Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How We Made It: Sakura Grove

In both the iOS version of Entanglement and the online Sakura Grove expansion, we've added new modes that twist the basic mechanics of Entanglement to explore new gameplay possibilities. We're really proud of how these modes turned out, so we thought it would be fun to take time to discuss what those modes are (for those who haven't played them) and some of design decisions that went into making them. We'd love to hear your thoughts on the new modes, so tell us what you think in the comments.

We'll start with Sakura Grove.

Sakura Grove introduces several new mechanics to Entanglement. First, players have a limited number of tiles. The player starts with seven tiles, and each play consumes a tile. When a player runs out of tiles, the game ends.

New to the board are cherry tree tiles and the golden center tile. The cherry tree tiles are pre-placed tiles located around the board. They have straight paths running through them. If the path passes through a cherry tree the player earns an extra tile to place.

The golden center tile is the starting point for the player’s path. It has 'u' paths on all of its edges. Each time the player’s path passes through a 'u', the player earns bonus points (points worth specific amounts not related to the length of the move). The amount of points received increases with each ‘u’ the player passes through.

Finally, there are no borders in Sakura Grove which means the only way to lose is to run out of tiles.

How It Came Together
The final design for Sakura Grove came together like a puzzle with each piece falling into place over the course of a few weeks.

The core idea was provide a wall-less mode that allowed players to focus on creating complex paths without the threat of walls ending the game prematurely. Needing a constraint to prevent players from playing infinitely, the tile count limitation seemed like a natural fit.

The pre-placed tiles that would later become the cherry trees were the next addition. These were introduced out of concern that the board would lack texture if there were no elements for players to consider as they created their path. Wanting to introduce more purpose to the pre-placed tiles I (Todd) initially suggested that the tiles give points for passing through them with points earning you additional tiles at certain intervals (50, 100, 150, etc.). Derek, as he often does, ignored me prefering a simpler (read: wiser) solution and directly linked earning extra tiles to passing through the pre-placed tiles. Initially, it took two passes through the tile to earn a extra tile (this is still true in multiplayer), but we found that under these conditions single-player games ended too quickly because of the amount of work required to earn an extra tile. Also, expressing the mechanic was proving troublesome. Once we decreased it to a single pass, the game felt faster and more rewarding.

While working on Sakura Grove we were thinking about how to make the new mode look unique, and we found that the pre-placed tiles provided a logical opportunity for this. Wanting to differentiate the pre-placed tiles from the standard tiles, we initially decorated them with bushes, which worked well with our Asian garden theme.  On seeing the bushes, one team member suggested that the pre-placed tiles be cherry trees that bloomed as the player passed through them. Everyone agreed this provided appealing feedback and further enhanced the theme. In the end, these cherry trees (known as sakura) would provide the name for the mode and the expansion as a whole.

How It Plays
The new mechanics significantly differentiate Sakura Grove from the classic Entanglement gameplay. The lack of walls gives the game a lighter, care-free feel. There is no fear of dying from a miss-click or a misread line. Instead, the end of the game is clearly forecast by the counter. What matters instead is that each tile be played as smartly as possible to weave through the board to rack up points and extra tiles. The shape of the board encourages you to create tightly knit bundles. These bundles pay-off in long moves earning large point values. Weighing what to pursue when (score easy tiles/points in the short term, or risk your limited tiles to set up a longer more valuable move) provides a mental challenge for those who hope to master it.

Well, that’s Sakura Grove. Look for another post on Gold Rush from the iOS version in the near future. If you’re interested in checking out Sakura Grove, you can find it in the main menu of Entanglement by clicking on “More Modes”.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sakura Grove Hot-seat Multiplayer

We just updated the main menu over the weekend so if you have purchased the Sakura Grove expansion set, you now have access to the hot-seat multiplayer versions of the expansion modes as well.

To make things interesting in the Sakura Grove mode itself, you do not receive a tile for each pass through a cherry tree; rather, it takes two passes for a single tile, which allows you to "steal" bonus tiles from your rivals before they are able to make the second pass.

To access the new multiplayer versions of the expansion set modes, login, and then click "Multiplayer" on the main menu and you will see a new listing of the modes to choose from. Choose the one you want to try, and then select the number of opponents. If you haven't played Entanglement recently, you may need to refresh the page to get the latest version of the app. If you haven't activated the Sakura Grove expansion set and want to, go to the main menu and click "More Modes".

Up next: the Daily Challenge mode.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Entanglement Soundtrack by OMNI Audio

We have received a lot of great feedback from everyone about the background music for Entanglement, including many requests for obtaining the soundtrack apart from the game.

First, I want to mention how wonderful it was working with OMNI Audio. Alistair Hirst and his team composed and created the beautiful sound effects and music for Entanglement with a very short turn-around, giving us everything we needed and more to make sure we had high quality audio for everything in the game.

To make the background audio loop less repetitive, Alistair asked us to try an interesting layering technique that I believe worked out phenomenally well. The background track in-game is actually 2 separate layers of audio. The layers are offset by 16 seconds and each layer plays a short 32 second clip randomly chosen from a list of five or six unique sound clips. So, at any given time, you are listening to one of 30 possible combinations, resulting in up to 15 minutes straight of non-repeating original audio.

Omni Audio: Entanglement Soundtrack
When I mentioned all the requests we were receiving for a separate downloadable soundtrack, Alistair revisited the background music for us and put it into a linear form. Enjoy!

Grab the original MP3 from CDBaby for $0.99 (a higher percentage gets to us) or on iTunes, Amazon MP3, and several other distributors.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

iOS Testers Needed

Working on the iOS versions of Entanglement, we've come to realize that testing across all the various iOS devices is extremely challenging for our small team due to the time required to do a thorough job. After some discussion, we've decided that the best way to solve this problem is to invite Entanglement enthusiasts to help us in this process. So, if you're someone who'd be interested in helping us test the iOS versions of Entanglement as we roll out patches and updates we'd love to hear from you.

If you're interested, send us an e-mail at with the following information:
  • Your name
  • iOS device(s) you will be testing on. Please be specific about which version of the iPhone you have.
  • The software version of your device(s). Found on your device in Settings > General > About : Software Version
  • The UDID for your device(s). To find your UDID follow the instructions here. These instructions should work for both iPad and iPhone
  • A few sentences explaining why you're interested in helping test.
As a tester, in addition to playing the game normally, we'll need you to perform a variety of tasks to ensure the game works in a many different situations. With your help we'll have the iOS versions of the game in better shape than ever.

If you're selected as a tester, you'll receive an e-mail in the near future.

Thank you for your help ahead of time!

UPDATE: We currently have enough testers for iPhone 4G, 3GS, and iPod 4G, and 3G. We are still looking for testers for iPad, iPhone original, 3G, and iPod 2G, and 1G. Thanks again for all the help!

UPDATE 2: We now have enough testers. Thank you to everyone who applied. We'll be sending out e-mails in the near future.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Entanglement Available for iPad

In addition to the Sakura Grove add-on we've created for Entanglement, we've also been hard at work (with a little help from our friends at CrateSoft) creating a version of Entanglement for iOS. We're proud to announce that the iPad version of the game is now available on the iTunes App Store. For $3.99 you can buy it here.

The iOS version of Entanglement features four game boards, the classic board (seen above) plus three new boards exclusive to the iOS version. It also features a new mode, Gold Rush, which adds a twist to the traditional Entanglement by introducing golden paths to the mix. Cross a golden path to uncover a gold nugget. Earn points for each tile the nugget crosses returning to the mine cart.

We're very proud of what we've created in Sakura Grove and now in Entanglement iOS. We hope you'll take the time to check out the new modes and maps we've created for both versions of Entanglement.

Have fun!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Entanglement: Sakura Grove Expansion

Love Entanglement and want more? Try the brand new Sakura Grove Expansion! Explore an engaging new game mode with a wild twist, two stylish maps, and a daily challenge to see who is the best at Entanglement!
  • Sakura Grove - A completely new game-play mode for Entanglement! You have a spacious garden surrounded by cherry trees, but you have a limited number of tiles to play. Acquire more tiles by directing your path through one of the cherry trees, which blooms every time you pass through it. How far can you go? You’ll have to see for yourself!
  • Hana Blossom - A new flower-shaped map for Entanglement with the original rules. The map is larger but the petals provide an interesting challenge; it’s easy to get into one, but make sure to plan your way out, or your game will end quickly! This is a wonderful challenge for advanced Entanglement players.
  • Lotus Petal - A new tiny map for Entanglement also using the original rules. It is a great training ground to practice your ability to string together long paths and plan future moves. You can also play the map quickly enough to have a nice slice of Entanglement fun in the time of a commercial break.
  • Daily Challenge - A new challenge every day for Entanglement players! Will you be the best player today? We haven’t quite finished this mode yet but we’re working hard on it. Anyone who buys the expansion will automatically get access to the Daily Challenge mode when it is completed.
All of the above come in a package for $1.99. We’re planning to add a few more features to this expansion to make it super-special, but we don’t want to announce it quite yet. Everyone who buys it now will get the four modes above and any additional content we add to the Sakura Grove expansion.

To get started, open Entanglement and select "More Modes" from the main menu. If you have the Chrome App installed and it says "Coming soon!", you may need to refresh the page in your browser to get the latest version of the web app.

We’ve been hard at work taking Entanglement to a cool new place and we hope you’ll enjoy it. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know; thanks!