Interviews

Sponsored Feature: 99Games explains the virtues of working on the classics

Puzzle games challenge the developers as much as the players

Sponsored Feature: 99Games explains the virtues of working on the classics
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Puzzle games are the most popular genre on the iPhone's App Store, and for good reason. Puzzles have always been the staple diet of the mobile and portable platforms, ever since Tetris sold the Game Boy to 100 million restless gamers.

Coming up with new variations on these well-explored themes is where the challenge is found for developers, so we decided to have a chat with WordsWorth and Wordulous creator Vinodh Kumar of 99Games to find out how it's done.

Pocket Gamer: 99Games seems to be particularly proficient with modern adaptations of traditional puzzle games. Where does 99Games's particular interest in this genre come from?

Vinodh Kumar: Puzzles never go out of style, you know? They provide food for thought and add an element of replay-ability to the game. The more you play, the better you get. And the better you get, the more you want to play!

Most of our games are modern adaptations of traditional puzzle games. The reason why we’ve opted for this genre is because of the huge market that exists for these games.

People of all ages enjoy puzzles. They’re really easy to learn and a lot of fun to play with. Especially word games like WordsWorth and Wordulous combine learning and fun by helping you expand your vocabulary. And the best part is that you can play them any time, even if you have just five minutes to spare.

Plus, I can’t explain the feeling that comes with working on a classic. There’s this huge challenge of adapting the game to add oodles of fun while keeping intact the original flavor of the game.

What are the challenges of creating digital versions of chess, jigsaws and word games?

Plenty! Including making the best possible use of the features of iPhone to take these games to an altogether different level. All of our games have some unique features that none of the games in those particular genres have.

With Chess, the challenge is to use a chess engine that’s really hard to beat. The moves shouldn’t be predictable. With Jigsaws, the challenge is to make the game a lot more fun than the original, like what we’ve done by adding the ripple effect to Aqua Jigsaw.

Coming to word games, the challenge has been in letting the players customise every aspect of the game depending on how good they are with words.

Coming out with entertaining versions of these classic puzzle games has been our company’s forte, and the main challenge lies in setting them apart from the competition in terms of quality and price.

Has the iPhone proven to be a particularly suitable platform for these styles of games?

The iPhone has redefined mobile gaming. The brilliant features that iPhone provides like the multi-touch, accelerometer, GPS and camera add a new twist to these classic games which make them a lot more fun to play with.

For example, Aqua Jigsaw and Jigsaw Wild let the user take pictures from his iPhone and convert them into puzzles. Also, the multi-touch feature allows the users to move the pieces around easily.

These games demand a sleek interface, which the iPhone gladly provides.

WordsWorth already scored 8/10 on Pocket Gamer. Has 99Games seen as good a reaction from iPhone users?

The response we have received has been amazing. WordsWorth has been our best-selling game so far. Not only did it make it to the Top 100 Apps in the US App Store, but it was also featured in the ‘What’s Hot’ section of the Store. We were thrilled when it hit the top spot in the Word Game category and we’re really thankful to our customers for this.

Besides that, many of our other games like Wordulous and Chess Pro have also been received very well and our customers swear by our standards. Based on their feedback, we have been working on adding new features to these games. So you can expect a lot of updates of our current games in the coming months.

We’ve incorporated global leaderboards in quite a few of our games, which has garnered an amazing response from our customers. We can see new names climbing up the leaderboard even months after the release of the game, which reaffirms our faith in the fact that people are still enjoying our games.

And it’s not just the reaction from the customers that has been positive: the reviews that we have received so far on all major sites have been very encouraging, too.

Can you tell us anything about your next projects for the iPhone?

Thought you would never ask! We have loads of new projects in the pipeline. Some of them are almost near completion stage. Firstly, there’s Chess Elite - that one has some fabulous features, which haven’t been introduced on the iPhone before.

It has the strongest chess engine, which the user can customise depending on his level of proficiency. What this means is he could first set it to a lower strength and increase it as his game improves. And for serious chess players who really want to put their skills to test, there’s an option to play multiple boards at the same time.

Apart from this, we also have major updates of many of our existing games like Wordulous, Aqua Jigsaw and WordsWorth coming up. There are many projects that are still in the inception stage, which we will talk about when the time is right.

Do you think 99Games's games will be likely to appear on any other platforms in the future, such as the new Palm Pre, Android, DS or even the likes of WiiWare?

Right now, our focus is primarily on the iPhone, though our team has been contemplating on this issue. These platforms provide a great opportunity for a company like ours, so you never know, you just might see us working on these platforms in the near future!

Thanks to Vinodh for taking the time to shuffle a few pieces around our literary chess board. Head on over to the 99Games website for more information on its growing iPhone catalogue.