Where’s My Water? 2 Interview With Creator Tim Fitzrandolph
Disney Interactive had a huge hit on their hands back in September of 2011 with Where's My Water?, a cute puzzle game that went #1 in more than 100 countries, spawned two spinoffs (Where's My Perry? and Where's My Mickey?), was downloaded more than 250 million times, received multiple Game of the year awards, and even spawned an animated web series.
Not content with the continuous content pumped into the original game, creator Tim Fitzrandolph and his team at Disney decided it was time to make a sequel. Not one that copied the formula of the original, but a sequel that would improve on the original in every way possible.
I had a chance to go to Disney Interactive in Glendale, CA. and talk to Tim about the latest Where's My game. He showed me a demo of some of the title's great features, like new Challenge Modes, new characters, new features, new ways to play, new ways to interact through social media and future content.
Check out our interview below, with video and pictures of the game!
Fitzrandolph: So, we’re coming up on the second year anniversary of the release of the “Where’s My Water?” which came out November 22 two years ago; so... two years is like a super long time in the mobile world.
Fitzrandolph: So it’s been really quite exciting that, two years later, people still like the game, and [are] engaged by it, and still want more. And, as you know, we’ve released “Where’s My Perry?” [and] “Where’s My Mickey?” which was a fun opportunity to kind of reorganize the mechanics of the game so we could make new puzzles and then combine it with an interesting character: That was kind of the approach to those two. And then all the while, we’ve been updating “Where’s My Water?” over time – I think we’ve done 10 to 12 updates to the game since it released (So I guess that works out to like one every two months or so). We added more level types, we introduced new characters – we added a lot to the game.
So now that we are kind of at this milestone, we’re like, “Okay it’s time to make an official number two.” [It] gave us a chance to kind of look at the game we ended up with, compared to what we started with, and then go, “If we were going to do this again – and now we have a chance to start over, so to speak – would we lay it out like it is right here? Would we change anything about the core game? Then let’s talk about what we might add,” or that kind of thing.
And so it’s kind of two main things that happened – we got a chance to reorganize the game, and that’s a big step. Because the first game is: you download the game, you get these swampy levels, and there’s like these chapters – and they have levels – lots of levels now – hundreds of levels now. And then we added Cranky; he was like this other mode. He was like, “Do you want to spend a dollar and try Cranky?” And he had similar but different puzzles, and it had like a unique twist – the goal of the level was the purple fluid type, and so he kind of mixes the mechanics up.
And then we added Allie, which is the same thing, except it is for steam. So we had all of these puzzle types, new characters, but they were treated like an optional mode.
Did you guys always have a sequel in mind even before Where's my Perry and Where's My Mickey came out? And did those two games sort of gave you a testing grounds as to what you could do for the sequel to Where's My Water?
Fitzrandolph: Um, it’s certainly nowhere near that. There’s a fluid interplay – we started to think, “What could we do for a more official sequel?”; and every time we went to make a newer version, like the Perry and the Mickey one, we changed the formula in one way or another and tried to kind of see what were the bounds of what was fun in our games – like, “Where did it want to go?” So there was a little bit of that – although, the other two games were more like, “Let’s take the formula we came up for the first one, make it fresh again, and come up with something that’s worth downloading as its own new game.”
Did you have ideas for the original that you held off on because you wanted to save it for the sequel?
Fitzrandolph: No. No, the first game when it came out was pretty “complete thought” – like, “This is what we were aiming to make.” And then over time now, we started to come up with ways of things that we thought would be interesting to introduce into the game.
The first big one was the idea of new puzzle types, like the Cranky puzzles where you’re not trying to get water to the goal; [you’re] trying to get the purple, the poison water, to the goal. And then there were the Allie puzzles – that was a big realization, that if we switch out the goal of the level, the core mechanics, it looks like a fresh puzzle. And that’s what we discovered along the way.
And I’ll show you a couple others things. For example, in Where’s My Water 2, one of the first things we did was we just started prototyping with a little more freedom, like, “Let’s just try some stuff.” And we would come up with some ideas that are a fun way to augment or change the core game, that’d be awesome. So one of the first things we did was we prototyped this – which is what we call “Duck Rush”; it’s basically a new type of level. It’s a really tall level, much bigger than a screen. Previously we’ve had levels bigger than the screen, but you manually kind of like moved the camera around to like look at the top or the bottom. And instead – we always found those kind of fiddly – and instead what we have now is when you make your first cut...
So when you make your first cut, the camera just starts scrolling; and it’s up to you to keep your water on screen. So if the water is left behind, then you’ll fail the level; or if you kind of, like, lose your water along the way, then you’ll fail the level.
And this produces a really different kind of way to play a level here, where I have to see what's coming up, gage how close I am to losing my water and keep making quick decisions about where to go next. So. This is a real different kind of level for us. Now I got a new supply. This is a really different way of playing the game.
[BEGIN VIDEO] When we first made this originally we were a little bit like this is really different. This isn't like a classic puzzle, like the style that we have really become accustomed to that sort of of defines our game. But the more we played it and the more we messed around with it we were like this is really fun and this is based off all of the same pieces that make up our puzzles.
The same interactions, the same rules, the same input scheme where you just cut the dirt. So all that really led us to feel like this is a fun new way to play our game. It kind of opened our eyes that although we have been only been making very specific types of puzzles before, our sort of toy of the game can actually support much more than that. So if you make it to the bottom, even just one drop will do, then you win the level and in this case I collected 6 ducks. The duck rush levels have 6 ducks so they have twice as many as a normal level. [END VIDEO]
So this is an example of where we didn't have this in mind, you know, a long time ago when we started thinking about what we should make new. We let ourselves step outside of what we sort of considered the official like game that we had already come up with. It sort of made us realize that there is more that we can do. It really adds a lot of variety. It makes the game feel fresh. We are really excited about how it turned out. That is duck rush, which is a new level type. Another thing I touched on is that we have our location map now. It is actually how you go through the levels rather than having Swampy mode, Cranky mode, Allie mode, we have locations. You start in the sewer and you actually have all of the level types mixed together. Blue is a level where you have to get Swampy to the exit.
Then orange is the Allie where you have to get steam to her, and then green here is the Cranky level. Of course the characters themselves are actually in the location. You really get a sense of the world that the game takes place in much more directly because of locations. The biggest thing that you get to do is you get to go to new locations. You complete the left levels and you earn enough ducks and make it to the soap factory.
[BEGIN VIDEO] The soap factory is a brand new location that we have never had in the previous game. Again all of the characters are there, all of the different types of levels. Then things like collectibles, there is an example where I haven't found a collectible yet but it will tell me that this object is in one of the nearby levels. It’s those things that you uncover in the dirt. Other things to take a look at, one of which is power ups. We wanted to add some power ups to the game, they allow you to make some interesting decisions as a player.
Like, when do I use them? How do I use them? But they are also kind of dangerous because it is a puzzle game and you could very easily introduce something that is so powerful that it just sort of lets you skip the puzzle or circumvent the whole part where you solve it. We decided not to have any power ups that are related to beating the puzzle and instead all of the power ups help you to get the ducks. [END VIDEO]
A simple example is the vacuum, I turn that on and then all of the ducks get a little attractive aura around them. Now if I get the water close to the duckies though it will get caught up in that force and then attracted to the duck. It makes it a little bit easier to get the duck but I still have to figure out how to get water to it.
There is still that whole aspect of figuring out what to do, it just helps a little bit with the how. That is the main idea and the line of thinking behind adding power ups into the game, is to make prospect of getting all 3 ducks in the level have a little bit of a wiggle room for the players. Of course the levels you can get all three ducks without using the power ups but they're there if you want them. You have a limited number of them, we give you a certain number of them when you first play the game and as you progress and unlock we give you a few more but not enough to use them on every level. If you run out you can purchase more.
The other big thing that we added was a hint system. So being the puzzle game and being that every level is hopefully a unique puzzle for you to solve where you have to make some mental connections. This is an example of a challenge type where I have to collect these little musical notes in order. I have to get the glowing one to get the next one, and then get the next one, then the next one, and the next one. In this case I have no way to get the water down to beat the level now. I'm stuck and I can't figure this one out, maybe it is time to use a hint.
[BEGIN VIDEO] What I wanted to do was to think of a hint system that did the thing that a human would do which is to sort of give you this much so that you can go 'oh, oh, ok. Never mind never mind. Let me beat it.' and it didn't sort of spoil the whole puzzle for you. We came up with this thing called 'show me' and if I tap that, it will show me the first step and that's it. Then in this case this might be enough for me on this level because I kept going like this in the beginning and seeing that hint is like 'oh, if I go like that, then I will save all this room down here for later and maybe that is enough for me to figure it out' but if it's not enough you can tap the button and then see step 2, step 3, step 4, and work your way through. If you want you can reveal the solution to the puzzle but the idea is that you can self-edit.
Do you have a limited number of hints that you can use?
Fitzrandolph: Yeah. You can do the same thing; you can earn some as you play through, which is just done by progressing like go back and replay levels or anything. Once I get past this gate I now have 5 more kind of thing. You can use them on any level and if you use them up and you want more you can buy more. I think the thinking there is that we sort of understood what is fun about our game and how people want to play it. [END VIDEO]
The other stuff worth mentioning is you have these little duckies on the map here. Basically as you play through the game you unlock different ducks by meeting different achievements. For example this one is try duck all the levels in the sewer, I haven't done that yet so I don't have that one but I did get this one.
Once you get them you get a funny little saying about each one then whichever one you have chosen becomes you on the map. Then if you log into Facebook, in your little face book profile they sort of hang on a little flag and then your friends will appear in the game too. You can see what duck they have selected, Here is an example where my buddy Dave, this is his Facebook profile picture and I recognize him. He is on level 25 and I can see what little outfit he has. If I want to figure out how he got that outfit which is just a fun way to incorporate. If you have friends who are playing the game you can do the thing that you would do anyway outside of the game which is be like ' oh you play, too. How far are you? How many ducks do you have?' It is just built in now so the game you can sort of see who else is playing and get that communal experience.
Is that with the little email icons?
Fitzrandolph: Yep. The little exclamation points just mean that there is something new. Some thing has happened since the last time that you were there. In this case I think it is because I unlocked a new ducky. Here is the place where you can send things back and forth among your friends. Of course that is in the case that you are connected to Facebook, otherwise, you wouldn't have that aspect.
But that is optional? You don't have to be connected to Facebook.
Fitzrandolph: No you can play the whole game off line. You don't have to be connected to the Internet at all. It is just an added bonus if you want to or if you are old enough to have a Facebook account.
What was some fan feedback that you received for people that wanted certain things in the game? Did that help? Did you add some things into the game from fan recommendations?
Fitzrandolph: Yes. Definitely. One of the things -- for the power ups aimed at helping you earn the ducks is kind of in response to how surprised we were at how much people will not move on until they get all three ducks. We designed the game where the ducks were kind of this cool difficulty like bonus. We were like we could make the base level this hard and then make it this hard to get all 3 ducks. That meant that a variety of players could move through the game at their own pace and sort of see more of the game. They wouldn't hit a level that was impossible for them. We expected people to play that way. The trick is that most players won't move on unless they have all three ducks. It’s like a point of pride.
So the power ups are sort of recognizing that people really care about getting all 3 ducks. We wanted to add something to that aspect to the game. Also the challenges, the idea of having the challenge in the game. We have had a couple of little parts in the original game where there were a couple of challenges that you could do where they were kind of similar to this. Oh, we play this level with something different, it was that we had a couple versions of when you buy Cranky purchase it came with a few Cranky challenges which were kind of difficult things to do. People were really enjoying those. We were really expected those to be only the player who totally exhausted everything else but kind of wanted to these more hard things.
We were really surprised by how many people played them and liked them. Same thing with the achievements in the original game. We were blown away by the people who would say, I have played through the whole game and I'm on the last achievement. We were like you are doing the achievements?! We didn't expect that many people or maybe perceived it to be more casual players to actually go that deep into the game. That is why the achievements, unlock outfits, are a more central part of the game and the challenges have really taken on a life of their own as something we expect way more players to enjoy.
With the holidays coming up, do you plan to have some sort of holiday themed content planned?
Fitzrandolph: Yeah, we have been doing that a lot over time. I expect to have the opportunity to do that in 1 or 2 as well. We also have the concept as those duckies that you can earn by doing achievements. We have some that we can add into the game seasonally so that there is a Christmas duck that you can only get during the Christmas time period. A few things like that. Add something fresh to the game every time you come back to it or have a reason to keep it on your phone and play it every once in a while.
Where’s My Water? 2 is now available on the App Store, Windows Phone Store, and the Amazon App Store. Coming soon to Google Play.