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Original Boulder Dash creators reunite for sequel

The original creators of the 1984 puzzle adventure game Boulder Dash have reunited under a new studio to create a sequel to the arcade classic, Boulder Dash: 30th Anniversary.

The game, which is a free-to-play title currently in development for iOS and Android devices, with Mac, PC and console versions on the horizon, is being made by Tap Star Interactive co-founder Chris Gray and Peter Liepa in collaboration with First Star Software.

In the original, released in 1984 for the Atari 8-bit computers and later for a slew of other home machines including the Commodore 64, ColecoVision and NES, players control Rockford as he digs through caves collecting gems and diamonds while avoiding creatures and avalanches. More than 20 versions of the game have been published since the original's release.

Speaking to Polygon, Gray — who worked on Boulder Dash 30 years ago when he was 16-years old — said he saw the creation of this sequel as an opportunity to give the game the attention it deserves.

"The level designs itself as you're playing it based on what you decide to do."

"Boulder Dash, in my opinion, had not really been updated in a meaningful way in an awfully long time," he said. "So since the original game came out [30 years ago], I felt it hadn't really been given the kind of attention or the thought to bring it into the contemporary mobile space. So I thought it would be a great opportunity to work with the other original creator of an IP that I knew was well-loved and well-recognized."

Boulder Dash has undergone many incarnations over the past 30 years, but Gray sees the 30th Anniversary edition as a true sequel. The game introduces a number of changes to the original title, chief of which is its freemium structure. In Boulder Dash: 30th Anniversary, players will be able to experience a number of levels in the game for free and, if they enjoy it, have the option to purchase level packs. Players will also have access to the two starting characters, Rockford and Crystal, and can buy additional playable characters using premium currency.

Other changes include a striking visual overhaul, the introduction of diagonal walls, or "ramps," as the developers call them, which allow for diagonal movement, and the addition of an editor that allows players to build their own cave levels.

Gray told Polygon that creating the sequel has been a tricky balancing act of introducing new elements while retaining the essence of the original. He says that at its core, the game plays in a way that those who played the original will be familiar with.

"There aren't many games where you can interact with the world in such a way that the way you play fundamentally changes a level," he said. "So the fact that you're digging and changing the environment, and rocks are falling, and things are re-arranging themselves — that's not very common.

"With Boulder Dash, we would design the levels, but because there was an underlying concept of physics in the world, things behaved in their own unique way. The level is a living creature in its own right, and the level designs itself as you're playing it based on what you decide to do."

Boulder Dash: 30th Anniversary will feature more than 50 levels design by Gray, Liepa and First Star Software's co-founder and president Richard Spitalny. The game will introduce new worlds and creatures, as well as new gem combos, power-ups and collectibles.

Spitalny, who has overlooked the development of almost every Boulder Dash title ever created, told Polygon the reason Boulder Dash has had such longevity is because it's easy to learn but difficult to master. Part of its success, he said, is attributed to the combination of both arcade action and puzzle gaming. "It's a very nice blend of hand-eye and mental gymnastics that is something that continues to be appealing," he said.

The game is slated to launch in 2014.

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