As you can guess from the title, we’re back on jigsaw puzzles. Before that, let me address my last post–I didn’t forget about my other projects, but unfortunately there’s some legal stuff presently delaying things. I’m not getting into it here, other than to say that I’m not in any sort of trouble but I can’t yet give an ETA on when things will be sorted out. Hopefully soon?

In the meantime, I’ll be continuing existing projects, be it by updating released stuff or pushing the unfinished stuff towards release.

Now, About Those Jigsaw Puzzles

When last we let off, there was one main mechanic remaining (grouping pieces instead of moving them all individually) along with various bits of polish and content creation. I wound up getting blocked on the grouping feature, but coming back this month I was able to complete it.

Even with a lot of zoom, the system finds places to stash pieces. It's cramped, but it works well enough!

That leaves me with a working tech demo that’s got all the mechanics I want. However, there’s still some work needed to make a real game…

The first thing I decided to do was build a menu structure around the puzzle engine. That gives me the following:

The main menu, poor alignment and all!

Puzzle selection has a little scrollbar to make large scales or long lists possible, though the UI clearly needs more love.

A basic settings page. Note that the volume meters do nothing, since there's no audio yet...

So indeed, it all works to some extent but needs polish. As far as content goes, I’ve also decided to scale back a bit and aim to ship with 1 puzzle only. It occurred to me that I don’t really need more than that to prove the concept, and I can release new puzzles as I patch and improve the game. It’s better to get a demo out early and bulk it up in subsequent updates than let it founder while content is being worked on. At the rate things are moving I feel pretty confident that I can get this demo out by Christmas, although it’s always hard to judge (after all, I wanted to ship this at the end of the summer originally).

…And 3D

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve also done a couple of real-life jigsaw puzzles during my hiatus. I noticed some more things to consider when painting my own puzzles:

  1. Localizing parts of the palette gives players very satisfying ‘sections’ to fill in. One of the things I noticed in the first puzzle I sat down with was that it had a number medium-sized elements (mainly trees) with strikingly different colors. This is useful for drawing the eye in a painting, but it serves a second purpose in a jigsaw puzzle by telling the player that a certain set of pieces must be in the same general area. In practice, I’ve found that puzzles that do this make piece organization much easier. Pixel art is usually about being economical with color and re-using as much of your palette as possible, but I think for puzzles I’ll probably want to loosen this restriction to improve the design of the end product. At any rate, it’s something to keep in mind.
  2. Very few pieces are identical. This is an assumption I’d made early on, and one that I think people typically make when thinking of puzzle pieces… but in reality the jigsaw cuts tend to create a lot of subtly-different shapes within the handful of basic shapes. The end result is that pieces that don’t go together generally don’t fit together at all, even when they have similar cuts. I don’t know if this subtlety is easy to reproduce with my low-res pieces, but it’s something to experiment with in the future.

I’m going to keep working on jigsaw puzzles as I continue development. Hopefully it’ll help me get a better idea for what does / doesn’t work when designing my own!

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