An Old/New gaming trend that might rule mobile

Ah mobile games, that thing I pull out on boring rides, what I rush to pull out to fill short bursts of awkward down-time, the responsible tool I pull out to make sure my forehead is getting a good long look at my work computer, the thing I do to cheer myself up after feeling bad for procrastinating doing the exact same thing I’m cheering myself up with. With so little I do in life, one can’t help but become a bit of a foodie for games. And if you’re a game foodie like me and you’re also reading this short article between gaming sessions of Fortnite or PUBG, You’re just the game foodie I’m writing for.

Now, let me tell you about an old game design trend that’s been rising back to the surface on the other side of the oven door in the land of mobile games. It started out in free browser game sites like Miniclip or Kongregate, these games found a foothold when they made it to mobile.

These games included in 2015, which has reached 100 million downloads by this year, and a handful of games that eventually broke into the top 10 of various App Store’s “top free” lists in the last couple of years. These games included in 2016, breaking in at #8 in the Google Play Store, and 2, the current #1 in the Google Play store and #4 in the Apple App Store.


These were the .io games.

What made them the dishes that mobile game connoisseurs paid attention to was a recipe that might sound familiar in today’s gaming landscape:

  1. Quick ques to get into a new match quickly (perfect for squeezing in game time in your life)
  2. Your allowed to drop in and out of a match without a worry about bothering other players. (perfect for frequent interruptions when playing on the go)
  3. Many players in a match
  4. King of the hill, mostly free-for-all, pvp gameplay

Sound familiar?

These are core designs that also make the battle royale genre great, and what helped made it so quick to gain popularity.

.io games and those like them, have always been the proto battle royale genre, they weren’t high profile no, they weren’t multi-million dollar making games no, but they carried the same million-dollar heart passed from one experimenting game designer to the next, refined every step of the way, and eventually making a heart beat so loud the world took notice.

With how popular battle royales are right now on Console and PC and new ones popping up from what seems like every major company, I can only see more games of this type pop up and hit the top charts on mobile in the near future. Bringing home years of design that, I feel, were always made for mobile.

If you want to check out what’s on this grand spankin’ new band-wagon now or want to prove my dumb face wrong, here’s some recommendations to checkout:

Royale games: Battlerite Royale, Realm Royale.

Mobile games: Thunderdogs, 1, 2,,,

Considering Game Jams?

For people who have been curious about game jams, trust me, DO THEM. There are very few times to trust a stranger, and this may be the first blog of mine you read, but other then when your chocking on a chicken wing and need a good Heimlich, THIS is one of those times.

If you don’t know how game jams work, here’s a quick rundown:

  1. You sign up for a jam.
  2. At the beginning of jam, the event holder posts a theme which could be a word or phrase.
  3. Every participant starts at the same time creating a game out of their interpretation of the theme.

Give or take whether the jam is only allowed to be attended from a specific place or anywhere with an internet connection; and whether it takes place over a weekend or longer.

When anyone asks, I always recommend short weekend-length game jams. Within 48 hours, It’s an opportunity to practice your skills in a small throw away project, with a tight time pressure to keep you focused. You practice skills in efficient development, be it efficient asset use, scoping slim, mastering some hyper speed prototyping and learning development shortcuts you’ll know like the back of a video game racetrack.


Now that’s some good game jammin’!


The hugest benefit is the inspiration/restrictions the themes provide. The on the spot improvisation tends to get you out of any creative slump you’ve been stuck in. Tons of inspired fantastic ideas and tons of incredibly fun dumb ideas get born all the time.

In 2014’s Great Canadian Appathon, a mobile only game jam competition, I was part of a team that ended up making an endless runner with size change as the main mechanic. It affected your jump height, allowed you to smash through walls and fit under obstacles. With this concept, we won the competition’s $25,000 prize. I met great talented people, some I worked with again and are still great friends with.

Its actual title was Size Matters, and yes that was my hair, I didn’t win everything that day.


Which brings me to the great side benefits. If you were looking to do a jam as a team, it just so happens that when a bunch of people all arrive to do the same thing, finding some new friends tends to be easy. Not to mention, all of your throw away projects can also be your prototypes. Super Hot, Surgeon Simulator, Snake Pass, were all wonderfully quirky games that started their life in a game jam and went on to success as fully developed releases.


Pretty cool.


You ready to check one out? Well don’t worry about looking for one, because there’s one running virtually every day. An easy place to find one is through the game jam calendar on:




So, there’s been a bit of game design my brain’s been doing circles around for a while now and hopefully I can finally define it concretely here.

There’s a behavior that tap-based games I have really enjoyed lately end up making me do. Intentionally or unintentionally, they push me to achieve a tempo. And this design comes in 2 major parts.

1. Reaching a constant tempo is when the game just begins to be fun.

      1. In one of my recent favourites, Hoppenhelm by BUN GUN, you move by tapping a button, causing  a distinctly angular knight to hop to the next tile. There is a minimum time before a tap is detected after a previous tap, which mean you have to keep up a controlled tempo to move efficiently and quickly.

        Even in less strict games I found this playstyle surfacing. In the OG game, Stack by Ketchapp, although it didn’t prioritize speed, I always found myself attempting to perfectly line up as many stacks as possible on each of the stacks’ first pass over the tower, attempting to maintain a constant tempo as long as I could.

2. What’s interesting for the player is when the game actively tries to disrupt your tempo. When you successfully maintain or return to your tempo by whatever means, this is the point where you reach the peaks of enjoyment.

      1. In Hoppenhelm, there are monsters that require a quick tap of the attack button that swing  your sword at the neighbouring block, this ultimately pushes you to weave in a quick off tempo attacking tap as you are ending a hop to clear the path for your unfettered tempo. This is where the magic is.

The inherent fun factor in keeping a tempo probably stems from the act being one of the simplest form/lowest level of a skill check that anyone can understand and can easily attempt, you only need to tap a finger after all.

And speaking of tapping, this design also has great synergy with the simplest and most accessible control style that a mobile game can offer, and that’s powerful.

I’ll definitely be obsessed with this style of design for a while, so I hope you get to see some of my exploration with this concept in our future games!


Us at SkyCanvas Games recently competed in, “the rap-battle of entrepreneurship”, an awesome casual pitching competition called HustleMe, held at the Moustache Club in Durham.

It’s a competition made up of 3 rounds of 1 minute pitches, presented to the critical eyes of 3 professional judges, all for $1,000.

Each round has 1 topic to pitch, no slides, no props, no backup. The topics start with pitching yourself, then your business, and culminating with Round 3 where it gets real fun, you have to pitch… whatever they give you! A round of pure pitching skill!

Our very own Prudhvi Penumetcha took the stage along with 12 other people.

A short clip of his run:

With a great showing, we made it all the way to the final round with the final 5 people, where we ended up pitching HustleMe itself!

After a quick info swap with William Biggar, the founder of HustleMe, Prudhvi pitched a heartfelt need for support. A push on the back for people who are struggling, people who need a flashlight in a dark place. These public pitches under stage light were meant to inspire, inspire one to improve and inspire one to fight through the darkness.

Unfortunately, we didn’t win. I also didn’t manage to get any footage of our losing pitch so there’s no proof we ever lost right?

^ Here’s what we definitely did with our winnings, and yes, perspective does wonders to $1k.

It was a great experience to learn from and I’d recommend going to events like this if you’re a start-up looking for practice in selling/pitching, along with a small opportunity for networking!

Keep following us for more fun from other events!

– Joshua Liew