Ally Taylor is the artist and one of the three creators behind Freshly Frosted. The team also contains Amanda End, the game’s engineer and Ty Taylor, the game’s designer! Freshly Frosted is a lovely, satisfying, factory game around decorating a bunch of donuts! We were able to sit down with Ally Taylor and talk to them about many aspects of the game.
What inspired you to create a factory-style puzzle game?
“We first came up with Freshly Frosted for Train Jam 2019, where the prompt was ‘circuitous.’ Ty has a love for designing grid-based puzzle games, and at the time I was very excited about designing some cute donuts. Given these factors I suggested we make a donut factory game where all the machinery was placed in haphazard ways, forcing the player to use very circuitous paths to make each factory run.”
How important is the audio to you for this game specifically?
“While we worked on this project we very quickly came up with ‘satisfaction’ as our primary design goal. Our intention is that every part of the game supports it, so from the beginning it was important to us that the audio was excellent and also grew that feeling. When you run the factory the contemplative background track jumps to a higher gear with every movement of the machinery on beat to the music; the music and the movement support each other. Josie Brechner, the musician and sound designer for Freshly Frosted, did an amazing job making a series of music that accompanies each box of donuts and evolves and changes with you as you make your way through the levels.
In addition to Josie’s lovely music, there is a narrator that guides and accompanies you through each puzzle. They talk you through the mechanics, offer encouragement, discuss donuts, and sneak in the occasional pun.”
How do you utilize playtesters for this type of game?
“We have a pool of volunteer playtesters we reach out to periodically during development to test the game. We’re grateful to have playtesters who played hours of the game and provided detailed feedback for us to evaluate. We’ve also been able to watch people play live at events both pre-pandemic and most recently at the MIX showcase at GDC.”
As we saw Freshly Frosted at The Mix, where you were showcasing, how has player reception been, at events, for your game?
“At the MIX and the prior events, both on and offline, reception to the game has been lovely! The appeal of the tasty donut and lush pastels pulls people in, and even before they get a turn to pick-up a controller they are able to start solving puzzles in their head. When you first begin playing it seems deceptively simple, so players are able to get the mechanics rather quickly, and as they adapt to how the puzzles work the mechanics build up to a depth that keeps you interested.”
How do you ensure that Freshly Frosted isn’t too challenging too soon?
“We have a dozen dozen puzzles in Freshly Frosted, with each dozen grouped by a unique mechanic into its own box of twelve. In the very beginning you start with the most basic mechanic: drawing a single path from the starting oven to the delivery counter. As you go on we gradually introduce each topping which adds a bit of complexity. Once you’ve adapted to the basics things really start to get puzzling and the circuitous paths come into play. To keep things from being overwhelming we pull back the difficulty at the beginning of each new box; the first level is the simplest possible example of the mechanic that is being introduced. As you get further into the game the puzzles ramp up from that basic level a bit faster. Our playtesting showed that with experience the player adapts more quickly to the new mechanics.
Every player is different though; some are experienced puzzle players eager for a new challenge, and some are more casual players or are completely new to puzzle games. Given that our top design goal is satisfaction, we’ve also got an adaptive tutorial system that helps if you find yourself mixed up. In addition, there is an optional hint button that will drop in a few conveyors to get you on the right track if you’re not sure where to start. Both of these features are completely optional so those who find their fun through challenge can opt out of using them, but they’re there for those that want them.”