I was just curious as to what games you guys may have drawn ideas from when making Tidalis. I'm a huge puzzle game fan, so a lot of the stuff in Tidalis, I've seen in a lot of other games (I don't know why, but Puzznic and Magical Drop always come to mind), so I was just curious as to what puzzle games you guys play/drew inspiration from?
My original idea for Tidalis didn't really have much in the way of inspiration from other games. Wetrix, a really bizarre N64 game, is my favorite puzzle game and I'd long been wanting to make one as fun and original as it, so I thought long and hard about various mechanics. I spent some time sitting at my computer just thinking, trying to come up with something cool, and while I had my eyes closed, I was picturing a grid of colors with waves of color moving around, and the idea for what we eventually prototyped, Feedback, wound up coming out of that with a lot of thought along the way. It resulted in a weird overhead grid-based game where you place colored blocks (we prototyped it with Tetris-style blocks) that send out waves of color when placed, and those waves of color can travel some distance, reflect off of walls, destroy blocks of the same color, and be blocked by blocks of other colors. The goal was to completely enclose areas of the grid, which was hard because blocks you'd place would destroy themselves or other blocks if you didn't play it right, and there were very difficult hazards (reflectors, beacons, transmitters, and the void) putting the pressure on that were difficult to destroy. If anything, some inspiration for the game came from this interesting tonematrix page
, but I honestly can't remember if I saw it before the initial idea or after.
Of course, Feedback wound up being decidedly not fun.
There was little in the way of consequence if you made a mistake, and the game encouraged sloppy, speedy play that relied on luck of the draw for what block color and/or shape you'd be placing down. In salvaging the prototype, Chris tried experimenting, removing some of the more exotic features and adding in some elements that are a bit more standard puzzle fare: he added gravity and collision, turning it into a side view; he limited the scope of the waves, making them directional particles (via the arrows) rather than omni-directional forces; and he added the match 3 mechanic. Things really took off from there, with features being removed or refined and stuff being added to give the game a good balance of simple and complicated. As an example of something we axed: at one point, there was a notion of color blocking, where blocks of one color blocked particles of the opposite color according to the RGB color wheel; I intend to revisit this in some fashion (as a settable mode, likely) if I do a sequel, but it was a point of contention in this game. It wound up turning into the 6 color-blocking special blocks that are in the game now. As for additions: we added the combo system to address the problem of not being able to do chains across colors. Great games like Puyo Puyo and Planet Puzzle League had screen-clearing, cross-color combos, so why not Tidalis?
That addition is really the heart of the game for more experienced players and also the whole core of the puzzle mode. It and a whole lot of things in the game have at least tiny roots in games like Meteos (tons and tons of variety), Polarium (the whole game is about pathfinding), Tetris: The Grand Master (block randomization), Bejeweled (zen mode), and the aforementioned Puyo Puyo (combos) and Planet Puzzle League / Tetris Attack / Panel de Pon (combos, the way blocks enter the well, and other odds and ends). Tons of pieces of the game were heavily compared to or contrasted with other puzzle games during development as we looked for good ways of doing things, ways not to do things, and foundations for new ways of doing things.
Hopefully that answers some questions for you.
As for what I play: Wetrix and Tetrisphere are my favorites, but I also really like Planet Puzzle League, Meteos, Puyo Puyo 1 / 2, Tetris, Tetris Plus 2, V Tetris, Stack Columns, Polarium (puzzle mode only) / Polarium Advance, Puzzle Bobble 1 / 2, Intelligent Qube, Logic Pro 2, Drymouth, Adventures of Lolo 1 / 2 / 3 / Eggerland, Mr Driller (the Japanese version of Mr Driller: Drill Spirits is especially puzzley), and Puzzle Series Volume 5: Slitherlink. Less so, but also worth mentioning: Uo Poko, Klax, Wario's Woods, and Yoshi. I actually haven't played Magical Drop, but I've given Puzznic / Gravnic a decent amount of play on the NES. It was decent fun, but it ultimately didn't really grab me, as I found its puzzles overly obtuse in the same way that I find Planet Puzzle League's puzzles obtuse. I think a big reason for that is that the puzzles are typically many moves, so the complexity is huge and it gets incredibly difficult for me to think about to the point where I can't at all visualize it clearing or keep track of what is happening. Interestingly, I expected Tidalis' puzzle mode to be the same way for me, but I find it a lot more intuitive and interesting. I think a big part of that might be that the puzzles tend to be 1 move each, though, which helps keep it manageable in my mind.
Anyway, as much as I love discussing puzzle games, it's late and I've become quite tired, so that'll have to do for now.