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Designing a Simple, Frenzic-Style Puzzle Game
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his chapter is about Frenzic, a popular puzzle game created by ARTIS Software and the Iconfactory. We ll begin by telling you the story behind Frenzic and discussing the design process and some things learned while we developed the game. Finally, we ll guide you through creating a game called Formic, which will demonstrate some of the concepts used in Frenzic.
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If you do not know Frenzic, head over to http://frenzic.com to download it and see about it for yourself. The version for the iPhone will cost you $2.99, but a version for the Mac that you can download and try for free is also available.
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Creating Frenzic
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First, let s talk a bit about its history. Frenzic is quite old, I have to confess. I had the basic idea for Frenzic about 18 years ago, while watching a cheesy game show similar to Wheel of Fortune. The show involved spinning a big wheel with a ball inside that landed on money values for contestants to win prizes something clicked, and the basic idea for Leblon (the original name of Frenzic) was born. Initially, there were no power-ups and purely random pies. The game evolved, was ported over to several computer platforms, and got a bit better on every step of the way. You can see its current incarnation in Figure 1-1.
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CHAPTER 1: Designing a Simple, Frenzic-Style Puzzle Game
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There were two major milestones in advancing the game play: ideal games and power-ups. In early versions of the game, players felt that, late in the game, they would get unfair pies that they could not set. The pies were chosen randomly, so even if they played a perfect game, players could get pies that made them lose lives. Wolfgang Sykora had the idea to let the application itself play an ideal game in the background, with the same pies you get. An ideal game means clearing circles as soon as possible. Based on this ideal game, players would never be given a pie that could not be set. This made a huge difference! If players try to clear pies as soon as possible and don t make mistakes, they can now possibly play forever if they are fast enough (though, at times, players may decide instead to take risks by filling circles with pie pieces of a single color to potentially win a life). The second big improvement to game play came when I showed the game to Gedeon Maheux of Iconfactory. Figure 1-1. The game screen of He invented the three power-ups that further Frenzic improved the strategy of the game. Now, players can take even more risks by filling pies with pieces of a single color in one of the three dedicated power-up circles. Activating the power-ups later allows players to keep the game going even longer and play even faster. Apart from the game play innovations, several other things have been crucial to the success of Frenzic, the biggest one is my partnership with Iconfactory. Most of the time ARTIS Software is just me, though my wife Arta helps me a lot with testing (she will break, in record time, any code that is not ready). Apart from this, I am a single developer working from my home office, which I love, but being truly successful would require me to be good at all the things that make up great software. Most people, and that includes me, will not be able to do everything well alone. So finding someone who would complement my skills was very important. I have been very lucky to find these partners in Iconfactory. They are some of the best designers in the field of icon and user interface design, and it s an honor to work with them. While I did all the programming on Frenzic, Gedeon Maheux designed the user interface, and David Lanham created the beautiful artwork. The extensive web site was crafted by Anthony Piraino, while Craig Hockenberry and I wrote the code behind it so it works even under heavy load. Last, but not least, Dave Brasgalla did the wonderful music and sound effects.
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