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What is a core loop in a mobile game?

Published:28 Mar 2023Author:HomaRead Time:5 min read

So what exactly is meant by the Core Loop?

A good core loop can be the making or breaking for your games success. You can almost consider this as the structure or even engine system that underpins your game design.

Whether you are developing a hypercasual, hybridcasual or Arcade Idle mobile game, your core loop should be seriously considered before you even press a single key on your keyboard.

For mobile games typically, your core game loop should be short, simple and easy to understand. It should make sense in your games universe or theme and support your games rules.

It’s helpful for you to think about how you would summarise your game in a single sentence and if your game can be instantly understood in a short CTR or CPI video.

A good way to think about this is that in just a few shorts seconds of watching, the reaction you’re looking for is “ahh, ok yea I get it.”

Kevin WolstenholmeStudio Community Director - Homa

The core loop is essentially the very heartbeat of your game. It is a series or chain of actions that is repeated over and over as the primary flow of your players experience. It’s the core essence of why we return to play games over and over again.

Examples of core loops in mobile games

So let’s take a generic city builder as an example.

I have to earn coins to craft various items and only once I’ve crafted my items, my town begins to grow. I then rinse and repeat this process and my town now becomes a city.

I then want a city full of nice new buildings, so I complete the loop and I get my reward. It’s the core action of why we continue to play games over and over again.

So let’s take a look at a couple of real world mobile game examples.

Core Loop for mobile game - Clash of Clans

I’m sure you’ve probably heard of Clash of Clans or played it at some time, it’s one of the most popular games of its type by Mobile Behemoth, Supercell.

The Clash of clans core loop goes like this:

Collect Coins & Elixir / Build your clan/settlement.

Expand your Troops & battle to win more coins / elixir.

This goes around and rinses and repeats, but the aim stays the same:

Collect / Build / Expand.

Of course, there is an absolute ton of other stuff that goes on in within the game, but this is the core loop, the base from which it all works around.

Now, clearly, Clash of Clans is a super complicated game under the bonnet, and most casual or hybridcasual games don’t come remotely close in terms of complexity, although they hold the same game loop theory.

Stack by Ketchapp – Core Loop

Core Loop for mobile game - Stack by Ketchapp

So let’s take a look of what a casual game core could look like, and let’s use Ketchapp’s Stack as an example.

Although Stack was released back in February 2016, it was really one of the pioneers in what is now Hyper Casual.

So as you can see, it’s not hugely different from the Clash of Clans core game loop in essence, slightly more basic of course, but these loops are present in every game you’ll see.

Play / Earn diamonds / Replay to earn more and unlock new game themes.

So why is a Core Loop important to you?

Your core loop is essentially the beating pulse of your game. Once you have firmly settled on your core loop, you can start to expand on this.

It’s crucial however to ensure that your gameplay doesn’t deviate too much from the actual purpose of the game itself.

In short, it’ll keep you in check so the majority of things you will add to your game will stay true to this loop.

Once you have this solid foundation, you can start to think about your game structure and other game design systems and loops.

Adding “meta” around your games core loop adds depth and increases replayability. These elements build along side and dovetail from your main core loop adding layers of complexity.

Different types of Game Loops

  • Core Loop
    General game actions, premise and rules.
  • Dual Loop
    Just like the core but forks in 2 giving a choice to the player.
  • Nested Loop
    These are choices and paths that lead back to the core.
  • Compulsion Loop
    Routed in psychology, the additive, habit forming loops.

Final Thoughts

Once you understand the core loop and the critical part it plays in the designing of your game, you’ll have a super solid base around which to build your project.

If well designed, your core loop will invoke a sense of achievement, engagement and keep your players motivated and challenged whilst always being simple and easy to understand.

This is the essence of great game design.

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