Just to illustrate the diversity and divergent thinking of the puzzles in Spellirium, we prototyped a battle with a creature called a “flobbert”:
This challenge is interesting because it implores the player to not excel, by word game standards. By making longer, more difficult words, the player gets into more trouble with a harder-hitting monster.
The flobbert hasn’t made it into the current game, but if it does, it will probably be based on this slimy design:
The creature’s name will have to be changed, though, because it’s eight letters long. i’d like all the creatures’ names to be spellable in the game grid, because reasons.
When i say that Spellirium is a cross between Loom and Boggle, i ain’t just whistling Dixie. Brian Moriarty’s adventure game masterpiece, which was so classy with its use of a Tchaikovsky soundtrack, remains one of my favourite games of all time.
It turns out, as i reveal in the video, that i didn’t rip off Loom as badly as i’d thought. And Lloyd Alexander, who looks in person every bit like Quentin Blake’s drawing of Roald Dahl’s The BFG (due to his other-worldly schnozz), liberally borrowed from Welsh mythology for his Prydain Chronicles.
One of the biggest gameplay innovations in Spellirium is that beyond including a certain word puzzle mechanic, each challenge and battle is actually a unique and distinct puzzle-within-a-puzzle. By “reading” the player’s actions in the puzzle grid, we end up with a number of data points including word length, colour, quality and direction. There are many more of course, but those are the basics.
The prototype i cover in this video represents our first proof-of-concept for Spellirium, where we actually give this puzzle-within-a-puzzle idea a whirl and see if players find it compelling. Thankfully, the game passed that test – which means we’ve got many more videos about the ensuing five years of game development to share with you!
After players complained that the previous Spellirium prototype was too laborious when it came to building words, we reversed the click scheme for Prototype 2a. We knew, by this point, that we wanted the player to be able to rearrange the word grid in Spellirium, and we knew the player had to be able to build words, but how? HOW??
This latest prototype was another step in our journey, five years ago, to develop a unique and interesting word puzzle game mechanic that no one had ever done before. Building and iterating on so many prototypes gave me a real appreciation for masterful puzzle games like Tetris, Dr. Mario, Puzzle League and Super Puzzle Fighter which initially seem simple in their execution. A lot of thought goes into these things, and this video series is a behind-the-scenes look at those thoughts.
You can get a lot of crazy, disparate and dizzying feedback from people when you playtest a game. i’ve come to understand that when one person gives you a suggestion, you should note it and give it some consideration. But when many players give you the same feedback, you gotta make that change.
Once piece of unanimous feedback from early Spellirium playtesters was that time limits in word games are no fun. There do exist hardcore factions of speed crossword puzzlers who enjoy a little time pressure with their solving, but the vast majority of people would prefer the kind of turn-based pressure that enables them to go fix and devour a complete sandwich – with pickles – between moves. Prototype 2 bore this out, as the video explains.