Facing challenges with a single ecosystem of tools
How does a small indie team tackle creating their first multiplayer game? Eleven Puzzles has built web-based puzzle games since 2020, but for Unsolved Case, they wanted to invite two players to work together and solve a mystery by collaborating – across multiple platforms. They cracked the case by tapping Unity and UGS to support everything from creation to launch with an end-to-end set of solutions.
Building a robust, scalable, and cross-play-friendly game with a small team and limited resources.
Steam (Mac, PC), Android
Finding the key to a successful multiplayer launch
Giving every design a unique fingerprint
Eleven Puzzle’s unique, hand-drawn art began as a solution to the limitations of the web platform of their first games, but it became their signature style. When they switched to Unity, the 2D Toolkit let them build that twice as fast.
“Working with Unity 2D Toolkit streamlined our workflow tremendously,” says Adrian Olczyk, CEO of Eleven Puzzles. “A simple drag-and-drop workflow allowed us to build more complicated puzzles and iterate on the design rapidly. Sometimes we were even modifying graphic assets on the fly, and they would update in the game without reloading it!”
“Tasks that normally would take a month were completed in two weeks, with higher quality,” he continues. “Because of that, we can focus on one thing that matters: building a good game.”
Solving for multiplayer infrastructure
The social dimension of a multiplayer experience can make or break a game, so the team knew they needed a backend infrastructure they could rely on for launch day. They integrated Game Server Hosting (GSH) to host players so that no matter how many teams joined in the fun, scale would never be an issue.
“I was looking for a hosting service that basically will do everything for us so we will be able to almost exclusively focus on building games,” says Olczyk. “If we didn’t use GSH, I’d say it would maybe have taken 20 to 30% longer in development time.”
Demystifying puzzle testing
The collaborative dimension of Unsolved Case also created testing challenges.
“In Unsolved Case, both players are equally important and responsible for the outcome of each puzzle,” explains lead game designer Mairi Nolan – but that means the team had to build every interaction twice, once for each player. “For us as game developers, this meant twice the work and twice the playtesting – but we believe the extra effort was worth it.”
Evaluating playtest data using Remote Config’s A/B tests simplified the design process. “We used Remote Config to A/B test some puzzles during playtesting or to fine-tune some configuration variables,” Olczyk says. “Puzzle games thread a fine line between enjoyment and frustration. Sometimes, a small change can amount to a massive shift in puzzle perception. Testing changes like that allows us to find challenging solutions that are fun to play.”
Deciphering great cross-play
Eleven Puzzles launched with a free-to-play model and cross-platform compatibility to reach as many players as possible.
“Cross-platform play was essential for us,” says Olczyk. “We wanted our game to be accessible to everyone, even to people without a dedicated gaming setup or a cutting-edge mobile phone. Lobby played a big part in it, as it seamlessly allowed us to pair people that wished to play together using custom-generated invitation codes.”
Lobby lets players create private or public lobbies that can be joined with a code or searchable list. With this player-driven matchmaking, anyone can find a match quickly or dive right into the puzzles with a friend.
Editor tools like the Input System also helped Eleven Puzzles deliver consistent gameplay across devices as part of a constellation of tools that, as Olczyk puts it, “unified the handling of the controls between platforms, allowing us to use the same code for all of them.”
Finding success from Day 1
Unsolved Case launched in November 2022, and it was an immediate hit – that scaled to welcome players without a hitch. Seamless connections made the player experience social and immersive from the very start.
The game earned a much-coveted “Very Positive” review on Steam, showing that Eleven Puzzles had solved how to create a fun, well-balanced multiplayer game as a lean independent studio.
“I am thrilled with the reception that our game has received, as millions of players have already downloaded it. Despite not having any external help or a publisher, the overwhelming success of the game is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team. What's even better is that our game is completely free, and it serves as an effective marketing tool to bring attention to our other games.” says Olczyk. “Thanks to our use of UGS from the very beginning, all players have been able to enjoy our game without any issues.”
Eleven Puzzles' next game, Unboxing the Cryptic Killer, launches April, 2023.