Why Make Sharp Minds?

by Sasa Stublic on 02/10/2015

As I write this, our new mobile number puzzle game 'Sharp Minds' is about to be published. Why did I choose to make a number puzzle game?

Few years ago I left a leadership position in an IT company and decided to return to software development. I love software development. I also love games a lot.

Mobile was cool and I've never done anything for mobile, so I partnered with a friend and we decided to form a team and make a game. So we naively embarked on a huge project, where everything we did was our first attempt at it. After a year of very hard work and long hours we published Warlords RTS (iOS, Android).

Even though it is a deep and challenging game with lots of features, I consider it a failed project and a flawed product for myriad of reasons. I'll write about that in detail one day. But not this day :)

Our partnership died out with the project and I needed to decide what to do next. I wanted to make a small and simple game. Not tackle too many unknown areas at once. I badly wanted to make something I'd feel is good, no matter how small in scope.

At the time, 2048 and its clones was gaining a lot of attention and I read a lot about Threes!

I was amazed to see how games based on numbers could attract such a wide audience. Not that I don't like numbers, quite the opposite. I guess most programmers prefer math and numbers. It's that I learned over the years that majority of people don't like them that much. Popularity of these games proved my preconceptions wrong.

That bugged me.

Candy Crush Saga also bugged me. It's such a trivial chance-based game. You can't play it well, you only have to not play it really dumb. That's it; nothing to learn, no way to improve, just repeat until you luck out. But it felt good. It was addictive. There are many articles out there analyzing why and how that works. Mostly it's the same psychology as gambling - we're wired to like it. (e.g. Candy Crush Saga: A Sweet Journey into Monetization , Bitter sweet? A brief look at ‘addiction’ to Candy Crush )

I didn't want to make a game like that, but I definitely wanted to learn from it. Take some of that ingredient and put it to a better use than mindless candy crushing.

So slowly, inspired by these games, an idea began taking form. Use numbers, make it simple, make it fun, but make it smart.

I tried many prototypes which failed at being interesting and/or challenging, but after a while I struck something meaningful. I liked it. People I showed it to liked it as well. And I really liked the idea of making a simple game which requires people to really think hard.

We avoid thinking hard more than ever before. Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, so making a game that purposely aims against the direction of current trends felt good. It gave this project a higher purpose, at least in my heart. And having purpose is an irreplaceable source of motivation. And anyone who has tried developing a project on their own or in a small team knows how critical motivation is.

Having a clear vision about what I wanted to build helped me partner up with Boris and Nikola who have been a part time members of the team ever since.

Project ended not being so small after all, but extra time and effort went into refining the core idea and polishing the product instead of expanding the scope. That also felt really good.

There it is, this is why we made Sharp Minds, a puzzle game which sharpens your mind :)