This week, we had the pleasure of speaking to the wonderful team at IKIGames about their game design process! IKIGames development studio founded in 2011, and have been creating blueprints of fun for the past decade. You may recognize their fantastic titles, Suddenly Meow and the DragonScales series in the newly released Magical Matches Vol. 4.
So, what are the magic ingredients at IKIGames? Let’s find out!
What is the most challenging part of designing and developing your games? What is usually easiest?
The most complicated part is undoubtedly the level design. We have been making games for 10 years, and designing levels is a part that sometimes can turn out to be a tad bittersweet. And it’s always due to the same reason: balance. Striking the perfect balance is almost a demigod task. Of course, we want our games to reach the widest possible audience, but at some point you have to draw a line. If you design levels that are too simple, then you will get complaints from players saying they expected a challenge, not a game for preschoolers. If you design complex levels, then you will get complaints about how frustrating the game is. And if you strike the desired balance between complexity and simplicity, then someone will point out that the music is boring. The moral is: you can’t please everyone.
At some point we learned that we had to include a “Skip Level” button, to prevent a player from getting “stuck” in the game progress if she encountered a very challenging level. We still add that skip button, but we have also learned 2 things:
1) Even with the Skip button you will still get complaints from players who can’t complete a specific level, and
2) Having a player press the Skip button is, in a sense, a small defeat for us as game designers.
In Suddenly Meow, for the first time we included 3 game modes: relaxed, timed and limited movement. We have done well with this decision. Always in search of balance.
Here at IKIGames, we also like to incorporate novelties into our games, changing mechanics, etc. For instance, our DragonScales series [Magical Matches Vol. 4]: although it’s usually placed in the Match 3 category, DragonScales has a quite peculiar game mechanics, intrinsic to the game. When you introduce novelties, you have to overcome the “learning” barrier. This, with some players, is almost impossible. Some players download a “Match 3” game and are expecting a game in the classic Match 3 sense. When they find out that DragonScales is different, they immediately get frustrated and put the blame on the developer, the publisher, etc. It is not easy to design tutorials to help overcome this “learning” barrier. Of course it’s never the player’s fault: we, as designers, have to improve and overcome all these barriers.
As for the easiest part of game design… please let me think for a really long while…
Where does your team draw inspiration for the stories you tell? How much do these stories change during the game development process?
Well, all our stories are original works. And players who have been following us for some time know that we like long stories. One of our first games, The Rainbow Machine, was intended at a younger audience and we included a relatively long intro sequence with the story of some rats stealing parts of a machine. In DragonScales we created our own fantasy universe. The story of our character Zarya was so long that we had to develop it over 3 games (DragonScales 4 to 6). The story of 10th Corpse [True Crime] is a long mystery story with a lot of eccentric, wacky characters and a complete detective fiction. Normally, our stories don’t change much during development. Suddenly Meow, however, has a simple and short story.
Do you have a favorite game that your team has developed? Why or why not?
Yes, our favorite is Suddenly Meow [Magical Matches Vol. 4]. Besides being our best-seller, we also really enjoyed designing the levels of Suddenly Meow. You know, we had a lot of fun thinking up those puzzles, the placement of the magnet items, the blocks, etc., and we also learned new things about game design thanks to the feedback from the playtesters of Suddenly Meow.
What are your favorite casual games to play?
Hands down, the team’s favorite casual game is Tetris. We also like to casually play Age of Empires and Hearthstone.
So, what are you waiting for? Experience the fun of IKIGames for yourself in Magical Matches Vol. 4 today!