Basics of core game loop design

Original artwork by Cris Hodgson

The core game loop is fundamental to creating an engaging mobile title. It is critical to a well-designed game and, ultimately, a successful business. During this post, we’ll look at core game loops in different genres and how you can evolve and layer game loops can improve your player engagement and monetization.

Good game design is built on the foundation of the core game loop.

Here are some questions you have to keep in mind throughout this post!

  • What the core game loop is and how the core game loop satisfies player motivations.
  • Why utilizing multiple coils may be helpful.

What is a game loop?

The core game loop is a set of actions that a player will be doing over and over again. Remember, it is critical to do so when designing mobile game core loops with player motivations in mind. A good core loop can be the making or breaking of your game. Consider this the structure or even engine system that underpins your game design.

The core loop is the very heartbeat of your game. It is a series or chain of actions repeated repeatedly as the primary flow of your player’s experience. It’s the core essence of why we return to playing games frequently.
Kevin Wolstenholme

Study case: Match 3 games motivation

For match-3 games, the core game loop is starting a new level, achieving the points or goals of that level, and then continuing to the next one. In many match-3 games, the complexity of levels increases as the game goes on. The fun in the core loop satisfies the Challenge motivator and is built off the anticipation of the puzzle completion. Will they be able to beat the level?


Players attempt to complete challenging puzzles and want to continue to unlock the next level.


Players who complete the most difficult levels appear in competitive ranking charts.

Considerable attention is paid to level design and curation of the distribution of difficulty to ensure that players enter and stay in the state of flow. If the player constantly loses, they likely will feel discouraged and not want to continue playing. Players who always win on the first try may not feel challenged. But if they can win and lose (even occasionally), the excitement persists, driving continual player engagement.

The importance of layering on top of your core loop

The core loop is just the beginning. Once you have created a fun and engaging core gameplay loop, many successful mobile developers employ multiple loops that can provide additional complexity to your mobile game. New, layered loops you create can help serve different motivations for players throughout their lifecycles.

Core loop

Thus far, we’ve discussed the foundational core game loop; this is only the beginning.

Mid-game loop

Developers frequently create features to drive continual interaction with the core game loop. The features provide goals to motivate users to master the core game loop. Most commonly, these include features like daily quest systems or an achievement system.

Meta loop

Meta loops most commonly come after the user has mastered the core game loop and are often referred to as the late- or end-game. This loop focuses on driving long-term goal formation for players. , this loop will usually serve your most highly skilled or highly engaged players.

Social loop

Another loop that might be introduced is a social loop. For example, many genres include a team, clan, guild system, and maybe even a chat system as a minimum requirement. Social loops and features help drive user engagement and loyalty as all members or friends work towards the same goal.

Marketing loop

Acquisition loops also drive virality to acquire new and existing users or reactivate lapsed users.

GvG loops and eSports loops

For instance, guild versus guild (GvG) loops are competitions in 4X-style games that form massive battles that can extend across entire servers.

eSports loops are becoming popular in competitive games where players watch adept players compete at the highest levels and learn new tactics they can deploy in their gameplay.

Ultimately, you will have the best insight into the types of loops that will make sense for your game. Remember to consider your player lifecycle maps to help understand which loops fit best with your feature roadmap, game balance, and content strategy throughout your player’s lifecycle.

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