How the creator of Where Cards Fall shuffled the deck and won big

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Where Cards Fall is one of the best available on Apple Arcade.
The creator of Where Cards Fall shares his thoughts on creating an award-winning game.
Photo: Snowman

Sam Rosenthal held onto his determination to make Where Cards Fall for almost a decade. And it’s paid off, as the game garnered a 2020 Apple Design Award.

In a lengthy interview with Apple, the developer shared insights into the design process for this title. Including how he tends to think of games as buildings the players move around in.

Aspiring developers might learn from his experiences.

Stick with your dream

Rosenthal dreamed up Where Cards Fall in college at USC, but it wasn’t until nine years later that it debuted in Apple Arcade.

Game publishers kept rejecting it, but the developer and his collaborators at Snowman persevered. “We had confidence that we were making something special and different and interesting,” he told Apple.

Art must be ‘beautiful and functional’

The team set out to create a game both simple and beautiful. And the artwork has to match gameplay.

“We often think of UI as this separate layer on top of the game’s art style, but a successful art style is simultaneously beautiful and functional,” Rosenthal says. In Where Cards Fall, even the orientation of bricks and grass help players navigate the world.

Different devices bring their own challenges

Offering an app that runs on iPhone, iPad and Apple TV forced Snowman’s designers to rethink the mechanics, as TVs don’t have touchscreens. But tutorials explain the various ways of controlling the cards that are at the heart of this game.

And Rosenthal offers a simple rule for game designers, “Players should never have to restart a puzzle, since that discourages experimentation.”

Watch the trailer for Where Cards Fall:

Apple Arcade subscribers can play this game now, along with over 100 more. The price is $4.99 a month, but there are no other costs, as Apple bans in-app purchases, ads and loot boxes.