– Where did ideas like having Active Chains done by moving panels around or the garbage blocks in versus mode come from?
Hitoshi: Well, we certainly didn’t have them from the very beginning. The base system–the idea of having panels disappear after lining up 3 or 4 of them–is something that came to me after throwing 15 panels together. Then, in the space created by the cleared panels, the ones above come falling down. That’s all that came to me in that moment, with the idea of being able to use the cursor to switch panels around even while the blocks were falling being a consequence of that.
– I actually played an in-development version of the game where all you could do was switch the panels around, and it really wasn’t all that fun. (laughs) I thought the “active” element that was added to the final version was revolutionary. It’s probably at the center of what makes Panel de Pon so interesting.
Hitoshi: I had the idea of being able to move things around while panels were dropping, but I wasn’t thinking all that far ahead. Shinya was the one who really brought the idea to fruition, and whether or not they’d actually be able to move depended entirely on his skills.
– The programmer’s ability is part of the equation too, after all.
Hitoshi: That’s right.
– It’s all over if the programmer says they can’t make it work.
Hitoshi: Yeah. If Shinya had said “there’s no way to do that while panels are coming down” then that would’ve been the end of it, but it’s precisely because he programmed it into the game for us that we were able to discover how fun it was to have that active element. I think discussions like those end up having a big impact on the game. Factors like luck and coincidence sometimes play into whether or not a game is interesting, don’t you think? The game may not have been fun if Shinya wasn’t our programmer.
Toshihiro: It’s important that panels take 4 frames (1 frame is 1/60th of a second) to switch out, as well.
Toshitaka: The game would have been difficult to control were it any slower. We were told we couldn’t sacrifice ease of control for graphical performance.
Toshihiro: We also took care to ensure that panels could be moved while other panels are still in the middle of their switching animation. Shinya made that a reality.
Toshitaka: He’s the one that made it into a game, after all. He’s also the one that figured out you could catch blocks as they’re falling. It’s not like we were thinking these things through as we were making it.
Shinya: I didn’t figure anything out. (laughs) Toshitaka pointed it out while watching me play one day, and we found out that way.
Hitoshi: It’s not like everybody uses techniques like those from the very beginning. You learn how to do them as you play.
– It’s fun to discover techniques like those all on your own, too. As the junk panels rise from the bottom, the patterns on them gradually becomes easier to make out, right? Setting up ways to clear those out before they even pop up, for example.
Hitoshi: We made it so that people would pick up on that. Those blocks you intercept and clear out that way are counted as part of your chain, too, which adds to the fun.
– When I played with friends who were around the same skill level, the person who picked up on techniques like that first started dominating, which was pretty amazing.
Hitoshi: Small revelations like those are all over the place. Like the Delay Chains you can make by having panels fall onto places of different heights. You could even think of them as two totally separate chains. Like, being counted as “2, 2” and “3, 3”.
– If it were a computer game it may have ended up that way.
Hitoshi: Shinya making that count as “2, 3” and “4, 5” just shows how smart he is.
Toshitaka: No, he actually kept mentioning how much he wanted to have them counted as simultaneous chains, but it got out of hand because you could have as many as you wanted going at once. (laughs)
Hitoshi: But it ended up being more fun as a result, right? (all laugh)
– That’s a pretty unexpected byproduct of the system, huh?
Hitoshi: The end result was good, though. There were lots of interesting discoveries made completely by coincidence.
Toshihiro: We all made quite the fuss, saying “It’s a bug!”
Hitoshi: Delay Chains were only possible due to the inclusion of junk panels. There are lots of different factors at play, which I think made for a very good system. We didn’t have much planned out from the beginning, but as we moved through development we would pick and choose which parts to leave in.