A brief history of Frienzzle

The idea of writing games is almost as old as my adventure with computers, but only recently I started turning it into reality. This article is a brief history of a jigsaw puzzle game called Frienzzle that will soon be published by the company that I co-founded, Bulletcode.

The idea

It all started in summer 2016. I decided that I need to try something fresh and started hacking a simple platformer game, just to learn the basics of JavaScript. We had a lot of discussions with Łukasz Grabowski, my friend and co-founder of Bulletcode. At some point he came up with the idea of a jigsaw puzzle game. I quickly discarded this idea: “I’m going to write all code in a few days and you will spend the next months drawing the graphics.”

We kept working on the platformer game, until one day I read an article about the tech stack used by Trello. That’s how I discovered Node.js and socket.io, the foundation of real-time communication for web browsers. I always liked how you could drag a card in Trello and everyone else could immediately see that in their browsers. And then it downed on me: we could create a multi-player online game, where people could play jigsaw puzzle together, moving the puzzles around in real time.

The prototype

I decided to test the idea with a simple single-player prototype which I created in a few days. The first beta tester was my five year old son and it was the first time he used a mouse. He completed the first puzzle and asked me if there were more, so I searched for some pictures from his favorite movies and cartoons. The beta version was approved!

I started learning Node.js and socket.io by writing the classic chat application; later the chat became part of Frienzzle. Then I started working on the new multi-player prototype. I tested it with my friends and I was thrilled when I saw puzzles moving smoothly in real-time.

First multi-player prototype of the game

A few days later we were brainstorming with Łukasz, discussing the idea of creating games as a sort of creative outlet. We were also looking for a name and I came up with Frienzzle. The next day we purchased the frienzzle.com domain and Łukasz designed a logo for the game.

The Frienzzle logo

The hard reality

I continued working on the prototype, improving the look of puzzles and adding new features, and it was a lot of fun. But soon came the boring parts: handling user accounts, processing emails… the momentum was depleted and the work on Frienzzle ground to a halt just before the finish line. We focused on Vadiato, the start-up project developed by Bulletcode, and the idea of creating games was pushed to a side.

I didn’t want to divide our attention, but deep inside I always felt regret that we spent so much effort on building this game and we never finished it. I knew it had potential. I also knew it was a chance for us to learn something. I struggled with this for a long time, until a few days I read an excellent book “Learning to Launch” by Fred Rivett and Mike Gatward. It helped me decide that we should finish what we have started and finally launch Frienzzle.

“Just ship something. It doesn’t matter if it gets seen by thousands, whether the press write about it, heck it doesn’t even matter if anyone uses it. Step 1 is launch. Until you’ve done that, launching should be your only focus.” — Learning to Launch, Fred Rivett and Mike Gatward

Okay, but what about all the other projects that we’re already working on? Isn’t it better to just focus on one thing at a time?

The problem is that when you focus on one thing for too long, your focus tends to blur away and the chances that you’re going to finish the project rapidly decrease. It’s better to work on smaller projects that can be finished in a month or two, then switch your focus to something else. This way, in the long term, you will be able to complete more projects, you will learn more and there is a greater chance that one of the projects will eventually succeed. On the other hand, if you only focus on succeeding, you will just keep moving in circles.

“If you’re looking for how to be successful, you’re going about it all wrong. You’re doing it for the wrong reasons. And you’ll continuously be left searching for the next patch of land to find gold.” — Benjamin P. Hardy

The commitment

I started writing this blog to publicly commit to launching Frienzzle by the end of May. It’s not going to be perfect, but it’s going to be done. We will have an opportunity to see if the idea works, if other people actually like it. We will learn how to promote and market a game to reach some audience, which is definitely not an easy task. Whatever the end result will be, it surely won’t be a wasted effort.

I will continually report our progress in this blog, but if you’re curious about the game and you don’t want to miss the launch date, you can go to frienzzle.com and subscribe. We will send you an invitation as soon as the game is ready for public beta testing.