Our team recently makes artwork for a Canadian Match 3 developer, and the game was released just a few days ago. I was so excited, and I shared it to my close friends circle at once (I'm in China).
“But the characters are not cute.” A girl said. Then I asked her to look into天天爱消除, a Match 3 game made by Chinese developer Tencent.
“Are the characters cute?” I asked her.
Then I explained to her, the character design in our game is OK for a western audience. And Korean style would have more appeal to Asian women.
Only by a glance you can see the visual difference between the games made in East and West. Now I would make close comparison of a few top Match 3 games made in both worlds, and sum up a few differences.
I’m sure you’re already familiar with the big titles in the West: Candy Crush, Cookie Jam, Gummy drop. To make the comparison, I would first introduce to you two top Match 3 games in the Chinese market, and they are also made by Chinese developers.
天天爱消除 （I love Daily Match, let’s call it Daily here）made by the mobile giant Tencent
And 开心消消乐（Happy Match, let’s call it Happy）made by Happy Elements.
Essentially they are the same
Games made in the two worlds, no matter how different they look, in terms of game play, social and monetization, they are all the same. They have the same rule of matching three or four pieces, cleanup jellies, the same contraptions and use your real money to buy power up items. Only the “valves” are tuned differently for different markets.
General visual style
If you take up any game, by looking at the art work alone, you can roughly tell this game is made in US, Russia, or an East Europe country. In everyplace the artists have unique style. For example, look at Candy Crush, it’s quite West, right?
And look at Daily and Happy, they don’t look exactly Chinese. They are more like those made by a Korean developer. In China young women have deep love for the Korean wind, fashion, make-up, cartoon, anything. So this style is well tailored for the market.
Generally, in puzzle games made by west developers, there’re very few characters. For example, in Cookie Jam! there are only the panda chef and the gingerbread man.
In both Daily and Happy, there are a whole bunch of characters, you can see from the title screen. Chinese people prefer more bustling mood, so when Cookie Jam is localized to China, many characters are added. You can see the design appeals to this market.
In the west, Match 3 genre is dominated by sweet food: desserts, candies, fruits.
There’s no single one sweet food themed game made by reputable developers in China. Of course you can find a whole bunch of these in the Apple Store, they’re either cheaply made or rip-offs.
The main theme of the two Chinese games could be expressed as “Adventure of cute animals in fantasy world”
And in Western Match 3 games, the gaming pieces are typically with very simple design, and elaborately made graphics. They’re mostly made into cakes, fruits, gems.
And in the two Chinese games, and a whole bunch of Korean Match 3 games, the game pieces are cute animal heads.
Both type of design have their appeals. And I think from the angle of game play and graphic balance, simpler shapes for gaming pieces is better.
In the western market, we can see Match 3 games are actually vying in sumptuous map art.
And both Daily and Happy games adopt more pragmatic approach to map art. For example, in Happy, the map is infinitely going up Jack’s beanstalk, with one same piece of graphic used in loops.
Although our team makes map for causal games all the time, I still can’t work out the myth: why western developers would invest so much in map art? As the level selection map has little meaning in actual game play than social function. If you know the answer, please kindly leave your comments, thanks!
Login with social media
In the west, most games ask you to login with Facebook. In China, the most popular social media are QQ, Wechat, Weibo.
Most games of the west have decently translated Chinese version. But most of them still have the blue f button unchanged. These games are essentially lame, for they have no social function. Because Facebook is blocked in China. I’m amazed, that after this many years, some developers still ignore the fact.
A thorough localization would give more consideration. For example, in the Chinese version Cookie Jam, the f button is replaced with Net Ease’s own social media login.
In the west, those top Match 3 games generally use orchestra, while the Chinese games use electronic music.
If you have played Candy Crush, you would not fail to recall the bass voice “Sweet”. In Cookie Jam the vocal is pretty much the same. While in the two Chinese games, the vocal is ringing young gril’s, pronounced in simple English words, such as Ready, Go.
I would post regularly--one article every two weeks, about game art production.