ID@Xbox Profile: Threes!

As many mobile gamers are entirely aware, one of the most addictive titles in recent memory is Sirvo’s 2014 brain-bubbling puzzle game Threes! Now, the game has come to your living room – Threes! is now available for Xbox One.

The rules are rather simple: Players slide numbered tiles on a grid to combine addends and multiples of three; the game ends when there are no moves left on the grid, and the tiles are counted for a final score. It’s insanely fun, creating a rather intense compulsion to outdo your best score again and again… and again.

Threes! was conceived as a mobile game, the biggest change was bringing the input to a physical controller,” said creative producer Nick Ahrens of transitioning the title from mobile phone to Xbox One. “It was important to make sure that the game was accessible to existing players, traditional console owners, and those who may never have tried out Threes! previously.”

However, Ahrens pointed out that it was critical to make the game feel like it was uniquely crafted for the console, and not simply a straightforward port. “This is one of the reasons we went all-out in supporting Snap Mode,” he told us. “This feature alone makes it unique to the Xbox One.”

Indeed, because Threes! started as a portrait-oriented game for mobile, the development team already knew how they wanted it to look in Snap Mode on Xbox One. Since Threes! was originally designed to read clearly on an array of (potentially very tiny) mobile devices, its clean, distinct visual style lends itself well to readability.

But the porting effort wasn’t a walk in the park. “We’d be lying if we said implementing Snap Mode was easy – after all, we’re the first full ID@Xbox game to launch on the console that can be experienced while accessing other parts of the Xbox One,” Ahrens said. “If we were going to do it, we knew we wanted to do it right. We think our players will be impressed with the results.”

“[Implementing] Snap Mode was the biggest challenge, and the most exciting feature for us to work on,” he continued. “It creates a really interesting media experience – to idly be playing Threes! while watching TV or streaming video content. We’re excited to be the first ID@Xbox game to fully support and embrace Snap Mode. Hopefully, many other developers will follow suit!” Another key feature that the team made sure to include was Night Mode, a darker palette for the game that can be easier on the eyes (especially when played on a huge screen).

That said, Ahrens pointed out that because Threes! is, at its core, a very simple experience, there was a purposeful decision made to not cram in more features for the sake of it – something deemed very important from the genesis of the project. “The Xbox One version is no different, and we wanted to cater to the unique properties of the console,” said Ahrens. “The game had to feel very tight and approachable when played with a controller.”

Early on, there was some bandying about of crazy ideas for alternative input schemes, but the team ultimately decided to stick to this notion of simplicity. “We thought about Kinect, but keeping things super-simple was important to us,” Ahrens explained. The team went through a few versions of the controller layout before settling on the final scheme. “Threes! on mobile was elegantly crafted to make perfect use of the inputs unique to those devices, and the Xbox One version deserved the same level of carefully crafted controls.”

The team wanted to get feedback from people familiar with Threes!, as well as and from those who had never played the game before. As such, there was also a playtesting period with friends, family, developers, and a few random players just for good measure. “We used every tool at our disposal to do this, and E3 was also super helpful in getting ‘live’ feedback,” Ahrens said. “We couldn’t have done it without the help of all of our fans – so thanks, friends!”

It says quite a bit about the brilliance behind the Threes! concept that the game was cloned extensively after its release, across multiple platforms. “We love games! The more the merrier,” said Ahrens, of the ripple wave his title created upon release. “That said, we’re delighted to know that Xbox One owners will be assured a 100% authentic, original Threes! experience. We hope the time, attention, and love we put into the game shows, and that everyone who plays it on Xbox One will get a chance to see the attention to detail and the nuance present in the game.”