A look at GemPacked and Gempacked Cards by guest blogger, Eduardo Baraf. Eduardo is producing his sixth title for Pencil First Games. And he’s upping the ante for this one, developing it for two platforms at once!


Last year while forming Pencil First Games, I was keen to make a mobile game. I knew that it was going to be paid (I had just come off of five years of free-to-play games) and I knew that I wasn’t going to have any money to promote it. This was before my Lift Off! Get me off this Planet! Kickstarter campaign and before I had any social media exposure.

As far as I was concerned, the only way that it would gain traction would be if the game was featured by Apple, so I figured I’d try to stack the deck the best I could. To me, that meant iOS exclusive, broad localization (13 languages!), and some sort of interesting mechanic or “hook”.


What if, I thought, I used the mechanics of the Apple home screen (moving and combining apps) as the base mechanic for a puzzle game? It was second nature to users, but could it work? Would it be fun?? Starting with that nugget of an idea, I started exploring grouping and sorting colored gems. As we started tiering the gems and incorporating color combinations it all came together. The base was quite fun and we just layered and layered on twists to the mechanic like a slice of Tiramisu.

Then, of course, we had to figure out the look / feel of the title. We started with straight gems, but then we explored a whole lot of cute on the way to the GemPacked art of today. One of the easiest ways to connect with a person in the app store (or anywhere really) is with a face. Thus, the Geminos were born!


All the while, my exposure and engagement into the board gaming world was growing. Lift Off! was a success and The Siblings Trouble was gaining steam. I looked at the work we were doing and wondered if there was a way to translate the GemPacked experience into a physical game. The mechanics were solid and the art was adorable (and done), so it had to be possible!

Boy, what an awesome and incredible challenge translating the mechanics between platforms (not porting the gameplay) was. I was adamant that I didn’t want to create a Think Fun-esque puzzle game. One where you look at a puzzle layout, build the board, then solve the problem. Why? Well, because those games are better digitally because a computer manages the game. I didn’t want to make a worse version of GemPacked. I wanted to make a new, fun experience that leveraged the mechanic.


So that’s where I started, I took this idea of grouping and combing gems as a constant (and the idea of the grid) and then started exploring how to turn that into a competitive game. Here again, much like in the iOS version, the process started out with ensuring the mechanic of pulling pips, trading up and down, and working the “grid” was satisfying and fun. The design went through a bunch of iterations, but I didn’t break the “rules” of the mechanic (I did reduce the trade-in from 4:1 to 2:1 because there were just too many cards and pips with 4:1).

At that point, it was actually easy to layer in the additional elements and designs from the iOS version (asteroids, chomets, fuses) in the same way. There are nuances to each choice I made, but I focused on recreating the emotional reaction of the play. Playing both of the games is an odd and fresh experience; they express the same mechanic in two different, platform appropriate ways. Most people will only play one or the other though!


There was one place where the design hit some snags. Between the two games the way the White Gemino, “Dazzlefly” worked didn’t translate well. In GemPacked the gem is created by combining different colored gems (like in the card game), but that’s the end of it. It is used as a gate and enabling device in the iOS game. In the card game, it really wanted to be a wild card, giving players more options to create.

We made the change, which felt good, but soon found that players were often confused about how the whites worked. I’d often say “Just think of it like a wild card.” Well, most of the time wild cards are rainbow colored, not white. It was late in our development, we called it and the Wild (rainbow) Gemino was born!


The next adventure starts with the launching of GemPacked and GemPacked Cards at the same time. While both games are made, only GemPacked can be released to the world for free. GemPacked Cards requires manufacturing and upfront spend, which is why we’re putting it up on Kickstarter. It would be incredible for more people to play and experience both games.

You can see the GemPacked Cards Kickstarter here: https://bit.ly/EdoGPC
There you can find the instructions AND a Print and Play.

You can download the GemPacked iOS game here: https://bit.ly/EdoGPi
It’s only $0.99. What are you waiting for?

Editor’s Note: If you want to see what an absolutely solid and well thought out Kickstarter project page looks like – definitely look at GemPacked Cards. Eduardo has reviewers name/logo shown in bright attractive ways, and animates the graphics, solid video etc. Very complete and worth looking at for your own KS initiatives.