love and pies cover

This deconstruction was initially published in September 2022 behind a paywall.We are now making it public for the first time.

Let’s set the scene. It’s summer 2017, and after developing and growing Farm Heroes Saga into a $1 billion hit, King VP Carolin Krenzer and Game Director Tristan Clark leave the company to explore other ventures. Half a year later, Trailmix sees the light of day. The startup introduces a strong and ambitious vision: “To make experiences with richness and depth, while remaining accessible, long-lasting and built to fit into a player’s daily life. All while combining great storytelling with the best in free-to-play mobile.”

This story is ultimately about how a two-person startup evolved into a Supercell-backed, 30+ people team studio with a mobile hit so wholesome and beautiful that it won TIGA’s Best Casual Game award last year. Like any success story, though, it’s not without struggle. The studio’s casual merge hit, Love & Pies, was in development for three years before launching mid-2021, and for most of that time it was not even a merge game!

More specifically, Trailmix has been partnering with Supercell since the $4.2M seed round in February 2018, after which the Camden-based team started scaling up slowly but surely. You can check out the company’s website for a more detailed timeline on how Trailmix brought Love & Pies to life.

Before diving into the details, it’s important to distinguish the casual-merge core game from the rest of the merge market segment. The traditional merge-3 gameplay, popularized by Merge Dragons in 2017, inspired casual game developers like Metacore to create a more accessible gameplay variation based on a merge-2 mechanic. This resulted in 2020’s Merge Mansion, which is still the top dog in the genre (excluding the merge-3 titles). Merge Mansion’s sudden success led to a gold rush in 2021, with everyone jumping in to take advantage of this fresh core mechanic’s high retention rates. Interestingly, the only thing Love & Pies and Merge Mansion had in common when the latter came out was its meta game, classified either as Puzzle & Decorate or Invest & Express, depending on who you ask.

During the merge craze in 2021, lower-fidelity games like Merge Villa and Merge Life that use hypercasual, ad-driven monetization started popping up and raked in a good share of downloads (and therefore revenue). More recently, after the mania cooled off at the start of 2022, a select few casual merge games managed to achieve some ROI on their user acquisition spend. For example, Mergedom: Home Design, which uses a hybrid monetization model with the option to remove ads through an IAP, has seen some traction. Love & Pies also falls in the mid-section of the market in terms of downloads, together with other perseverant competitors like DesignVille, Merge Inn, and Travel Town.

Downloads per month. The merge craze of 2021 has calmed down a bit. | Source:

From a revenue perspective, not much has changed in the casual-merge segment over 2022, as Merge Mansion is still the game to beat. In fact, the only two other games that have been able to meaningfully capitalize on their players in terms of IAPs are Love & Pies and Travel Town. Both games are currently earning more than $1M in monthly revenue, which is a nice achievement for studios with a headcount of <50 people. For the sake of comparison, though, Merge Mansion will most likely hit the $10M monthly revenue mark for the first time come September or October.

Merge Mansion’s competitors monthly IAP revenues. | Source:

Last May, Supercell drew a similar conclusion regarding Love & Pies’ achievements, which led to another $60M (majority stake) investment in Trailmix to grow the game. Since Metacore’s Merge Mansion isn’t that much of a competitor for Trailmix — as they are both funded by Supercell and therefore perhaps knowledge-share — Love & Pies is in a pretty good spot.

On a more personal note, to me as a game designer, the most interesting part of the Love & Pies story so far is the bold pivot Trailmix undertook to transform its beloved puzzle game into a less risky product. How did the company find out that it was the right decision to change course so dramatically? To answer this question, throughout this piece, we’ll also have a look into the game’s old mechanic, its innovation and pitfalls, because as Trailmix has proven: It’s never too late to pivot and change the core mechanic of your game!

To truly understand Love & Pies’ ins and outs, this essay will reflect on:

  • The level-based puzzler Trailmix switched from before the game became casual merge-2
  • Deconstructing its core gameplay strategy, metagame, live-ops, narrative, board balancing, end of content, and monetization
  • What aspects of the game drive its strong retention
  • How Supercell’s investment is being spent and how the revenue is being returned
  • What the game is still lacking and what improvements could be made

Puzzling It Out

As early players might recall, Love & Pies soft-launched in December 2020 but not as the merge-2 game it is today! For the majority of the time the game was in development, it was a level-based puzzle game with a very innovative core mechanic. That’s right! The player had five refilling lives to attempt levels with!

L&P development
This image was inspired by a Playrix slide about Gardenscapes’ development with the exact same formatting.

The game’s initial gameplay was a variation on the Tile Blast mechanic (as seen in Toon Blast and Lily’s Garden) where players find groups of square tiles and remove them by tapping. The interesting thing about the “vanilla” Love & Pies mechanic is that it has always felt like merging, since about half of the tapped objects visually stay behind but are transformed into more advanced objects.

merge gif
The original puzzle “merge” gameplay. | Source: Love & Pies (Merge & Match)

With this unique mechanic, Trailmix tried solving one of Tile Blast’s critical drawbacks when it comes to classic match-3: the lack of auto-matches. If a group of objects was big enough, its outline would shimmer, indicating that (if possible) the leftover objects would search for adjacent objects of the same kind and include them in a following auto-match. This would go on until groups became too small.

game gif
The final level of a merge would leave behind powerups. | Source: Love & Pies (Merge & Match)

While the above mechanic looks clear enough when explained through a GIF animation at 0.5x speed, it wasn’t easy to grasp what happened through gameplay alone. This made it less likely to allow for plenty of meaningful, strategic choices. It’s innovative, fun, and rewarding, but it is also novel and requires heavy animations to keep it clear. Objectively, any puzzle game with these characteristics would face a difficult future in the red ocean that is the casual puzzle landscape, where everything has to be crystal clear, and innovation is very much pinpointed towards one specific area of development.

A very smart game designer once told me: “If your company ever asks you to come up with a new core game mechanic, tell them they aren’t paying you enough.” This illustrates how difficult it is to come up with a puzzle mechanic that is self-explanatory and accessible enough to become a mega-hit. New mass-market puzzle mechanics arise once every few years, and unfortunately for Trailmix, this one wasn’t it, which takes nothing away from the respect its attempt deserves.

FTUE of Love & Pies’ initial gameplay. Part 2 can be watched here. | Source: Naavik

On top of that, after Metacore’s success with Merge Mansion, which started scaling UA in August 2020, the Trailmix team got introduced to a more fitting core game. Given that Metacore and Trailmix were both Supercell subsidiaries, some knowledge sharing most likely took place when the former had a game that showed strong numbers in terms of core gameplay while the latter’s experiments in creating a fresh, new core game reached a limit. This resulted in the sunsetting of Love & Pies - Delicious Drama Merge & Match and the release of a “new” app: Love & Pies Merge.

Scenarios like these — where the developer switches out the core mechanic entirely — have occurred before, some of which with excellent results. In the same manner, Trailmix decided to pivot away from an ineffective core a few months before opening up to UA on a global scale.

Removing the Win Condition

What Love & Pies Turned Out to Be

A casual merge game offers players an interesting challenge, as it has nothing to do with winning or losing (more on that later), but rather with finding a matching pair of the same resources. By dragging one onto the other, the resource evolves into something more elaborate. Two of these more elaborate objects can be combined together again, and so on. This creates a chain of objects that requires double the amount of the base resource with every iteration.

merge chain
Baking elaborate cakes becomes exponentially more work. | Source:

To evolve objects along the chain, exponentially more base resources are required. This makes content production a relaxed endeavor for the developer, as players will quickly reach the point where it takes a lot of time to evolve their resources to the next level. In terms of content production, this effectively makes the player continuously recycle a lot before unlocking just a single graphic of new content.

During Love & Pies’ FTUE, the player starts with a board the size of 9x7 tiles, but most tiles are masked. Only a small portion in the middle of the board is usable space where players can merge their resources. By merging one instance of a resource (found in a chest or spawned by a generator) onto another locked instance in the grid, the player slowly unlocks more tiles in the board. This keeps going until the player has unlocked all 63 tiles.

Love & Pies Gif
The first moves a player makes slowly open up a part of the board. | Source: Love & Pies

During specific milestones in the game’s progression, players earn chests which contain components to merge into what will become new generators. For example, the player will start finding Bees from a Nature Chest. They need 32 of these bees in order to merge them into a Functional Beehouse, which then in turn starts spawning resources in the honey merge chain. Players see some of those bee components being constantly foreshadowed on the merge board as locked tiles. Acquiring enough of these parts builds up a lot of anticipation, as the player is constantly reminded of their existence. This makes the player look forward to finally merging them all into one usable object.

Main Merge Chains
All main generators and their resulting resources in the game. | Source: Love & Pies

To unlock the last generator in the main progression, the player has been merging for weeks, slowly acquiring enough resources for one of these new generators to be completed. The game contains six permanent generators, which eventually spawn nine chains of regular resources. Generators in the Supply Chest (orange) are unlocked very early on, while generator components from the Nature Chests (green) are introduced slowly over time.

As mentioned in the Bees example above, even the generators start as smaller, mergeable components on the board. This means that the designers can create deeper, nested hierarchies for players to generate and merge their way through. An example of this is the Oven generator, which spawns components of the (non-chargeable) Bread Basket generator, which spawns the final resource when finished. As every time the player taps a generator, 1 energy is deducted, the added drawback is that resources in the bread chain require more energy to be acquired.

Resources from the nine chains are continuously requested by the customers at the top of the screen, which is the way players earn the majority of the game’s coins. Additionally, coins, gems, and even energy are dropped onto the board as mergeable resources, adding another strategic choice as merging them takes valuable space on the board, but higher-level resources yield >2x returns.

These people are insatiable! | Source: Love & Pies


So what is this merge gameplay really about? What do players think about when engaging with this mechanic? It depends a lot on the game’s balancing, but in a standard casual merge-2 game like Love & Pies (with one board), players are trying to cope with the finite amount of board space the game offers. As the 9x7 board only offers a finite amount of space for players to use, the game quickly reaches a point where it does not fit all resources of every merge chain at once.

Some merge chains are longer than others, but the amount of cells it takes for each chain to be merged into higher levels is constantly fluctuating. A total of 32 level-1 resources only requires one cell, as they can all be merged into one single level-6 resource. At the same time, having a total of 31 level-1 resources on the board uses up 5 of its cells, as optimally merging them results in 5 resources, one of each level until 5. Basically, the player can only work on a specific resource chain if there is space for each kind of its resources.

Taking that into account, at a later stage of the game’s progress, the board will eventually contain items from about 20 different resource and generator chains of various lengths. This means that the player has to make a very strategic decision which resource to spawn at what time. Take a look at the following graph:

Board Space
An example of the amount of board cells three merge chains can take up over time.

In the simplified example above, three merge chains are visualized at different points along with the amount of board cells they use over time. At point A, two merge chains take up only two cells each; for example, by having 20 level-1 resources on the board (merged into one level-5 and one level-3). The third merge chain takes up only one space, let’s say because there are a total of 64 level-1 resources on the board, all merged into one (level-7) item. The player then starts working on all these chains at once by generating more items to merge. Soon this will lead to point B, where all items in the three chains take up 4, 5, and 6 cells respectively. A total of 15 cells are taken by these three chains as a result. This is the essence of the player’s strategic contemplations that need to be made. These fluctuations in available space affect every decision in the game and lead to the following thought process:

  1. Do I start spawning items from this generator given the fact that I:
    • Have to empty the entire generator for it to keep generating?
    • Have already four other chains that are taking up a lot of space?
  2. Maybe I should wait until that other generator is ready, as long as my energy is not maxed out, so I can first merge one of its chains into one resource, and free up some space.

By slowly adding more generators to the game, it becomes increasingly complex, and the strategic choices to optimize space become more pressing. On top of that, by merging the generators themselves, more evolved items are spawned this way, or sometimes it even unlocks a whole new resource chain by starting to spawn its level-1 item (the bookshelves are a good example of this).

While spawning entirely new items is a positive thing, this evolution of generators increases the randomness of its products, making it impossible to calculate beforehand how many resources of a specific chain will actually come out. This makes it more likely that players end up with spare, low-level resources taking up valuable space on their board, forcing them to remove potentially valuable items. Although this is the essence of the game’s difficulty, it becomes a constant hassle for the player. The fact that the game allows the purchase of some extra storage space for hard currency only slightly alleviates this pressure. On a side note, it makes one wonder: When will the “dream games of casual merge-2” rise up and create a more frictionless experience that doesn’t bank so much on frustration?

Invest & Express

The Coins that are gathered by filling orders can be used to remodel the cake shop. Even though coins are typically used as replenishable soft currency in mobile games, Love & Pies uses them as a finite progression currency. In this case, it’s a logical way to pay for progress, as renovations simply cost money!

love & pies cafe
Every Task in the café comes paired with a snappy dialogue. | Source: Love & Pies

After coughing up the dough, players are thrown into a fun dialogue sequence featuring animated facial expressions of the main characters. Most of the time, the dialogue focuses on the interpersonal topics of the cast (more on that later). About 20% of the time, these dialogues are concluded with a line that goes something like “You know what? Let’s not worry about this personal problem you have - let’s renovate the counter instead!” following a transition into the decoration sequence.

3-choice decoration sequence
The well-known 3-choice decoration sequence, as popularized by good ol’ Gardenscapes. | Source: Love & Pies


Given the age of the game, its meta is still relatively uncluttered in terms of live operations. The only time-limited features Love & Pies contains are its new season pass and two variations of a 72-hour time-limited event. Additionally, there is a time-limited event featuring a separate board for highly advanced players. Let’s expand on the details of these events some more:

As is the case with usual seasonal passes, the Picnic Pass is the game’s recurring, mid-term progression which resets every couple of weeks. Every 24 hours, the player is tasked with specific assignments to complete before the timer runs out. When completing these tasks, the player earns a specific currency (golden apples) that progresses them further down the pass’ progression.

golden apples
Summer is here, so let’s collect some golden apples! | Source: Love & Pies

At the time of writing, the first season has just finished. It’s clear that some tweaks still have to be made when it comes to the assignment of daily tasks, as it’s possible that the player is asked to make resources for which they haven’t crafted the generator yet. All-in-all, the daily tasks in the pass are balanced in a way that the player needs to stay on top of their game to complete them each day. To avoid less engaged players ending up with nothing, there is always a task that simply requires the player to merge objects, so even these players will make some progress, albeit not enough (by far) to reach the end of the pass in time. One point of improvement for the developers regarding this specific task is that it should not stop counting when it’s completed but not claimed yet.

Then, about every three days, the player is tasked with a time-limited event that requires them to fill as many orders as they can. At this point, there are two variations of this event, but they both come down to the same thing (as roses for Yuka are also collected when completing orders).

time-limited event
Yuka’s event is phrased like helping, while Edwina’s event is phrased like competing | Source: Love & Pies

Structural milestones during the events provide the player with extra rewards that come on top of their regular progress. Because the rewards get better the further the player progresses throughout the event, these events motivate players to engage as much as possible.

Lastly, the game has a third event called Sven’s Traveling Toyshop, and it requires the player to engage with a whole new merge board. This time-limited event board contains totally different resources and has its own, different reward loop but still requires energy to play. This means that, unlike the two previously mentioned events, this event slows down the player’s main progression.

rank up
Uncle Sven and his partner know what kids want! | Source: Love & Pies

Sven’s event also returns the same rewards as Edwina’s or Yuka’s events, to keep the goals engaging and its purpose clear. The event is currently only enabled for very advanced players. While having such elaborate content available for only a small (yet engaged) fraction of the game’s audience might seem counterintuitive at first, unlocking it after more than 30 hours of gameplay is a really smart decision. The developers keep early-game players away from this board as it might be too much of a distraction, and it is more beneficial that they focus solely on the main progression to make sure play routines are fully internalized first.

Given the implications this event has on the player’s energy consumption, it doesn’t seem particularly attractive to sink a resource as scarce as energy into it. As its main purpose is mostly around additional engagement, it would be a better choice to not have the generators in Sven’s board cost energy, but gate players solely on the board’s generator cooldowns (which could be extra long, for example). This would then give players a very clear reason to purchase some hard currency (Gems) or watch ads to skip these timers, resulting in extra monetization as the final result.

In summary, the game’s entire loop can be put together in the following diagram:

game loop
Swap out “Spawn Resources” with “Beat Levels” and you have the classic puzzle game loop.

End of Content

As with every progression-driven game, there is an end to its content. Players currently reach this point about the time they get to level 48. This requires months of consistent gameplay sessions, and as a solution (or reward, depending on how you look at it), the developers have implemented an end-game competition that players can engage in.

As players finish the last decoration tasks in the cake shop, they don’t have a means to keep spending coins. Doing so temporarily changes the reward for the customer’s orders above the board from coins to stars. Stars are tallied up in a leaderboard that runs until the next content patch is released.

Champions of the game can engage in a biweekly bake out. | Source: Love & Pies

As content updates are released every two weeks, players have the remainder of the patch to gather enough stars to beat the others in the randomly assigned group. The higher a player’s position, the better their rewards. Their star tally resets every two weeks, and players are competing against each other, with star amounts being able to increase ad infinitum. This way, these end-of-content players essentially lose the progress they made in the competition without the game having to increase the rewards. It’s a smart way of keeping the highly engaged players occupied while giving the developers time to add more narrative and decoration content.

Riddles and Intrigue

Another aspect in which Love & Pies is best-in-class is its narrative. While 90% of games with a decoration loop still go for the extremely hackneyed “Oh no! I had a loaded relative I didn’t know existed, and now they died. Darn, suddenly I have a decrepit old mansion to take care of, but luckily my life was hollow anyway, so I finally have a purpose,” Love & Pies has a premise that is original and allows for lots of marketing opportunities. Its story offers the necessary intrigue, romance, and fantasy. Trailmix itself describes it as “a cozy telenovela.”

character gallery
The only thing that’s missing is a Billy Joel music video starring the above cast | Source: Love & Pies

One of the most impressive parts of this success story is how strongly the developers’ values bleed over into the game they are creating. Some of the pillars of Trailmix as a company are inclusivity and creating a safe, tolerant work culture of which both co-founders can be proud. It’s a clear mission statement in an industry where values like these unfortunately are not always self-evident.

When working your way through the game’s narrative, it becomes crystal clear that this company truly cares about values even outside its own work culture. Love & Pies characters are deep, rich, truly funny, and represent people from many different walks of life, a lot of them minorities in some way. Most importantly, this is all done without it feeling forced, making it a true benchmark in casual F2P narrative.

Board Accessibility

The balancing of merge games is all about the contents of their board. The more different items are put in, the more difficult the game becomes, as board space is very much limited. Compared to other games, the board in Love & Pies is super pleasant to work with. Where Love & Pies’ board contents are vibrant and clear, Merge Mansion’s board is more difficult to read because of the relatively monotonous color scheme.

board readability
Board readability in Love & Pies (R) and Merge Mansion (L)

Every successful casual merge game forces the player to optimize their board space. After not too long, the amount of resources in every merge chain and their generators simply exceed the finite space the board has to offer. But where Merge Mansion players find themselves in a severely claustrophobic board with a huge number of generators and chains, Love & Pies keeps it relatively low-key. Sure, both games force some challenging times when it comes to board space, but Trailmix’s iteration is by far the more generous of the two.

What Drives Its Engagement and Retention?

Merge games naturally have high retention rates. There’s something soothing about taking the time to organize the board in a way that’s most optimal for you. It’s basically a form of inventory management, but with the sources of the items in the inventory integrated into the board as well. Love & Pies doubles down on these motivations by slowly adding more variation to the board by unlocking new generators and the merge chains that come out.

Comparison of D1 retention of successful puzzle games | Source:

50% of Love & Pies players come back on the first day after installing. There are different ways the developers have achieved this. Initially, the game hooks the story-driven players with its intriguing narrative, the visually demanding players with its vibrant, aesthetically pleasing art style, and the progression-driven players by slowly unlocking parts of the board and rewarding them with more and different resources to manage.

In the mid-term, players really learn how the game’s sessions can be optimized. As the generators all have different spawn timers, there’s a really high chance that logging back into the game results in being able to spend energy on spawning some specific resource. Combined with the season pass task resetting daily and live-ops events only running for 72 hours, this creates lots of urgency and a very strong anchor to keep the player timing their sessions for optimal progression.

Then, the game has an extremely impressive long-term retention rate as well: 20% of players are still logging back into the game on the 30th day after installing the game. One of the main motivators for progressed players is to max out all the generators on their board so they can successfully spawn the items coming from them. Other long-term motivators can be: figuring out the cake shop’s whodunit (narrative), finishing decorating the cake shop (visual), or completing the recurring time-limited events or season pass in time (challenge).

Supercell’s Investment

Now let’s talk money. As mentioned before, this summer Supercell invested $60M to grow Love & Pies further… so how is this money being spent? As usual, many different ads are being tested, but as a new iteration to the cartoony 2D advertisements Trailmix was running since the start of this year, a new set of ads with new full-3D rendered characters has popped up. The resemblance to Merge Mansion’s 3D ads with the mysterious (psychotic?) grandmother are uncanny, as now here too the narrative is framed towards mysterious secret passageways the cake shop apparently has to offer.

A mysterious L&P advertisement inspired by their big brother’s 3D ad campaigns | Source: Admob

Spoiler alert: no secret passageways have been found in the Love & Pies cake shop to this day, but, of course, mystery sells. Next to the creation of these new 3D ads, classic 2D ads are still being shown, and it is most effective in games like Evermerge, Fairway Solitaire, and Art Puzzle. Interestingly, while other games have been growing huge due to the potential of this platform, Trailmix started exploring TikTok-influencer-like-ads only recently.

How Is the Investment Returned?

One of the most stringent facts about games with a decoration meta is that they require some sort of player gating through the core game. If not, players would be able to go through all the narrative and decoration content fast and without restriction. Initially in Love & Pies, this gating happened with the lives players lost when they failed a level, but with the big core game switcheroo in May 2021, this had to change. That’s why Trailmix resorted to the same strategy Merge Mansion and all other casual merge-2 games have also resorted to: Spawning resources costing energy. Using Energy as a gating resource makes sense if your core game doesn’t have a (sufficiently gating) lose condition. The same can be seen in hidden object games, for example.

In Love & Pies (as in other merge-2 games), energy is a big limitation. The game takes 200 minutes to fully replenish its energy pool, which can make the energy currency feel very hard. But this blow is softened by the fact that the player is actually double-gated, as all generators have their own cooldowns too, and the player can choose which resource to spend their energy on. Omitting to spawn resources from one or two generators provides the opportunity to save energy and come back in 30 minutes or so, when the generator is back up again.

Enough ways to get more energy. | Source: Love & Pies

Additionally, the game has a couple of other mechanics built in to make the energy currency softer:

  • If the player has run out of energy, they can watch 5 ads per day to get 15 more energy each time.
  • The game gives away energy boxes as rewards (one of them daily in exchange for watching an ad), which drop mergeable energy resources. A fully merged energy resource replenishes a full bar of 100 energy.
  • Players can use their gems (which, next to being the game’s hard currency, are actually rewarded quite regularly) to replenish their energy bar. The first price point feels very fair, but the price increases rapidly for consecutive refills.

With the boxes and gems from the last two points, the time-limited events give quite a lot of energy back, creating a nice, positively reinforced loop. On top of that, players can pay $5 for the Picnic Pass each month and ensure they will get even more rewards structurally if they keep engaging enough. But what really knocks the performance of these features out of the park is the balancing of the live-ops. Even the highly engaged players can barely get to the end of these events, including the Picnic Pass itself. Making these events a big challenge to overcome for even the most fanatic players results in them having to play up to 20 short sessions a day to really maximize their return from specific generators. As a result, the time-limited events have tremendously increased Love & Pies’ RPD over the last year, while the Picnic Pass shows some results already as well.

Impressive increase in RPD over one year for Love & Pies | Source:

When comparing Love & Pies to the other serious contenders in the casual merge-2 segment, one can see that Love & Pies shows the most impressive growth and is even four months ahead of Merge Mansion in terms of MoM RPD.

Revenue per Download. Love & Pies going for the big bucks | Source:

Next to Energy, the game allows for gem payments on every generator that is on cooldown to skip time for that resource, but the prices for these are steep. More attractive are the upsell bubbles created from specific merges the player makes, which is a best practice from other merge-2 games. The bubbles allow players to get another instance of the same resource once more, allowing them to instantly merge it further. To top it all off, permanent sales offer a bundle of gems, one energy refill, and some increasingly useful resources to boot.

upselling for gems
IAP Sales (L) and in-board upselling for gems or Rewarded Video ad-placements. | Source: Love & Pies

What’s Next Around the Bend?

When looking at its first and only game’s performance, there’s definitely no need to worry about Trailmix. Also, looking at its available job openings, the company seems to be preparing to start working on a new game within the foreseeable future. This confirms that the company is prosperous while other parts of the industry are forced to let go of some employees.

Of course, there are signals from players that they would like to see something more from this game. The main complaint is that the game is “too slow;” players don’t seem to get enough gameplay time per session, according to reviews. To be honest, this is a good problem to have, as this simply illustrates players are hungry for more content. On the other hand, it could also mean that the further the players progress in the game, the static pool of 100 energy is not cutting it anymore. Maybe it would be beneficial to make players able to slightly upgrade their maximum energy so they can prolong their sessions. For the rest, the game’s sessioning is very well balanced, but it can be fatiguing as it requires quite a good amount of micro-sessions to check in on the scarcest of generator cooldowns.

To conclude this piece, let’s have a look at some other potential improvements that could be made to Love & Pies. The goal would be to make the experience even more pleasurable while increasing the monetization potential as well.

Customer Orders

To reduce fatigue and increase player agency, one of the most glaring things that is missing is a way to influence the orders of resources that the player requests. Resource Management games have ways for players to influence which orders they are planning to fill and which ones they’d rather skip. Of course, these games are not the same, but why not offer players the option to skip one of the orders (e.g., once a day)? This is especially needed when the game can generate multiple orders with the same resource chain requirements. In case the player wants to fill an order that contains a high-level resource, orders with a same but lower-level resource simply take up one of the five customer slots without the player being able to get rid of it.

game snippet
So now everyone suddenly wants bread!? | Source: Love & Pies

When a player has depleted all generators that cater to the orders above the board, it could easily feel like there is nothing left for them to do. As there isn’t enough space on the board to work ahead by generating resources for future orders, the only option is to come back later when that one generator is back up again. This does not provide a very satisfying session at times.

Related to this, another issue is that new customers don’t come in right away and aren’t announced when they do. It would be better to reward the player right away with a new customer after filling an order.

Lastly, to improve the order balancing a bit more, it would be best to add smaller orders more frequently. These do not have to provide a lot of coins in return, but the cadence of filling orders would be more frequent, making sure there is some rotation going on, as sometimes the only orders that are left are ones that take days to complete or ones that have very slow generators.

Live-ops, End of Content, and Power-ups

The developers are working on more time-limited events; a new live-operation called Eve’s Arcade Quest was first A/B tested early this month. This will be a very welcome addition to the two (or three) events that have constantly been on rotation since December of last year.

One other peculiarity happens when the player reaches the End of Content. The order rewards change from coins to stars (feeding into the Championship bake-out mentioned earlier), but all other sources that provide coins inside the board keep producing coins.

game snippet
Still collecting them coinz without a sink | Source: Love & Pies

This results in the player being able to keep accumulating coins while they wait for the next batch of content, only to be able to immediately blast through it when it is released. Merges in the board and the bubbles should also start providing mergeable stars for End of Content players. This would make sure that they don’t rack up the coins to finish the whole content update immediately after it is released.

Lastly, there’s never enough content for the most engaged players, but a content update every two weeks seems like it could be improved upon. Some episodic games are releasing big batches of content each week, which would definitely increase retention rates for End of Content players even more. Of course, this is a bigger investment that requires supercharging the game’s content pipeline, but especially by using outsourced game assets, it’s a possibility that shouldn’t be ignored for a game of this caliber and with retention rates this high.

To boost gem consumption, the game could provide boosters. Specifically, a disassemble booster would be very desirable for more advanced players. This would give them the power to (in exchange for gems) split a merged resource back in two parts in time of need. It’s a logical, premium feature for an obvious need. And who knows, it might just help some players convert! On top of that, it never hurts to expand a game’s reward space either.

In Conclusion…

Are you thinking about developing your new merge game? Or maybe you are planning to invest a good amount of money into User Acquisition for your existing merge game? It’s pretty clear that you will need to have at least a slightly different angle than Supercell, the dominant player in this genre with Love & Pies and Merge Mansion. Both games can easily coexist as they have a different audience focus. Where the former is more focused on its non-conventional narrative with relatable characters and accessible gameplay, the latter doubles down on its more puzzly gameplay and visual progression. Taking a different route than either one of these two games is highly recommended.

A big thanks to Niek Tuerlings for writing this essay. If Naavik can be of help as you build or fund games, please reach out.

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