Insert Coin to Continue

25 Aug 2013

I want to talk about an example of great game design that I came across while playing Kingdom Rush on my phone. It is the kind of design that I think exemplifies the growth of midcore gaming and why it is taking hold amongst casual and hardcore players alike.

Kingdom Rush is an awesome little turret defense that has an important feature: you can fail. Now you can fail in most games but each scenario in Kingdom Rush comes with a pretty decent time investment, much longer than many of the successful casual and midcore games currently floating around on the market. To offset this the game gives you the ability to “Continue” however it is not offered in the traditional approach where after you lose the game you are asked if you’d like to pay to continue on.

So what is different?

First, their version of continue is pro-active. You have to purchase it upfront with the game’s premium currency. This currency is used for purchasing all sorts of booster items such as extra gold for a scenario or the ability to “continue” when you lose. Without going too far off track, they are pretty generous with giving you lots of the currency, more than enough to have a stockpile by the end of the game which is when you may actually need it to get all of the unlocks.

This “continue” item is one of the things you can buy and save for when you need it and this is important. It helps disassociate the acquisition, a negative event, from the application, a (potentially) positive event.

Back to the “continue” though. The second differentiating factor is that you have to elect to use it before you lose. This is because the item is a GIANT BOMB!

You are sitting there playing away, watching as you fail to slaughter Wave 8 fast enough, and you know you can make the call.

You have it.

It is sitting right there.

A huge bomb capable of clearing the map for you and saving your score. So you do it. You drop the bomb.


Huge, screen rocking explosion that devastates your enemies and clears your path to victory. And damn is it fun.

Now this bit is cool for a few reasons. First, it’s the action. It’s fun. It is both fun to see and fun to do because you are an active participant. You pick the item, you set the drop point. Next, it’s the choice. You’re performing this choice at the peak of your involvement, at the cusp of your current ability. It is the climax of the level for your experience. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, it lets you avoid the most negative thing you can experience in the game: losing.

Above all else, you didn’t lose. You were going to. You knew it. And the game could have let you. Could have let you go through with losing and then offered you the ability to spend some of the premium currency to continue. But they didn’t and they made that choice because it is a bad experience. You lost. Sure you could chose to continue but now spending the currency on that choice has a negative connotation.

There really is so many cool things at play with this system, as simple as it is, that it’s impressive amongst a game filled with impressively polished features. I could continue to talk about their monetization system and how cool it is that it isn’t onerous, or how strong the separation of item acquisition and application is in practice, but I won’t. I don’t know if they were the first to do this but it certainly was the first time that it stood out to me, plus their application was excellent.

Anyways, I wanted to share that because it is just so cool.