Clean sweep: Head of State developer Ed Biden on Sudoku Sweeper, mobile development

Coming fresh off of the success of political simulator Head of State, developer Ed Biden has worked with his team to create Sudoku Sweeper, an upcoming mobile game that mixes up Sudoku and Minesweeper to become a relaxing puzzle experience. We spoke with Biden to talk about his inspirations for the title as well as the development cycle for mobile gaming.

Gaming Trend (GT): It’s been awhile since we last talked! How’s it been going since then?
Ed Biden (EB): Great, thanks! Head of State was a big success – more than we dared imagine before launch. Sudoku Sweeper was both meant to be a simpler project, but one where we could push the quality bar further, and we’re really pleased with the results.

GT: Your previous game, Head of State, was a political satire simulator. Sudoku Sweeper… isn’t really any of those things, so what inspired you to make that game?
EB: Haha, yeah… they are very different. I thought of the base mechanic for Sudoku Sweeper about 5 years ago. At the time I was working in F2P games and it didn’t really suit that business model. After Head of State came out I realized that it would be perfect as a premium title though, and I was excited to launch another game. It seemed like a great time to pick up Sudoku Sweeper again and actually build it.

GT: Between this and Puyo Puyo Tetris, it seems that puzzle game mashups are all the rage these days! (Well, those are probably the only recent ones I can think of right now.) What made these two games perfect to amalgamate with each other?
EB: Sudoku and Minesweeper are both really popular games, but both don’t work very well on mobile. The cells are too small and it gets fiddly to tap, you need to keep switching between reveal/flag or note/solution, and the color schemes are drab and boring. I realized that by combining the two games you could make something that was much better suited to mobile, and hopefully just as addictive. Now your choice is to tap, or not to tap. You use Sudoku logic to avoid bombs, and flags get placed automatically. The irregular zones, colors and soundtrack create this relaxing environment to hang out in. It’s obviously reminiscent of the inspirations, but very different at the same time.

GT: How do you think Sudoku Sweeper will stand out against the endless waves of puzzle games out on mobile devices today?
EB: It’s always difficult to stand out. We really worked hard on driving the quality bar up as far as possible. We spent a long time getting the color scheme, UI, animations and soundtrack just right. I wanted us to give players this sense of meditating in a Japanese house – I can imagine sitting on the tatami mats playing Sudoku Sweeper as rain falls on the rock garden outside…

GT: Are you thinking of updating the title post-release? I could see some more features being added for accessibility (like the option to choose grid size or different backgrounds).
EB: Accessibility and additional languages are the things we would address first. I’d like the game to be playable by colorblind players, and horizontally on an iPad. It’s a game that I think can appeal to much older players than most other games – as well as appealing to younger players too.

GT: Which do you like better, Sudoku or Minesweeper?
EB: Minesweeper. I actually find Sudoku too intense at the higher levels of difficulty. Minesweeper is just the right level of complexity to chill out to. The fact that it always involves some luck to start, and sometimes to finish is a huge drawback though.

GT: What’s the biggest obstacle in developing or marketing a mobile game?
EB: For premium mobile games it always comes down to whether Apple and Google feature you. That’s a risky business. There’s stuff you can do to maximize your chances of that, as well as make the most of it if you don’t get featured, but it’s hard to beat the exposure they can give you from day 1.

GT: Do you think there’s still some uncharted territory that you could delve into with the mobile gaming market? Perhaps some genres that need some love over there?
EB: There’s always new space to go into. We actually have a concept for the next game that we want to work on, but we postponed it as I was moving to London and it was too much work to do at the same time. And there are other concepts after that I would love to work on as well… I don’t think I’ll ever run out of ideas.
Sudoku Sweeper will be available this Thursday on Android and iOS devices. Stay tuned for more news on Gaming Trend.

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