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.

Ecstasy of Awesome

I saw the movie Ecstacy Of Order: The Tetris Masters tonight, a documentary about the first “Classic Tetris World Championship” held in (I believe) 2010. Like Word Wars (2004, about Scrabble) and King of Kong (2007 about Donkey Kong) before it, we learn something about the lives of specific characters who take part in this tournament of experts, in this case expert game players of the classic (original) version of Tetris for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Also like it’s spiritual predecessors, the documentary mostly succeeds because of the intriguing nature of those characters.

I can’t really recommend this movie highly enough. It far outstripped my expectations, (which admittedly were pretty low), and actually made me want to evangelize the movie, as well as, of course, go home and play some Tetris.

Pit Chess / Recent Addictions

On Friday, my game designer friend Patrick alerted me to a post over at Play This Thing about Pit Chess. You can play Pit Chess on Kongregate, and it’s essentially a cross between chess and Drop 7. In case you’re not familiar, Drop 7 is a game where pieces with numbers drop from the top of the screen. You have to match up the numbers with positions on the gameboard to remove them from the board and score points. Pit Chess takes the pieces-drop-from-the-top mechanic and adds chess pieces and movement to the whole thing. Pieces drop whenever you make a move that doesn’t capture a pawn. As long as you continue to capture pawns, the screen empties, and you play cleanup for a while. When you inevitably run out of pawns to capture, you go back to capturing other pieces. The game emphasizes alternating between these two modes of gameplay by giving you a point multiplier that goes up as long as you capture pieces that aren’t pawns. There are Kongregate high score tables for highest multiplier, as well as highest scores in the two gameplay modes. I really dig this game, and sort of wish I’d thought of it. (It would have made a great Action Chess game mode!) Then again, I’ve got a lot of stuff I’ve worked on for ActionChess that hasn’t (yet!) seen the light of day.

I’m going to go back to playing fez now. I tweeted about this already, but there are Tetris shaped constellations in the night sky in Fez! I’m not even a fan of platform games usually, (although I played a fair bit of Mario III, and certainly Mario 64 back in the day), but Fez is just appealing to me on so many levels. I was pretty hyped up about it after seeing Renaud B├ędard talk about the tech behind Fez at GDC earlier this year, and it’s definitely lived up to my high expectations so far. As an aside, we all have our indie developer crushes. One of mine is definitely Renaud. Check out this list of games he’s worked on!

Three quick Chess-related links

Hipsta Chez
Is there room for more than one chess-based puzzle game in the app store? Of course there is! I just discovered the TouchArcade post about Hipsta Chez (front-page, no less… it was posted over a week ago, I could easily have missed this!) Hipsta Chez is game in the same family tree as Fuzzle, LinkLines, Gems 3D, etc.. only the twist is that the pieces are chess pieces, and move accordingly. I have only played the first game mode, and only one game so far, but it took over an hour, and I am now 18th on the Game Center leaderboard for that game mode. You can check out a promo video, but I think it’s definitely worth picking up. Hats off to Vasiliy Popov, who appears to be the app’s creator/developer.

I am not 100% sure how I came across this blog post by one of the developers of Chess@Home, but if it’s to be believed, a few weekends ago, (at Node Knockout, a node.js 48 hour programming competition), a team of four guys created a distributed chess AI using javascript. They’re calling it Chess@Home. The blog post is pretty fascinating.

The forthcoming Octagon Theory app
I read about The Octagon Theory over at my reliable iphone board game blog on BGG. I’m not 100% sure this is chess-related, because I haven’t played the game yet, but it’s an abstract strategy game for the iphone anyway. One of the more interesting things is that they’re soliciting developers to create AI for the thing. I’m tempted to sign up, as that sort of thing is always fun (and I’ve been meaning to learn some lua) for AGES), but there are so many of my own games to work on… we’ll see.

Code for my iPhone Game Programming Talk

When I did the talk last week on iPhone Game Development, I showed some code at the end of the talk written using the Cocos2D framework. In both talks, the tetris portion of the demo was almost (but not quite) finished. I promised I’d post the code on github when it was finished, so here it is, my intro to iPhone Game Development sample project on github.

Tetris is playable, but this code is barely working, to be honest. I haven’t played with it on a device yet, and I know there are cases in the rotatePiece method that haven’t been tested. I’ve got the next piece in the game model, but not showing up in the view. I was going to use Sneaky Input for the controls, but I ended up scrapping it and just using some really simple touch-based control instead.

Someday (hopefully soon-ish), I’ll be writing a blog post titled “how to write tetris in Objective-C using Cocos2D”. I’ll try and clean it up a bit then.

A new Tetris Documentary

Details on a new Tetris documentary called Ecstasy of Order are emerging. It is, according to the website, “a feature length documentary set for release in 2012 that captures the greatest world record Tetris players as they prepare for the Classic Tetris World Championship”. (Via Zack, who sent me this Joystiq post about it yesterday.)

This led me to wonder how many documentaries there have been about Tetris already. I thought I had viewed at least two of them, but some quick googling only comes up with Tetris: From Russia With Love, which was a BBC doc from 2004. It appears you can still watch it online. I particularly liked that one of the commenters on that site called it “a Web Filter Unit test”.

Table-top Tetris

The idea of Tetris as a physical board game is not a new idea. (I have a small collection of them.) While visiting Kotaku tonight, I found an intriguing post about two new Tetris board games showcased at the Toy Fair 2011 in New York City.

First I’ll mention Tetris Link, a stand-up version of Tetris for up to four players. The gameplay here is not about breaking lines. You get one color, (and presumably all the shapes), and you try and connect up your pieces while preventing your opponents from doing the same. I’m not exactly blown away by the originality here, although I suppose none of the other Tetris board games have been all that ground breaking either, but at least this could have had a hint of strategy in it, if they hadn’t introduced a die that you use to determine which piece you get to drop. I mean, sure, I’d buy it just for the die with Tetris shapes on it, but do I want to play a game with that mechanic in it? Not really. Fortunately, I’m sure it won’t be too hard to make up some slightly more thought-provoking rules about when you get to drop what pieces.

Tetris Link won’t be hitting stores until sometime later this year, and it sounds like it’ll be exclusive to B&N before it hits shelves everywhere. I don’t know if I’ll even remember to look for it at B&N, so it could be quite a while before I get this one. Also, I pilfered the photo above from Tetris Link’s facebook page, where it looks like they had some giant Tetris pieces to play with, as illustrated by these Tetris booth babes. (There were a lot more photos like that one on Facebook. Shameless, or fun? You decide.) You can also register to win a copy from the Facebook page (at least for the next day or two).

This is the one I feel is a MUST HAVE (although, lets be honest here, I’m obviously a collector, and I’ll be getting them both). The game, which may or may not be called simply “Tetris the Card Game“, is apparently getting made by Fundex, the same folks who made five billion versions of Phase 10. Apologies for the bad video still, but I simply wasn’t able to find out much of anything about this game! I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy, and the video says they’re available now!!! Chances are that it’ll be in Target (based on the Phase 10 connection) and all over the place, but I’ll be damned if I can find it anywhere online tonight. When I get access to some actual product information, I’ll have to post it here (as well as at boardgamegeek, which is still unaware this product exists). This is appealing to me for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it looks kind of like a multiplayer puzzle mode for Tetris.

In my scouring the internet for the above card game, I eventually remembered to try the official Tetris site, where I’d forgotten they do occasionally post some pretty interesting Tetris related news items. Some quick links to things I missed in the last year or so since I’d been on there:

Visit the Kotaku post for videos of both of the new board/card games in action.

Game Center Match-3 Mania!

Game Center games are starting to pour in, and today I stumbled onto the (true**) first Match-3 game I’d seen, (although I don’t think it was the first one on there), called GeoBlocks. I’m going to talk about that, and then I’ll also talk about the second match-3 game I played with Game Center integration, Squaree, and I will actually go so far as to say that Squaree is my new favorite Match-3 game! As of this writing, both GeoBlocks and Squaree are FREE in the app store, so get ’em while they’re hot.

I played GeoBlocks for quite a while, trying to get the next achievement. It’s a pretty standard match-3, with level progression based on the number of matches you’ve gotten in all the colors. In fact, that’s one of the only really interesting aspects of the game… to score really big, you actually want to try NOT to progress, so you can rack up points before the timer (white line at the bottom of the screen) gets going so fast that you don’t have time to think before you match.

I made a note to myself to add GeoBlocks to my spreadsheet listing Match-3 games for the iPhone, and I actually went one step further than that, and added a column indicating whether the game has Game Center integration. I suppose now that I’ve done that, I should really add another column for OpenFeint. Maybe I’ll do that some other time and actually go through all the games listed to see which have which features.

So then I went looking to see if there were other Match-3 games with Game Center, and I found Jewel Craft in the featured list. I wasn’t about to shell out $3 for another Match-3 game though, (especially when I just played a perfectly decent one for free). That got me thinking about what other free Game Center games there might be out there, so I searched App Shopper for “game center”, and sorted by price. That was when I found Squaree.

Squaree doesn’t really look like much, and (as is common when I go app shopping) at first I didn’t even play it, just downloaded it to check out later. But I soon grew tired of scanning through all the crap in that AppShopper search, and Squaree was either the first or second app I opened up to check out.

It’s match-3, definitely, but the way you get your squares is pretty unique. There is a board with a whole bunch of grayed out pieces. Tapping a piece causes un-gray, and for it to fall all the way to the bottom of the board (or until it hits another solid piece). Get three of the same color to match, and two of them disappear, but the third turns into a “locked” piece. Match four pieces and you get a X2 piece remaining, and if you match 5, you get a piece that, when matched, removes all solid pieces of that color from the gameboard.

This is pretty much all you need to know to get started playing Squaree. It’s simple, yes, but I had a lot of fun with it, and I’ll definitely be playing more of it in the next few days. There are two game modes, but only the “Challenge” mode has a high score list. That list is extremely short right now, and I’m hoping to make it to the top with some practice in the next few days. My only disappointment was finding out that there aren’t any Achievements. I wish I could add yet to the end of that statement. :)

**Note that both Azkend and Dice Match had Game Center the day after its launch. They are both solidly in the Match-3 category, but neither has the swap-to-remove mechanic. Both are the kind where the matches already exist and you have to choose which one to remove. (Think Same Game rather than Bejeweled, but you have to touch all the pieces you want to remove.) It would be interesting to write another post comparing and contrasting those two games, but I’m pretty much done for the evening.