Pixld Interview With Airtight Mobile's Doug Magruder
Read on to discover how the studio created this pristine puzzler in just five weeks.
Last week we published our review of Pixld, the mobile puzzle game from the creators of Quantum Conundrum. We awarded the game a 4.5 out of 5 stars for its simple but endlessly compelling gameplay. We've since spoken to Airtight Mobile's Doug Magruder about the design and reception of this wonderful puzzler.
What was the origin of the core color-flipping gameplay mechanic for Pixld?
Doug: I don't know that it has a specific origin. I like simple matching games, in the vein of Othello (the game that seeded the idea), Connect Four, Drop7, Bejeweled, among many others. I also have a 45 minute drive to work every morning, so I don't have a lot to do other than come up with ideas for things. People here liked this idea and we just started making it, and with a lot of tweaking, testing, and feedback, it became fun.
This is the first title from Airtight to release exclusively for iOS devices. Have you considered a variation of the game that would be suitable for consoles and PC?
Doug: We are looking at other places where Pixld would work well. Browser and PC, particularly. There are some changes that have to be made now that we are seeing reaction from a larger audience, but there are other platforms to which we're looking to bring the game.
There's a wide selection of gaming modes in Pixld. Were there any that didn't make the cut, and do you have plans to introduce any others in a future update?
Doug: That the most interesting thing about Pixld, everyone who played it in development had another idea for a game mode. I probably have another 3 or 4 alone, Liz Ingram, the engineer behind Pixld has a few, Kim Swift, and Aaron Linde (an in-house writer and press release guru) have another dozen or so. I would love to release updated versions of Pixld that include the other game modes, it's just a matter of finding the right mix to create a worthwhile experience that everyone can get something out of. And finding more screen space for buttons. Five buttons takes up a lot of room.
How long was the game in development for, and can you give us any insight into the development process from initial design to release?
Doug: It was about five weeks between when I pitched the initial idea and Liz started building the game until it was ready to send to submit for approval, which to us is freaky fast. Everyone here comes from a background of much larger scale games, so we have very methodical process ingrained in our workflow. That methodology is pretty much required in order to work on big, multi-year games; otherwise things can get really messy.
What we did was essentially scaled the same process to fit the needs and complexity of this project. We got core gameplay done and in front of people in two days instead of three months. It took some adjustment; I had to check my gut reactions to feedback. About halfway through production, we took a look at the art in the game and determined it wasn't working. One of our concept artists, Chris Madden, took a pass at the look and came up with some ideas. My first thought was "crap, this means I have to redo all the art, there's no way", because I was used to those larger-scale productions.
Tell me I have to redo something like the tutorial level or entire art direction from scratch and months of crunch pop into my head, but with this workflow, things were different. A couple of days later, the art was completely different and much better.
The App Store can be a notoriously difficult space to find an audience within. What's your experience been like developing for mobiles and actually getting the game in front of gamers?
Doug: In a lot of ways that is the most difficult thing, I think. Having little idea of what to expect and no prior experiences I think we have been pretty successful in getting the word out. In a lot of ways we are using Pixld to dip our toes into marketing for ourselves, see what works, see what doesn't, and learn from the failures and successes of that process.
The press reaction to Pixld has been great, and we were selected to be on the "New and Noteworthy" shelf by Apple in the US and in several other territories around the world, which is fantastic. But we want to do more to get it out in front of people. We just need to figure out what that "more" is. We are using Pixld to define our expectations so we can build from here as we develop more titles for the platform.
Can you share any details of what's next for the team? Will you continue developing for mobile platforms?
Doug: I don't see Pixld being the end of our mobile ideas. The platform is fun to work on, and there are a lot of really cool ideas floating around and being worked on in the team at large. I also don't see mobile being the end to our larger console or PC ideas. We want to, and plan to, make games that we think (and hopefully others think) are fun, no matter the platform.