It has been a couple of months since my last post, but I haven’t been idle… I’ve been hard at work on several projects. None of them are ready for release just yet, but I’ve seen some promising results.

Today, I’m presenting another LÖVE project–a jigsaw puzzle app!

Yes, it’s Really Jigsaw Puzzles

I’ve been practicing landscape art for about a year now, and I’ve made pretty good strides on that front. Recently, it occurred to me that I should try to do more with them, and the first thing that came to me were jigsaw puzzles. Although I haven’t sat down with a puzzle in a very long time, but I have a lot of fond memories of solving them from my childhood years. I don’t have the space in my apartment to play with physical puzzles, so I thought it would be neat to make a little puzzle app instead.

…to cut a long story short, that’s exactly what I’ve done. It’s simple, unpolished, and clearly not ready for release, but most of the basic functionality is working! You can make puzzles, load them up, and solve them. And honestly, despite the early stage it’s at it already looks nice enough:

A test puzzle made from some of my art
Click the image to see it at full resolution

At this point, most of the work is going into be polish and puzzle-making.

Thinking About Puzzles

Speaking of puzzle-making, one thing that I’ve taken away from this project so far is that making a good jigsaw puzzle is harder than it looks at first glance. I jumped into this project with no foreknowledge on jigsaw puzzle design, and tossed a few existing pieces into the app… and none of them worked. As it turns out, there are some things that need to be considered that you may not think about when painting:

  1. Every piece must be unique, obviously. The implication here is interesting though–it means that a good puzzle needs a level of fine detail that matches the size of the pieces. Most of my art ends up having blank areas, which look fine under normal circumstances but doesn’t work at all in a jigsaw puzzle.
  2. Colors should often be localized to regions of the painting. One problem that my art’s low color count presents is that many piece-sized regions of any given painting look very similar, even if they exist in wildly different parts of the piece. If you look at the screenshot above, you can compare the solid leaf and cloud pieces to areas showing the gradient in the sky. The latter piece are much easier to assemble because their content implies a specific region of the piece, whereas the others can be confusing and frustrating to fit together at times.
  3. Painting across piece borders is important. There are several spots in the puzzle above where curves or details work out in a way that makes them ‘stop’ right at the edge of a piece. This makes finding its neighbors tougher, because even the right piece will leave something that looks a little like a seam. This point isn’t as critical as the others, but it’s a pattern that should be avoided.

I hadn’t really thought about any of this before starting, and I think it’s going to change my approach to art somewhat. I think the first two points in particular have the potential to improve my work outside of puzzles, so I’m quite excited to try putting them into practice.

Where Am I Going With This?

Let’s fast-forward a little and talk about next steps. I’d like to release something this summer, and this seems like a decent candidate. So what’s left on the to-do list?

As far as core mechanics go, the only thing left is letting the player move ‘islands’ of connected pieces instead of going one at a time. This feature isn’t technically needed, but it will make solving large puzzles much less painful. Implementing save data for puzzles would also be good, since not everyone has hours to spare.

On the UI front, I have basic functionality in place but nothing pretty. I think assembling a logo and simple main menu design would go a long way to ‘selling’ this as worth playing.

Last but far from least, I need some real puzzles. This is just a matter of painting some larger and more detailed pixel art scenes though, I don’t think it’ll be too difficult to do. It will take some time though, so I’ll probably want to start early. For an initial ‘early access’ release, I’ll probably aim for 4-8 pieces total.

I have a lot of future plans for this, particularly supporting ‘special’ puzzle types and giving the player more tools for organizing pieces, but I don’t think any of that is necessary right from the start. Hopefully all of the remaining work will go smoothly, and I’ll be able to report back with a public demo “soon”!

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