On Idle Games and a Weekend Project

Cookie Clicker

In the past few years, there has been a rise in an extremely unlikely genre of game: the idle game. These are games wherein you do nothing but… well… idle.

A Brief History

A bunch of this is my own remembering, so bear with me. Back in 2013, a guy by the name of Orteil released an experimental game called Cookie Clicker. It was a simple game: there was a big cookie. You can click this cookie to get a cookie. You can also spend cookies to buy mice to click for you. Or, you can buy grandmas, factories, inter-dimensional cookie rift generators, and even usher in the grandmapocalypse, all for the goal of making a number rise higher.

People found this game, thought it was funny, and told other people about it. Soon, Orteil was a mildly famous internet celebrity for making a game about nothing. Then, later that month, he released Cookie Clicker 1.0, with all new graphics and achievements. After that, the popularity took another huge leap, and the copy-cats finally started being made. It was easy since the concept of an idle game is so simple: have a number that the player can increase manually, or automatically at a slower rate. A lot of variety is out there, and Kongregate even has a whole section devoted to idle games.

What Makes a Good Idle Game

From my description, idle games seem like a boring piece of crap that is also one of the easiest things in the world to produce. And, well, for the most part that is correct. Idle Mine, one of the most popular games on Kongregate, is a very simple “game”. Go look at it to see the most basic form of idle game there is. But, for a game to actually be fun, it has to have more things to do than just click the button.

While it is really simple to make an idle game functional, you really have to figure out a way to make it fun to play, and fun to not play. And what that means is content. Stuff to do, stuff to buy, stuff to sell. Meaning for those points. And, in my opinion, the most content stuffed idle game has to be Anti-Idle: The Game, also found on Kongregate. It has something like 10 types of currency, 50 activities, a multiplayer card game, and even pets you can raise. And, the game is constantly updated with more currencies, more ways to spend coins and even more things to do. Seriously, go check it out, it’s a fun game that epitomizes what an idle game can really be.

But that’s not to say that you have to be as complex as Anti-Idle to be a good idle game. One game that I have been “playing” lately is Idle Evolution, a game about atoms. It’s interesting because you generate atoms, but sell molecules for stuff. So, you may need to sell a bunch of water, which you’ll need hydrogen and oxygen. It’s a really simple, but engaging game that has kept my computer on for a few weeks.

Enough About Them, What About YOU?

I’m glad I asked, and I’m just getting to that. With this wealth of idle games, some of which are actually interesting, I decided to take a crack at making my own. I was inspired by Clicker Heroes and Hero Tap to make a Pokemon idle game. The premise is simple: you are playing Pokemon through an idle game. This idea is pretty simple, but I feel it will be at least challenging enough for me to learn a thing or two before I’m done. And, who knows, the game may be fun.

So, over this weekend, I will be posting a few articles about what I’m doing, and what choices I am making in regards to designing the game.

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