With something as ever-expanding as the ‘puzzle’ genre, I’m always intrigued as to whether anyone is able to create a new ‘instant classic’ these days. I’m also interested as to why developers take this difficult task on, so I decided to ask one!
Shay Piece of Deep Plaid Games explains the inspiration behind the colourful and charming puzzle game Connectrode.
“I really love abstract puzzle games – my wife and I have probably played over 500 hours of Dr. Mario over the years. Knowing that simple and addictive games do very well on the iOS App Store, I just decided to try my hand at designing a game of that type! My main influences were Tetris (I wanted the game to involve a very simple decision that you make over and over), and Drop7 (I wanted the game to have a challenge without involving time pressure or requiring the player to have twitch reflexes).”
So with such popular games as direct influences I bet you’re wondering how Connectrode matches up. For what is essentially a ‘colour-matching’ game; Connectrode includes a few elements to charm the pants off you while you match up computer chips with connectors of matching colour. One of these elements being the amusing and varied faces of the chips (yellow being my personal favourite), this might not sound like much but I believe the clean and colourful graphics – coupled with the great soundtrack – really make this game special.
With very simple controls (just a quick tap here and there to place your connectors) and also a strategic element (the ability to block off certain sections of the grid, making them difficult to clear) It’s easy to get wrapped up in the game. Unlike games such as Tetris, this one is all about taking your time rather than rushing to clear the board, this gives it a slightly different feel. Here Shay Pierce describes what genre he thinks Connectrode falls into.
“Connectrode is in the “abstract puzzle game” genre, but it’s different from many of the other games in the genre – but I’d also say that it’s in a genre of game that would include things like sudoku, mahjongg solitaire, maybe even crossword puzzles. It’s quite casual – it’s hard to lose the game once you know what you’re doing – but it presents a continuous but engrossing series of challenges that you can really get wrapped up in.”
It’s always nice to see an indie developer take on the challenge of creating a ‘simple yet addictive’ game rather than going for all out wackiness and no content. But how hard is it to find that one thing that gives your game a hook? As Shay describes his own troubles here, it appears all you need is a lot of time and a super encouraging wife!
“I knew very clearly what I wanted the game experience to be like – placing things on a grid, constantly dealing with the risk of blocking yourself, and each placement on the board being an interesting decision. But once you actually sit down and start creating one of these games, it’s hard to find a set of mechanics and rules that exactly creates that fun experience you imagined! These games are incredibly simple and elegant, but that also means that you have a very small number of tools to work with as a game designer… changing one rule of a game like this will change the game completely, and adding more rules ends up destroying the elegant simplicity.
Basically I was prototyping the game but I wasn’t finding that any of the prototypes were actually very fun to play – which is a problem! So I had pretty much given up on the design; but my wife Laura thought I was on to something, and she really encouraged me to stick with it. Because of her encouragement, one day I pulled out the prototype again… I changed a couple of numbers in my code, and changed one rule slightly… and suddenly, bam, the game played exactly like it had in my head all those months ago!”