Crypto Cross dev diary: making grids

Crypto Cross will be presented only in landscape mode. The landing page on Launchrock has a portrait mode screenshot (because the iPhone template is portrait only) but there’s no good place for menu buttons in that orientation.

So here is what the actual build looks like:


The menu buttons and HUD info will go in the top right corner.

Next, we’ve decided that Crypto Cross levels will not be divided into easy, medium and hard categories. That is an artificial limitation that doesn’t make much sense in this sort of game. If there is a difficulty gradient, it will probably be determined by the choice of words and perhaps in how the clues are phrased. We’re going to keep it flat and simple.

All levels will be 9×9 from a set of grid configurations we’ve designed. Why 9×9? Crypto Cross will feature British-style crossword grids, where words are not made in consecutive rows or columns. British-style levels are easier to make, and it’s a format we’re familiar with in Indian newspapers. Compare with the American-style layout (figure taken from Wikipedia, as is the sample layout above):


Well, we might do American-style later. The Goan (a new newspaper) now reprints puzzles from the New York Times. Here’s one I solved last weekend.

The Goan reprints an NYTimes crossword

But let’s come back to why we’re going 9×9: smaller grids make for fewer words, which turns out to be too easy in playtesting (by playtesting I mean that Mansi plays what I make and I play what Mansi makes). We can’t do larger grids without adding zooming, because British-style grids must be odd-sized and assigning a 320×320 area to display the grid on the iPhone gives, for 11×11 grids, a touchable area per tile of 29×29 pixels which is uncomfortably small. Apple recommends a minimum size of 44×44 pixels, but we manage to get by with the 9×9 size of 35×35 pixels. We can’t try 10×10, because British-style grids must be odd-sized.

We could add zoom in-and-out for the grid, but zooming is a big distraction from the puzzle-solving state of mind. Again, we might do this later.

Finally, here’s how we designed our grid layouts. It’s easiest to start with a ‘seed’ British-style grid and fill in some white squares:

Seed grid

So here are the layouts we came up with, at first:

Grids - first try

Then we started making puzzles over these grids. It was too hard! Why? Because we’ve got too many highly-connected 9-letter words and the last 9-letter word left is almost always very hard to find. We’ll do a blog post later specifically about the connectivity of a Crypto Cross puzzle; it goes beyond the obvious crossword-grid connectivity.

So we cut our grids up to make smaller words, and here’s what we ended up with:

Grids - second try

We’ll see how this goes, and that’s the end of this post.

If you like word games, you’ll like Crypto Cross. Sign up here to be notified when we release it.