Piecing The Puzzle Together

We’ve already mentioned that we got lots of feedback, right? And useful feedback – not the lame kind that says, “wuz gud. Gr8 fun!”. We got a lot of comments and great insight on how we could improve our game and make the controls more user-friendly (thanks to all our awesome play-testers!). Keeping the touch interface in mind, we added a few new features to help the usability:
Path Visibility – This would help the player understand the exact structure of a color path. We added directional arrows showing the entire flow of the color path. One thing that bothered us about this was that it would make the whole grid look messy, but we decided to postpone a decision on that, until we had finalized the art style.
Path Clearing – This would help in clearing an unwanted path with a single click. The player could erase a path to any block by simply clicking on it once. To continue extending the block further, all they would need to do is drag further without un-clicking. This was intuitive and similar to dragging the color out from the number block and was a perfect match to the existing control scheme.
Path Cutting – This was a feature added to allow the player to quickly try another possible solution by allowing them to cut a path of another color which they had created earlier. A problem with this approach was that the player could accidentally cut a path and lose previous solution that was, in fact, correct. We had to think of a way to undo this without having to implement an undo button.
Number Counting – This was possibly the most important feature we added. This would help the player keep track of the number of blocks they had covered, as they extend the path from the head block. One of the problems with this feature was that it would not help the player if the path was really long. This was because their attention would be focused on the end of the color path which would be (n) number of blocks away from the head. Again this was a feedback issue we decided to look into later.
Check-out the above mindblowing features in the build below:

Again there were no tutorials and we used temporary art. While this build was being tested we tried a barrage of art styles. One of our major gripes with the game was that it totally relied on colors to differentiate between the various paths. This was a problem for us because we wanted to make the game color-blind friendly. Anyway, this too we decided to tackle later. (You can read more about our struggles with various art styles here)

One of the most popular themes was the one with the quirky worms. We thought it would be fun to have the worms eating their way through the blocks. But one problem with this was explaining the undoing of the paths. It would look very odd if we had the worms puking out the blocks into a neat little grid again. Yeah, credibility was hardly an issue in a game where worms would be eating blocks, but there is something like taking a thing too far. We knew the worms would not have won any beauty contests anyway, but they looked especially bizarre in certain orientations. Also, many of our female play-testers who enjoyed the game a lot didn’t particularly savor the idea of touching squishy worms. So we decided to nix the character issue for now, and perhaps revisit it later. For now we decided to go ahead with the doodle lines with the bright color look.
We added another small set of features that would help the player fine tune the path cutting:
Undo cuts – A player could now cut paths, however tracing back on the path would result in undoing it. This was very useful if the player had a hunch for a path but was not 100 percent sure of it.
Suspended path highlighting – This would visually indicate to the player the area of a path that would effectively be cut. In the current build this was implemented by darkening the existing color. But that would only multiply the number of colors on the grind and would increase the players’ confusion. Again this was something we decided to deal with later.

You can play these features in the next post, as this build also had some Special Blocks which we will be discussing then.
By now it was clear that needed to start making levels for this. We did not have a level editor right then, but we would need one soon enough. For the time being we made the levels by hard coding some array information. We had already thought this game could be made arcade-style, along with some kind of co-op mode. We had plans for the having the co-op mode played out in a fashion similar to the current game. But that was not the priority at the given time, and yet again we decided to put this in ‘tackle later’ box. (And we were getting pretty good at it too!)
And so… we were back to where we started this post from: feedback. Our usual guinea pigs told us that the game was interesting, but we all knew that it needed greater depth. One way to do this was to allow mixing of colors, however we didn’t want to go that route, especially since Trainyard had already done such a fine job of it. Already we were depending too much on color. We dropped the idea of color mixing and instead went for newer “special” blocks that would add gameplay. We will discuss more about the special blocks in the next post.