Very young, I remember cherishing a sliding tile game of 31 white and red tiles with golden engraved numbers locked in a 4 by 8 black frame. I was playing it so much that the plastic tiles were getting harder to move around, until my father had the great idea to grease the toy. It surely did a marvel to the gliding of the tiles, but to this day, I cannot dissociate the memory of my dear game with the smell of the drops of motor oil it had swallowed.
While the Rubik’s cube is a great object that once in hands calls for being operated, I distinctly envisioned how the iQube would be ideal for an electronic device where its cubes would be spinned smoothly by a finger gliding on the surface of a touch sensitive display. Each cube would be numbered and have protuberant colored facets so that one can simultaneously see the colors of several facets.
Along the way, I played with it and explored its various enigmas. I needed to find out whether there was a way to go from a given configuration, say all cubes in the same orientation and in order, to another given configuration, like all cubes in the opposite orientation and in the same order. At first, I was playing with 8 cubes in a 3x3 grid with the initial empty position in the center of the grid. My colleague Hai Dang Thai I had shown that game to found an elegant solution exploiting the symmetry of this configuration. This solution does not apply once the initial empty position is moved in a corner. For 8 cubes in a 3x3 grid, my first solution required several hundred moves, which I suspect is far from optimal. Soon, my original excitement fueled by the complexity of the puzzle got replaced by a concern that game might be actually too hard for being truly appealing. To convince myself of the contrary, I needed other persons to crack it. Both Hadrien and Calixte eventually did it, and Calixte even improved my own solution, resolving the Grand Master challenge in 246 moves.
The iQube Grand Master is challenging, but not enough to intimidate motivated teenagers, which puts it in the same league as the Rubik’s Cube.
In 2008, Philip Dhingra, an IOS app developer, wrote the first version of the iQube for the iPhone, using OpenGL for rendering the cubes in 3D. My wife Mita, fully aware of the longer lasting appeal of games over pure puzzles, insisted that a more casual mode of play be added to the challenges. Together we designed the scramble mode, where a series of quizzes are generated by shuffling few random moves from an organized configuration, the aim being to unscramble it in the same number of moves. This addition allowed for gentle progression in the intricacies of the iQube, and turned the single brain basher puzzle into a game with thousands of little brain teasers, proving hours of fun.
When my daughter Anjeli was 7 years old, she was well versed in many puzzle-like games such as Cut-the-Rope, Where-is-My-Water, and later Bad-Piggies. She suggested to add a reward system to the iQube Scramble, and pretty much designed the current points system, with points being accumulated with the resolution of each puzzle, the better the solution the more points, which points are then needed to unlock higher levels in the game.
In summary, the Genesis of the iQube puzzle has been very much our family enterprise over several years, and I hope that the fun and enjoyment it provided us while slowly shaping it into the app you find today on the AppStore or on our website will be transpire to you, the player, and you will find hours of gratification deciphering its many facets.