Popcap Co Founder Stealingbejeweled
This year's GDC has a series of panels dedicated to classic games and the minds behind them. 'Bejeweled' is the youngest of the bunch, at just 11 years old, but its impact on the industry is unquestioned. Jason Kapalka, one of the co-founders of PopCap Games, took the stage to talk about the creation of 'Bejeweled' and to show the official (unofficial) drinking game for 'Bejeweled Blitz.'
One of the most interesting segments of the hour-long talk was when Kapalka presented a slide which said, simply, 'Where did we steal 'Bejeweled' from?' Since its inception, there have been claims that 'Bejeweled' is a complete rip-off of a number of other match-three games. Kapalka mentioned 'Panel De Pon' and 'Columns,' saying that he had never even heard of the former, but that someone could make a decent argument for the latter.
In truth, Kapalka admitted that the idea of 'Bejeweled' came from a tiny, mysterious title known as 'Colors Game.' John Vechey, another one of PopCap's co-founders, was messing around with the exceedingly simple download game back in 1999. It has since vanished from existence. Kapalka attempted to find a screenshot or even the developer's name, but was unable to, so he created a mock-up from memory:
As you can see, 'Colors Game' was simply a series of colored boxes. Vechey was taken by the match-three gameplay, even if the presentation was as bad as it gets. The PopCap trio thought that they could do the same idea even better, and thus, 'Diamond Mine' (the first version of 'Bejeweled') was born.
One of the first steps of development was to replace the colored squares with something more visually appealing. Fruit was considered, for a time, but Kapalka settled on multi-colored gems, as they offered more variety in terms of shapes. It's a good thing, as 'BeFruited' doesn't have the same ring to it.
Kapalka continued through the history of the franchise, mentioning that he 'hated' the name 'Bejeweled,' which actually came from Microsoft. Apparently it was inspired by the terrible Brendan Fraser comedy, 'Bedazzled,' which came out at about the same time, and for years Kapalka couldn't help but associate the two.
The discussion inevitably shifted to 'Bejeweled Blitz,' PopCap's tremendously successful Facebook game. Apparently team members in the PopCap office have developed an unofficial sequel for the game, called 'Bejeweled Blitz Carnage,' which has become their go-to drinking game at the local bar. Here are the official rules:
All told, Kapalka's speech was fascinatingly candid and revealed some of the secret history of the game which turned PopCap into a three-man organization into a worldwide casual gaming juggernaut.