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Tweet Star: Turning Tweets into Puzzles

A word game with an endless supply of crowdsourced puzzles. This is a design analysis for this fascinating and unique puzzle game.

Basics

Tweet Star is a twitter based word puzzle game for iOS developed by Simple Machine.

The player is given a scrambled tweet and must rearrange the words in the correct order.

There are certain rules that make sure the tweets are worthy for the game and rules that aid the player in unscrambling. For example, the beginning of the tweet is static, this gives the player a consistent place to start. The tweet must be grammatically correct and then is divided up into a certain amount of bubbles which can contain multiple words. These bubbles are then what the player unscrambles.

Simple Machine did a blog post about the design process and iteration of the tweet mechanic. That can be found at The Making of Tweet Star and will go deeper into that mechanic. Where that post is a peek from the inside of Simple Machine, I hope to give an analysis of the game design from the outside.

Tweets

Let's start off at the beginning and just appreciate the uniqueness of this mechanic. It's something I've never seen before and uses the Twitter API in a cool way.

There is an unlimited supply of fresh content. The tweets in the game are from the last 7 days. Every week there is something new and relevant with no need to update the app. 

Each round is divided up into 5 tweets that fall under a wide range of topics. This could be a person, an event, a hashtag, a hobby, or even a place. The player can pick and choose which topics they want to do. This means they are not stuck playing a topic they have no interest in.

This is the only game where I have shared to social media from within a game. It's not just sharing the high score, I legitimately like some of the tweets I came across and want to share them.

Metagame

There are a couple aspects of the game that engage the player for long term progression.

  1. Characters

  2. Level system

  3. Badges

     

CHARACTERS

During the game, the player's character is looking at their phone. Presumably they are looking at the tweet.

The characters are unlocked by using the coins you get through playing the game. 5 coins per correct tweet with characters costing 1000 coins each. There are other ways to get coins, more on that later.

There is a huge variety with over 100 different skins. Simple Machine calls these little creatures Meemos. 

These really are nice skins and have a consistent aesthetic to them. They are also incorporated well in a game that doesn't actually require a character.

 

LEVEL SYSTEM

The level system is related to how many tweets the player has gotten correct and will give the player a sense of progression for doing that.

In each round there are 5 tweets to unscramble. After each round the player is awarded up to 3 stars. 

5 correct tweets = 3 stars

3 correct tweets = 2 stars

1 correct tweet = 1 star

These stars then get added to the players experience bar.

After a certain amount of stars, the player levels up and they are rewarded with a random amount of coins ranging from 200 to 1000.

This mechanic makes sense in terms of rewards and progression. However the UX for this process takes FOREVER. It shows the player one tweet at a time, then shows the stars growing the experience bar, then the player must click through all the tweets AGAIN.

This entire process takes about 28 seconds and is not skippable. I get that Simple Machine wants to show the player's rewards and offer an opportunity to share the tweets, but after the first couple times it feels frustratingly slow.

BADGES

These are stat tracking awards for things like unscrambling 100 tweets, unscrambling 50 tweets about food, unscrambling 50 tweets between 12 and 1pm, etc. 

When these goals are achieved, the player is rewarded more coins.

These didn't affect my gameplay style that much. I wasn't choosing topics based on badges. I played most every topic and maybe skipped a couple if I really didn't feel like doing it.

Even though I don't think it adds much, it's a nice touch to the game and keeps the player going towards more goals. Fans of stat trackers in games will find this feature enjoyable.

 

Monetization

There are only 2 rewarded ads in this game. No banner ads, interstitials or in app purchases.

One is to get new topics to play. When the player starts the game, there are 5 topics to choose from. Once they go through those, or at least the ones they want to do, then they must watch a 30 second ad to get more.

This is pretty reasonable actually, that is 5 topics of 5 tweets each. It will take some time to go through 25 tweets.

It might actually take too long. Mobile games are meant to be played in 5-10 minute increments. It will take longer than that to go through 25 tweets. The topics get refreshed everyday. So if the player only wants to play once per day, they may never use this.

The second ad is for getting 50 extra coins at the end of a round. This is a pretty standard extra boost if the player really wants to get that next Meemo.

As a user, I think the amount of ads is great. None of the ads are intrusive and it feels fair to watch an ad to get more topics when I do need it.

However, from a design perspective, I actually question if this is profitable. Many other mobile games have more ads and still struggle with making money.

 

Conclusion

This is a very unique game that incorporates twitter in a very cool way (have I said that already?). It's definitely worth checking out whether you are a fan of interesting design or word puzzle games. 

One thing that I have held off mentioning until now is that the game will no longer be updated. The game is still playable, but there are no new tweets to unscramble. All the content is from June-September of 2018. 

I noticed the lack of new content and reached out to Simple Machine. They said that this game was a risky endeavor and unfortunately it did not pay off. The mobile market is rough and this game didn't catch the attention of enough people.

It seems that the tweets coming in require some human interaction. This was a major question I had after reading their blog post. Now it's clear that they couldn’t get the tweets and categories fully automated or there would be new content regardless of support.

It's very unfortunate to see such a well designed and polished game like this not be able to sustain itself.

Regardless, it stands as a game with a fascinating design. I'm looking forward to more unique games from Simple Machine.

More game reviews available at Lit A.F. Games

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