Fourth Coast Entertainment -

By Dr Anthony Betrus
The Game Connoisseur 

Puzzletopple Fruit

A Second Mobile Game by Madrid's Trevor Dugan


Last updated 11/5/2018 at 8:58am | View PDF

Puzzletopple Fruit

In November 2013 I wrote here in this column about PuzzleTopple, an original mobile game by Madrid, NY's Trevor Dugan, founder of Tech Dynamic Designs. Since that article, the game has been downloaded over 136,000 times from people across the globe. He has continued to update the app, and it remains available in the App Store and on Google Play for 99 cents. He considers this original game to have been first and foremost an academic exercise (he created the game in one of my classes), and as such he has no advertisements and no microtransactions. The spiritual successor to this game, PuzzleTopople Fruit, came out in July 2018, and in three months it has already reached the 16,000 mark in total downloads. Unlike the original, it is free to download, and supported by advertisements. I had the privilege of beta testing his game this past spring, and I recently sat down with Trevor for a question and answer session about his most recent game, and his plans for the future.

Q. What was the inspiration for Puzzletopple Fruit? A. In the original game, there were a series of crates that players broke to complete the levels. I got a lot of questions about what was in them, and I can now answer that question: fruit. The idea is that the contents of the crates from the original game have spilled out, and have settled into the second game, sitting just below it.

Q. When playtesting the game, I noticed that it was quite hard, and I really had to concentrate and learn in order to succeed. I actually liked this, but was it by design? A. My wife Kelly gave me the go-ahead to make the game hard. She complains that most games are too easy, and they get boring very quickly. I designed the game for people like her, people who like a good challenge. I also purposely avoided any "pay to win" elements, so the only way to succeed in the game is to simply get better at it.

Q. There are no instructions included with Puzzletopple Fruit, why is that? A. The game emphasizes reaction speed and quick thinking. The tension is to figure out the rules of the game while playing at a quick pace. For example, how do the ice blocks work? What are the question mark blocks all about? How are points calculated? Part of the challenge is to figure out the rules of the game itself.

Q. I noticed that while playing the game, after a few levels, I was completely engaged, and my hands were moving almost like I was playing a musical instrument. The faster I got, the more rhythmic it felt. Very few games accomplish this, how did you manage it? A. From a big picture perspective, I tried to really emphasize long chains. That, balanced against challenging time limits forces you to play the game fluidly, with very few breaks, which is very much like playing a musical instrument. I also spent a lot of time making small adjustments in the game, and really took my time in the Alpha and Beta phases, and took in a lot of feedback from the players. I am still making these small adjustments. For example, to get to the higher stages in the game you need to get very good at the game. I have to balance the impulse to make it even harder at those phases, knowing that there are limits to human reaction speed and the players' ability to move their fingers. In other words, if I make it any harder, it might not be physically possible to complete a level. I work very hard at making levels just barely achievable. Other games do the same thing, but instead of making it just barely possible, they go too far and make it virtually impossible in places, and then offer you a microtransaction to move on in the game. I have always rejected this approach, as I think it is unethical. I think of my game as a fair contest between me as the designer and the players. I spend a lot of time working on that balance.

Q. What changes do you plan on making to Puzzletopple Fruit? A. Short term, I plan on making some bonus levels for high scores on certain levels. I have also received a lot of other great ideas for improving the game, but rather than trying to squeeze all of them into this game, I plan on making Puzzletopple Fruit 2, so I can build these features and ideas into the code from the beginning. I have learned a lot by making these first two games, and I am excited about what I can do with the next one. I plan on releasing PuzzleToppe Fruit 2 in the 3rd quarter of 2019.

Q. What features should we expect in Puzzletopple Fruit 2? A. One major addition will be the inclusion of hard or impossible to move obstacles on the board. They will either be blank spots to work around or rocks that can only be destroyed under special circumstances. I also plan on adding a visual map with pathways that lead through the levels, each with different themes. This will give the players more of a feeling of going on a journey. I am also putting in an in-game currency so that special items can be acquired. You can acquire games directly from gameplay, or through accumulating the currency and then purchasing items. What I will not do is to let players use real-world money to purchase currency, they will need to earn it through their skillful play. Finally, I will add microtransactions, but that will be for cosmetic enhancements, like purchasing new graphical themes or adding new characters skins for the journey section. One line I will never cross will be to make my game pay-to-win, it is just not what my games are about.

Dr. Anthony Betrus

The Game Connoisseur

The State University of New York at Potsdam


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