03/10/2016 at 04:51 PM
Hi Everybody! It's been a while since I've had an opportunity to provide an update on PixlCross and how things have been going. Believe it or not, it's been about 6 months since we "finished" the game and sent it off to Nintendo of America for certification (aka Lotcheck). Well, a lot has transpired since then and the reason for the delay is multi-faceted.
As it turns out, there's something to those rumors about the difficulties of working with Nintendo's online infrastructure. There's a lot to it and it's not always as simple as it seems, which we learned the hard way. To the benefit of the consumer, Nintendo is very thorough in how it tests any and all online functionality and if things don't work EXACTLY as they expect them to, right down to the way error messages are displayed, they will reject a submission.
From the point of submission, it's taken us five tries to get it all right. Thankfully the extra time has provided an opportunity to improve the game. Some notable improvements include:
• Partial hint completion
• The ability to post a message to Miiverse with an ID code of a puzzle you created that when entered will allow players to download your puzzle (think Super Mario Maker)
• Miiverse message posting after completing a puzzle
• More streamlined UI interactions
• Ability to see how popular a puzzle you've shared is
• More responsive menus and cleaner transition between scenes
Generally speaking, PixlCross is a much better product than it was when it was first submitted to Nintendo. We also found and solved a number of small bugs that escaped us during our testing cycle. On one hand, the long road to release has been frustrating, but on the other it's been tremendously helpful in ensuring the best possible product we could deliver.
If you've been eagerly awaiting PixlCross, there's not much longer to wait now. We're firming up the release date with Nintendo at the moment, but we're tentatively targeting March 31 for an American release.
If you're not in America, either across the pond (or down under), the release of IARC ratings on the Wii U eShop has enabled us to release PixlCross internationally at no extra cost. The effort to translate the game into French, Italian, German, and Spanish is now underway and hopefully within the next few weeks we'll be submitting to NOE Lotcheck for both a European and Australian release.
And finally, if you're not a Wii U owner but still want to play PixlCross, help us complete Steam Greenlight - we're currently hovering between 45% and 60% of the way to the top 100. If we can make it into the Top 100, we're basically a lock for getting on to Steam. We'll be supporting PC, Mac, and Linux, so whatever your run at home will be able to accommodate PixlCross!
06/30/2015 at 02:12 PM
Hey everyone, just a quick update for today - as the title implies, I've updated the PixlBit Studios website, which can now be found at: http://www.pixlbitstudios.com.
If you want to see the offical page for PixlCross, check out http://www.pixlbitstudios.com/pixlcross
In other news, outside of one last little bit of testing and the completion of the eManual, the Wii U version of PixlCross is complete! I'm starting to set up the Steam Greenlight page for the game and will let everyone know when it's up in case you want to help out and give us a vote.
06/08/2015 at 09:56 AM
Rather than bringing you the latest in our scheduled line of dev blogs, here's an off-topic one with the specific intent of showing off the new logo. I think it came out pretty alright and I hope you guys like it too. Let me know what you think!
So, Chessa decided that we needed to bring the green back, so I updated the logo again, and I continued the little visual interest line in the Pixl part of the logo over to Cross. Let me know what you think of the changes!
And here's a shot of the logo on the menu screen for the game:
05/19/2015 at 07:44 PM
In an effort to assist Chessa in her quest to create all of the puzzles for PixlCross, I got the brilliant idea that I needed to create an automated way to solve the puzzles. She had been cranking out puzzles, but had no good way to verify if they were any good without sitting down and playing them.
For those who’ve played a Picross game in the past, you’ve undoubtedly come across puzzles with ambiguities. Basically, if you've ever played a puzzle where you had to guess to solve it, you played one with ambiguities. We hate ambiguities. They kind of ruin the spirit of the game. You should be able to follow the hints along the rows and columns of the grid and be able to create the picture without making any guesses.
What Chessa was finding was that many of the puzzles she made had ambiguities. To resolve said ambiguities required a very lengthy process wherein she would play test the puzzle until she hit a wall and then go back, make changes, and retest again, over and over until all issues were resolved. As I’m sure you can imagine, this process was incredibly time consuming for her and with 150+ puzzles on the docket to be made, it was going to be an unreasonably large task.
This ultimately birthed the puzzle solver.
Just like building any piece of software, I sat down and did an analysis on the skills that were leveraged to solve a puzzle. My first prototype of the solver was extremely rudimentary. It could detect blank rows, or rows that were totally filled in. It could figure out rows where the hints all added up to the length of the board. It could even guess partial fills of rows or columns. However, figuring out the solution to simple problems remained elusive.
For example, a row where there are two squares already filled in and there’s only a single hint present (meaning you can connect the dots and likely solve the row) was an extremely hard problem to solve. And that was just one of the issues with my initial solver implementation. It left a lot to be desired and nailing down all the techniques that could be used was slow and inefficient.
As it turns out, it’s a problem that computer scientists have been investigating for some time now. Furthermore, there are a variety of techniques people have developed to make the solvers either fast and efficient, quitting whenever an ambiguity is discovered, or slow and complex, considering any and all solutions possible for the given input. Thankfully, I was looking for the faster, more efficient algorithm as discovering ambiguities was the main thrust of the effort.
Of course, even with the keys to the castle… this was a lot harder than anticipated. The general concept of the solver is that you try to lay out all of the hints as far scrunched to the left as possible and as far to the right as possible, then you see which ones overlap. If the spaces between the same hints overlap, you drop an x, and if the exact hints overlap you drop a block. However, you need to shift the placement of the hints when dropping from the far left or right to account for the existing state of the row. This means lots of looping to push blocks one space at a time till they match with the existing state and dealing with the ramifications of pushing those blocks by pushing subsequent blocks.
Needless to say, perfecting my implementation of this algorithm took 3 full rewrites and then an absolute ton of unit testing. I ran the solver against our entire pool of existing puzzles until each and every one passed the solver test. The huge amount of puzzles Chessa had already built and verified really helped give me the testing pool I needed to make the solver a success.
The icing on the cake is that the solver got integrated right into the Puzzle Editor of PixlCross, as it was the easiest way to leverage it during development. Of course, this worked out for the game as well, because when users decide to make puzzles, they too can leverage the solver to make sure they are creating the best puzzles for other players to download off "the cloud."
The entire solver debacle ultimately set PixlCross back a month or two. Not that I was spending every waking moment working on the Solver, but during my limited time in the holiday season, it was my sole focus. It was quite refreshing to finally finish the solver and get back to the more visual stuff and begin tightening up the actual game.
Up Next Time: I’ve Made a Huge Mistake
04/20/2015 at 12:55 PM
This is seriously only Dev Blog #2!? Man, talk about dropping the ball... So, yeah, last time I wrote one of these PixlCross was truly in its infancy. To say it's come a long way since then would truly be an understatement. We're coming fairly close to putting a bow on the game and have entered our heavy testing period where we are soliciting feedback from friends and making changes accordingly. Which is kind of crazy.
Since I really failed to keep up on this dev blog as we developed, I think it makes more sense to release a series of blogs detailing some of the major milestones along the way and what it took to get there. Here's an agenda of blogs I'd like to write on and with any amount of luck, I'll knock them down one-by-one until we're current.
It's kind of staggering looking back on where we started and where we're at now. It's been a VERY long road with A LOT of long hours. I'll be perfectly honest in saying that this has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride of an experience. While Chessa and I are totally excited to be approaching the finish line, I think we're both pretty happy that it's nearly done.
If I've learned nothing more, it's that game development is hard, especially when it's done in the margins of your life. Even building something as simple as a Nonogram game, the effort involved has been absolutely tremendous. What's even crazier is that there's still a mountain of stuff to accomplish, including the final submission to Nintendo, the eShop page, the eManual, marketing and PR, the Steam Greenlight campaign, and god only knows what else. Thankfully I've got a PS4 and Bloodborne now to help calm my nerves and relax in the off hours...
For now, I'll leave you with a gif that does an ok job of showing off the game in motion.