Art direction, 2D illustration, Branding
Mall Match is a tile-based match-three game developed and published by SurrealVR. Players solve a variety of puzzles by swapping two adjacent pieces in order to create chains of matching colors. With a limited number of moves or time per puzzle, players must meet various goals like reach a high score, clear X number of specific color pieces, break X number of special tiles, and more.
I served as the Art Director for Mall Match, designing most of the in-game backgrounds, icons, and miscellaneous art assets. I also designed the game's logo and branding, including its store catalog and marketing images. I worked alongside Lead Developer Arthur Goikhman and Lead Designer Orchun Koroglu on this project.
Shopping Mall Concept
Since 2008, SurrealVR's stand-alone mobile gaming website Cellufun has allowed registered players to create their own avatars and dress them up with premium clothing and accessories purchased in Cellufun's virtual "mall". When the company decided to create this new puzzle game, we had two goals in mind:
1. Design a colorful, fun theme that stands out among other match-three games in the app market, and
2. Allow Cellufun players to link up their accounts in the app to win unique bonus prizes for their avatars.
To address both goals, the team decided on a shopping mall setting for the theme, in which puzzles took place inside various types of stores. Not only would the concept make our game more unique, but it would open up a wide range of ideas for bonus prizes to be won. For example, players could win avatar clothes in the puzzles set in a clothing store, animated toys in a toy store, virtual pets in a pet store, etc.
Icons and Backgrounds
With the game's interface already done, I began by designing the game pieces that the players would interact with to solve the puzzles. Keeping with the mall theme, I illustrated shopping and commerce icons to represent the six match-able colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple), testing and checking the icons in the game to ensure they visually stood out from each other in both shape and hue.
Each required three "special" variants: a vertical stripe that clears a whole column, a horizontal stripe that clears a whole row, and a "bomb" that clears out adjacent tiles in all directions.
Next on my list was creating the game's level select map and backgrounds to fit the shopping mall theme. The game's 100 puzzles were divided into five groups of 20, with each group set in a different "world", so I came up with five different types of stores to visually represent the five worlds: clothing store, furniture gallery, electronics outlet, toy store and pet shop.
Using Adobe Illustrator I designed the level select map to depict the player traversing through each store, with one seamlessly connecting to the next via escalators. Markers for each level/puzzle (placed in Unity) would guide the player thru each store on the map.
Likewise, I illustrated background images for the puzzles themselves for the five different stores. These were kept relatively simple and clean, as the gameplay elements had to stand out well in front of each one, especially the six color game pieces.
Branding and Logo
When it came time to decide on a title for the game, there initially was temptation to make a play on another well known match-three style game, but it was decided against this to avoid any potential legal conflicts. Instead, I suggested the name "Mall Match", among other alternatives, which ended up being most liked by the rest of the team.
Once the rest of the game art was finished I fleshed out a title logo for the game, as well as design its banner image for the app store and for Cellufun.com.
Launch and Post-Mortem
Mall Match was released on the Google Play app store, receiving generally positive reviews praising the game's art and addictive gameplay.
The game was largely marketed to existing players on Cellufun, selling the game on the exclusive bonus prizes that could be won by playing. However many of the site's most frequent visitors expressed concern that they could not play the game because they did not own an Android device. To address this concern, we later published a web version of the game on Cellufun.com, allowing players to enjoy the game without having to download onto a compatible device, and also allowing them to use their existing Cellufun virtual currency balance for in-game purchases.
To extend the life and replay value of the game, the team later implemented a subscription model, in which players could replay the game and win even more bonus prizes for Cellufun for a small monthly fee. All these prizes were created by me, ranging from avatar clothing to new and exclusive virtual pets for Mobile Pets.
For more information on Mall Match, please visit the game's Google Play app store page.
All images © SurrealVR, Inc.