I'm Co-Founder and Lead Developer for Itzy Interactive. Growing up in rural Alberta, I've been an avid gamer since my first days of playing Gorf on my Commodore Vic-20. After spending countless hours entering and modifying game code from Compute’s Gazette magazines on my C-64 as a boy, I never lost my love for gaming even as I eventually fell into a career in finance. After a decade in the brokerage industry, a layoff, and an uncertain economy, I re-evaluated my career goals. I went back to school, retrained and started Itzy Interactive with a few like minded individuals and now I'm set on fulfilling a childhood dream by making some video games. Father, movie geek and indie game developer. You can check out our current projects at (www.itzyinteractive.com) or visit us on Facebook at (www.facebook.com/ItzyInteractive)
Posts by Kyle-Kulyk
  1. Mobile game review sites are a waste of time ( Counting comments... )
  2. "App Of The Day" type apps can help indies with app discovery ( Counting comments... )
  3. Android piracy still sucks ( Counting comments... )
  4. Launch Day 2.0 ( Counting comments... )
  5. Vexing puzzle design ( Counting comments... )
  6. Playing with my kids helps me make better games ( Counting comments... )
  7. Would you pay to have your app reviewed? ( Counting comments... )
  8. The Home Stretch ( Counting comments... )
  9. Why we chose Freemium ( Counting comments... )
  10. How not to go insane while working from home ( Counting comments... )
  11. How we manage the virtual team ( Counting comments... )
  12. The devolution of gaming culture ( Counting comments... )
  13. Game Engines for Indies ( Counting comments... )
  14. There are eight million blogs about Mass Effect’s ending. This is one of them. ( Counting comments... )
  15. Indie devs, the odds are against you ( Counting comments... )
  16. Feedback loop ( Counting comments... )
  17. Performance Anxiety 3 – Road Blocks ( Counting comments... )
  18. An Indie marketing story ( Counting comments... )
  19. Launch Day ( Counting comments... )
  20. It’s ready when it’s ready, dammit! ( Counting comments... )
  21. Cyberbullying and gamers ( Counting comments... )
  22. Present this! ( Counting comments... )
  23. Teachers open doors ( Counting comments... )
  24. Along came a spider... ( Counting comments... )
  25. How’d I get here? ( Counting comments... )
  26. Should we be worried about Nintendo? ( Counting comments... )
  27. Performance Anxiety 2: You’re doing it wrong ( Counting comments... )
  28. My top 5 games of childhood ( Counting comments... )
  29. What this Indie developer needs ( Counting comments... )
  30. Performance anxiety ( Counting comments... )
  31. For Indies, a demo is a must ( Counting comments... )
Advocacy / Game Design /

PuzzleI enjoy a good puzzle.  At my core, I look for patterns in pretty much everything around me and I think we all do to some extent.  Looking for order in chaos is just something that we all do from the time we’re toddlers.  That’s when toddlers aren’t creating chaos, as I’m sure other new parents can attest to.  It’s no surprise that puzzle games are among the most popular games available for mobile devices.  A good puzzle game will keep us captivated for as long as we find it challenging.  I thought I’d take a moment and share my design process as a new game designer working on the puzzle mode for our imminent title, Vex Blocks.

When we started development of Vex Blocks, we set out to create a falling block style arcade game in the vein of Tetris that utilised a device’s rotation.  The job of the player was to chain together blocks on the screen by matching colors, symbols or both and tracing out patterns with their fingers to connect the blocks.  Random blocks would fall into the play area and the job was to clear as many as possible, rotating the device as necessary so blocks would fall into different arrangements.  Once we had created the basic gameplay mechanics, we set about trying to think of how we could change the rules of the game to create different gameplay modes and a “nice to have feature if we have the time” was puzzle mode.

So, as development moved along I ultimately found myself faced with the job of creating various puzzles for our puzzle mode.  I had never set out to create a puzzle before, but how hard could it be?  Start simple, right?

PuzzleWorking1I started by recreating my playing area in Photoshop and went about duplicating the various game pieces so I could simply drag and drop to create the puzzles before coding them into our game.  My next step was to create something aesthetically pleasing before I even thought of how the puzzle would play.  I’d drop in blocks to create geometric shapes and patterns, often drawing inspiration from simple icons as I only had a 5x8 grid to work with.  Once I had a pattern on the screen that I was relatively happy with, I’d start thinking about how it would play.

Here’s where it really started to get fun.  The point of the puzzle mode was to solve the puzzle, clearing all playing blocks from the screen in as few chains as possible, with an upper limit on the amount of chains you could use before the puzzle would reset.  I’d have a look at the blocks in front of me and start tracing out the various options for chains.  If it was too straightforward, then I’d start to throw in obstacles by swapping out blocks that couldn’t be readily chained together, or could only be part of a chain coming from one particular direction.  Or, I’d start with a puzzle and then mimic a few phone rotations to see what I’d end up with.  It was a bit like messing up a Rubik’s cube.  As challenging as a Rubik’s cube is to solve, there’s a certain amount of satisfaction in taking a solved cube and mixing it up for another to solve.  For a few puzzles, that’s exactly what it was like.  Starting with a solved puzzle that was easy to chain together, then scrambling it.  Mmmm...satisfying.

PuzzleWorking2From a design perspective, starting simple was really the only way for this project to evolve.  As I started to become comfortable designing simple puzzles, I’d gradually add in new game mechanics.  What if I add a block that can’t be chained and has to be surrounded?  What if I introduce blocks that stay fixed in one spot despite device orientation?  What if we throw in blocks that explode if you don’t clear them quickly enough?  What about using specific power-ups?  Adding one new gameplay mechanic at a time and exploring that mechanic fully before moving onto the next, then adding them together provided a nice progression in terms of variety and difficulty.  As I became more familiar with process, design started to shift away from the look of the puzzle and instead started with a particular challenge, and then I moulded the look around the puzzle.

Puzzle7Next up I assembled the puzzles in-game and turned them loose on our testers.  I quickly discovered that what seems easy to me after working on the game full-time for nine months isn’t necessarily as easy for gamers who haven’t spent that type of time with the product.  Test, test test.  Who knew?  There’s a fine line between challenging and “Nuts to this” with gamers.  Thankfully, I’ve received some excellent feedback and what was originally a “nice to have feature if we have the time” has become a challenging addition to the title that extends the gameplay options while offering us the opportunity to release additional content if gamers like what they see.