On Bricks, Water, and Pixels

Written on April 7, 2013, 12:27 PM - Add a comment

Category: Art Category: --- Category: Games Category: --- Category: About me

In February 2013, Gamious launched an addictive tablet puzzle game called Briquid. Now that it's no longer a secret, I can tell you more about this game-- and about my role in the project.

The Game

Briquid is a puzzle game for the iPad and Android tablets. Each level is a pixely grid containing bricks, metal and water, and the goal is to transport the water to one or more reservoirs. The first few levels introduce some basic mechanics: tap bricks to remove them, tap empty spaces to create new bricks, and watch how the water flows. As the game progresses, though, the puzzles become increasingly complex: soon enough, you'll find yourself manipulating gravity, or planning around spaces in which you cannot place any bricks. Ranging from elegant to intimidating, each of the 100 levels will test your brain in some way.

Let's warm up by watching the trailer:

You like play game? You like play Briquid!

The Process

Gamious is a young Dutch game production company. One of their cool initiatives is the Game Train, which connects hobbyists and freelancers for game projects. I sent Gamious (or actually, their predecessor) a message last year, in that infamous period of time between obtaining my MSc degree and starting my PhD track. Perhaps surprisingly (given my education), I did not apply as a programmer, but as an artist.

And eventually, they contacted me, explaining that they had teamed up with a talented game developer (Erik Leppen) to publish one of his game concepts: EAU, a puzzle in which the player transports water by controlling obstacles and gravity in simple grid structures. I happily joined the team (which now consisted of Erik, producer Jos Bouman, and me) and helped them redefine the game's atmosphere. Of course, the graphics were my main concern, so I tried out a number of different art directions, hoping to find a polished style that still matched the game's simplicity.

This creative process was challenging; below are some sketches that didn't quite make it. Note how each of them is minimalistic. I felt that a realistic style wouldn't fit EAU's grid-based nature... which, admittedly, was fortunate for me ;)

Concept 1: Funky Smooth

Funky Smooth? I could already picture a groovy jazz tune with these colours, but the orange bricks and dark background were a bit too confusing.

Concept 2: Clean Chrome

Clean Chrome? Secretly inspired by Portal, but lacking the corresponding punch.

Concept 3: Dark Retro

Dark Retro? Hints of the final product are already popping up.

Concept 4: Textures

A texture experiment.

After some trial and error, we ended up with a pixelated style that uses logical and functional colours (red for bricks, gray for metal, blue for water) and very little texture. Literally everything consists of squares, including the bubbles in the water. Here's an in-game screenshot of the result:

Screenshot of Briquid, level 19

Screenshot of level 19 (Jumping Knights). Click for a larger version.

Outside of the levels, I ensured that my favourite colour was prominent in the background. In the meantime, I suggested a title and logo, and Briquid was born!

Briquid logo

The one and only Briquid logo. Click for a larger version.

In the next phase, I went to Amsterdam once per week to work on Briquid. I created more game assets (such as buttons and menus) and watched how Erik implemented them at record speed. Thanks to our small and informal team, I was involved in other aspects as well, such as choosing the final 100 levels and translating their names to Dutch. Meanwhile, a sound designer (Arjen Schut) created effects and background tracks that perfectly matched the game's pixely vibe.

The Conclusion

All in all, working on Briquid has been an amazing experience. I had tons of fun at the Gamious office, experimenting with graphical details, immediately playing with the results, watching Jos and Erik compete for the best scores, or battling for the pun of the day to make up for my own puzzle skills. And of course, in the end, it's just a great feeling to see personal work making it onto the market.

If you own an iPad or an Android tablet, look for Briquid in the App Store or Google Play. The first 20 levels are freely available in Briquid Free; for a small fee, you'll be able to play all 100 of them. By the way, a "pocket version" for phones is in development, too.

Anyone who's into puzzle games should give Briquid a chance. It revolves around a few simple game mechanics, but its 100 levels are amazingly versatile and challenging. And no, this isn't just me trying to sell a product-- I'm actually very proud of this game. ;)

Oh, and keep paying attention to Gamious and its Game Train... Other interesting projects are coming up, so you'll definitely hear from them again soon.

More information

Want to find out more about Briquid or the development team? Check out the following pages:

Written on April 7, 2013, 12:27 PM - Add a comment

Category: Art Category: --- Category: Games Category: --- Category: About me

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