Zach Gage was never really interested in Sudoku. That changed when he watched the Cracking the Cryptic channel on YouTube, where experienced professionals solve seemingly impossible puzzles like the recently viral video “Miracle Sudoku”. He played at such a high level and found the ubiquitous puzzle game "beautiful". The problem was, when he set out to learn how to play, he couldn't find mobile apps that allowed these techniques to be used at a high level. That's why Gage teamed up with designer Jack Schlesinger to develop Good Sudoku, which is available today on iOS.
"This inspiration was really that I just wanted to learn sudoku," says Gage, "and it seemed very difficult to do with what was out there."
In recent years, Gage has made it a habit to revisit and remix classic games to make them feel at home on a smartphone. So far, this included a random version of the chess, several settings for solitaire and an optimized version of the pool. When he started studying Sudoku, he was shocked by the terrible state of the games available on mobile devices. Despite the game's popularity, there were few, and even fewer, high-quality touch screen renditions that made it difficult to take notes to create a “Miracle Sudoku”.
"How is it possible that there is this great game that millions of people love and that all play a version that isn't even the right game?" he says. "I just have to do it. It would be bad service not to do and share this because it is like a black hole. "
Good sudoku stands out for several reasons. On the one hand, it is characterized by a clear, simple design that is both beautiful and functional. It also offers a wide range of puzzles, from extremely easy to difficult, because my brain hurts. However, the most remarkable thing about the game is how interested it is in teaching you to play at a higher level. Good Sudoku has an AI-powered hint system that shows you the next most logical step and provides short, short lessons on high-level Sudoku techniques.
It is also important that the game provides you with the tools to use these techniques and a robust note-taking system that lets you keep track of which numbers might go where. The challenge scales in a meaningful way. If you choose a new level of difficulty, you will learn in the game what skills you need to solve the puzzles. Good sudoku also eliminates some of the work inherent in the game – especially counting. If you have a row or grid that is complete except for one number, tapping on it gives you the only possible option that speeds things up considerably.
Building all of this was a lot of work. Gage says the clue system contains more code than the rest of the game combined. And when it came to creating puzzles, the design duo built a generator from scratch, and then spent about a month building hundreds of thousands of puzzles powered by four computers. Then they took them, curated them, and organized them into different levels of difficulty. The hope, however, is that all of this work will result in a structure that makes new players easier and challenging hardcore puzzle fanatics at the same time.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Good Sudoku is how faithful it is to the game. Given Gage's inclination to turn classic games into something new, the release of a relatively simple Sudoku app seems almost atypical. However, there are a few reasons why it exists in this form. For one, he says that there are already a lot of excellent Sudoku phrases, which makes it a less interesting design challenge. "There are so many good ones," says Gage. More importantly, however, he was forced to fill a void. After finishing the Apple Arcade starter Card of Darkness (which Schlesinger was also working on), he received numerous requests to compete against Sudoku next. And since Good Sudoku was announced, fans have been trying to find a good app.
"Who would have thought people were waiting for it?"