Mid June the world famous puzzle game Triazzle will be available for the iPhone. In this interview with the creator of Triazzle, Dan Gilbert he will tell us more about this great news and also about the history of Traizzle and how stimulating and creative puzzle designing is.
TELL ME SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF – I’m a graphic designer and I’ve designed a lot of consumer products too. I have a background in fine art with a degree in printmaking from Carnegie Mellon. For a short while I taught printmaking in Pittsburgh, then I moved to California in 1976 and began a career as a freelance designer. By the late 80s I had a studio with around a dozen people. We did a variety of graphics work – the usual thing, corporate identity, posters, collateral, etc. and eventually found our niche designing consumer products featuring wildlife imagery. During those years we were designing as many as 300 products a year and Triazzle was in its heyday in outlets like the Nature Company. I disbanded the studio in 2000 and have since moved onto a couple of acres in Sonoma county in the heart of the California wine country. I work on my own now in a remodeled horse barn and spend a lot of my time tending the veggie garden and fruit trees in between web designs and other graphic design projects. A couple of years ago I started a little toy company called Clear Blue Sky Design LLC with some friends and business associates and we have launched several new lines of puzzles. It all keeps me very busy!
WHAT IS TRIAZZLE – Triazzle is a graphical matching puzzle. There are various formats but they all contain triangular pieces with repeating colorful characters on them that cross between the pieces. The pieces fit into a tray or frame that also has characters along its edge. To solve the puzzle you must assemble all the pieces with images matching. We always said “It’s Harder then it Looks!” and it’s true. I’ve developed layouts for the puzzles that are quite challenging – at first I did this all by hand but now I have software that helps me design the formulas. Over the years I’ve created a variety of formats in addition to the original 16-piece puzzle: Triazzle Junior, Star Triazzle, Master Triazzle, Travel Triazzle and others. Right now I’m working on a new juvenile variation called “Triazzle Kids.”
WHERE DID TRIAZZLE ORIGINALLY COME FROM? – When I was getting established in the early 80s, my wife and I had a poster publishing company called Miller Gilbert Publishing. We did many commemo-rative posters for wildlife institutions, museums and zoos. The National Aquarium in Baltimore was a client, they were opening a new poison arrow frog exhibit and asked if I could create a product to commemorate the opening and sell in the gift shop. I designed the first prototype of Triazzle for the opening. It was called Froggle and used the theme that later became iconic for the game. Unfortunately, the aquarium couldn’t order enough puzzles to make it worthwhile so it went into the drawer for a few years. Meanwhile, Apple and Adobe were busy revolutionizing graphic design, so when the opportunity to produce to product again raised its head, I found myself in the right place at the right time. The new computer methods of design and production were tailor-made for the Triazzle concept and it saved a huge amount of time and expense to produce it. I hooked up with the DaMert Company, redesigned the format and changed the name from Froggle to Triazzle to accommodate many other graphical themes. Within a couple of years we were selling hundreds of thousands a year in the specialty toy and gift market. By the end of the 90s we had sold over 5 million puzzles, designed over a 100 variations of the game, and licensed a computer game, board game, a stationery line and t-shirts.
WHY DO YOU DESIGN PUZZLES? – It’s not what you might think – I didn’t grow up with a great love of puzzles nor do I recall playing puzzles with my family all that much. Even today I don’t play with puzzles very often – did the room just go quiet? No, the truth is that it just all evolved out of the circumstances I described with the National Aquarium. I found myself intrigued by both the logical challenge of developing the puzzle platform and the aesthetic challenge of making it as visually appealing and unique as I could. Of course there is nothing like success to spurn us on, so when Triazzle became a hit I poured myself into it, creating a slew of graphical brain teasers including Concentra, Jungle Bungle, Trails, Cross Three, Tumble Jumble and others.
HOW DID TRIAZZLE 3.0 COME ABOUT? – I love this part. A story that could only have happened now. In June of 2008 I received an email from a professor of computer science in Ireland. He said, “Have you any plans for Triazzle for the iPhone. If you don’t have plans, would you consider letting me do it?” We agreed to partner in the project. Mike, who has since become a great friend, has done all the code and I have done the game design, graphics, animation and sound design. My brother-in-law, Billy White Acre composed all the incredible music. There are 7 original soundtracks in Triazzle! We’ve done the entire project via email and instant messaging – over 3,000 hours of development.
WHAT HAS THE PROCESS BEEN LIKE DEVELOPING THIS VERSION OF THE PUZZLE? – It’s been a huge commitment and an amazing experience. Both Mike and I have worked nights and weekend for months on end. To get Triazzle done along with my other projects I put in 90 hour weeks. Bill was scoring a TV show for Discovery and sending me Triazzle music in between episode approvals. None of us have ever worked on a game project like this so we all had to feel our way along. Mike was learning the iPhone operating environment. I was experimenting with simple animations, sound editing, and video editing – all new to me. Of course I had 19 years experience with Triazzle itself, but we took it to a whole new place.
TELL US ABOUT THE NEW PUZZLE. – Well, its like a thousand Triazzle puzzles in one, with 4 levels of difficulty and 9 and 16-piece formats. The most unique aspect of the game is the emphasis on the animation. We took the original Berkeley Systems concept (the original Triazzle computer game from 1995) of a “living puzzle” and expanded it to create “The puzzle that comes to life!” The most popular feature of the old game was that the frogs and butterflies animated when they were correctly matched. But that was a relatively primitive game, technology has progressed so much since then. Triazzle still uses very basic technology, but the iPhone OS makes it very easy to design in. So now the puzzle has much more animation and graphical environments. It’s loaded with over 30 different backgrounds, multiple exotic musical tracks, tons of sound effects – it really does come to life as you play. The more you solve the more alive the puzzle gets. If you get stuck there is a great animated hint feature. There is no clock or score – it’s meant to be a relaxing, brain stimulating game, not a stress-pool!
WHEN WILL IT BE OUT? – If all goes to plan it will be on the iTunes App store on June 19th 2009.
WHAT WILL IT COST? – It will have a 10-day introductory price of $2.99 and then go to its regular price of $3.99. To be honest, I’d love to sell it for $19.99. That would be the typical price on a PC. But the iPhone has created this low price precedent and that’s just what games cost there. So it’s a bargain!
WHAT’S NEXT? – Good question – a lot depends on how this game is received. First we plan on several free updates to Triazzle, adding the Star format, more animations and several new features. Then possibly Triazzle 4.0 with an entirely different theme and other puzzle formats and features. I also hope to move the game to other platforms including PC, Mac, DS, Wii and on-line browser-based (Flash) gaming. As I mentioned, there are several new paper and wooden lines in the works too. I have an idea for an arcade version of Triazzle that uses a Tetris-like play pattern. Puzzle design is a very stimulating and creative activity and that’s what I enjoy so much about it. For me it’s a balance of left and right brain. © 2009 DREAMSHIP, INC.