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January 18, 2020
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Muertitos - A Matching Puzzle for the Brain

by Antonio Uribe on 11/18/14 01:51:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

My name is Antonio Uribe (Fayer) and I'm a Mexican game developer. We released a game in my studio, HyperBeard Games, and people liked it. Three people make games under HyperBeard Games: JP (the artist), Mario (programmer Jr) and myself.


Generally speaking

Muertitos is a matching puzzle game that adds thinking ahead and planning to the genre, it was designed in a way that seems easy at the beginning but gets harder every move you make. The game was born out of our love for the 'Día de los Muertos' (Day of the Dead). We included some aspects of our culture in the art of the game, most of the time you play with pieces that look like Mexican 'calaveritas', which are intricate and colorful.

The game is played in a 4x4 grid where the player must push in pieces in order to match them with those that are like them. The player starts with 4 different 'calaveritas' and then he unlocks more as he plays.

Muertitos has 2 different sets of art, the first is inspired in the 'Día de los Muertos' and the second is inspired in popular Halloween monsters. This was done so the player decides which pieces to use and to unite these two holidays. The game costs $0.99 USD, so we don't have to bother the player with ads or selling time or those horrible things F2P games do. We want to add new skins (sets of art, some will cost and other will be free. This skins are just graphic changes.


Story time!

I started making games about 4 years ago, my first real game, 'TapTap Piñata' was released on December 2011. A couple of friends and I made it in seven days, just ten days before Christmas. We used libGDX and released it only for Android. Since that time I've been writing down ideas in my notes app and trying to make games based on them. One idea that I've had since the beginning was to make a puzzle game (or match-3) with a 'Día de los Muertos' (Day of the Dead) vibe. For about 3 yeas that idea was floating in my mind, I remembered (or read it) too early or too late in the year to actually develop it. This year was the exception, luckily. 

At HyperBeard, we also made a game called Palabraz, it was a huge success for us, more than 100k downloads on iOS and Android, a lot of users playing it and sharing their scores, we appeared in TV, radio and a couple of big newspapers over here. What's that? You didn't hear about Palabraz? Oh, yeah, that's right, Palabraz is available only in spanish. The game is about spanish spelling and the correct grammatical use of C,Z and S (they sound alike) so we used that idea and turned it into a game about spelling words.

We finished Palabraz just a month and a half before Halloween (September 15-20), so there was an open window to make this new puzzle game. I pitched the idea to my friends and, like I believe you are thinking right now, they replied saying "This is not an idea, this is barely something to start thinking about the idea". And they were correct to think like that. So, with barely an idea and 1.5 months to make a game, we started working on this journey that we called Muertitos.

It only took us a month to make it!

Yes, that's right, It only took us a month to make Muertitos. Well, maybe a month and a half, I don't really remember. We started with this idea and continued from there, our main goal was to have a puzzle prototype in two weeks and complete the game in the other 3 to 4 weeks. We wanted to, somehow, have a puzzle mechanic in two weeks, TWO WEEKS!! If by the end of this two weeks we achieved nothing we would have to make a match 3 like every other, yeah, like Candy FUCKING Crush. 

We toyed with several ideas. We liked two of the first set and, with pen and paper, we tested them. They felt pretty great, we knew that one of them was going to become our next game. With that in mind I made the prototypes. We really tried to see the best of those prototypes but they just weren't any good, the concepts felt broken and we didn't know how to fix them. We tossed them away and started to think new ideas.

early prototype 1 


early prototype 2 


early prototype 3 

 

A couple of days after that JP (the artist), full of excitement, told us a new idea. He had thought and tested something that felt like it could work. He told us the idea, Mario (the other programmer) and I really liked it. In that moment we started polishing the concept. After we hung up I made a new prototype and, oh boy! it really was a good concept! I played that first version for hours. Finally we've got something that could be a good game! and finally, we could get rid of the idea of making a simple match 3. 

The concept that JP showed us looked like this 

The first device prototype looked like this 

 

At this point the game was called 'Día de los Muertos' like the logo above. We changed the name about a week after we started making it. Muertitos means 'the little dead' in spanish, but it is not as grim as it sounds, it is how we call our deceased ones, the word has a certain tone of respect and happiness like the celebration. For us, 'Día de los Muertos' is not like Halloween, we don't dress up and go to parties, what we do is visit or 'Muertitos' (deceased) and make altars. I could talk more about the holiday but wikipedia (http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Day_of_the_Dead) has a lot of information about it.

This was our app map

Muertitos' finall version follows this map almost completely, the only thing we removed was the 'eggs'. At the beginning of the planning we had this idea of adding a 'Tamagotchi' character in the game. That egg was that. The game was going to have 3 different eggs, you were supposed to choose one and level it up with game experience until the final evolution of the character was achieved, then the game prompted a selector to get one of the other eggs. We decided to remove this because the game didn't need it and also we didn't have time to implement it. 

This caused 2 problems. The egg the home screen was there to take you to the evolution of the creature and the in-game egg was there to absorb exp points and to accompany you. Without the egg we have wholes in our app that we couldn't erase. Ok, we could erase the altars but they really looked great in the game.

We first focused on the in-game altar. At the beginning we used that space to showcase the score, but that felt really odd. Then we decided to reveal the 'piece to unlock', every move you made incremented the piece's opacity, when the piece was completely revealed it was added to the board and it all started again. This wasn't a bad approach but when you revealed all the pieces (12) that space was empty again. A friend then proposed a new idea for that space, something that the user could really use. He told us that we should put there the next piece that is going to appear in the board (kinda like threes). this helped the game a lot, people aren't really using it but the ability to know what piece is coming is key in achieving a bigger score in the game. 

The egg in the home screen was replaced with the awesome animated skull that lives there now. What not a lot of people know is that if you tap the skull it opens a new screen to share a mexican 'calaverita' (candy skull) with your name. We normally hide this kind of things, like little easter eggs.

The game was ready in time for Halloween and 'Día de los Muertos', we released the Android version as we waited for the apple review process to end. By a stupid mistake I made, the apple store rejected our game and we lost the opportunity to release it on iOS in time. 

If you liked the game tutorial, here's an early version of it. The tutorial was also designed by the artist 

 

A huge thanks to my wife that read the post and corrected a lot of things. Also thanks to all of our friends that helped us testing and gave us ideas for Muertitos. We are really proud of the product we released. 

And finally Thanks to you for reading this wall of text, for playing the game and supporting us!


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