So, how did this game come to be?
Hao and I had always wanted to make a puzzle game. But we wanted something a little more ambitious than ones currently available. We wanted one that had a very strong and competitive two player mode. One where skill, practice of difficult moves, and strategy would dictate the winner, much like in a good fighting game. On the other hand, we also wanted to include a story mode unlike anything ever seen in a puzzle game before.
The Story Mode of this game is perhaps its most original feature
We already knew the basics that we wanted: a game with combos and chains. Combos that could be constructed with speed and planning. And chains that didn’t happen by chance, but rather by skill. Also, we didn’t want anything precipitating all the time from the top of the screen. We wanted to have the whole board available from the very beginning to let players start making strong moves right away.
But what did we feel was missing from other puzzle games in terms of gameplay?
One of the greatest puzzle games ever made!
Hexic was too much based on strategy, which made it a little slow for action battles. Bejeweled had nice chains, but it was hard to set them up even with skills. Super Puzzle Fighter II X (Turbo) had a big percentage of chance going on: even great players sometimes lost matches because of bad luck. Panel de Pon (Tetris Attack) had an overall excellent battle system, but combos and other moves became rather useless to experienced players, who rely exclusively on chains, of which you eventually run out.
What would happen if Dr. Robotnik met Puyo Puyo?
We wanted to make a system that was flexible enough to allow for true improvement in one’s own style. If someone wanted to perfect combos, there would be a suitable style to let them exploit their ability. If someone preferred chains, there would also be an adequate system for them.
I though about a rotatory system that had squares aligned vertically, but not horizontally. When staring at my house’s floor, I played in my mind with the tiles arranging combos and chains. I spent the time in college thinking about possible systems, and sleepless nights refining them. After I knew what I wanted, I started drawing it on paper to visualize it better and explain it to my brother. After all, the game I had in mind had three different ways of playing ala Street Fighter Zero (Alpha) 3, so it would be complicated to explain just verbally.
If you ever wondered how the very first alpha of Wind and Water looked like…
Hao (who is a rather good at puzzle games) agreed on everything except that he thought it would be too hard to get good at making chains (which is ironic, since after about three weeks he started pulling infinite chains so he had to make the timing very precise). And he started to work on a playable engine to see how things worked out. The first playable demo Hao put together was very primitive, but had all the elements of the basic gameplay. It turned out to work very well, especially with my theoretical additions such as the “press” which pushed the board against the top, and “Time Combo/Time Chain” styles of play.
Hao makes some pretty insane chains in Panel de Pon
As a bonus, I wanted the theme of the game to be the Five Chinese Element and Feng Shui. All those years of learning such things in Chinese school might come to use, after all. But how could I merge the Five elements in the game with “Wind and Water”, when “wind” was not an ancient element?
Water, as represented in our grandfather’s calligraphy
Wind would be a special element; one that would have an unusual reaction when paired with “water”, thus forming Feng Shui. There was another element present in Buddhism and the Japanese Godai I wanted to include as well: the heaven, void, or sky. It would be the ultimate element that both bound all together and disappeared all at the same time. One last secret element was to be included in the game, and would present at all times, although only those who have seen the true ending of the game know about it! Who said this game wasn’t philosophical?
Thus, the game used the Five Elements as matching blocks. Instead of the original colors, I opted for the special Wind element to be golden, the void to be purple, and the secret element to be black.
Then, I started to work on the graphics for the game, at the same time that Hao started to do so on the real engine. After all, we only had three months until the contest deadline!
In our next post, we’ll include early W&W concept screenshots and design documents, so don’t forget to check back soon or subscribe to our RSS feed!