Take once glance at Morphopolis, and you’d swear it was a work of art, not a game. But it is, and it melds two genres together in a way you don’t often see.
“[The] hidden objects and the mini-puzzles we have designed share commonalities — a way of thinking and approaching problems, a certain visual nature and a test of the eyes, with a slight twist of trial-and-error as you explore the world,” Dan Walters, one of Morphopolis’s two creators and architecture graduates at Micro Macro Games, tells GameZone.
Players explore a brightly colored, gorgeous, and finely detailed insect world as an aphid grub. Micro Macro went to this from its previous title, Terrorhedron, a tower-defense game — a much different direction.
“There is a certain narrative in Morphopolis; you control a character and guide them through a metamorphic adventure,” said Walters. “We have blended traditional puzzles with hidden object and also adventure gameplay. This makes a much more interesting experience as you are playing in a space where genres are overlapping, and in a way that is rarely done.”
Walters described one example of how that works: a scarabs puzzle, one of his favorites, that he said is inspired by a Rubik’s cube.
“The puzzle is a lock to a door with rotating cylinders, with scarab beetle body parts on the locks. You must rotate the lock parts in such an order that the beetle parts line up so each beetle is a single color. To access the puzzle, you must find a series of beetles within the world, spread over the five areas in that chapter.”
The unusual setting enables the developer to take more artistic license and create an adventure that’s both “mystical and atmospheric.”
The mood is largely the work of Ceri Williams, technical artist and designer, who Walters said put “hundreds of hours” into the hand-drawn illustrations, which he would scan into Photoshop, composite with textures and ink washes, and then color digitally. Walters brought them to life with his own animation tool set.
“There are only two of us, and the game contains a ridiculous amount of content, and [it] has been a real strain to see the project to the end,” said Walters. “It was simply too big a project for two people to take on, so I am proud that we finished it.”
It’s taken the developer since July 2012 (over a year) to finish the award-winning game, which is out now for PC, Mac, iOS, Android, and Blackberry (with Windows Phone 8 and Kindle Fire versions pending). The hidden-object genre has a following, but it’s not the most popular type of game, so the generous selection of platforms helps Morphopolis reach the biggest possible audience.
“The big challenge most developers currently have is discoverability, and this is actually hardest on mobile where the app stores are most crowded, but there are also so many players there, too,” said Walters. “Our experience is that the broad ranges of devices we support help grow each other as the promotion bleeds across platforms.”
While mobile attracts casual players in droves, that isn’t where most of Micro Macro’s players are.
“Desktop is actually a very significant proportion of our players, which I am really pleased with as I am a desktop gamer. We cast our net wide with targeting so many platforms as we were not confident which platforms the game would fit the best. We have aimed to create something that worked on desktop, phone, and tablet, and it looks like we are getting the balance right, which is awesome.”