The process of coming up with an idea, getting excited about it and then finally junking it can be quite exhausting. Call it growing up, or call it growing numb, but by the time we have junked our nth idea, we were about ready to give up. And then, just like the first life-form stirred in a primordial swampy soup, something stirred in the recesses of our brains. Remember we talked about how we got to similar ideas as Picross and Paint by Numbers? Something seemed to be whispering to us that all was not lost and it most certainly wasn’t that dude who lives in our office.
No, it was the first, faint stirring of an idea that we knew would be a cracker. It was really quite simple (isn’t it always?) Painting paths to completely colour the grid. So, as we envisioned it, there would be a grid, scattered around which would be a bunch of blocks with numbers on them. The idea was to drag a path from a numbered block and to eventually fill up the grid with the designated colour. The number in the head would indicate the number of blocks that would be coloured in that particular path.
Now we seemed to be getting somewhere. We tested the idea using Paint and then quickly whipped up a build in Flixel. At that point, it was just a crude playable, made for internal testing, where we had the path removed as soon as it was connected with the correct number of blocks.
We had a plan that the pre-coloured blocks in the grid would act as clues: these would be termed the ‘locked’ blocks. Their purpose would be to hint at the location of the coloured path. We thought this was by far the best way to construct the puzzle: there would be enough clues for the player to work with. It would remain challenging, but would also be playable. The difficulty level could be adjusted by simply adding or removing these ‘locked’ blocks from crucial areas.
Convinced that this would work, we decided to test the game on our families and friends. We whipped up some code, added a tutorial before the game, and to make it more playable, we also added a feature that would enable the player to continue dragging from any point in the path. We also decided that it would be better to NOT remove the paths as soon as they were identified. There were two reasons for this:
1) Levels could have multiple solutions and if we removed the path, the player may not be able to switch to an alternate solution in the middle of solving a puzzle. We needed that flexibility.
2) We wanted to reinforce the ‘puzzle’ nature of the game. By removing the paths, we would be giving out the solution part by part and thus making it impossible to create difficult levels.
And the feedback from our testers? Nobody actually experienced pure rapture or fell on our necks, blubbering about what a sooper-fantastic-brilliant-AWESOME experience it had all been. But, we did get some encouraging feedback. Most of our testers also pointed out that we needed to make the controls more user-friendly. Exactly what steps we took in that direction, will be the subject of the next post.