Category Archives: Block Party

Block Party Kickstarter Recap

This post is well overdo and I’ve been away from the blog for a while. Better late than never.

The Kickstarter was a wild ride. We raised over $22,000 in 40 days and almost 500 people backed the project, most of whom we didn’t know! While I could go into what we did for publicity (cross-campaign promotion is great), the practices we learned (more frequent updates are apparently expected, though I usually think an email more than once a week is spam), or what we could have been doing more of (it worked really well in a classroom setting), I’m instead going to talk a bit about the emotional aspect of running a Kickstarter, at least for us.

Anyone who has done or is planning to do a Kickstarter has likely heard about the slow middle. In short, expect the middle section of your campaign to be crawling, where you have to actively be shouting about what you’re doing for anyone to hear or care. Well, we got into the beginning of our second week, experienced some cross-promotion (thanks, Primo aka Prime Climb!) and had our second biggest day of funding to that point after the launch day (several thousand in a day). Slow middle? Yeah right! We were rocking it!

And this is how the rollercoaster goes. After that wave of hype fizzled, we  were dead in the water. A couple backers a day, a few days we might have had nothing, and after that insane day it felt awful. My guess? Expectation. Watching the money just pour in the door is one of the most surreal feelings I’ve had. Replying to backers with thank-yous as they came in amidst fits of smiling and wide-eyed surprise/lack of ability to respond emotionally to what was happening, that really big and successful day was pretty draining (read: I was not prepared for it). It was also insanely gratifying and uplifting and validating. But three days later I had come down from the high, was experiencing the tiniest amount of traffic, and wondering if we’d fund at all (of course, as the money rolled in we were jumping up and down talking about how we’d fund next week).

Ours was only a moderate case. We did not get millions of viewers (or even tens of thousands) but I can only imagine what that must be like.

The lesson learned? Take each day as it comes, try not to set expectations except when they’re useful for making decisions, and don’t get too attached to what’s happening today because it most likely won’t last. Keep to the work and make better things because you love doing it.

Recap and hello!

It’s been a while since the last post here, but oh how we’ve been busy at Three Pixel Heart. Things I’ll touch on in order here are 1) progress on Block Party, 2) status of our live apps, and 3) new games for the new year.

1. Block Party
We’ve continued production on Block Party, researching manufacturing methods such as screen printing and stamping, but we’ve been pretty disappointed about something: manufacturing domestically (in the USA) is really expensive. The lowest bid we’ve gotten so far is $18 a set, which is basically what we’ve been selling them for. On the other hand, we have a bid from China at $3.80 a set–far more realistic aside from the fact that we’d need to order at least 8,000 sets, and we don’t have that kind of startup capital. Kickstarter comes to mind, but we’re going to look into manufacturing them ourselves a bit more first because we’d love to make it locally. Our current trajectory there is to make some stamps via laser cutter so that we can do one side of an entire set per stamp, 6 stamps total. This would lead to a potentially very fast production process, though the quality and price of inks (and the images they produce) is something we have yet to determine.

2. Live Apps
It’s been over a month now since we launched Unique and Party Rush to the app store, and we’ve been, while not overwhelmed, at least pleasantly surprised with the response to Unique. Party Rush is a much harder game (most people who play it have physical Block Party sets) and so hasn’t gotten a very wide audience. With a couple hundred downloads of Unique though we’ve become convinced that it’s a concept worth pursuing further, and the uniform feedback across the board is that it’s just too damn hard. Who has the patience to play over and over to the point of being able to remember 49 snowflakes (other than yours truly, who felt compelled just because he felt somebody had to beat it)? So we’re scaling down, adding a level system, downloadable content, and all new images to produce Unique: Things! Be on the lookout for it in the next month. We hope it will be a memory puzzler which will keep you engaged for hours on end, learning how to remember and classify whole sets of things you never thought you would. Of course, we’ll start with something more doable, so be prepared to play with famous portrait paintings!

3. New Games
Here is where I am REALLY EXCITED! Did you get that? I mean REALLY excited. But why all the excitement, George? It’s just more games. You’ve done some of those, right? Where’s the novelty?
Let me tell YOU where the novelty is. I’ve recently realized that doing things at least once (in a developer context, but you could generalize) makes the set of things I can do expand greatly. In the past few weeks we’ve picked up novelty bonuses for

  • multiplayer on a single device (Finger Disco)
  • unlocking achievements via exploration (Colorfun)
  • google analytics integration (PushButtonGetHappiness)
  • image masking in Corona (Lotus)
  • level system (Unique: Things)
  • one-battery prototype (Iris)

(Facebook integration is also on our list.) If you’re reading this when it’s published, most of those are probably meaningless names. However, they are all new games (except PB;GH, which is more of an interactive art project) which we currently have in development. A few of them are mockups, proof of concept pieces, but they hold the seeds for things to grow. Finger Disco is a two-player game best played on a tablet where players go head to head to dance and contort their fingers. Colorfun is an adventure exploration by way of a synesthetic canvas. PB;GH is linked. Lotus is a sketch of a music playing game. Unique: Things was discussed above. Finally, Iris is a rhythm puzzler with themes similar to the ones in Circadia (video below) but without the really annoying finicky bits, plus COLOR PHYSICS! I do love colors. If you’re interested in betas and have an iOS device, feel free to sign up with us on TestFlight

In the meantime, you can enjoy this trailer brought to you by IGN.

Party Rush: App #2

Get it on the app store
We just submitted Party Rush to the app store for review, and it’s the first addition to the Block Party arcade suite! Its home on the web is at We’re starting with something simple: one mode of gameplay, all solid symbols. The possibilities of where we go from here are endless. Symbols could be erased and drop down or reshuffle, the player could swipe between same shading, color, or shape (changing up the board), or we could add special symbols a la gem-smashing games. Of course, we can also take the board and make the interface one of switching adjacent symbols for that type of play as well.

Have a preference? Give us a shout

Check out the video below for a demo of the gameplay, which is something like a symbolic variant on Boggle.

Our description on the app store:
Party Rush is a game about making parties! Enjoy this arcade puzzler which will stretch your mind and test your wits in a fast-paced high-score environment. Connect the symbols so that any three in a row are all the same or all different for both color and shape independently. Do the same for four in a row to make a party for bonus points!

BP Arcade: On Our Way

heart star glyphsHey there! We’ve been too busy to post in a while (I’ve been working on nanowrimo, Benjamin is making a tiny home by reformatting an airstream) but we’re back at it again. We’ve made new glyphs, the one on the right we’ve dubbed heartstar, made a bunch more blocks, published several videos, and now we’re starting on Block Party Arcade.

What does this mean? Hopefully it means that we’ll be on the app store within a month. Wouldn’t that be neat? More realistically, we’ll submit within a month and be on not too long after that (approval takes a while). It does not mean, however, that we’ll have any games on the web (why? because it’s going to be way better in your hand). So all of those with smartphones, yeah, you, get excited. But I have an android, you say. We’ve got you covered too. Let me describe why.

To develop the games we’re using Corona, which is a cross-platform (ios, android) game development environment in Lua. If you’re an indie developer who wants to make a cross-platform mobile game, this is really the way to do it from what I can tell (unless you want full 3D, which we don’t need–yet). [For anyone reading this who wants to get into game dev, I’d like to help you bring great games into the world. Drop me a line (g at 3pxh) and I can tell you a bit more about our journey with Corona, what we’ve learned, and even give you some sample codebases to start with!]

Long story short? We’ve found a development environment which is allowing us to create things very quickly, for ios and android, and you can expect to see our games live on the app stores in the next couple months.

Want to get the Beta? Drop me a line (g at 3pxh) and you might be able to start playing within the week.

Block Party Arcade

Since day 2 or 3 after Block Party’s inception we’ve had the idea to make digital versions of the game. Of course, that will include the classic versions that you can play with the wooden blocks, but it also allows for many other types of gameplay not suited for a physical game. So we got on to thinking, what new games does a digital environment allow with mechanics as with Block Party symbols?

First let’s look at a few ideas which we can borrow generously from. Right now on the short list we have bubble shooterlogic mazes, and the family of {bejewleddots, and other such games}.

With bubble shooter (you can play a round if you don’t know what it plays like) it seems like it would be easy enough to swap out the simple ‘colors’ for block party symbols where groups are destroyed when they share one value. Because of the hexagonal adjacency, each symbol you add has the potential to form different groups along different attributes (it could have a triangle group on one side and a blue group on another), allowing for much more strategic placement. In a harder variant, we could be eliminating runs of sub-parties, or requiring a full party (either along a single direction, in a group, or something else–though this is likely too difficult to play).

Each 3 in a row in the path must be a sub-party

For logic mazes, I first want to share that block party minis are great for prototyping new games (including digital ones). For an example of a logic maze using block party minis, see the image to the right. The puzzle is to traverse from the bottom left to top right by going along a path where each 3 in a row is a valid sub-party. Conveniently this type of puzzle extends to 3D surfaces, or generally any adjacency matrix (network) where nodes are symbols and edges are potential travel paths.

2-attribute jumping mazejump in rows/cols where each move shares 2 attributes
Another variant is instead of walking one block at a time, you must jump within rows and columns so that for any jump you make the symbol you jump two shares two values with the symbol you came from. For an example, try going from the bottom right to the top left of the puzzle on the right.

These maze puzzles at least in my experience have the potential to get quite hard, and I’m pretty sure there’s room for several insights for the solver in a stepped difficulty sequence. Another convenient aspect is that they can be designed purely programmatically, with metrics on the average branching factor used as proxy for human difficulty. Also, they can all start out arbitrarily easy by decreasing the number of attributes or values. Generally, the set can be extended to k attributes each with n values and the exact same mechanics persist (though (3,4) has the nice property of length 3 sub-parties as well as other considerations for human play). One final note I’ll add is that in the world of mazes, mechanics are pretty endless. You can make the maze change over time according to arbitrary rules, you can make it have multiple sides with holes which you switch between, you can have multiple agents which have to accomplish things together (e.g. imagine having 3 players where they all have to move simultaneously and make a sub-party and eventually end up on goal squares). So that’s pretty promising as far as an infinite supply of replayability, though deciding which mechanics result in the most additional insights and sorting by that is the challenge.

And finally a shout out to all those Bejewlers, Candy Crushers, Dots players, and others trapped in tight dopamine loops. Instead of ranting I’ll just ask, what if they were using block party symbols and had more dimensions?

Block Party Glyph Designs

If you’ve seen Block Party, you’ve also encountered at least one set of BP glyphs.
V1 glyphs in black
V1 glyphs

A glyph (or symbol) in Block Party for all those interested is composed of three independent attributes which each take on one of 4 possible values. in the original design this manifested as shape, fill, and color taking on values in {circle, triangle, square, pentagon}, {empty, striped, crosshatched, solid}, and {red, blue, green, black} respectively.

After playing with those glyphs for a bit we started to realize that there were probably better ways to design them so that each feature was easier to see. We swapped put the pentagon for a hexagon, which we then swapped out for a star.
V2 glyphs
V2 Originals

We also changed striped and crosshatched to shape-in-shape and tessellated to realize that those fills (while more aesthetically pleasing) were harder for people to learn on. One other experiment we tried was changing the fill to an inside color, which was far more difficult even for more practiced players.

From these experiments we’ve noticed a few factors which are important to measure for new glyph designs: learnability, differentiability, and perceptual ease. Learnability is a measure of how long it takes someone new to find their first party, a distribution with a mean which we’d like to minimize.
Double color symbols
V2.C: color-in-color

For differentiability, consider the experiment where a subject is shown two glyphs and must press one of two buttons, same or different. We want to minimize the maximum time this takes. For perceptual ease, we’d like to make each attribute so as to minimize T, where T is the maximum result if someone were just looking for parties of one variety (e.g. just same color, just same shape, just same fill, etc.) for each variety. (For reference, I currently find a same-color party in less than 20 seconds on average, and same-fill party in about 30 seconds on V2.) For a examples of glyphs which make this kind of separation difficult, check out the 16 ‘black’ V2 and V2.C symbols. (To obtain the different colors in V2.C, the outlines of the symbols are changed to be one of the 4 inside colors.)

We’re still working on our designs and will post future ones as we come up with them. In the meantime, if you have ideas and suggestions feel free to comment below or email them to g at, we’d be delighted to hear your thoughts.

Where the party at?

I just started writing some code to check statistical properties of Block Party (results will be published soon) and have been thinking about party search quite a bit recently. (For those interested, the code so far can be accessed at the block party github repository.)

Party search is an interesting problem in a few respects, but I want to start with an idea I’m calling a search strategy’s halting distribution. This is a probability distribution over time which shows how frequently an algorithm halts (finds a party) at what times. So, for example, if I always look for all-different parties (call this strategy A) I might expect my halting distribution to be fairly concentrated around a moderate amount of time (since there will almost always be an all-different party, this single routine is very likely to halt). However, looking for all-differents can take longer than, say, looking only at same color. Let strategy B be to first look for a party of the same color, and then failing that find one which is all-different. B will have two density spikes, one early on (since looking at same colors is somewhat easy), and then another which occurs at the time strategy A’s peak occurs plus the amount of time it takes for the same-color algorithm to return null. If A and B both find all-differents in the same amount of time with low enough variance, and if there is no same-color party at least half the time, we should expect A to outperform B.

Now that we have a bit of an understanding about how search algorithms can have different halting distributions, lets consider a mathematical curiosity referred to as nontransitive dice. Suppose (you don’t have to believe that it exists, just pretend!) that there are halting distributions which are proportional to a set of nontransitive dice (they will likely have much more continuous distributions). We now have nontransitive search algorithms, which when run against one another give rise to a rock-paper-scissors cycle. This results in a fascinating metagame in competitive block party wherein players keep track of other players’ party types and adjust their search algorithms to be expected to outperform the others. I would even venture to conjecture that despite non-equal hardware (some people’s brains run some routines faster, call it G or whatever) a (not too much) disadvantaged player could still outperform a better player by playing the metagame properly.

Some future work I’d be excited to explore in this area would be coding algorithms which exhibit different halting profiles given times on subroutines. If this were combined with some scientific research (e.g. if we knew the range of time it can take people to asses which color is most prevalent on a board and other such subroutines, memory constraints, etc.) then we could theoretically model different people playing block party and devise algorithms which optimize given their particular subroutine time distributions. In the shorter term (not requiring human research) it would be fascinating to put together a comprehensive enough library of subroutines with which many party search algorithms can be created and have a competition where, under different parameters of how long subroutines take to operate, algorithms compete head to head. This gets extra interesting when you consider that in a head-to-head match, algorithms are able to see what types of parties the opponent is taking, thereby giving some clues as to what the opposing algorithm’s subprocesses are (and thus clues to the halting profile). This creates a metametagame where programming teams are coding algorithms which have different metagame profiles showing how they evolve and deliberately adding noise to the signal of which strategies they’re using.

Interested in creating the subroutine library or competing in the coding tournament? Want to share your thoughts about party search or other relevant literature? Comment below or email g at!

[Three Pixel Heart is hiring. If you’re a energetic, multifaceted funlover who likes what we do, give us a shout!]

Cardboard boxes arrived

What can you do with $20? Make 25 sets of block party! 2 inch cardboard boxes
The catch? The blocks are two inch cardboard boxes that have INSIDES! What does that mean? A whole new set of games of course. With 32 miniblocks you can place 4 in each box and each time you get a block with one of the opening flaps on the top you get to take one of the miniblocks. Make a block out of the minis you collect to win the round! Check the top inside of each box for challenges or fun facts about the combinatorics of block party. Put bells inside for a musical effect every time you reroll. Block party boxes are the DIY kits and we’re just getting started.

Block Party: Snapshot so far

This blog started a couple weeks after the inception of Block Party. To read about the first few weeks, check out 

The short version: Block Party is a game for everyone which is going to be produced at prices anyone can afford. We’re deeply committed to making inclusive games which are fun for as many people in as many age ranges as possible. Block Party is our first, and despite having a simple surface it has endlessly deep variations which allow for continued fun no matter how good you get!