Matthew talks about their game, Glow Artisan
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Interviewer: Well, I’m here at the Independent Games Festival Mobile Department. So, with me today is a special guest. How about you introduce yourself?
Matthew: Hello, my name is Matthew Lepreste. I was the game designer on Glow Artisan, which is a Powerhead Game DSiWare title.
Interviewer: What’s the game about?
Matthew: The game is essentially a logic based puzzle game where you’re mixing colors and you’re trying to recreate patterns that are on the top screen and the bottom screen and like an interesting way to go from the top and the left side. That’s the gist of it, basically.
Interviewer: What inspired you to develop this game?
Matthew: It wasn’t like anything really inspired me. I was just thinking about what kind of play, what interesting game ideas we can make that were simple and also easy to make. Apparently, gamers were always making other games that were for hire developer so we’re working with publishers and stuff like that.
So, we’re always focusing on that, but sometimes I want to be like, I want to do something else. When we have extra time, we don’t really have a lot of it so I was trying to think of something very, very simple to do. So, we got a build, a prototype running up in a week. It definitely wasn’t exactly what we have right now, but the idea is how it’s created was very simple so we got something up and running. And that also helps us get more time to refine it because the first prototype that we had was definitely–it was fine but it’s not a wow.
Interviewer: What things did you have to change from the first prototype to the final version? What inspired these changes?
Matthew: Well, originally I don’t think we even had the color mixing, and we didn’t have the dragging originally. It was, we have a grid and when you touch one of the side emitters who trade like a full line and if you go from a different angle, it would turn off that one. But when we did that, you didn’t have the option of making anything really complex. It kind of limited itself in that way, so we tried to figure out ways to increase the complexity of the game. So, we added the colors. We added the ability to drag from the very beginning all the way to the end and have that variable size length of line. After a while, we had an erase tool to create just different things.
So, now with all those different things we were able to make some funky, crazy designs that when you look at them at first, you’re like, oh my God, it’s crazy. But once you get into the idea of what Glow is all about, you start seeing the groove of what creates a good puzzle.
Interviewer: Can you discuss the mechanic in detail since it’s a little bit of a puzzle?
Matthew: OK yeah. I’ll try to show you what I’m talking about. Well, when you go into the game, you have two screens. The top screen is the blueprint. The bottom screen is the canvas. The blueprint is always going to tell you what you need to create. It’s interesting in that way that we basically give you the answer. So, for you to create that puzzle on the bottom screen, you have to use the emitters. The emitters are on the left side and the top side. So, you can only go in vertical or horizontal passes, and you have the different colors to make the blueprint.
So, when you drag it over here and over here, it completes the puzzle. So, that’s just the basic color mechanics. And then, when you go to other puzzles, it actually will require you to erase. So, you see this one is blue on here. It’s telling you, oh look, you have too much already and we’re trying to show so I’m not doing it 100 percent right. So, when you erase it, it comes back up.
It’s kind of like the different layers, the different steps that a player has to take. In some ways I don’t remember what kind of game that you have to worry about that, but you have to figure out the correct procedures. Now, it’s not like a kid in the puzzle you get to the end and figure it out. You have the means to do so, and when you have different colors and stuff like that it’s like another layer where you’re seeing the blue but then you see the purple which is blue and red. So, you have to worry about how to do it, like in the steps and how the colors are created. It’s three dimensional, almost like layers.
Interviewer: Any other issues that you ran into as you were designing it?
Matthew: I think from the very beginning we–I guess that’s probably the best thing I’ve learned in the past two years making this game. We had the interaction done. We knew how [?], but what the game actually was took a little while to get going. We made so many different puzzles. We did the IGF Mobile Showcase and we showed a picture of all the puzzles we did. It was like thousands of puzzles, but they weren’t fun. We could read them, but it doesn’t mean that they’re fun.
So, we started with balance. What makes a really interesting Glow puzzle? We’re still doing it. We’re still making puzzles, trying to figure out what really, cohesively makes it a fun puzzle. I think I got the general idea where first off, you’ve got to make something that looks nice and that’s kind of cool. And the second one is how not to [?]. So, you don’t want to do anything that’s–just focus on what actually makes it fun, like the different color interactions, stuff like that.
Interviewer: So, you’re using themes. I see one of the puzzles is an American flag.
Interviewer: It might be something that most people can relate to.
Matthew: Yeah. Exactly.
Interviewer: Have you released that?
Matthew: Yeah, yeah. We got a couple flags in here. And it’s also interesting, too. You can make your own puzzles if you wanted to. So, we give that option. We actually included the level editor in the game. So, if you want to make anything you can make it yourself. I have actually gone in and made video game related icons and stuff like that. That’s the only one I’m doing now. The game is released, so we’ve got little luminesce blocks. We’ve got a little Mario block. That’s from Wipe Out so that’s interesting.
Interviewer: What’s next in store then? Are you going to still develop for the DSi?
Matthew: Yeah. We’re still focusing on the DSi. This is our very first one, so it all worked out really well. And so, I’m thinking now with all the experience we’ve gained from doing it and how people think of DSi. I don’t think a lot of people know about it too much, and it’s very early in its stages. You have to figure out what kind of players are buying stuff on there, what do they expect in terms of graphics, experimental game play. So, one good thing about that from this point on, I think we did a great job with Glow Artisan already.
Interviewer: Do you think though that the iPhone is better? Do you think the iPhone is a better platform for you? Did you have to use special development kits for DSi and all that other stuff?
Matthew: Yeah. We do have to use dev kits, so if you’re like an Indie Dev, it’s going to be a lot harder to do a DSiWare game. You have to get licenses from Nintendo and stuff like that. For the iPhone you can just buy the hundred dollar kit or whatever. Make sure that you have a MacBook and you’re all good to go. For our entire games we actually are a for hire independent developer. We’ll go out to other publishers and ask for projects to do.
We’ve already been set up to do DS games, DSiWare games. So, it wasn’t too hard for us. In the end we just had extra time and we could just do something like Glow. It worked out in the end. But for Indie Devs [?].
Interviewer: So, this was nominated for Best Mobile Game Design. Why do you think that is?
Matthew: Why do I think that is? I mean, you definitely have to think about it’s the mobile game, so it’s not that complex of a game. We try to design the levels to last, maybe, from one minute to 10 minutes at the very most, the last levels in the game. You want to go right into the game, have some fun. It’s not complex anyway. We added the complexity to it.
The general idea is it’s something that–in most puzzle games it works on low level brain functions. You just kind of grab onto it and you see the colors and you see the lines and you’re already filling in the holes. It’s nothing too complex so that it lends itself to a mobile experience, and we try to do different menu designs that helped with mobile gaming just making it so it’s very easy to get into, very simple and…
When me and my buddy, Ramiro, he’s the other designer on the game, he made sure that you can get into the game in no time at all. So, we have this big star on the next puzzle right as you go into the game.
Interviewer: What are your favorite mobile games aside from your own?
Matthew: I mean, Spiral Scream, I bought that one after it was released. That’s a good game. I saw Lil [?] for the very first time yesterday. I thought that was a fantastic game, the whole musical interaction of it all. It turned out great. The minimalist design was really cool. And it showed Swords of Sorcery, the visuals on that–oh my God. I was in awe of what was going on.
I’ve got DSiWare so I’m always downloading something. I just downloaded Aura Climber. That was a really cool game. I try to download as much as I can, except I don’t have that much money to do so.
Interviewer: Where can people find out more about your game?
Matthew: They can go on GlowArtisan.com. You’ll see the game. You’ll see the trailer for it. We’ve got a link from the only review that we got from Nintendo Life. That was nice. That’s the only review. That was cool. That’s about it.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.