2048 Multiplayer

We launched the 2048 Game on iOS in April 2014. I have already written some details about why we did it and the initial launch in a post here. We weren't looking to build just another clone, there were tons of them already and we were aware of it. We wanted to push out our idea of how it can be tunrned into a multiplayer game. Here are some details about the multiplayer version and how it turned out for us (TLDR: If you just want the gist of it, it didn't go very well or at least as well as we had planned).

The rules of multiplayer 2048

Two players share the same board and get points only for the tiles that they merge. In every turn, in addition to scoring more points, the player had to think about how to stop the other one from scoring in his next turn. Sort of like chess, sort of like the Letterpress app.

The multiplayer version

We knew straightaway that we want to use GameCenter, Apple’s social gaming network to build the multiplayer mode. The turn based APIs matched our needs perfectly. Here are the major tasks that a turn based match needs to handle

  • Allow the local player to join a match.
  • Allow the local player to see the list of existing matches.
  • Allow the local player to view the state of a match in progress.
  • Allow the player to take a turn in the match.
  • When a player leaves a match, set the player’s match outcome.
  • When all the players have a match outcome set, end the match.
  • Handle invitations and other match events.
  • Expand your game to include exchanges.

I wouldn't bore you with too much technical details in this post. If you are curious, head over to the github and check out the code for our open source version.

The launch

So, all done with the turn based stuff and tests, we were heading to launch with great expectations. We thought that even if people have half of our excitement for the multiplayer version, it will still go great. So, we submit the multiplayer version to apple and after a week of wait its finally approved for App Store. We had been playing against each other the whole week waiting to finally get the chance to play against other players when the app launches. I started creating new matches against random guys and I played some intense matches with people I never knew. It was fun!

So, after a few matches, we hop on to Mixpanel to see how many guys are actually trying out the multiplayer version and there was the surprise for us. Not many! Most of the guys just kept on playing the single player version and never bothered to check out the multiplayer mode. We were disappointed, we had put so much effort into this. Well, we had our moments, those who actually did try the multiplayer version enjoyed a lot.

What we learnt

We try to extract positives from every new idea that we try out. It was fun building multiplayer 2048. It was amazing to see people enjoying the game. But it was heartbreaking to see so few of them! There were a few things that we might have done differently to increase our chances.

  • We didn't put a limit on the amount of time a player could take to play his move. This allowed players to take a move and then not play for hours (or even days) which ruined the experience. We could have been omre aggressive in forcing the players to take the turn as soon as possible (e.g. by deducting time based on how long they take to copmlete the move or by giving an extra move to the second player)
  • We were a bit late to the party. The game had already crossed its peak and there were plenty of clones out there which meant that it was really hard to find our version on the app store.
  • This one might sound like an excuse, but the Android version of 2048 launched its own multiplayer while we were waiting for Apple to approve ours. Although, the multiplayer version in the Android app was so different from ours (I wouldn't even call it multiplayer, 2 players played completely independent of each other on their own boards for a limited amount of time and then compared their scores when the time is over). It took some interest away from our multiplayer version and people didn't care to notice thinking that it would be the same as the Android counterpart.

Anyway, thanks for reading. It was fun. And if you like what you see, do try out the game here.