Abstract Puzzle, the name, the logo

How clever is too clever? If a puzzle exists in the forest, but nobody is around to solve it, is it still interesting? (Translation: If you make a puzzle, but tell nobody that it exists to be solved, will anybody ever solve it? …probably not likely.)

I like my puzzles with well defined rules. I tend to get frustrated with really open-ended puzzles. (One of the reasons I never really got into crosswords, that and my brain is rubbish for trivia.) That makes the following admission all the more worthy of admonishment. Essentially, I was chatting with the designer for Oppo-Citrus yesterday, and it became clear that he hadn’t understood the logo I created for Abstract Puzzle (that’s it on the right). Now, I know the logo is rather amateurish in terms of graphic design, but I mentioned that I liked the idea behind it if not the execution. That’s when I got the blank stare. I had to explain to him that it’s meant to be a chess board made out of puzzle pieces. It’s a hybrid of puzzles and games. It’s a puzzle game. That hadn’t been clear to him, which of course had me questioning whether it was clear to anyone.

Now I actually think that one is okay. It’s just a logo. Its importance is in recognizability, not necessarily understandability. And I think it looks fairly unique. (Though, again, I’m thinking of it more as a first-draft than the final representation of my business.) It’s not what prompted me to write this post.

What prompted me to write the post was realizing that the name of the business actually suffers from the same issue. Only, I think there’s even less chance people are going to understand the name. So that’s why I’m writing this. To explain it. To give it away. So… um, spoiler alert. I guess. If you consider a puzzle nobody actually knows is a puzzle to be spoilable.

Abstract Puzzle — two words, meant to evoke another hybrid concept. “Abstract strategy”, my favorite kind of board game, and “action puzzle”, my favorite kind of video game. It’s just like the name of this website, Chesstris, only instead of combining specifics, it’s combining general terms.

So there you have it: Why I chose the name that I did for my new business.

How I keep track of TODO items

I came to a realization this morning. I am a programmer. I am not a professional emailer. When I want to get work done, I open XCode, I do not open my email. For this reason, it makes literally no sense for me to keep my tasks in a browser window. From now on, I’m keeping all my tasks in a TODO file with the project, where they belong.

Read-on for some history and analysis of my project management habits.

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Slydris – an enthusiastic endorsement

After all the posting I’ve done about Action Puzzle games lately, I would feel remiss if I didn’t write this post. Essentially, I finally picked up Slydris after it went Universal (it was iPad only at launch, then shortly thereafter became available for iPhone too) a week or so ago, and it’s easily been my most-played game recently.

The beauty of Slydris is in its similarity to Tetris without copying (or even using) the geometry mechanics. Essentially, there are horizontal bars of varying length, and you slide them left and right to try and make complete rows (the mechanic it DOES borrow from Tetris). That’s it.

Oh, I guess there is a bar that fills up and lets you delete 3 rows at once, and there are various in-game powerup type blocks. But overall it’s all about sliding those pieces left and right, and getting them to fall into place how you want ’em.

It’s one of the best examples I’ve seen lately of simple gameplay leading to complexity.

I’ve just followed the game’s creator, Luke Schneider, aka radiangames, on twitter (@radiangames). He’s released 12 games in the last two years, which is no small feat. I hope in 2 years I will have come even close to that. (That’s one every two months, which I am sadly nowhere near at this point, 3-months into my indie stint.)

The Slydris Soundtrack is also free right now, which is quite good (listening to it now).

Posted in iOS

TouchArcade and new Action Puzzle Games

Hot on the heels of my Action Puzzle slide deck, I saw a post yesterday on TouchArcade about Fluxe, a new app that bills itself as Action Puzzle, so I checked it out, and I’ve got to say that it’s well worth playing. I won’t get too into the gameplay, since TA already did that, and honestly, reading about it didn’t do much for my understanding anyway. It’s definitely in the “like tetris” category, but it uses the line-clear mechanic rather than the pentominos. It’s only a 4-wide well/column that you’re filling, so none of the pieces are not more than 3 blocks either wide or tall.

As you can see from the screenshot, there are lines across 3 of the sides of the app. Those are timers. I know what the ones on the left and right do, but I’m not actually sure what the one at the bottom does offhand. I’ve been struggling with whether to implement timers in Oppo-Citrus, so that is a topic of interest to me.

Anyway, TouchArcade has been giving a lot of love to action puzzle games lately, with their recent review (which couldn’t have been more positive) and subsequent creator interview for the slide-a-row RPG 10000000. 10000000 looks to do for slide-a-row what Dungeon Raid did for the drag-over-like-colors-to-remove mechanic, which is to say, it just slaps D&D/RPG elements all over it. (Someone mentioned Dungeon Raid at our MN Game Devs group, and I had to admit I had just totally forgotten about it.)

I could probably have given “Action Puzzle Games with RPG Elements” its own page in the slide-deck. The first one I remember playing was Puzzle Quest, and it and its sequel have a presence in the app store, (although they’re not great ports, was my impression). TouchArcade also recently reviewed Puzzle Dungeons (which is free), and unfortunately after checking it out for a bit I’ve concluded it doesn’t add terribly much to the subgenre. (But it is a solid game if you can’t get enough match-3.)

TA also previewed what looks to be an original action puzzle game I can’t wait to try (looks like it just came out today) for the iPad called Slydris.

Action Puzzle Games

I presented the following slides on Action Puzzle Games tonight at the MN Mobile Game Dev Group. I’m not sure the slides are really enough to convey the meaning, but most of this is really just a list of good Action Puzzle Games for iOS, and I said I’d post those, so here they are.

Special thanks to Jesper Juul, from whose amazing article (“Swap Adjacent Gems to Make Sets of Three: A History of Matching Tile Games”) I stole the Family Tree of matching tile games.