Reflections on Zapster Solitaire’s Game Design

With the release of Zapster Solitaire last week (and the bugfix release today), a game I first dreamt up somewhere around age 10 is finally available for the public to enjoy. While it had potential that I think is now being realized, it’s a relic from when I was much less experienced in game design, so it took some tweaking to get there. Modern-me did a lot of playtesting and made some adjustments:

  • The first thing I did was remove cards of rank 10. This nerfed queens a bit and makes it easier to make matches, and also ensured I could fit the draw pile, current draw, trash, and the maximum number of cells into a 4×3 grid.
  • Next came increasing the number of starting cells from 5 to 6. This made the early game less frustrating.
  • Extensive playtesting in Quick mode made me feel overpowered having 3 zaps. 1 zap felt too weak, so I adjusted it to 2.
  • After the above change, further playtesting in Marathon mode made me realize that kid-me had a point when it came to 2-deck play, so I implemented allowing the starting zaps to vary between modes, and brought Marathon back up to 3 zaps.

While I’m largely proud of what the game evolved into, the combination of the first 2 changes above resulted in a new flaw: If you fill all your cells without getting any matches at the start of the game, intuition tells you the next card has a 50% chance of matching. In fact, due to each of your cards having 1 less match in the deck, it’s only 43% in Quick and 47% in Marathon. I’ve been thinking of how I might eliminate that tempting false coin flip – perhaps I’ll increase the starting cells to 7, or remove Aces. I’ll have to do more playtesting and see what works…

A feature I have planned for version 2.0 will let you try out your own adjustments to the game and share them across the Internet, as I have. I look forward to seeing how players change the game further.

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