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The Making of Lapsus iOS, Google Play

Earlier this month, we here at darkzero were lucky enough to discuss the making of Lapsus, a mobile domino puzzle game, with one of the game’s primary artists. Here’s a look at what went into making this unique game:

Around ten months ago we at Canalside Studios began thinking about what game we wanted to enter the mobile gaming market with. We decided very early on that we wanted to develop a puzzle game, and one that didn’t necessarily require skill in how fast you can move your finger, or how fast you can press a button. Instead, we wanted to create puzzles that really make you think and make you want to kick yourself for not seeing the solution sooner.

After some research we noticed that as the current mobile gaming market mainly consisted of cartoony, bright styles, a game too serious game might be considered boring. We wanted to create a game that would visually stand out amongst the mass of mobile games being published on a daily basis. After deciding on what the game was about, we spent over a month working on a suitable art style alone.

“We tested lots of different art styles, some similar to most mobile games and others completely original and eventualy stuck with combination of the two” – Lloyd Mills

We wanted to mix the seriousness of the puzzles with a nice friendly, playful element. This is when we decided that a puzzle game made with child’s toys would work. As a child, I always really enjoyed dominoes. There was nothing more exciting than watching them fall down after an hour of setting them all up.

Our initial idea was to develop a 3D puzzle game where you would place all the dominoes. Special types of dominoes were needed in specific places to make it past obstacles and continue towards the finish line. Completing the level without the use of some dominoes would grant you extra stars and other rewards. We were also planning on using realistic physics, but couldn’t risk a correct solution being ruined due to the inconsistency of physics.

After a concept animation of a puzzle from a side on view, we realised that the controls would be much simpler (no rotation controls needed). We also decided to make it in 2D because it would be much easier to develop for multiple devices, menus could also be developed in 2D saving time (money), and the presentation would look more like a mobile game.  The only real downside to developing what was currently called ‘Dominoes’ in 2D was the domino animations and sprite sheet size.

Each domino originally had eight animations – a total of 160 frames – multiplied by the combinations of pips on each domino, then multiplied by the number of types of dominoes. That was clearly too many images, especially considering the resolution we wanted (crisp even with the full zoom feature).

It was a tough decision, but we eventually removed pips from the dominoes. We also saved space by reducing the frame count of each animation, speeding them up slightly, and cut down the amount of needed animations by making each domino vertically symmetrical, removing the need for special animations for a domino falling from an upside down position. This allowed us to easily fit mayn animations on a single sprite sheet, reducing the final app size and decreasing loading times.

“I wanted to kill myself after creating so many puzzles” – Edward Hanley

He’s only joking! The puzzle development was very time consuming and took a great deal of re-designing. The first 20 were especially difficult as we needed to explain the rules and surprisingly complex controls without boring people before they’ve even had chance to experience the fun puzzles with the free version (Edward even created special levels in order to fully utilise the 20 level demo). However, this job also had its rewards. We had a large board in the studio filled with puzzle designs that staff would often stare at during a tea break. Sometimes you’d even get a bunch of four or five people staring at the same puzzle, usually whilst the author sniggered at their expense.

A few months back when Lapsus was entering its final stages of development, we artists took an overall look at the game as a collection of art and asked, “what looks impressive and what can be improved?” We ended up scrapping all of the art work down to the last button. The only thing that stayed was the Lapsus logo and font on the title screen. Looking at both the released version and back at the original, we are all so glad we decided to redo the art work even though it took us another few weeks.


The grey background to the Lapsus logo was originally used throughout as menu icon backgrounds and even on the puzzle complete screens, but we loved the idea of completely different themes for each world even from the beginning; however, we were always cautious about our total file size, but as we saved so much room with the new sprite sheets we finally decided to go ahead and do it. I’m glad we did as I’m sure you’ll agree – they look very nice. We also went the whole way and added particle effects such as snow and smoke giving a really different feel in each world, as well as awesome chain physics complete with padlock and unlock requirements.

Lapsus is available now on the Apple App store and Google Play. Have a look, leave a review and most of all, enjoy!