THE STORY BEHIND THE CREATION OF SMART FARMER
In this puzzle game I combined a few things that where already a long time on my wish list. I wanted to make a game with farm animals, but I couldn’t find a good concept that made sense for a puzzle game. I also wanted to make something similar to the paper and pencil game where you have divide a land, with a house and a tree in each area. I like to use familiar concepts and use it in a completely different context. Not because I lack inspiration. The purpose of a new game is not that it must be 100% original... but that it is a good puzzle game. Using something familiar can help people to learn more easily the game rules, so they can focus on what it really important: playing.
LESS IS MORE
This idea has been living in my sketch books for many years. But I could not make it work. When you play a game like this with paper and pencil, you can draw any line you want. But if you make a physical product, you are always limited to the same puzzle pieces. An obvious solution was to add many different pieces. But the downside of that, is that you would need a lot of setup before you can start. And the more puzzle pieces a game like this includes, the harder it becomes to make solutions unique. There always needs to be a balance between enough options and not too many.
So the final solution was quite the opposite. I reduced the number of fences to just 3 simple ones. To my surprise, the number of possible ways to divide a 3x4 grid with these fences was quite high. More than enough to make 60 different challenges that were interesting.
Originally, I wanted to have a stable and an animal in each paddock. But stables would be too small compared to the size of the animals (it would also look too similar to Three Little Piggies). The next idea was to have a tree in each paddock. But trees would be too big and make it hard to manipulate the fences. So at the end I choose drinking troughs.
COWS & COMPANY
My colleague designed some nice farm animals. The hardest part was that these animals have different sizes, but that their legs should be identical (because they needed to fit in the same space in the game board). But they still needed too look like cute horses, sheep, pigs and cows. To avoid that the heads of the horses and cows would hinder the placement of the fences, all animals are orientated 45°. This also looked less rigid.
example of a easy challenge/solution of SmartFarmer with 3 species and 2 straight fences
Early versions also included a big farm or barn. But a big barn would only add cost to the game without adding any real playing value, so we removed it again. Instead we choose to add more animals. You now have 2 of each species (8 in total). This opened up the concept to different kind of challenges. The final game has therefor two playing modes:
-Starter, Junior and Expert levels show challenges with pairs of animals. The object of the game is to make sure they end up in the same paddock. These challenges don’t include the drinking troughs. This means that most of the final challenges don’t even resemble the original pen an pencil concept any more.
-The Master challenges show only 1 animal of each species and drinking troughs. The object of these challenges is to make sure that every animal has his own paddock AND trough.
example of a Master challenge/solution of SmartFarmer
The Master challenges are harder, because you don’t know which trough belongs to which animal. Therefor you don’t know how to divide your game board. Although there are 4 different species, there are only 3 troughs. Challenges with 4 troughs became easier instead of harder, so they didn’t make much sense for the Master level.
You don’t need to use all fences. Easy challenges can sometimes be solved with only 1 or 2. The theme and design make it clear that this is a game for young children. If you are older, you might prefer Walls & Warriors instead. Although both concepts are a little different, they have a similar feeling to it. Smart Farmer is of course a lot easier.
When we play tested the game, we noticed that children often placed the L-shaped fence upside down. This resulted in solutions that where not intended. So at the very last minute we changed this fence and added a white bird to it (it’s the same shape as the yellow chicks of Chicken Shuffle JR). Because of this bird, it’s now impossible to place the fence wrong on the game board.
The game board and troughs are made of ABS plastics. All animals are made of TPR (a soft thermoplastic rubber). But the white fences are made of PP. This material is strong but also flexible, to avoid that you could break the fences.
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