Hi! My name is Luke and I’m here to tell you a bit about our latest game – Railbound, a comfy puzzle game about a pair of dogs on a train journey around the world.
On the Right Track
To progress in Railbound, players need to place, reroute and remove railway connections so that train carriages can be safely connected to the engine while maintaining the correct order. The difficulty stems from the fact that you can only use a limited amount of tracks on each level, as well as from us gradually introducing new mechanics and reinforcing them through later puzzles.
In order to achieve an optimal experience we playtest the game from very early stages. For instance, early on we realized that players had a lot of trouble understanding that they can modify the direction of railways they already placed without removing them, which led us to adding special puzzles that focus only on that aspect.
Another example may be how in early development, the initial direction of the train carriages was not visible enough, leaving players confused about which way they’ll go – which is why we added animated arrows in front of them to alleviate that problem. Those features were redesigned through extensive testing, allowing us to make the initial experience of playing the game as fun as possible.
Almost everyone on our team has had a hand in designing puzzles for Railbound which presents a unique opportunity since all members have a slightly different approach to creating new levels. For example, I tend to focus on the unexplored design space between mechanics (which interactions haven’t been covered in existing puzzles?) as well as onboarding the player (in what order we teach the mechanics? Is the pace of the tutorial too slow or too quick?). Meanwhile other team members might pursue other aspects, such as “levels that look nice and symmetrical” or “let’s just make a really brutal puzzle” which gives the final game an interesting balance.
Connecting the World
In our previous titles – inbento and Golf Peaks – we’ve always struggled with incorporating bonus puzzles that would be enjoyable for more experienced players, while not causing frustration to those looking for a more casual experience.
This is why in Railbound, we’ve divided our 200-plus puzzles into “base” and “bonus” levels which are linked together on the world map. The first type are levels which need to be completed in a linear fashion, and we usually utilize them to teach mechanics that you’ll need on your journey. Also, for solving all base puzzles in a given world you get treated to a cute illustration featuring our in-game mascots! (And yes, you can pet the dogs).
Bonus levels present similar, but more complex challenges, often designed as a variation or extension of the base ones. Very often these extra levels were actually designed first, but after realizing that they were a bit too challenging (yet still interesting enough), we designed simpler versions of them to serve as base puzzles. Often it turns out that changing a single tile in a level or removing one piece of railway can make it much, much trickier to solve!
Our intent is that most players should focus on the main path; but if you ever find yourself in need of extra challenge or can’t find a way to crack a base level, feel free to check out the bonus ones too!
Trains for Everyone
As mentioned earlier, a big focus for us on Railbound was making sure that all players can enjoy the experience; which is why we’ve added a slew of accessibility features to accommodate all kinds of players.
First off, from the start of the game you can decide to unlock every single level in Railbound and skip any puzzle that you feel is too troublesome. This is also handy for anyone who wants to continue playing on another device… or who might’ve lost save data thanks to a younger sibling.
If skipping puzzles altogether sounds like a bit too much, we’ve got an optional hint system that suggests placement for a few tiles on the current level, without spoiling the whole solution.
We hope that you’ll have a great time playing Railbound and our other puzzle titles – we’ve put a lot of heart into them and will continue to do so in the future.