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iPhone: Sun Stones - the least condescending puzzle game you'll ever play

02-21-2012, 07:50 PM
#1
Joined: Feb 2012
Location: Eugene, OR
Posts: 14
Sun Stones - the least condescending puzzle game you'll ever play



(Cross-posted from the iPad thread)

I founded Sunstone Games with a few simple guidelines:

1 : Players are intelligent
2 : Players appreciate quality
3 : Players come from every demographic

I've been a console developer for years, but I've always been very troubled by the way the game industry interacts with certain demographics - specifically women & children. I strongly believe that by simply eliminating bias it is very possible to create game experiences which are appropriate for players of any kind, without being condescending.

In this spirit, I'm pleased to announce our first commercial release:

Sun Stones.
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sun-stones/id487767776

In Brief: Sun Stones is a Native-American-themed puzzle game. It requires no reading, and has no in-game instructions. It does get pretty complex if you get really far into it, but the complexity is never a barrier to progression.

Pricing: We're exploring pricing options still. On iOS, the app is free, but supports in-app-purchases for new levels, or a $2.99 "Full Game" option which includes all levels and the forthcoming level editor. Sun Stones is also available on the Andorid Marketplace, and the Amazon app store, including Kindle Fire. A version on the Nook is also forthcoming. Those versions do not currently support IAP - they are just a straight $2.99 to purchase.

So why should you care?

Well, I think we've managed to accomplish something really interesting with this game. The puzzles in this game are completely original - there has never been a game which uses this mechanic before. At the same time, solving each puzzle is totally intuitive. We spread the learning out over the first 48 puzzles - so there is a really nice natural learning curve. I've tested the game extensively with puzzle-loving 6-year-olds, and they do just as well as puzzle-loving adults.

Let's talk about the theme - I wanted the game to be about the Hopi, for a few reasons. First, I've always loved the book Arrow To The Sun, and wanted to use that visual style. Second, the Hopi are a very robust, interesting people with lots of history. They are almost totally non-violent, they are expert crafts makers and farmers, and they have a spiritual life which has been largely untainted by western civilization. This robustness has allowed their history & lore to be well documented, which was important for our research. We use a mix of traditional and original Hopi glyphs as the basis for our puzzles, and incorporate lots of traditional Hopi proverbs into our flavor text. Things like the Prophecy Rock, the Bear Clan - these were great sources of inspiration for the team, and for our puzzles.

My other inspiration here was to make a game where I could really strut my stuff - I'm a systems designer by vocation, and I wanted a game where the aesthetics were in service to the puzzles - not the other way around. These are real puzzles created by hand that you've never seen before - because they wouldn't work in any other context. I have a hard time telling people to play games that are just collections of recycled puzzles - or yet another "push the block" style mechanic. Sun Stones is what you get when the mechanics drive the entire game, and I couldn't be more satisfied. The more difficult puzzles still take me 20 minutes or more to figure out - and I created them! Once the level editor goes live we'll be doing monthly "best of" packs for free, so we'll see how devious the community can become.

The game is free on iOS, so while it costs noting for you to check it out, I'd love to get feedback from parents on this thread. If you want to try your hand at the more difficult puzzles, I won't stop you from making a purchase either

-- Simon Strange, Creative Director / Owner
Sunstone Games LLC
02-21-2012, 08:24 PM
#2
Joined: Oct 2010
Location: Minneapolis, USA
Posts: 3,654


02-21-2012, 09:57 PM
#3
Joined: Jun 2010
Posts: 22
This is a very polished release (although it desperately needs a Restart Level button on each screen). The learning curve is subtle, with challenges for all levels of play. This should appeal to anyone who enjoys the peg-jumping sub-genre.

The graphics are simple and lovely, and I didn't see a single bug. Everyone who like untimed puzzles should at least give it a look!
02-21-2012, 11:05 PM
#4
Joined: Feb 2012
Location: Eugene, OR
Posts: 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by cjoshuav View Post
This is a very polished release (although it desperately needs a Restart Level button on each screen). The learning curve is subtle, with challenges for all levels of play. This should appeal to anyone who enjoys the peg-jumping sub-genre.

The graphics are simple and lovely, and I didn't see a single bug. Everyone who like untimed puzzles should at least give it a look!
Regarding the restart issue - if you shake your device the puzzle resets. This is a fairly critical element, but early analytics show that not enough people are reading the tips to learn about it. Apple just pushed out the 1.0.5 build today, so a new build with new fixes should be out in about 1 more week. Your feedback is helping to improve the game as we speak!

--Simon Strange
02-21-2012, 11:14 PM
#5
Man, I kinda wish there were some hints available. I've been stuck on this one puzzle so long its making my brain throb.


"@ColeDaddy - My wallet hates you. That is all."
Drummerboycroy
02-22-2012, 11:18 AM
#6
Joined: Feb 2012
Location: Eugene, OR
Posts: 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ColeDaddy View Post
Man, I kinda wish there were some hints available. I've been stuck on this one puzzle so long its making my brain throb.
It's only been out a week, so we don't have much available yet.

We have forums (pretty empty at the moment, but you could help us get direction!) at http://sunstones.proboards.com/index.cgi

And, of course, you could always ask me - since I designed the puzzles AND I'm very cautious about spoilers. Give me the puzzle name and what your best move count is, and I'll try to prod you in the right direction.
02-23-2012, 01:36 PM
#7
Joined: Feb 2012
Location: Eugene, OR
Posts: 14
Patch is out!

1.0.5 is live!