Although not super related to the current iteration of the game my group is designing, I decided to analyze Skribbl.io for this week’s Critical Play for a number of reasons. Over the pandemic, some of my friends played it super consistently for hours on end. As we continue to build out our game, one of the big things our team is thinking about is how to keep our game interesting over the course of multiple rounds. I know that skribbl.io does not have any mechanics that change over rounds–it basically is the same game no matter when you play it–so I was curious to see what kept my friends coming back.
Skribbl.io uses a playful, kiddie, hand drawn aesthetic. Players take turns being the drawer. Each turn, the drawer picks a word or phrase from a set of three options, and attempts to draw something that will allow the other players to guess the secret word in as little time as possible. The drawer is awarded points based on how quickly and accurately people guess the word, and the rest of the players receive points for how fast they guessed the word.
(drawing of the word ‘China’)
The fun of the game mostly lies in watching other players do terrible drawings. It was significantly more fun for me to play with my friends in the same room, where we could comment live on how bad the drawings were. The competitive aspect of the game is pretty strong. I was really trying to draw and guess when first place was in reach. Also, you can submit a custom word list so you can include inside jokes when playing with your friends which I thought was neat.
I played online with some random strangers as well in order to see how the experience was different. I was not surprised to find that it was a little less fun. One interesting aspect about this, however, was I got to witness how the game handles abuse. Although not a particularly hurtful, occasionally players would write out the word instead of drawing it, which ruins the game. Skribbl.io has a system where if half of the lobby votes to kick, the person is removed from the game. To my surprise, this system actually worked pretty well. Players that were violating the rules and spirit of the game were quickly and effectively removed.
(votekick process when a player just wrote the word, which is against the rules)
After playing skribbl.io, I believe it has some of the same issues as the game my group is developing. The general mechanics of the game are strong, and playing the game with your friends is optimal. However, there are very few wrinkles to the game that keep it interesting over time. In order to improve the game, I would have liked to see more twists and turns.. Overall, I enjoyed playing skribbl.io, but found myself tired of the game after around a consecutive hour of play.