Idle Games

A Look at Idle Games

Idle games as a phenomenon have had their initial boom in 2013  and is now in the process of maturing. We are seeing more idle games monetizing and inspiring other games outside of of the genre.


In this blog one of the things I’m planning on spending some time on is talking about some of the idle games I have played and some of the interesting things they have done. To start things off let us take a look at the a short timeline of idle games.


A Short Timeline

Progress Quest


Progress Quest came out as a game with no interaction after character creation, there were other similar games on Newgrounds but they have been lost to history making Progress Quest the first popular proto-idle game.Zynga-Logo2.png


We hit the boom of Zynga and FarmVille, here we are seeing the Skinner Box being pushed to the limit and the idea of short periods of gameplay spread over the day.





Here we see the emergence of what we consider the modern Idle game with the the releases of Candy Box, Cookie Clicker, and A Dark Room. Once these hit these hit the scene countless spinoffs were created and idle games as a genre were established.


Another noticeable jump in popularity for the genre, a few games have gotten a high degree of polish and made the jump to Steam with monetization. Valve even got in arena with their Monster Summer Game.

What are idle games?

I’m not going to a give a singular definition. Doing so inevitably will have some exceptions, then you are either forced to keep broadening the definition to the point it is meaningless or have a big list of exceptions. Instead I’ll outline some of the common elements to idle games, while this makes it harder to refer to game with a single label like RPG or FPS it makes it a lot easier to compare similar games against each other. Here are some of the labels most commonly associated with idle games



Passive Progress

The most distinctive feature of idle games, the player will advance through the game even when not actively playing. In most cases this takes the form of accruing resources.


Exponential Growth

The other distinctive feature of most idle games is exponential growth, one minute you are poking away mining at one metal a second and the next you need scientific notation to keep track.


At times this is at odds with the passive progress. In some games you have to actively be involved to take advantage of the exponential growth, it can be the case where a night’s progress is equivalent to a few minutes of upgraded progress.



Pretty much every idle game is at some level an exploration game. A common theme for idle games is to start by only showing you the most basic mechanics and unlocking more through play, a few have gone farther and included a narrative experience that unfolds at the same time. Extra Credits did a episode called The Waiting Game on this kind of exploration that does a decent job of covering it


Mechanics Driven

While an idle game is mechanically simpler than most other games idle games expect you to get your hands dirty dealing with the numbers. Most games take pains to hide the nitty gritty of how things work to streamline the user experience, idle games turn tweaking those mechanics into most if not all of the game.

Trimps Simple
One thing to click, doesn’t start much simpler than this.
Trimps Complex
Five different sections, lots of elements and constantly filling bars, big numbers. It takes some time to work up to this.

New Game +

Another common theme is resetting the game to gain a resource that can be used buy things that will persist through these resets. This makes it easier to stretch out the content and allows the player to re experience material in a new way, generally reinforcing the player’s growth.


Other Considerations

In addition to the above elements there are lots of other things to consider when look at idle games.


Level of Interactivity

One of the big mistakes idle games can make is, ironically enough, requiring too much attention from the player. Generally it involves requiring the player to be constantly buying more resource producers Trimps Simple.pngor upgrades to keep up with the exponential growth and is often found in games that feature resetting.


Auto ClickersCheat

Many idle games involve clicking to get resources. These games have to deal with the existence of auto clicking scripts. Some games ignore them while other design around them. Generally speaking it’s a choice between making clicking a useful activity later in the game and limiting the value of auto clickers.


Ludum Dare 34

This last weekend in Seattle we hosted many of our local developers for Ludum Dare 34.

To see all the teams in action the talented Sash Retief has uploaded pictures he has taken over the weekend to his gallery

Here are all the games presented at this game jam, if the Ludum Dare post lacks identification or contact information it has been included underneath.


Sentient Sewage

Blake O’Hare


A clever game game the revolves around deforming water to knock around bricks of chlorine, It’s a striking visual style and fairly slick, and seriously he should wear gloves.

Also worth noting that this is written in Crayon, a language created by Blake.


Need for Seed

Bilgem Cakir


A simple platformer, jump around dodging giant mutated crows and collecting seeds. Written entirely in about 600 lines of C++


Racing Enthropy


Eliot Hemmingway


A procedurally generated puzzle game. The player places different elements on the ground to contain disasters and help a plant grow it’s way to the goal.

Marble Tree


Semih Energin, Sergio Paolantonio, Leo Langinger, Carl Craig Juarez


A slick puzzle game that involves building a tree of marbles from the top down under some constraints.




A game that works best with a touch screen, you must maneuver your character around the field dodging enemies and collecting food.

This was created by our two youngest jammers, Nate and De Ford, 9 years old.




A local multiplayer VR game for the Vive. One player is planting flowers with a slingshot from a tower while the other is cutting them down.


Ritchie Thai


Evie Powell



Yonas Berhe



Louis Graham Vichy


Ket Ng





A puzzle game in the form of a platformer. The player has limited energy that they must spend on various modes of movement to get to the end.


The Implausible Zone


A simple RPG maker.  Has good music, a great voiceover, and some solid humor.


Kingdom by the Sea

Jesse Freeman



You have to develop your kingdom in this procedural turn based puzzler. This is made difficult because you game is limited to the life of one monarch, which is a variable amount of time.


Super Holiday Snake

In this game you try to be the last elf standing in this arena containing an ever growing snake.


The game also contains websprockets for local multiplayer and drop in play.


Sushi Pit Cephalopod

In this game you control a tentacled sushimaster. Ideally you play this game with 4 controllers with each tentacle being controlled by a stick but you can also use the keyboard. The goal is to coordinate your tentacles to knock the sushi over a pit to your assistant.

Interstate 34

Livio De La Cruz


In this game you race down the track and knocking aside smaller cars while avoiding larger ones.



Andrew McPherson



Clear weeds, plant seeds, harvest crops, and sell them at the market. This game pretty much has it all.




Two buttons and the mouse, this is a clever game that ties your health, the game speed, and your ammo to a single resource


Vice Grip

A simple platformer with some good jumping puzzles and a final boss fight.


Super Secret Self Aware Desert Dash


You take the role of an escaped BigDog speeding down a Nevada highway and fending off your pursuers with a growing bag of secrets.



An interesting idea executed well, a simple choice between X and Y. This may not be your game if you are squeamish.

Zoom Zoo

Nick Cooper


A 4 player local multiplayer racing game with power ups, all for the low price of 8 keys.


A special thank you to Tree of Audio for helping so organizing up and helping so many different teams with their audio.


Evan WItt



Leo Langinger


Carl Juarez


Individuals winners with their prizes


Nate Buck With Sushi Pit Cephalopod:  Fire TV Gaming Edition‎

Livio De La Cruz Fire TV

Blake O’Hare Fire TV



Dryad For First

Melissa Second

Racing Enthropy Third

Marble Tree ChronosVR


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