Email games

Graeme’s worked in the games industry for 13+yrs and I’ve a background in 3D graphics. So using our dynamic image server (DIS) to make games is pure fun for us, and hopefully for users. They’re in beta, but I thought I’d share some early thoughts. Now that Graeme’s added sessions we can really play…


The sessions database keeps track of where each subscriber/player is in the game. You can track a session across multiple devices, as its tied to an email address.

So you can award points, publicize a highest score table, have time-specific contests or show the no. of prizes left in a giveaway. We were chatting about inviting friends and playing in clans, so you could pool points.

Games in email

Server-side Photoshop

Triggered by the sessions data - plus other variables like device, time of day and location - the creative is assembled on-the-fly. We have most of Photoshop’ image editing functionality, such as rotations, scale, blend modes ect. The slots game below is just one alpha mask, font file and script. Nothing is pre-rendered.

Games in email


Just like a web game, email games need a script (for the tech savvy its not actually a script but a dll). The server-side logic might say, if a player reaches 4000 points or has played two consecutive days then award - tips, discounts, new level, prizes, loyalty points, VIP content or recognition. You can even have a different script for each email client.

Games in email

Reward screen / Eternity Warriors


Types of games?

Games of chance make the most sense. Slots, dice and spin the wheel games, like the Carl’s Junior app below. Though we’re also developing a virtual pet game and Graeme’s been looking into RPGs. So less Quake, more casual gaming due to the constraints.

Games in email

Mobile awards program / Carl’s Junior


Real-time streaming in email

We’ve had real-time streaming for 2yrs. It’s how DIS started out, as a new way to do video in email that was superior to Gifs and dynamic. We even added live content. Though there are less demanding applications. We’re only using 4fps to add animation to our slot game for instance, rather than the 12+ we use for video.

Games in email


Twitter # smackdowns

Part of the fun of playing any game, is taunting other players. We can approximate that, by pulling tweets into an email that contain a hashtag e.g. #emailslots. The real-time stream is an open forum for subscribers. As we’re accessing Twitter’s raw data, we can use server-side Photoshop to give it any creative treatment we like.

On the flip side, Graeme’s been experimenting with automatically broadcasting game updates to Twitter and Facebook. e.g. “I’ve just won the mince pie badge!”. While he can do this via the senders stream. We’d need to gain permission to access each players. Alternatively we could simply prompt users. Demos coming soon…

Games in email

Prompted to share achievement / Trade Nations


Coach marks

While I’ve no problem using overlays for achievements. I’ve mixed feelings about coach marks. Instructions - often hand drawn - which show up when you first open an app. With only 285px on the iPhone first screen, it’s useful to have prompts that don’t permanently take up space. We added, “Refresh to play” on slots first open.

Games in email

Coach marks / Snapseed


3d content

Below, the logo, text and 3D character (which is animated) are added on-the-fly frame by frame. Graeme hooked up his proprietary 3D engine to DIS. We can import a 3D scene or individual characters. We were going to do a 3D, “Fatten up Santa”  or “Santagotchi”  game for Xmas, but went with slots instead.

Games in email


Win Win

In Aug 2010, online games overtook email to become the second most heavily used online activity behind social. They’re fun, drive up opens which can lead to more sales, improve deliverability, great for branding and huge on mobile.

While the business benefits are well proven, our aims are simple. We want to amuse ourselves and users - by at least attempting - to go beyond gamification to making games in email.


Check out Xmas Slots Results


One Response to “Email games”

  • Tyrone
    October 8th, 2012 05:15

    Some very exciting things you doing there guys! Like it alot


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