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Casual Game Design: PopCap's Jason Kapalka and Bejeweled Twist
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Casual Game Design: PopCap's Jason Kapalka and Bejeweled Twist


January 2, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5
 

Within the casual space, I've been having to revise my idea of what a "clone" is, because there's a lot of them. You could describe a lot of PopCap games that way, as well. Like AstroPop and Zuma. Since the casual space has a narrower focus, it seems really tough to know whether you're using a similar mechanic and tweaking it -- which happens all the time in larger games -- or functionally cloning.

JK: We've been accused of ripping off of some games. At the same time, you don't usually hear people saying that World of Warcraft ripped off EverQuest. Or that Half-Life ripped off Quake. The similarities are pretty close; you can't imagine how World of Warcraft could have existed without EverQuest. It's not possible. Or any of games now, without World of Warcraft.

I don't know; it's kind of a tricky thing. Personally, I like if games borrow stuff from our games, then add something new to it. I'm usually pretty happy about that. Puzzle Quest or Jewel Quest, or some other games where they've taken the Bejeweled mechanic and done something interesting with it, I generally feel pretty cool about that.

And I hope that when we do things that are building on earlier game mechanics, that we also at least add something new to it. What sucks is if you make a clone or a derivative game that is worse than the original, and doesn't really add anything.

If you're iterating on it, and adding something that wasn't there before, if it enhances the field of game design, I think that's worth doing. That may be different from what a legal definition would be, but, [it's] the moral/ethical [definition]. If you actually make the game better, you could argue that you have a right to do it.

I was talking to Cliff Bleszinski, the Gears of War designer, and he was upset that people were stealing the roadie run mechanic from Gears of War, but not stealing the active reload mechanic, because he thought that was a really great thing that more people should steal. He wasn't mad that they were taking any of his mechanics, he was just like, "Why didn't you take this one? It was really good!"

JK: We get the same thing too, occasionally, and it is simple things like that, If someone rips off Bejeweled, sometimes they'll do dumb things -- like they won't get the gravity of the gems right, so when they fall down they either fall down really fast, or really slow.

It seems like a simple thing, but it could make a big difference, in terms of how the games feel. That's one of those things where it's like, "Dude, if you're going to rip off the game, rip it off right. Get those things correct."

Early versions of Luxor, when it was still called Giza, had huge issues with playing it, and you'd be playing it and going "the balls feel wrong." They just felt wrong. None of the satisfaction of that "clink clink clink clink" that you get in certain levels there.

There's a lot of that we try to work on. It's just the feedback to make the games feel solid.

That's true for a lot of hardcore games too, like if you look at a lot of the Diablo rip offs and then Diablo, a lot of them, they seem like they should be better, but they just didn't have the little details of the visceral impact of various things. It often is just the little details.

Have you looked at Nintendo's new DSi? It has the ability to download games. It seems very relevant to you fellas.

JK: Well, we are doing some DS games now, but the truth is we're just getting started on the DS right now. We're doing Peggle for DS first and after that, probably we'll see what comes up.

But yeah, the idea of doing downloadable content always seems like a pretty cool thing. It needs to be seen... like the Wii is cool, but WiiWare, I don't know yet; I'm not clear that WiiWare has actually turned out to be as big of a success as they were hoping at this point.

Part of it is just that the Wii is not a great platform for downloadable. Maybe it'll get better, but I'm not sure it will. Whereas Xbox Live obviously has turned out to be a really decent platform for us. So the DSi -- yeah, maybe, it's hard to say.

And part of this stuff is, unfortunately you have to make some decisions about which platforms to pursue and which not to. But maybe. We're definitely doing DS stuff.


Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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