NeoPets Puzzle Adventure Interview

Neopets Puzzle Adventure is an upcoming puzzler for the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and PC. It features characters from the popular NeoPets Web site mixed with gameplay similar to Othello/Reversi. I recently got a chance to ask a few questions to Sean Epperson of Griptonite Games, developers of Neopets Puzzle Adventure (DS). Read on for some great insight about the new game!


Cary Woodham (CW): Tell us a little about yourself and what some of the games you’ve worked on prior to Neopets Puzzle Adventure.

Sean Epperson (SE): My name is Sean Epperson, and I’m a producer at Griptonite Games, a division of Foundation 9 Entertainment. Games I’ve worked on in the past include The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night (GBA), Eragon (GBA), and Looney Tunes: Cartoon Conductor (DS).

CW: How did you feel when Capcom approached you and asked your team to make a new puzzle game based on one of the most popular online licenses, that being Neopets?

SE: When Capcom came to us, preliminary work had already been started on the PC and Wii versions of the game, so they had the concept in-hand. We worked with them to tweak and tune that concept for the handheld implementation. Working with Capcom was awesome, and we were also very excited to work with the Neopets license, as several of us are very familiar with (and fans of) the Neopets world. A chance to work on a fun license like Neopets, with an outstanding publisher like Capcom, was truly great!

CW: Were there any unseen difficulties in creating a game with a license like that?

SE: Most of the team are enthusiastic Puzzle Quest players, so we felt we had a handle on what fans of that game type would want to see. The bigger challenge was how we could make the game accessible to a younger audience and still keep a level of challenge for more skilled players. However, it was always fun figuring out creative ways of how to design the best game for the license.

CW: What kinds of things can Neopets fans look forward to while playing Neopets Puzzle Adventure?

SE: Neopets fans will get to see some familiar faces in the game, but also get a chance to meet some new characters as well. The story is really fun, and the gameplay is very engaging.There is also a super cool feature for Neopets fans. Each version of the game (DS, Wii, and PC) has 10 unique codes available to the player. In the DS version, these codes are unlocked by completing certain in-game challenges. These codes can then be entered at the website, and they will unlock special items that are ONLY obtainable by playing Neopets Puzzle Adventure! I’m not allowed to say what these are right now, but Neopets fans will really enjoy them!


CW: Does Neopets Puzzle Adventure offer any gameplay elements that would attract Puzzle Quest fans?

SE: Absolutely. Though the game needed to be accessible to a younger audience, we wanted to offer something for the Puzzle Quest fans as well. One of the key elements to the game is Petpets, which grant the player various powers. The Petpet powers are a mix of defensive and offensive abilities that really make for some creative gameplay. There is a real depth to the strategy that comes from knowing which Petpets work best for your style of play, which work best against your opponent’s style of play, when to use them, how best to use them, etc, etc. It’s a style of play that will really challenge the hardcore players that delve into it.There’s also a local wireless mode, which allows people to put their strategic skills to use against their friends. It’s the kind of gameplay that easily lends itself to tournament style competition, which is something we did with our entire studio during development, and everyone had a really fun time!


CW: How is Neopets Puzzle Adventure different from Puzzle Quest?

SE: While both appealing to strategic players, Puzzle Quest and Neopets Puzzle Adventure have different core gameplay concepts. Petpets, and a cool feature called a Shockwave, which can trigger based on how well you play on your turn, also add a completely fresh and new spin to the classic design.

CW: Will casual gamers who have never heard of Neopets or Puzzle Quest be able to jump into this new game and understand it easily and have fun?

SE: Accessibility was a key design point for us. We wanted people that had never played this type of game before be able to understand its core concepts. Through a series of simple interactive tutorials, the player is taught how to play the game. It’s a design type that is very simple to pick up and fun to play, but real mastery comes from learning various strategies, defensive moves, and offensive moves.Throughout development, we would routinely playtest the game with people of different ages and experience levels. Based on their feedback, we would then go back and fix things that were confusing, things that weren’t fun, etc. This process allowed us to shape the game into one that is very approachable, is fun to pick up and play, and offers a depth of strategy that is there to use if players so choose.

CW: How can families enjoy Neopets Puzzle Adventure together?

SE: The wireless multiplayer feature of the game is an absolute blast. In this mode, you pit your skills and Petpet powers against another opponent, and it makes for great family-friendly fun. I’ve personally played against my wife and my kids, and we have a great time together. We also had people in the studio challenging each other during lunch time, just for the sheer fun of playing the game.We’re super proud of the game, and hope that other gamers will enjoy it as much as we do.


CW: What kinds of advice would you give a young person who wants to create video games someday when he or she grows up?

SE: That’s a great question. I could write an entire article on this one question, but I’ll try to be brief.I would tell them to play lots of different kinds of games. Don’t just stick to one specific type or genre. Play lots of video games (including older games, these games laid the bedrock for game design). But then play beyond video games themselves. Try playing board games, collectible card games, and physical sports. Think about what makes them fun and why you enjoy playing them, and what things aren’t as fun and why that might be.

Making a game “fun” is the elusive and slippery Holy Grail that all game developers chase. There is some measure of magic to it, but a lot of it comes from understanding what game elements are inherently fun; knowing why these elements are fun; and being able to create a solid game design based on them.

I would also stress having a good education. Mythology, history, science, math, art, music, literature, writing, is all very important. You might find yourself working on a fantasy epic, then working on classical music-themed game, then working on a game based on World War I. Games cover so much varied territory, that what you learn in school is always useful and relevant knowledge to have in game development.


CW: I’d like to give a big thanks to Sean for taking the time to chat with me, and another big thanks to Tina Casalino at Clever Communications for making this happen. It’s been quite an honor.

4 Responses to “NeoPets Puzzle Adventure Interview”

  1. Yups, do check out the popular board game cafes like MIND Cafe and good place for wallpaper is

  2. Hehe, if he’s right, i wont be making games anytime soon.

  3. I’d rather play games, not make ’em. –Cary

  4. Why not!

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