Doodle Hex is the latest game to be released in the UK on the Nintendo DS by Tragnarion Studios. We were fortunate enough to get some time with a few of the staff behind Doodle Hex, and the up and coming sequel: Doodle Hex 2. The pair who answered our questions were Ricardo Carretero - Doodle Hex Lead Designer and Doodle Hex 2 Producer and Jean-Philip Rodriguez - Marketing & Public Relations Manager.
How many people worked on Doodle Hex?
The number varied quite a lot. As any project, we started with a few core people but for the full production we were 13 people working plus the QA team.
The concept for Doodle Hex is very unique, what inspired you to think of this title?
I have always played role playing games of all genres. Magic was always something cool to me and warlock's duels seemed a cool idea to take into a videogame. I wanted this magician's duel to happen in a cool way, not the normal "press A to cast a fireball" and then the drawing came to my mind, as it is something that everyone likes, at least to "doodle" in a notebook or a pad. So basically I had the two main concepts for the game "magicians duel - drawing runes" and everything evolved in the way you can see in Doodle Hex.
Had you never considered the PC instead of the DS for Doodle Hex?
Well, to be honest, the first prototype video was for PC, but then we saw that the Nintendo DS was a better platform to develop Doodle Hex and we went for it.
The music is all very unique and very catchy, who is responsible for the tunes?
Several people participated in the composition (Andres Ballinas, Rob Blake, Guillermo and Jorge Badolato) everyone contributed with one song or another.
Was the use of a magical school in Doodle Hex limiting when it came to writing the storyline?
Not really. We needed a boundary, some limit to work inside. We needed some place in which all these magician duels happens, and this actually helps to shape the story line. If you don't have limitations, you can go really crazy with the story so I think the school was a good thing to keep us working within limits.
How did the concept of using runes instead of say a tapping motion come around?
I was looking for something different with the gameplay. I wanted the magic battles to be more than "Fireball - Lightning Ball - etc". Drawing is something that everyone can do, at least at a basic level. And it is something that everyone enjoys to do or did in their childhood. It is also something that people can easily associate with magic. Runes were powerful and mystical symbols used a long time ago by many different cultures. Then we also saw how Nintendo really wants the developers to use these cool features they offer and we went for it.
There's a fine line between defense and offence in Doodle Hex, how hard was it to find the balance between the two?
Actually, it was quite hard. We soon recognized that the best defense was to be offensive! Characters and players that constantly attack are more difficult to defeat because they allow you little time to implement your tactics. The good thing is that it also works the other way around! We encourage players to not defend all the time. If you do that, it's impossible to win. In early prototypes (and I'm talking really early pencil written card game) I also realized that people just enjoy attacking more than defending so, if players want it, I want to give it to them.
It would appear that Doodle Hex has a strong influence from eastern animation, what caused you to choose the anime style over traditional western designs?
Our art team was really strong with this style and it also fit really well with the Nintendo DS capabilities so we went in that direction.
The characters are all very unique, which was the hardest character to come up with and why?
I think probably the hardest one was the final boss of the game, Hyperion. ItÂ´s always a tricky task to come up with an exciting and cool looking bad guy, but the original thing here was that the bad guy wasnÂ´t actually that bad, as you get to know by the great back story the character has (youÂ´ll have to play the game in full to know what I mean).
Doodle Hex is surprisingly difficult; it catches you unawares, what part of Doodle Hex surprises you now?
People's reaction... Everyone plays differently, feels differently. It's a really different game and genre and it's cool to see how people react to that. Some of the forum commentaries are just surprising.
It would seem that the process of drawing the Runes would be the hardest part of programming this game, is that true?
Nintendo offers a set of patterns recognition tools that we modified to implement into the game.
When designing the combo system, how did you come up with the scheduled system around the outer circle of the playing field?
We needed to give the players two different type of info: what to do and when to do it.
What? Draw a rune.
When? When the previous one reaches the circle.
It can be a little tricky as it is something completely new, but once you've got it, it becomes a really clear and simple way to communicate combos to the players.
What's your proudest achievement with Doodle Hex?
For good or for bad, it is unique and appeals to a wide audience.
I'd like to thank Jean-Philip and Ricardo for taking the time out to answer our questions.