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Improving Trichromix

Friday, December 2, 2005

Now that Trichromix is released, I'm working on a couple of improvements.

Reordering puzzles

At the moment, Trichromix bundles puzzles in what I call a puzzle pack. Each puzzle pack contains twenty puzzles of varying difficulty. It didn't start out that way. My original idea was to arrange the puzzles in packs based on their difficulty. But this changed when I added bonus riddles to the puzzle packs.

Each puzzle pack contained one bonus riddle. Every time you solved a puzzle, you'd get one piece of the riddle. After you had finished all the puzzles in the pack, you could piece together the entire riddle and try to solve it. I actually implemented this and you can see how it works in the preview of the Trichromix demo I released some time ago.

I still think it's a nice idea, but it turned out to be too cumbersome to come up with these riddles, so I dropped them in order to finally release Trichromix. With that decision, the main reason to have puzzles of varying difficulty in each pack disappeared. I want to go back to grouping puzzles according to difficulty. This has some benefits.

  • It's clearer to the player. I've noticed that players don't understand how puzzle packs are structured, so there is no benefit in the current puzzle pack structure for the players. Grouping puzzles according to difficulty should be easier to understand
  • Players can stick to their own skill level. The toughest puzzles are just to difficult for some people. Right now, this keeps them from ever finishing a puzzle pack, which leaves them without reward. Once puzzles are grouped according to difficulty, you can just ignore the puzzles that are too hard or too easy for you.
  • Creating puzzle packs becomes easier. It will be a lot easier for me to create new puzzle packs if I don't have to worry about the right balance between the amount of easy, normal and difficult puzzles. Also, I can release puzzle packs that are specifically targeted at, for example, players who want very difficult puzzles.

I haven't decided yet on the names of the difficulty levels. I'd like to call them how to be smart (tutorial), easy on the brain (easy), thinking allowed (normal), the mind boggles (hard) and be creative (custom), but I'm afraid players won't realize what those names mean. On the other hand, going with easy, normal and hard lacks personality.

Adding bonuses

The bonus riddles turned out to be impractical, but I still like the idea of somehow adding bonuses to Trichromix puzzles. Now that I'm dropping the notion of puzzle packs, I need an incentive for players to keep playing new puzzles and, more importantly ;-), to keep buying new puzzles.

My current plan is to scatter three bonus items throughout each puzzle, which I'll call the circle bonus, the star bonus and the triangle bonus. To find a bonus, you need to fulfill a certain condition that is unknown to the player. For example, you must position the circle on the upperleft tile to receive the circle bonus. Or, you must use the star to color the upperright tile yellow in order to receive the star bonus.

I intend to use different kinds of bonuses so that I have a bit of flexibility when I have to come up with these bonuses. Possibilities are probably endless, but currently I'm thinking about the following bonus types.

  • Treasure maps. A treasure map tells you where to find a certain bonus in another puzzle. It may be cryptic, it may be straight-forward.
  • Strategy tips. General tips on how to solve Trichromix puzzles.
  • Bonus riddles. Pretty much the type of riddles I had in mind originally, but this time I don't have to come up with exactly twenty hints. Of course, each hint will mention the name of the riddle it belongs to, so that you won't have to find out which hint fits which riddle.
  • Feuilletons. I could add stories that are told - like the bonus riddles - in bits and pieces. It would be a nice challenge to get the storytelling right, because I have no control over the order in which players find the story pieces. I probably shouldn't use the word feuilleton; chances are that many people don't know what it means. (A feuilleton is a story that is told in installments.)
  • Marketing stuff. Links to my web site, ads for additional puzzle packs, stuff like that. I'll have to be very careful with these; I don't want to annoy my players. Maybe it would be a nice idea to put a bonus item in the demo that offers players a discount on the full version.

That's what I came up with so far. Suggestions are of course welcome.

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