Iris: Persistence is Key

What started out as a simple sketch a few weeks ago has become our full-time efforts at Three Pixel Heart, and will ultimately lead to our first paid release on the app stores. Currently we’re calling it Iris, and it’s an ambient audiovisual puzzle game based on rhythm, spatial reasoning, and (attempts to) feature a wabi-sabi aesthetic. ┬áHere are a couple screenshots, busy and sparse

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 5.48.59 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 2.54.57 PM


The basic mechanic of the game is the player sends out ripples from the enso by tapping, and attempts to fill all squares and triangles with their own color. Additional objects such as color changing circles (featured in the second picture) and amplifiers, as well as different types of movement, add to the complexity of the puzzles. But here I want to talk less about the game itself and more about the creation of it.

Takeaway lessons so far:

  • PERSISTENCE IS KEY. Making a game has ups and downs. Most notably the ups when initially prototyping and realizing something can be fun, downs when getting blocked on technical details or how to expand content (take a break, go for a walk, let your mind off it), and further ups when after making changes you find out they’re improvements by how players enjoy it much more in playtesting. Keep your mental life varied (have other projects, think about different games, keep playing other people’s games) while also putting in substantial work on the current game, and it should pay off.
  • When something confuses players and isn’t meant to, try to change it visually/through audio before adding help text (in Iris that meant changing the goals, which were originally circles, to squares and triangles–it helped a ton! In retrospect making everything circles was idiotic)
  • People like easy puzzles when they are aesthetically rewarding. I have a habit of cutting to the difficult things too quickly and experienced a backlash in the playtesting by watching players get confused. After expanding the difficulty curve out, and even throwing in some extra levels which I thought were trivial and boring, we saw the players enjoy the game more and not get lost when the harder levels came about because they had some time to adjust their minds to the mechanics.
  • Level design is much easier through a physical medium that you can move around to get different senses of what’s possible. Trying to see it all in your head all the time is an extra constraint that should be avoided when attempting to build better levels.
  • Masking objects in corona sdk is terrible (this is a technical point but it’s caused such duress that I feel like including it for anyone who ever uses corona and considers masks–be warned)
  • Listen to playtesters. Keep listening to them even when they tell you things you don’t like.

Thinking of something I didn’t cover? Let me know what I missed!

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