Skribbl.io is an online pictionary-like game that has (at least at my workplace) become a Friday-afternoon staple during shelter-in-place. Let’s take a look at the formal game elements:
Players: This game is a multilateral game; games require 3-8 players.
Objectives: The overall objective of the game is to gain the most points among all the players. This objective breaks down into more granular objectives for each round, depending on the player’s role for that round (see the Procedures and Rules section below). With the time-based score-awarding system for guessers, one could categorize each round as a race-objective for guessers.
Procedures and rules: The game occurs in rounds, where each round a player takes turns being the drawer. The drawer is given a word or phrase prompt, and has 80 seconds to draw the prompt. During that time, the rest of the players are guessing what the prompt is. Drawers receive points for each player that guesses correctly. The other players receive points if they guess correctly. The quicker you guess correctly, the more points you are given.
This is continued until all players have drawn 3 times. Then, players are ranked based on how many points they have accumulated at the end!
Boundaries: The boundaries, or “magic circle”, of this game at the most straightforward level is the browser itself, where the game is played. Depending on what other supporting tools are used to play this game (for example a video-calling client), the boundaries of the game can be extended to those.
Types of fun
The main types of fun Skribbl.io fulfills are expression and competition.
Expression: Expression is fulfilled by the creative drawing element of this game: given a prompt, how does the drawer communicate that word or phrase to the rest of the players? While not explicitly stated in the rules, much of the spirit relies on “house rules” such as “no letters” to give players additional constraints in how to express the given prompt.
Competition: With a score-based ranking system that is highlighted in the interface (your placement is nicely placed right next to your name), I noticed many players making comments as “darn, how am I in fourth place?” or “I’m so close to beating [some other player]!”. Given that the final outcomes of this game are ranked, there’s an additional and explicit element of competition between each player.
There are a couple of improvements I would recommend for this game; a lot of these improvements are motivated by similar online drawing games, such as Drawful or Drawbattle.
Avatar selection / creation: Once you enter the lobby, the avatar from the previous page is unchangeable. This restriction is not immediately noticeable; similarly, the avatar selection tool is pretty subtle in the main landing page. Being able to change the avatar in the lobby page would be nice.
Pulling inspiration from another drawing-based game, Drawful, it would be nice to integrate the avatar more closely to the game. In Drawful, players actually draw their avatar, similar to how they draw throughout the game.
Viewing drawings after the game: In Drawbattle, players can view all the drawings, as well as guesses, after the game has completed. This gives players a nice moment to relive the game experience and laugh together over some of the drawings that were created. Having this feature would be nice, and tie the end of Skribblio quite nicely; currently, the ending is a little abrupt.