A Pixel Blocked Algorithm

With Pixel Blocked! released on XBLIG, I’ve been able to take a lot of the professional feedback from various reviewers and make Pixel Blocked! a better game for the upcoming XBLIG patch and Windows Phone version.

One of the things I’ve been working on is a Pixel Blocked Algorithm. It sounds silly, but really, it’s just an algorithm to determine whether or not a particular pixel is un-reachable. (i.e. the player can not fill that pixel, thus putting the puzzle into a fail state where it can no longer be solved.)

What I wanted to share was that programming this algorithm has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had making this game. I’ve spent a total of 6 days working on this algorithm, but I mean that very lightly. I’m currently visiting family in WPG and in those 6 days I also managed to spend an afternoon and evening fishing at Seven Sisters… twice, biking 50km+ to Lock Port and on another day 40+km to Birds Hill Park, an Age of Mythology LAN gaming night and various other family activities.

Originally, I started off with a very naive algorithm, which then grew more complex and convoluted over the days as I tried to determine all the scenarios in which a pixel would be blocked. By day 4, my algorithm had grown into a recursive mess and there was one particular scenario involving a specific arrangement of magnetic and crumble blocks that the algorithm could not correctly detect as being Pixel Blocked. Fixing it would mean breaking other parts of the algorithm, which meant more fixing, and a bigger mess of an algorithm.

At this point, I decided to restart from scratch, which meant 4 days of code out the window (but saved in GIT just in case :P). But I now had a stronger understanding of what it meant to be pixel blocked and this time around, I decided to take a completely different approach with the algorithm. It worked, and I managed to complete it in half the time I did for the first algorithm.

I think what’s so rewarding about the whole experience for me is that it reminded me of the things I believe in. I believe in hard work, I believe in learning from my mistakes and trying again, and I believe in being better. It’s been a month now since I’ve released Pixel Blocked! on XBLIG. I’ve received a lot of great reception and reviews. The majority of the reviews have been really positive. However, downloads/sales have been really low: 1998 downloads / 281 sales of Pixel Blocked as of August 28th. There’s this disconnect between the reception and sales of the game. It could be that puzzle games just don’t sell well on XBLIG, or it could be that the game isn’t as accessible as I thought it could be. Like the first attempt at the Pixel Blocked Algorithm, I think the game over the course of the development grew more complex and convoluted than it needed to be, and fragments of an earlier game ended up staying in the final product. The mobile versions of the game represent my second attempt, and I’m working hard on making it better and more accessible than the first.

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