Already available for both the PlayStation Portable and the Nintendo DS, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is an addictive role-playing game in which battles between characters are played out using a Bejeweled-style puzzle game. Earlier this month, D3Publisher announced that it is working with Vicious Cycle and Infinite Interactive on an enhanced version of the game for Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade. So we got in touch with Steve Fawkner, lead designer, to find out what he and his team have planned.
GameSpot: Did you expect Puzzle Quest to get the reception that it did?
Steve Fawkner: By the time we released Puzzle Quest, we had logged hundreds and hundreds of hours playing the game, so we knew it was a lot of fun. I had a pretty good feeling that we were going to get a great reception, but we were really surprised at how quickly fans became addicted and began spreading the word about the game.
GS: What inspired you to make the game?
SF: Puzzle Quest is really the child of my love for role-playing games along with a terrible Bejeweled addiction that I suffered a few years ago. As a game designer, when you love two things, you always start wondering what will happen if you put them together--peanut butter and chocolate? Or beer and cranberry juice? The only way to really find out is to make a prototype, which we did in early 2005. It turned out to be greater than the sum of its parts, so we immediately went into full production.
GS: Did you try to guess as to what the reaction would be? What do you think of how it's been received?
SF: It sounds kind of selfish, but we really made the game for ourselves. After we had a solid foundation for gameplay, we went through the usual process of trying to widen the appeal, adding little touches that we hoped would garner a great reaction. No matter how much you like a game, you always have that 1 percent doubt in your mind that gamers and the press might just hate it. In many ways, that's what drives you to constantly improve it in those critical last few months. As it turns out though, it's been very popular, and there's no higher form of flattery for a development studio to receive than to have gamers recommend the title to their friends.
GS: What's the most surprising thing about the way the game's turned out?
SF: I'm still quite surprised at the depth we were able to achieve with the game. I mean, there is a simple 8x8 grid with seven colors of gems to move. It doesn't sound like much, but there are so many spells and monsters and different tactics to employ. Every character class plays quite differently, and I'm still learning things about the game myself.
GS: Why did you decide to bring the game to Xbox Live Arcade?
SF: I think that XBLA is a fantastic service. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I bought this huge, expensive console, but I spend half of my time playing these small, fun downloadable games on it. I think Puzzle Quest will just be a perfect fit for the XBLA service. We're small enough to download, but we have the gameplay, depth, and replayability of a full game.
GS: Is the game going to be a straight port of the PSP and DS games or will there be new content?
SF: XBLA has so many great features that it would be a criminal act if we didn't take advantage of all of them. We've had time to make changes and plenty of feedback from players about potential improvements and balancing.
GS: Will the game support downloadable content?
SF: Role-playing games are a great genre for downloadable content: monsters, quests, items, spells, etc. Oblivion has been fantastic with the content it has made available, and there is no reason that Puzzle Quest couldn't make similar things downloadable. We don't have any announcements about that yet though. We're still focused on tweaking the core game to make it perfect for XBLA.
GS: In terms of both visuals and gameplay, what's being enhanced to take advantage of the 360?
SF: All I can say at the moment is that there will be a few interesting surprises that should make the game even more enjoyable.
GS: Will you be taking any user feedback on the PSP and DS games into account when prepping the game for XBLA?
SF: Absolutely! We've found over the years with our Warlords games that the players are one of our biggest sources of inspiration for new features and improvements. A few suggestions from the forums have already crept into the XBLA version.
GS: Will we see D3 bringing Puzzle Quest or any of its other titles to the PlayStation 3 or even Virtual Console on the Wii?
SF: I can't speak for any of the other D3 titles, but I know that the team at D3 is a very sharp bunch of people. I'm certain they'll be evaluating all sorts of opportunities to get Puzzle Quest out into the gaming community.
GS: Thanks for your time.