Counting items is not an uncommon mechanic in brain training applications. In A Clockwork Brain, however, the logic is reversed; players have to count what is missing, without being distracted by what is there. This can lead to very interesting gameplay, as the boundaries between the tiles are lost and the border-less shapes that are created become more homogenous and more difficult to process than in a typical count-the-blocks game.
Several years ago I watched a video of a chimpanzee playing a memory game on a touch monitor and performing astonishingly well, even better than humans that tried the same task.
The game was created by scientists, who wanted to study the memory of chimpanzees and how it compared to humans’. (There is also a longer video of a similar experiment, which gives more information). It was a really impressive, to say the least! The chimp in the video plays really fast, and succeeds 90% of the time.
When I started designing mini-games for A Clockwork Brain, I remembered that video and decided to do a game that was based on it. So, I started working on the game design, and came up with a set of attributes and twists that shaped up the final game.
As I’ve mentioned before, in A Clockwork Brain we are using hundreds of items taken from The Clockwork Man games. Among these items were some swords, daggers and various tools like a screwdriver and a pair of scissors. In Clockwork Man they were mainly used in hidden object scenes, where players had to find them among other items in cluttered rooms, such as a blacksmith’s workshop, an engineer’s lab and a basement.
All the items I mentioned above share a common attribute; they are long and pointy. If you look at each one of them, it is obvious that they points to a certain direction. This attribute was the base of one of my favorite mini-games in A Clockwork Brain: Directions.
Even though I don’t really recall when or how I came up with the idea for this mini-game, I remember that I really enjoyed designing it. Based on a simple idea, it turned out to be very fun to play. The Mayan theme we designed for its graphics fits the game mechanics perfectly and creates a memorable experience.
This mini-game was directly inspired by one of the puzzles in another Total Eclipse game, The Clockwork Man: The Hidden World. In that game, the player entered a Steampunk submarine and had to solve a puzzle in order to activate the engines. It was a unique and challenging puzzle, based on logic operations and pattern matching.
Logic Tiles relies on the same concept, while introducing additional attributes that create a somewhat different mechanic.
There are two sets of tiles at the top of the screen and an addition sign (+) between them. At the bottom of the screen there are 2 to 4 options for the player to choose from. The player has to mentally perform the logic addition on the top two cards and select the option that corresponds to the result of the operation.
Difficulty & Progression
The difficulty of the game is affected by several parameters, which allow for a great variety of difficulty levels. The size of the grid reduces as the levels increase, which means that the tiles are getting more in number and smaller in size. Also, the fill rate can significantly make the game more challenging; the fuller the shape, the more information to process. Another attribute is the options the user can choose from also increase, starting from 2 and going up to 4.
A very important factor is the symmetry level of the shapes produced by the filled tiles. The more symmetrical the shapes, the easier for the brain to process and make operations on. The symmetry can be on one axis (vertically or horizontally), on both axes, or there can be no symmetry at all. The higher the symmetry, the easier the level, because the brain can infer parts of the shape just by processing half or a quarter of it. When the symmetry breaks completely, the brain needs to process the whole shape.
A final parameter is the type of operation. I mentioned that players have to add the two shapes together, but there is another option as well, which appears in more advanced levels; subtraction. Players have to visually subtract the second shape from the first. This is significantly harder than adding the two shapes together, so it can make the game very challenging.
During the most difficult levels of this game, the tiles become very small and the grid fills up to a large percentage. There is no symmetry in both the cards and the options and the frequency of the subtraction operation increases significantly.
Until next week!
Lead Game Designer
Points of View is one of our favorite mini-games from A Clockwork Brain, here at Total Eclipse. It is very original, challenging and tons of fun! Just think that once developed, Yannis, who programmed this and most other mini-games, and Jonatan, who illustrated the game, were competing over 1st place on the leaderboards for quite some time, once the game launched.
This mini-game is among the ones that other brain-training apps copied from us, which is, without any doubt, quite flattering.
There are a lot of games using anagrams as their core mechanic and they are essentially all the same. You get several letters and you either have to a) use all of them to form one word or b) use any of them in different combinations to create as many valid words as you can. It’s an interesting mechanic, no doubt, but it’s the same everywhere.
We wanted to create something new, something that takes advantage of how cool anagrams are, but with a whole different perspective. This is how Anagrams was born.
In the past years we have been traveling often; every one or two months, my brother Argiris and I, would go on a business trip to Athens or someplace abroad. In these trips, I always carry my bright orange notebook, as I’ve seen that time on a plane can be very productive. I guess it’s because there are very few distractions and you can focus more easily.
In one of those trips, I was trying to think of new ideas for mini-games, and I started looking around, in case I could get inspired by my surroundings. Then I saw the windows, and I thought “let’s make a game with airplane windows!” The idea was that the window shade would open, revealing an item, and the player would have limited time to tap on it before the shade would shut down again.
Word Length is a mini-game that was inspired by a story I watched on TV 10 years ago. It was about a teenager that was able to tell how many letters there are in a word really fast, just by hearing it. It was very impressive! He was extremely fast in his responses and he was always spot on! I guess I found that remarkable, because many years later I had the idea to turn this into a game.
One of the first mini-games games we designed for A Clockwork Brain was Scrolling Silhouettes. The idea came from the hundreds of items we had from The Clockwork Man. These 1,500 items provide a huge variety of shapes and forms. The concept was to take advantage of these, and create a game that uses item shapes and pattern matching as the core mechanic. This is how Scrolling Silhouettes came to life.