Comment & Opinion

How rethinking a 5 year-­old game in the context of a clone led to Impossible Hex

William Volk on the interaction of influence for new inspiration

How rethinking a 5 year-­old game in the context of a clone led to Impossible Hex

William D. Volk is the CCO of PlayScreen.

On 23 August, I was greeted by this email from a fellow employee:

  • SUBJECT: Circle The Dot by Ketchapp
  • Play and tell me if this reminds you of any of our games. Shoot me now!In the top free apps list.

And yeah, I knew EXACTLY what game she was talking about.

All about the hex

Here's Circle The Dot, which hit #1 in Games on 18 August.

And here's our Bag Bigfoot, released on 11 February 2009.

In both these turn­-based games, your goal is simple, trap the moving object.

Circle The Dot has you capturing a blue dot by trapping it with yellow dots; we had you capturing Bigfoot with stone pillars.

Both games operate on a hex grid. Circle The Dot flattened the graphics and created an abstract streamlined game experience. Bigfoot was more colorful and illustrated, as befits the games of that era.

(It was also a paid games, whereas Circle The Dot is free with ads.)

So I'm kinda glad to see that a new developer 'ketched­up' to this cool game concept. Or did they? Maybe they didn't copy Bigfoot. Perhaps they copied a different game? Or they wanted the interface to be difficult for users.

Player opinion

Here are some player reviews for Circle The Dot.

  • "This game is god awful. The concept is fun but the game itself was crap. When you tap a circle another circle is selected and the only real way to win is luck."
  • "The touch sensitivity is garbage. I'll be one dot away from capturing the dot, and then with one click, I accidentally clicked on another dot which gives the dot the opportunity to escape. Work on it."
  • "Half the time I click on something the game clicks on something else, and there's no strategy involved to win. But, it's still very addicting."
  • "Just when yr closing in the game mis­reads your tap, places your dot in the wrong space, then the blue dot takes the space u tapped. You lose."

Every one of the game interface complaints described above? I feel their pain.

Truth is, I have fingers the size of hotdogs. I can hardly type on a keyboard. Just like Homer.

Incidentally I came up with Bag Bigfoot as an homage to where I got my start in videogames, Avalon Hill, which is best known as the company that bought war gaming to the masses, starting in 1954.

My first computer game, Conflict 2500, was published by Avalon Hill in 1981.

Historic inspiration

Most of such board games used hex maps and our goal with Bag Bigfoot was to create a simple but challenging hex map capture game on the iPhone.

The challenge we wanted to give players was to capture Bigfoot, not try to select a tiny dot. We solved that problem. I can reliably select any hex I choose in Bigfoot. In other words, we fixed the glitch. You'll never select the wrong hex by mistake in Bigfoot.

We also wanted the game play to be fair but challenging. One common complaint with Circle The Dot is that many times the game is "unsolvable."

Well, that's not the case with Bigfoot. The game may be excruciatingly difficult, but it is fair:

  • "This is a really interesting puzzle game. In my initial tries I thought an easy mode could be helpful. But after playing level 1 for 5 or 6 times I was able to trap the creature! Yes! In level 2 it escaped! A little more and I was able to reach level 5! It seems easy but it's tricky indeed" - Bag Bigfoot player review

Back to future

So here's what we're going to do about all of this:

We're going to 'flatten' the game graphics, and release it as a free game we're calling Impossible Hex.

Oh, and it's going to have the very cool UI we built five years ago for my fat fingers. As well as a larger number of hexes and the fair but 'impossible' game play of the original Bag Bigfoot.

We've taken things a step further with the launch of this title in partnering with Magmic Inc. as the official publisher of the title on iOS. Magmic is specialist in the card, puzzle, and casual games space for mobile making them a perfect partner for release.

And since it's free, we're inviting all the frustrated players who wanted a difficult but fair game, or have man­-hands, to play it.

You can download Impossible Hex now from the App Store [link]. regularly posts content from a variety of guest writers across the games industry. These encompass a wide range of topics and people from different backgrounds and diversities, sharing their opinion on the hottest trending topics, undiscovered gems and what the future of the business holds.