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PopCap's Kapalka On Why Hexes Are 'Repellent' To Casual Gamers

As part of a Gamasutra feature interview PopCap's co-founder and chief creative officer Jason Kapalka talks about how games with hexagonal grids, such as Micros
As part of a larger interview with Gamasutra on Bejeweled Twist, PopCap's co-founder chief creative officer Jason Kapalka talks about how games with hexagonal grids, such as Microsoft's Hexic, can drive casual gamers away -- and how the studio worked around the issue with Bookworm. Available online through MSN Games and pre-installed on all Xbox 360 hard drives, Hexic was designed by Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov. Though the puzzle game features rotating mechanics similar to Bejeweled Twist, many see it as too complicated. Kapalka doesn't feel Hexic is overcomplicated -- but he's got a different issue with it. "The only thing I might have questioned with Hexic is the same thing we had with Bookworm, and that is that I think the mechanic is fine, but there's a little something about hexes that turns people off." "Hexes look like, I don't know, I think they give off a vibe of science, of dirty stuff, of war games, and hex paper, something about them just turns people off." Kapalka notes that Bookworm, PopCap's word/puzzle game series, originally featured a hexagonal grid that the studio felt played really well. "But the problem was anybody who looked at a hex grid just was turned off right away," he says. "So we ended up doing something where we kept the hex grid but faked it. So, the hexes got turned into squares, like little tiles, but they're offset by 50 percent. And that's just a cosmetic change, but it actually makes the game much more appealing to casual players." Kapalka continues, "So, I think that's the issue with Hexic. It's not necessarily the game is complex; [the issue is] that it looks repellent in some way because of that weird hex thing. There's something about hexes that's not comforting. I think [that's] the reason." "Imagine Scrabble if it was a hex board," he adds. "In theory it could still be a good game, but it would turn off a lot of people." You can read the full PopCap interview with co-founder and chief creative officer Jason Kapalka, which talks more about game design, Bejeweled Twist, and the studio's plans for DSiWare (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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