Introducing Spider Solitaire
I don’t know who came up with the title “Game Doctor,” but in my humble opinion, it’s a pretty apt description of what I do at Saito, repeatedly laying a game on the operating table, giving it a nip here, a tuck there, and often plenty of botox. To date, only Chess and Red Imperium have yet to undergo my scalpel. And my medical skills are definitely improving. so the good news is that if you’ve got any ideas for ways to improve the games, or games that you’d love to see on the Arcade, I’d love to hear suggestions.
With that said, it’s one thing to make some edits to someone else’s code and quite another thing to build an Arcade game from scratch. This is why about a week ago, when I had more important tasks to be working on, I decided to see how quickly I could throw together a new solitaire game.
Don’t get me wrong. Solitrio is a masterpiece (and my first patient), but I’ve enjoyed Spider Solitaire for more than half my life and felt it would be a worthy addition to the Saito Arcade. If you aren’t familiar with Spider Solitaire, it is one of those games along with Klondike (a.k.a classic Solitaire), Minesweeper, and Freecell that used to be bundled on every copy of Windows 95/98/ME. You use two decks worth of cards that you need to arrange and can adjust the difficulty by playing with one, two, or four suits. It starts off easy enough, but you have to deal out additional cards as the game progresses, which may end up blocking you. When you complete a set of Ace through King in a single suit, the whole stack gets cleared off the board, freeing up space to continue re-arranging cards.
As an exercise in creating a new game, the approach was simple enough since I could basically just copy-and-paste the source code for Solitrio and change out the game logic in a couple of hours. I was honestly surprised by how straightforward the process was. If this was year one Saito, that playable demo might have been good enough for a quick launch. (Un)fortunately, our standards are rising faster than the sea levels, so I spent another day and a half of tweaking the code and CSS to get the game looking somewhat decent. Do we really need fancy animations? Yes — this Doctor wrote a prescription for flash.
Between this and Richard’s earlier experiment, it may seem like child’s play to create a new game for the Saito Arcade. My takeaway is that the threshold to making a functional game is pretty low, but that the threshold for making a good game is pretty high. Given this, if you’re totally new to game design I wouldn’t encourage jumping straight into the deep end and try to build a module from scratch. If that’s what you want to do, it’s better to give us a ping and let us help. If you’re looking for a place to start I’d really recommend anyone in the community to follow the same path I did, i.e. iterate on the current games, polish their UIs, and make them better. We are an open source project. Anyone can fork the repository, play around with the interface or mechanics of their favorite game, and submit a pull request. The only danger is you may get caught in the spider’s web and end up working, living, and dreaming of web3.