android.
Flappy Bird is a mobile game developed by Vietnamese video game artist and programmer Dong Nguyen, under his game development company dotGears. The game is a side-scroller where the player controls a bird, attempting to fly between columns of green pipes without hitting them. Nguyen created the game over the period of several days, using a bird protagonist that he had designed for a cancelled game in 2012.
Adam Saltsman, also known as Adam Atomic, is an American indie video game designer best known for creating the endless runner Canabalt. He is a founder of Semi Secret Software and Finji video game studios.
Gasketball is an action sports video game for the iPad by Mikengreg, an independent development team of Michael Boxleiter and Greg Wohlwend. Players flick basketballs through 2D physics puzzles into the hoop in single-player, local multiplayer, and asynchronous HORSE-style online multiplayer modes. The game is free-to-play with in-app purchases. Development began in mid 2011 following Mikengreg's successful Solipskier. They were able to live from the earnings for Gasketball's two year development at their previous salary, which afforded them the stability to try new avenues and reject prototypes, though they worked 100-hour weeks. Towards the end of their development, they ran out of money and lived on the couches of friends. It was released on August 9, 2012, and the game did not reach their desired conversion rate at the time of launch.
Greg Wohlwend is an American independent video game developer and artist whose games include Threes! and Ridiculous Fishing. He originally formed Intuition Games with Iowa State University classmate Mike Boxleiter in 2007 where they worked on Dinowaurs and other small Adobe Flash games. Trained as an artist, Wohlwend worked mainly on the visual assets. As Mikengreg, they released Solipskier, whose success let the two take a more experimental approach with Gasketball, which did not fare as well. At the same time, Wohlwend collaborated with Asher Vollmer to make Puzzlejuice, and with Adam Saltsman to make Hundreds based on Wohlwend's first game design. He later released Threes! with Vollmer in 2014 to critical acclaim. His later games TouchTone and TumbleSeed were also the products of collaborations. Wohlwend was named among Forbes' 2014 "30 under 30" in the games industry.
Solipskier is a sports video game for Adobe Flash, iOS, and Android developed and published by Mikengreg, the two-person team of Michael Boxleiter and Greg Wohlwend. In Solipskier, the player draws the snowy slope for an on-screen skier to pass through slalom gates and tunnels. The character accelerates with downhill sections and can launch into the air to perform tricks and earn a higher score. The idea came from a brainstorming session about parallax scrolling with speedy action in the foreground and the ability for the player to "paint" the terrain. It was Boxleiter and Wohlwend's first game to receive public appreciation. It was released August 29, 2010 to generally favorable reviews and was a runner-up in the 2011 Game Developers Conference Independent Games Festival's Best Mobile Game category.
Hundreds is a mobile puzzle video game where players touch circles to make them grow without overlapping. In the game's 100 levels, the player interacts with different types of circles to bring a counter to the number 100. The game was developed and published by Semi Secret Software in collaboration with Greg Wohlwend and was released for iOS on January 7, 2013, and on Android later that year.
Puzzlejuice is a 2012 indie puzzle video game for iOS produced and developed by video game company Sirvo. The game is a combination of Tetris, tile-matching, and Boggle: players rearrange falling tetromino blocks into rows of similar colors, which turn into letters that are cleared from the board by forming words. The fast-paced game also includes challenges and power-ups. The development team consisted of three people; programmer Asher Vollmer initially developed the game alone, before reaching out to artist Greg Wohlwend for advice on the aesthetics. Composer Jimmy Hinson produced the game's music.
Asher Vollmer is an American indie video game developer and creator of Puzzlejuice and Threes. He created the 2012 iOS game Puzzlejuice while a student at USC Interactive Media & Games Division. The game began his collaboration with Greg Wohlwend. The pair's next release, the 2014 iOS puzzle game Threes, received what review aggregator Metacritic described as "universal acclaim", including perfect scores from Eurogamer and TouchArcade, and the title of Apple Inc.'s iPhone game of the year. The game was later ported to multiple platforms. Polygon included Vollmer in their "50 admirable gaming people" of the year for his work on Threes. Among other projects, Vollmer subsequently worked on Close Castles, a real-time strategy game later put on hiatus, and Royals, a simulation game for OS X and Windows.
Mikengreg is an independent video game development team of Mike Boxleiter and Greg Wohlwend. Their games include Solipskier, Gasketball, and TouchTone. The two met in a game development class at Iowa State University and later began to collaborate on the Adobe Flash game Dinowaurs. When the project was funded, they founded Intuition Games with other college friends in Ames, Iowa, where they worked on small Flash games such as Gray, Lifecraft, and Fig. 8 for Flash game sites such as Kongregate. Dinowaurs was one of the first games signed for the Kongregate platform. Their other games involved controlling the weather, influencing individuals in a riot, and riding a bicycle. Boxleiter and Wohlwend worked on several additional games that were put on hiatus.
Blek is a 2013 puzzle video game for iOS and Android by Kunabi Brother, a team of brothers Denis and Davor Mikan. The player draws a snakelike black line that recurs in pattern and velocity across the screen to remove colored dots and avoid black dots. It is minimalist in design, features excerpts of Erin Gee, and takes inspiration from Golan Levin, the Bauhaus, and Japanese calligraphy. The brothers designed the game as a touchscreen adaptation to classic game Snake and worked on the game for over six months. It was released in December 2013 for iPad, and was later released for other iOS devices and Android.
SpellTower is a puzzle video game by Zach Gage in which the player creates words from a jumble of letter tiles to clear the screen before it refills. The game has several game modes and a multiplayer battle mode. The impetus for the game—the concept of combining elements from Tetris and Boggle in what was a prototype of the puzzle video game Puzzlejuice—inspired Gage to create SpellTower. The game released for iOS in November 2011 to generally favorable reviews. Versions for OS X and Android followed over the next two years. In 2017 SpellTower Minutes was released. This browser-based Flash game created special "blitz" like modes not found in the mobile releases. A new iOS version released in 2017 swapped out the unnamed dictionary and began using Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. French and Dutch language specific versions were also released. A 2020 release, SpellTower+, added new game modes, cleaner visuals, and a jazz soundtrack.
Ketchapp SARL is a French video game publisher based in Paris, specialising in the mobile games market. Founded in 2014 by brothers Antoine and Michel Morcos, the company first came into the public eye later that year, through its port of the open-source game 2048. Many of Ketchapp's games are unlicensed variations of popular casual games by other developers. Ketchapp was acquired by Ubisoft in September 2016.
TouchTone is a 2015 puzzle video game for iOS devices by Mikengreg, a two-person indie game development team made up of Mike Boxleiter and Greg Wohlwend. The player monitors phone calls as part of a government surveillance program to find public threats. The player unlocks chains of emails by completing a series of puzzles wherein a beam is reflected around a room to a set destination. TouchTone's core concept grew from a two-day game jam immediately following their 2012 release of Gasketball, but only found its hacker theme following the mid-2013 Edward Snowden global surveillance disclosures. The tone of TouchTone's story grew from satirical to serious over the course of the game's development.
868-HACK is a 2013 roguelike video game developed and published by Michael Brough. The player controls a hacking program in a computer system and must grab as much computer data as possible before a defence program destroys it.
Guildlings is a 2019 adventure video game for iOS by Sirvo. It was a featured release on Apple Arcade.