Developer interview: Sokobos

Steam continues to be a wonderful platform for small indie productions in specific niche genres, like Sokoban puzzles. The latest example we noticed is Sokobos, which merges familiar gameplay some new ideas and a hint of Greek mythology through its narrative. We reached out to developer Martin Firbacher to find out more.

We’ve had four decades of Sokoban puzzles already – what kinds of twists does Sokobos add to the genre?

Traditionally Sokoban is about pushing blocks to pre-determined spots. The blocks themselves are indifferent however, so it doesn’t matter where you push them specifically.

In Sokobos you are assembling things, therefore each block has its own destination. There are also extra elements on top of that. In some levels you must paint parts first before assembling them, which was inspired by the fact that Greek statues were actually painted. In others you must rotate the blocks into the correct angle before they can be assembled, just to name a few examples.

The block-pushing/Sokoban genre is often all about gameplay – what made you decide to add a narrative element to it?

I enjoy having context behind the actions I do in games and having a goal I am striving towards. It’s also very fun to come up with stories, characters and to write the dialogue. Since the game is set in ancient Greece, I knew right away I had to make the story a Greek tragedy. It went through a few iterations, things were added, cut and adjusted, but I am very happy with what the final story is.

sokobos2

What drew you towards Greek history and mythology for this game?

Sokobos was always intended to be a game about assembling things, however at first the main character was a modern day construction worker. After prototyping the basic gameplay and showing it off to friends, one of them suggested they’d much rather build a Greek temple than street lights or pipes. I played around with the idea for a bit and I felt like it was a much better and interesting choice for a setting.

What inspired the visual style for the game?

At first Sokobos had a more colorful pixel art style with black outlines. However, I couldn’t make the backgrounds work without sacrificing the game’s clarity, which is very important for puzzle games.

I knew I wanted Sokobos’ banner art to be in a black and orange style which was commonly used to decorate Greek pottery, so I decided to try it out for the game itself. After 3 days of experimenting, I created a style I really liked and it was readable. It was never intended to be an homage to old school computers, unlike my previous titles.

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I was surprised by the amount of people who compared the visuals to Baba Is You or Apple II, DOS and other retro games, but I can see why they do.

What can you tell us about the development process?

Despite the name Daisy Games, it’s a one-man effort run solely by me. The only help I got was from my friend Julieta who did the amazing banner art and the logo for the game. The work on the game started in the second half of December 2021. I didn’t work on it all the time though, as I was busy updating my previous titles. I make games in the Godot Engine, which I’d highly recommend to anyone interested in making 2D games.

The aforementioned change of the art style was definitely a huge decision. I was through a third of Sokobos’ development at the time. I had so many graphical assets done too, but since I wasn’t happy with the current visual style, I knew I had to do something about it. Otherwise the development was quite smooth, but this wasn’t my first puzzle nor Sokoban game either, so I already knew a thing or two about making titles like this.

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