Ben Gray on Creating Color Dash
Today I got the chance to speak to an colleague of mine, Ben Gray. Ben and I had worked on an Xbox One title a long time ago and now he's getting ready to launch the new mobile puzzle game, Color Dash.
The game is simple, yet addictive, with a clean minimalist style. Color Dash features a simple color blending mechanics that becomes more complicated. New subtle twists on blending are introduced with each new level making the game easy to learn but hard to master.
Color Dash will be the first game from Sunspark Entertainment a company Ben started with his wife, Linda Chen. Ben, a Game Analyst at Nintendo, and Linda, a Software Engineer at Microsoft, bring a wide range of skills to the table. With experience with such prolific companies these two are quite the power couple when it comes to game development. We talk to Ben about how he created Color Dash and what inspired him and his wife to design a puzzle game. We all have heard the term "A couple who games together stay together", these guys have taken that term to a new level.
Who are you? What got you into game development?
My name is Benjamin Gray. I was always interested in designing games since I was a kid playing D&D and learning BASIC on my Apple IIe. After decades of retail jobs and project management, I decided to follow my dream and enrolled into game design courses in college.
If could describe your game in one world what would it be?
What Projects have you worked on before Color Dash? Most of the projects I worked on were in my time in college. While most were student collaboration games, in my last year I was on a team that collaborated with Microsoft on an unnamed Xbox One title. I assumed the Producer role and we were tasked with creating new content for an upcoming game. Upon completion of the project, Microsoft ended up copyrighting a few of our gameplay concepts to potentially use in future games.
What are the Core Features of Color Dash? Can you briefly describe the gameplay?
The primary gameplay features is focused around mixing the primary colors (red, blue, yellow). The player is given an empty board and needs to recreate the target board for that level. Players will add red, blue, or yellow to small circles that link to rows or columns on the game board. Where the rows and columns of colors intersect, secondary colors (green, purple, orange) can be made.
Each new new adds a new gameplay mechanic that changes how the colors fill the play field. For example, instead of color going in a straight line, it might hit an arrow changing the direction of the color.
What inspired you to work on Color Dash? Where there any games that helped inspire its creation? Color Dash was created completely in my Color Theory class in college. I tried to think of ways to take any class I was learning and turn it into a game. Something I've always done to help pass the time or increase my interest in what's being taught.
As for influences, the gameplay is pretty unique in the way it is presented. We did draw inspiration from other popular iOS puzzle games as far as interface goes. Our art style is very subdued and plain. This removes any distractions and gives the game a more calming feeling. This was taken from the simplistic design of the iOS game Dots.
How did you come up with the design for the puzzle system? Once I had the core idea of mixing colors to solve puzzles, I started iterating on ways to change the rules of the game. My fundamental concept was to create a game that anyone of any age could play. It had to be simple to grasp and ramp up in difficulty and a fair pace. Sticking with that philosophy, it was pretty rough out an interface system. That system changed quite a few times as the game transitioned from a browser title to an iOS game. What were some challenge's you had during development?
I can say that I was extremely fortunate to have my wife help me make this game. We almost never had any disagreements with the development process and things ran smoothly. Since it was just the two of us, things tended to go slow. Our biggest challenge was time. Not that we ran out, but that things ran long. The entire game took two years to complete, but most of the work was done during two different months. It was a matter of finding that sweet spot of having time of from work and not having any more outside tasks to complete.
What's next after Color Dash? What other projects would you like to pursue?
We've discussed a few different games and apps that we'd like to make, but the first thing is probably to convert Color Dash over to the Android platform. The first reason is because it is a huge market and people keep bugging us for it. The other is that my wife has no experience with programming on Android and wants to learn how. Not only for general learning but in order to help launch any future titles as multi-platform.