Going beyond the core mechanic

One of the things we’ve been racking our brains on is on how to extend the core mechanic of the game.

We played tons of games and tried to map mechanics to our game to see if something would fit. The method to test an idea out is simple as always, dive into a whiteboard, pick an idea, draw it out, play. repeat. repeat repeat….

But after 15 days of this, we got pretty tired. We got a bunch of random ideas, and here they are.

Lightning mode: Similar to lightning chess, at some point the timer starts ticking and expects you to make a move within the next 10 seconds. If you don’t it opens a random tile. This puts pressure on the player to move fast and solve the board.

Either-or: Every once in a while, the game identifies a situation where one of two tiles are most likely the treasure and pops both of them, asking you to pick one. If you pick the right one, you get the treasure. Pick the wrong one, and the treasure blows up.

Blind-eye: The board randomly closes tiles which are previously open to make you lose track of a few things.

These are ideas which we thought were fun to add in the game, but they don’t give us much room to extend the gameplay. They are the equivalent of a bonus, small things that make the game fun, but don’t really add to the core mechanic.

Things went from bad to worse in the next 15 days. Honestly the only thing that kept us going was that there was some progress in the art front.

So I finally called another meet for the fifth time with friends and family to figure things out. And for no reason at all, this time, we came up with an idea!

After the player gets used to Xcavate, we’re going to add in a few special tiles. Each tile is etched with the shape of one of the chess pieces, either the bishop, the horse, the king or the rook. A tile with an etch cannot be opened directly. It has to be opened by opening a tile that pops a chess piece which can reach the tile in 1 move.

The special tiles will contain things like keys, dynamite and pickaxes which can be used to open tiles which are locked, buried under rocks or under ice. The player doesn’t have to open special tiles. Tools like keys and dynamite can be purchased with the money you earn from finding treasures. But frugal players who enjoy spending as little as they can won’t be disappointed either.

This brings us to the other things which are immediately going to be integrated into the game: scores, currency and leaderboards.

We went through a lot of tough days to get to this. Its great relief to be out of the “stuck” state.

I feel very good about the game, and the fast iterative development which literally stalled us for four whole weeks, can now safely continue.

I wonder if there are other ideas to extend the gameplay. I hope there are, because it makes the game more fun and exciting.


#chess #treasure #puzzle #strategy #indiegame #gamedev #madewithunity #candycrush #gameplay #gamemechanic #gamedesigner


How To Play Xcavate

Hi Everyone!

First off, a big hello to Tumblr land, we’re excited to be here and share updates on our first indie title Xcavate.

Me and my friend, both mad scientiists, recently met after a long time and rediscovered our love for game development.

We dived in headlong with tons of whiteboard, paper and pens and sketched various ideas and presented it to friends and family. One of the concepts stood out, folks said they loved it, and so we made the game and called it Xcavate.

Xcavate is called Xcavate, because in each level, you are given a board with one or more treasures hidden in it, and you go on a treaasure hunt solving clues to find it, just like an archaeologist.

But be warned, you also need the sharp eye and the deductive skills of a sleuth like Sherlock to solve an Xcavate board.

Ready for the rules? Here they are.

The rules of the game

Xcavate is divided up into levels like any other game. In each level, you get a square chequered board with tiles in it, and if you look around in the screen, you’ll find out how many treasures are hidden in it.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find all the hidden treasures in the board.

To find the treasure, you start by opening tiles. Each tile reveals chess pieces that can reach the treasure in one move. As you open more tiles, more chess pieces show up which help you zero-in on the treasure.

There are only four chess pieces in Xcavate – the king, the knight, the rook and the bishop. All pieces behave similar to regular chess pieces with one exception. A bishop or a rook don’t show up if the treasure is right next to them, even if they can move there, what shows up instead is the king.

There’s also a little catch – you need to open as little tiles as possible to win all three stars in each level.

So, how do you solve an Xcavate level? Read on….

The Strategy

The easiest strategy to follow while solving an Xcavate board is to look for a tile which more than one chess piece can reach. If 2 chess pieces and reach a tile, there’s hope of a treasure in the tile. If 3 can reach, the chance is higher and so on.

But then, as you play, more complex strategies quickly reveal themselves, making you smarter about eliminating tiles which don’t have the treasure and getting to the one that has it. Finding those strategems is half the joy of playing Xcavate so I won’t spoil the fun by revealing them. I’ll just say that sometimes, you need to pay attention to where the treasure isn’t, rather than where the treasure is.

Are there some thumb rules to help play the game better? Sure, here they are.

Tips and Tricks

1. Never guess, ever. Xcavate boards and very unforgiving with guesswork, you’ll soon find yourself in a mess of chess pieces without a clue about where the treasure is.

2. Having more tiles open means more open chess pieces, and more chess pieces means more confusion, so try to open as few tiles as possible.

3. Eliminate positions. If a tile pops up a knight with 4 possible moves, try and open a tile which will eliminate 2 or more of those positions for sure, instead of opening each tile where the knight can reach.

4. The king isn’t much of a friend, or atleast not useful to a beginner. You’ll get excited about being close to the treasure without realizing that you still have 8 positions that are hard to eliminate.

5. If you find yourself solving a board with multiple treasures, you’ll find that some tiles pop up more than one piece. Just remember when this happens, that each chess piece on the tile is pointing to a different treasure. It’ll help you tons in solving the board.

Ready to take the plunge and try Xcavate?

Here’s the link to our Android version. Don’t forget to write to me at maha@greyinteractive.in if you loved playing it, or want to yell at me if the game gave you hell.