How far do spells in the game (which change the playing field, or damage enemies) go toward achieving the balance that's disrupted by, say, the randomness?
SF: I really feel that achieving that balance is partly about the channels that damage is dealt through in this game, and that having skills as your only [method of] dealing damage would allow for pretty large imbalances.
So in the first Puzzle Quest, you had skills plus spells to deal damage. That allowed two ways of dealing damage, and of course you can deal more damage that way.
So a good player can manipulate the game; using spells and the board will deal more damage. That will kind of bring him back, if he gets behind. Some good players will bring themselves back.
We've added a third channel of dealing damage in Puzzle Quest 2, which is the action points and weapon system. We feel that it makes it easier for us to balance the game.
Does the new weapon system also add some a loot element? Do the monsters have item drops, or are there conditions to meet to get certain weapons, et cetera?
SF: Well, there's a number of things about the weapons. To start with, you've got exactly which kinds of weapons you're going to equip. So am I going to use a two-handed weapon and use up both my weapon slots? It'll do more damage, sure, but it will take more action points to activate, and that might be the way I'm gearing my character, for a build that uses a lot of action points to do a lot of damage.
Do I want to use two weapons, a bigger one and a small one? A bigger one to do the big hits, and a smaller one to finish of an opponent, perhaps. Do I want to use a weapon and a shield to improve my defense? Do I want to walk out there with a potion in my hand, that I can increase my mana with?
An interesting [character] build I saw the other week was a two potion-wielding wizard. One yellow potion, one blue one. He wasn't about dealing damage with his weapons, he was about pumping up his mana to cast more spells. So it's left us with a lot of variety in how we can build the characters, and that's really nice.
The monsters don't actually drop items. They're not actually dropping swords, but they are dropping what we call trait items and components, and those I things I can use to upgrade my weapons in the game. And monsters will drop bits of metal and wood, or amber, or pearls, or emeralds. I can take these to a merchant in town and use them to upgrade certain weapons.
It's a bit like an item crafting system, really. I can take my sword and turn it into a fine sword, then turn it into a masterwork sword. Each time I upgrade it, it's getting more bonuses, and as I finally upgrade it through the last levels, epic up to legendary, it's picking up special bonuses, and doing things like increasing my critical chance and increasing my spell resistance.
So there aren't multiple swords that you would have to collect necessarily. It's all about gearing your one weapon set.
SF: Well, there are 33 different types of weapons in the game, each with slightly different stats and different abilities. For instance, if I pick up a missile weapon, missile weapons increase my initial action points, as well as doing damage like a regular weapon. Two-handed weapons just do a lot of damage.
We have other variations like the larger two-handed weapons only the barbarian can use. The bigger shields and armor, only the templar can use. The big poisons, only the assassin can use. There's certain weapon types tied to certain classes.
So it's quite a complex system, even down to having what we call racial types on items, which is like elven swords and dwarven swords, and providing slightly different bonuses to each other.
Regarding Galactrix, I loved Puzzle Quest, but Galactrix frustrated me, which was interesting because I'm actually more of a hardcore puzzle player type. I really enjoy Puyo Puyo and Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo, but Galactrix...
SF: Galactrix is a bit of an interesting beast. It appealed to some people and not to others. That appeal wasn't based on how hardcore you were or how casual you were. It wasn't based on how smart or how dumb you were, or anything like that. To some people it struck a chord with them, for some people it didn't.
There's no doubt that the original Puzzle Quest probably struck a chord with more people than Galactrix did. We went through after Galactrix, and we really picked it apart and tried to identify exactly why, more people liked Puzzle Quest than Galactrix. When we came to do Puzzle Quest 2 we did some things, like setting it back in the fantasy universe. Because we felt that sci-fi just maybe didn't quite lend itself as well to this kind of game.
We made the game more accessible in a number of ways too. Galactrix had a lot of mechanics in there that were difficult to convey to the player. If you got them, it was great. If you learnt them, you played the board, it was great. If you didn't, it just seemed that we never gave you an opportunity to learn that stuff.
The timing-based puzzles in Galactrix were another interesting one. Some people really hate time-based puzzles, in a turn-based puzzle game. You'll have noticed in Puzzle Quest 2, that we removed those time-based levels entirely. Having said that, if you enjoyed those three elements, if they felt right to you, you really had a good time with Galactrix. Myself, I loved it.