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Rubpix: Playing With Code Causes a New Game

June 18, 2014 — by Mariia Lototska

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ContributionsDevelopmentGame DevelopmentIndieOnlinePostmortem

Rubpix: Playing With Code Causes a New Game

June 18, 2014 — by Mariia Lototska

After the success of Pretentious Game, Bari Silvestre decided to create a new game from scratch, but instead finished a game accidentally, while playing with codes. He shares the story of the Rubpix project that became a part of the Game Slam at Casual Connect Asia 2014.


Ideas Come as the Developer Plays With Code

When creating games, I usually think of ideas based on some games I really enjoyed, write them down on paper, and do a mockup of what my version will look like. Sometimes though, games appear just destined to be created.

Splitman is one of these. I came up with it when playing with codes that can move two characters in a platformer at the same time. I noticed that, with the right timing and by utilizing the platforms in the game, I can get one of the characters on top of another just by jumping and moving. When two or more characters are on top of each other, they can reach higher platforms and, potentially, do a lot of stuff. Thus, Splitman was born.

A block puzzle, RPG fighting game and pixel art
A block puzzle, RPG fighting game and pixel art

Rubpix is another such example. I was creating a combination of a block puzzle and an RPG fighting game where in order to do action, you have to slide icons to create one big link, and then tap the linked blocks to unleash the effect. I was having a problem coding the final bit – when I thought I could make interesting patterns with the colored blocks. I’m not really a good programmer, and couldn’t make things work, such as create a perfect game field filled with random values which do not form any free match. I set this project aside and made some pixel art.

Stumbled With His Own Game

The first pattern I did was the flag of France, since it’s simple and only consists of 3 colors. I recreated it in 3×3 pixels, shuffled  with an algorithm, and played it in my game of sliding blocks. I was dumbfounded. I never realized that a simple 3×3 puzzle can stump me for minutes. I was going in circles, sliding in and out blocks, and couldn’t solve it.

"I never realized that a simple 3x3 puzzle can stump me for minutes."
“I never realized that a simple 3×3 puzzle can stump me for minutes.”

At first, I thought maybe there’s something wrong with my algorithm – the blocks are shuffled randomly, making it impossible to solve. Then my wife saw me working on the puzzle and solved it in seconds right in front of my eyes. She’s a really good puzzle solver.

That’s when I knew this was indeed a great puzzle game. I made a new pattern, a ninja, and solved it just by using a good strategy and observing how my wife did it. No more going round and round over a misplaced color. I learned to study patterns in puzzles and come up with strategies instead of brute-forcing a solution.

I am now convinced I have a good puzzle in hand, good code, algorithm that can make hundreds of levels, and a hook in the form of mini pixel art. Time to go researching.

Inspirations: David Stoll and Kotaku

I googled “pixel art ” and found the recognizable pattern of blue, white, and red character. It only used 4×4 pixel art, but was clearly Sonic the Hedgehog. I read more about it on Kotaku and knew I was on the right track.

The man behind the genius was David Stoll, and he has hundreds more to show. Seeing and recognizing easily characters like Blanka, Chewbacca, and many more, brought lots of good memories in me – how good I was with Street Fighter and beating players with obscure characters like Blanka…

This looked like the perfect combo: a puzzle game that doesn’t require too much of your brain, like a quiz game, but rewards you with amazing nostalgia.




The interns suggested some new patterns for Rubpix: a Minion, a lobster, and the Ninja Turtles.
The interns suggested some new patterns for Rubpix: a Minion, a lobster, and the Ninja Turtles.

In order to make the game feel right, I had to cater to both casual and hardcore gamers. So I made a few 3×3 levels, and some more of the interesting creations of David. For the hardcore player, I knew I needed to make 8×8 levels, that would possibly only be beaten by a few.

I turned to my interns provided by Angeles University Foundation for some creative input. John Manlutac and Arnie Tolentino provided some interesting patterns like a Minion, a lobster, and the Ninja Turtles.




No Tutorial

It was time to make everything perfect, and that means user experience should be focused on. I wanted to make a good impression by introducing the player to a new way of starting a game. The way you begin the game in Rubpix explains how to play the game further.

Swipe to play. That’s it! Players will notice that the shapes wrap to another side as they slide the circle with the words “Swipe to Play”. Then they will be greeted with a nice-sounding bell, and their eyes will be guided to a small pattern that flashes on top of the screen. Surprise! You have just recreated the pattern above in the big square in the middle.




The way you begin the game shows how to play further
The way you begin the game shows how to play further

People Swipe Too Fast

Swipe to play – it can sometimes be so hard for someone just jumping into the game! It turned out they can’t even get past the title screen. As I let my friends play the prototype in Wizards Wink and Mythic Moogle (local hobby stores where I play card and board games), I found out people swipe too fast! They can’t get the circle to the middle, and so they don’t match the pattern above. There’s nothing wrong with them, but it’s definitely a serious mistake from my side. I came home, edited how fast you can swipe to make the circle lock in its right place, and let the title screen be failproof.

iphone
“People pronounced the name as “Rab-Pix”. Like rubbing it in my face, such an ugly title for a profound game.”

Here’s an interesting thing about the title of the game. It comes from Rubik’s Cube, which is what most people say about the game: a one-sided Rubik’s Cube. The “pix” part is to pay homage to games like PathPix and others, where you make interesting mini art out of simple colors. When I posted about my game online, people pronounced its name as “Rab-Pix”. Like rubbing it in my face, such an ugly title for a profound game.

My 7-years-old daughter saved the situation while watching me testing the game. She said, you should try something like Mario in Nintendo 3DS, where, after you press “Start” the game says “LETS-SE-GOW!” (Let’s go!).

My 7-years-old daughter said – try something like Mario in Nintendo 3DS, where, after you press “Start” the game says “LETS-SE-GOW!” (Let’s go!).

This is the story of how a game was made, kinda accidentally, and how I worked on it with the help of friends, families and fellow developers. Rubpix was part of the Game Slam in Casual Connect Asia 2014, and it was a roaring success. The audience are literally roaring with laughter. That night, it was also nominated for Most Promising Game in the Indie Prize Asia 2014.

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Bari and Rubpix getting slammed at Casual Connect Asia 2014

Rubpix is available on iOS and Android, and was featured in the AppStore under Best New Games worldwide. Bari says it is indeed a fairy tale with a happy ending.




 

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