Designing New Sokoban

In this post I would like to explain a little bit what New Sokoban is (or should be). I’m going to describe in a few paragraphs the first steps of the design process. However, I have been working using an iterative methodology, constantly revising all the aspects of the game, including the gameplay design. So, actually, the design phase could not be considered to be absolutely completed yet 🙂

On the Wikipedia you can find a great description of the classic sokoban game from where New Sokoban starts. “Sokoban is a type of transport puzzle, in which the player pushes boxes around a maze, viewed from above, and tries to put them in predetermined areas. Only one box may be pushed at a time, and boxes cannot be pulled. The number of boxes is equal to designated locations.” These are the basic sokoban rules, according to the Wikipedia.

There are tons of variations to these basic rules that have generated tons of different sokoban versions on the web. But there is one I specially like. I call it the “Sliding sokoban”.  “Sliding sokoban is a type of puzzle, in which the player slides boxes around a maze, viewed from above, and tries to put them in predetermined areas. The boxes only stop moving when encountering some type of obstacle. Only one box may be slided at a time.” This could be a definition based on the Wikipedia’s one.

As you can see, the main difference is that now the user don’t push boxes but slides them. So, the opposing concepts push-pull that are present on classic rules don’t apply to the new ones. Instead,  this time we have added the concept of “sliding until colliding” with an obstacle. But, as usually is said “A picture is worth a thousand words”, and a Zelda video is even better 😀

In the video you can see the idea. Certainly, on this video Link is pushing boxes but, in fact, it is not relevant if he pushes or pulls them. It is a Zelda idiosyncrasy given that is a 3rd person action game.

So, my contribution to the sokoban world starts here. I borrowed this robust core gameplay and added a twist or two. Usually, the majority of the sokoban variations that you can find on the web are based on different types of properties of the boxes. This can be really cool. However, with the aim of being a bit original I approached it from a different perspective and added some special characteristics to the board itself. Initialy I wrote and endless Pages document with tons of possible new features. I finally reduced them to four…

Mental note: be careful when designing your first game as an indie dev. It tends to grow till infinite…

With this in mind, I organized the game into 4 worlds for the first version. The first world acts as the introduction to the game and proposes some initial challenges using the sliding sokoban gameplay.

The second world introduces what I called the “offscreen movement”. There are some parts of the board edges that connect the right and left sides (horizontally) and the top and bottom ones (vertically). So, the puzzles get a kind of virtually spherical and continuous geometry that makes the player to approach the problems from a different perspective.

The third world introduces the concept of “sections”. World one and two puzzles are all designed on a 7×7 board that fits into the iPhone screen. World 3 introduces puzzles that are bigger than the iPhone screen and are divided into sections horizontally. So the player needs to “navigate” horizontally through the board to solve each section in order to finally solve the entire puzzle.

Fourth world plays with the concept of linked boxes or groups of boxes. When the player slides a box that is linked to other boxes, all of them move at once, synchronized. This can push the puzzles difficulty really high (specially if combined with the previous worlds features), so that’s why it is the last world new feature.

I am really surprised of how theses features work smoothly together generating very interesting emergent gameplay. Below you have a little video showing these features. It is a demo video from a prototype, so everything needs still some work 🙂

Stay tuned to know how it progressed!! Remember to subscribe to the RSS feed!! ;)And maybe you would like to follow me on Twitter @tonisalae

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About Toni Sala

Indie game designer and developer
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3 Responses to Designing New Sokoban

  1. Xapi says:

    Una vez explicadas las diferencias entre los 4 mundos presentes en el “New Sokoban” entiendo mejor el video, porque la primera vez que lo vi no entendia porque en los 3 primeros mundos no se movian las 2 cajas simultaneamente como en el cuarto pero con la explicacion m’ha quedado claro ^^

  2. Toni Sala says:

    Pues has dado en el clavo. Este tema es uno de los principales problemas de diseño que tengo des del principio. ¿Cómo representar los grupos? Finalmente decidí hacerlo por colores. Pero si en la primera pantalla del juego pongo cajas de diferentes colores el jugador posiblemente se preguntará porqué y no lo descubrirá hasta el cuarto mundo… Demasiado tarde creo… Finalmente pensé que si el jugador ha estado jugando con las piezas rojas durante 3 mundos (75 puzles) acabará entendiendo que el rojo es el color por defecto, i que los demás colores son los que marcan los grupos de cajas. Esperemos que sea así xDD Alguna sugerencia? Como podris representar los grupos?

  3. Pingback: Ideateca aposta per Barcelona per al I DevUp | Bloc de l'Eduard Batlle

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