Sunday, January 08, 2006

"Popping In On PopCap" Games.

I got this nice article off Amy Jo Kim's blog. Gamasutra on PopCap: "James Gwertzman On Casual Growth" describes the process of game development of "casual games" like Bejeweled, which is one of my favorite Palm Pilot games.

"Our path of development is extremely prototype-heavy," said Gwertzman. "We'll make half a dozen prototypes, and pick just one of those to be a hit casual game. And once we develop that one, it's a very iterative process. It's a sandbox model. We try different things out, and find out what's fun. Only when we find out that the core mechanic is fun do we worry about the art, content, and all the other little details."

"We really obsess over the core game mechanics. In a game like Bejeweled, hardcore developers look at that and might think it's kind's very easy to kind of dismiss it, but we literally spent weeks on just the right way for the gems to fall when you make a match. In a game like that, it's little details like that. How does it feel? Getting those little details right is what we prioritize. So when we're designing a new game, we'll spend months and months prototyping core mechanics."

As Amy Jo noted, they're iterative; and interesting to me is that they still work hard after identifying the good gameplay principles. The design details really matter! As Gwertzman says, "We compete in a try-before-you-buy market, and we believe competing successfully there is a fundamentally different kind of design." And fun is an incredibly demanding business to be in-- no one has to use your application for their paycheck, after all.

Their game engine is available for free, I was interested to see.


Anonymous said...

Sukie has a series PopCap game addiction.

Unfortunately she had problems with a license upgrading from a free version of one she had as part of a promotion (I think through .mac) .. it is one of those classic events where the customer gets pissed at a companies customer care and that sours them even though they love the product.

Anonymous said...

Just a note about a company doing something right.

Someone at Popcap read Lynn's post and my comment and got in touch to fix the support problem,

Sukie is now a happy camper. A good company that did the right things

Lynn said...

Thanks for posting, Steve. This warmed my chilly heart (I'm cold on my sunporch right now).