Ever since childhood I have always had this set of building blocks – wooden blocks coated with paint on the outside. Each block was painted in one of four colors: red, yellow, green, or blue. The blocks came in various shapes and sizes:
- a cube
- a short block – twice as tall as a cube
- a long block – three times as tall as a cube
- a short, flat block – like a “short block” halved the long way
- a long, flat block – like a “long block” halved the long way
- a triangular prism – has same volume as a cube
- a cylinder – twice as tall as a cube
Usually I would assemble a fortress of crudely made fortresses. I would then make a catapult using a long, flat block as the arm and a cube and a triangle as the fulcrum. Then I’d load a red cylinder onto it, because it reminded me of dynamite, and then fire. It worked quite well – you could say I had quite a “blast.”
Today was a little different. I started to make a maze out of the long, flat blocks. Just laid them on their side to make walls, and strung them together. Once I was done, I went through the maze, using a little cube as the main character.
My little game grew from there. It became so that there were other little cubes in the maze, and when your cube passed them, it would switch to the color of that cube. And sometimes there were obstacles in your way, which you could remove by touching it with a matching color. Such removable barriers were represented by a long, flat block. And in other cases, some obstacles could levitate out of your way if you matched colors, but come back down once you switched again. I called these barriers “pillars”, and were represented by a short block on top of a cylinder. (The short block specified the color, because for whatever reason, the cylinders didn’t come in all colors.)
Once these rules were set in place, I started building up the maze until it turned into a puzzle. The objective was to get to the end block, while matching its color.
While we’re still on the topic: When you think about it, the concept is dead simple – matching colors. But is it always easy? Just play the second last level of Transcolors on Khan Academy, and you’ll see just how far this game went with a simple concept!
I played my block maze over and over a few times, and it was really satisfying to play. Some games are more satisfying to play in the form of physical objects, don’t you think? Like, in the same way a video game about racing isn’t as satisfying as racing real cars on a real track, with real people and everything?
Anyway, I didn’t want to lose all of my hard work. To make sure I remembered it, I wrote it down on paper using a special notation I made up, as shown at top.
I made a few levels this way. I even shared my ideas with my friends and let them try it out, and they got the hang of it quite fast. The game seemed to be a great idea, one that I could maybe – just maybe! – turn into a real game.
And so folks, that is how Transcolors was invented.