Devlog #18 – History of Puzzle Puppets

Hello and another Friday has snuck up on us. We got some good news yesterday, the Film Victoria guys called us and we are having an interview with them early next week to talk more about Puzzle Puppets. So that means we need to switch our uniform dressing gowns for something a little more professional.

This week was when I wanted to talk about the history of Puzzle Puppets and how things have changed so much to where we are today. I’m most likely going to ramble a whole bunch as I’m fairly sure there’s heaps to talk about but I will try to break up the walls of text with pictures.

Well to start off, lets go to where the idea got its first legs. I love both the Puzzle and Role Playing Game genres heaps and I always wanted to throw them both together. The main idea was when I wanted the awesome fun adventures you have with an RPG where the story and the desire to get stronger pull you through hours and hours of content coupled with the addictive nature of puzzle games where coloured blocks keeps the player entertained for ages going for big combos / chains and highscores.

So the original idea that I had chicken scratched into some paper in various drawing books as I do was something along these lines. Everytime you made a new character it would procedurally generate an overworld thats connected through all sorts of various nodes that consist of towns, dungeons, caves, paths through forests, dangerous lava areas etc. You would choose a character and begin your adventure in the world. The story was going to choose from a few staples of the genres such as an evil wizard opening a portal to hell or something like that and thus it was up to you to go around the world to try and stop this. The puzzle mechanic came in when you would venture between the nodes in the world. It would spawn monsters according to the area and add them in front of your path for you to destroy by eliminating blocks in a puzzle mechanic. The grinding of RPG’s was meant to be offset by the addictiveness of the puzzle games where its still fun to hit coloured blocks. You were able to goto towns and buy new equipment, you would level your character and make him stronger by putting points in the 3 basic disciplines. Npcs could give you random quests and I actually had a system figured out on how I could have NPC’s have memories of events and could spread word across the world of what you had done. Like all games you start with grand ambitions of where you would like to take things and you scale things back once you really think about things. It was really like most rpgs out there but fighting the monsters came down to the fun puzzle blocks.

So I had lurked around the TIGSource forums for years following their game competitions and when the Assemblee competition came around I knew I had to have a crack at making the Puzzle RPG. This is where I designed the game Puzzle Slash.

This is the very first attempt at making Puzzle Puppets. Back then the puzzle mechanic played like Bejeweled where matching 3 or more pops them and you can only swap blocks next to eachother. You even controlled the character moving left and right to progress and dodge attacks. The different blocks threw out magic attacks, arrows for long range and the swords for close range string attacks. The shield was an extra health bar that reduced over time and you could collect bottles that would regenerate health and magic. The game contained 2 areas and a boss.

So you can see in these 3 screenshots what it was. Able to select 3 profiles, then you would choose an avatar, and then you have the gameplay screen with a giant grid and the little pixel dudes down the bottom right.

I ended up running out of time on the competition and had to cram so much just to get this small part of the gameplay working. If you are interested in giving it a shot you can download it from this link

So a fair time passed and I had finished work at MicroForte in Canberra and was moving back to Melbourne. I was thinking of what work to do and thought I could become an indie game developer and see how things go. So I started to think again about Puzzle Slash and what I wanted to do with it to bring it to the Windows Phone 7. I was making it for the windows phone as most of my programming experience came from XNA and I had recently got a windows phone as my first smart phone. Anyways I began to think about the game and so I let my sister play the old Puzzle Slash and it was horrendous! She could not spot any matches let alone move the character to dodge the attacks. It was evident that I should change a lot of the game to make it easier and more fun for everyone to play. This is when I decided the bejeweled was no good and decided to add the mechanic that was from an old windows game called Same Game. This was where as long as 2 or more blocks where connected together they could be popped. I tested it in a modified version of Puzzle Slash and things were instantly better.

As I was going to make this game myself I couldn’t use the art I had used in Puzzle Slash and so I decided to design something that would fit well into what I wanted and be easy enough for my skill level. I sat down one night to figure it out and ended up with this.

Finger puppets! Yeah thats nice and easy to draw, and in terms of programming you can get into skin swapping and adding different accessories to make different monsters and characters so that was perfect too. So with the art direction sorted and the new puzzle mechanic I set out to make my first test on the Windows Phone.

 The first test was great fun. You would pop the blocks and they would eliminate and crowd down to the bottom left and you would try to pop as many as possible to get a high score. The coloured blocks looked great and the puppet was quirky and cute up the top. It was only a static image at that point but baby steps was needed first. I also had a gamemode called ‘Lock’ the idea was that you needed to eliminate every block on the screen to open the chest and get money for your character but unfortunately I ran into many coding algorithm problems trying to solve so that each lock was actually completable.

So with the test out of the way I was going to get cracking into making it. Actually at that point it was still called Puzzle Slash as I hadn’t thought anymore about the name but I’m fairly sure when speaking to my mate Aaron’s girlfriend that when she saw the puppets she thought “Why don’t you call it Puzzle Puppets instead?” Well that just sounded too awesome for it not to be it so that’s when the name stuck. Also spoiler alert, Aaron ends up working on the game with me soon.

I had heard about a games festival in Melbourne called iFest where I could show off my game so I decided to attend and bring Puzzle Puppets. There was very little time in me starting the game and when the show being on and so I ended up making a 1 week tech demo for everyone to play. I took my phone and my desktop computer into the city to see what people thought it (since then I’ve bought a laptop because no one wants to lug a whole computer around). Below is what I ended up showing off. You were that one character on the left and you fought an infinite number of monsters along this one path trying to survive as long as possible.


 So there is the first public viewing of Puzzle Puppets. That was back in mid 2011. So after the success of iFest what was going to happen after that? I think I’ll leave it at this point for this week and continue on next Friday with part 2. But just as a teaser, everything changes in the few months after iFest!!!!!!

Well on that incredibly gripping cliff hanger we will leave you for the weekend and see you all next week!

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