Rovio releases detective match-3 game. Company uses AI to test levels

Angry Birds makers have become another studio to borrow from Playrix’s experience. Rovio released a match-3 game that uses pretty much the same concept and mechanics as Homescapes and Gardenscapes.

The new title is called Small Town Murders. Just like Playrix’s hits, it’s a match-3 game with the same types of bonuses and obstacles. Moreover, the game features an almost identical UI.

The main formal difference is the title’s meta. Players don’t build stuff. Instead, they have to solve murders. Once they have completed a level, they are rewarded with more of the story.

This mechanic is typically found in hidden object titles like Agent Alice from Wooga. Another graphic example would be The X-Files: Deep State from Creative Mobile. Essentially though, the same mechanic is used in Playrix’s match-3 games that also reward players with a funny scene along with the option to build something.

Players’ desire to learn “What’s next?” and “Who’s the murderer?” in hidden object games is seen as one of the key tools to retain players. Rovio is clearly on board with that. The company expects this approach to boost retention and thus lower CPI.

The new title also allows Rovio to diversify their portfolio. They believe that conceptually, this is an unprecedented project.

We saw a chance to tap into the murder mystery genre and combine it with match-3. We don’t see anything else on the market like it.

Alex Pelletier-Normand, Rovio Head of Games

At launch, the game had over 1000 levels across eight crime stories. The company expects to roll out regular updates. Every month, players will get another story featuring a couple of hundred levels.

These high frequency of content updates is possible thanks to AI-based level testing. Rovio has not fully shifted to using AI to test content. However, the company says AI allows them to significantly reduce time required to test and balance levels.

Developing Small Town Murders is Puzzle Studio, owned by Rovio. It previously made Sugar Blast and Angry Birds: Dream Blast. Both are commerical successes (the former generated over $5 million, and the latter over $50 million).

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