‘Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons’ Interview With Score Studios’ James Kay

Hello, friends. It’s interview week here at TouchArcade somehow, and I’ve got a cool one here for you all. Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons is coming to the Nintendo Switch and Steam on February 27th, bringing together a beloved farming franchise and a popular puzzle series for a team-up no one ever imagined. I mean, except for the people making it, I suppose. How did they come up with that idea? I was curious, and it turned out that James Kay, founder and big cheese of developer Score Studios, was willing to humor my questions. I figured I’d bend his ear about a few other things too, and have presented the results here for your amusement and enlightenment.

TouchArcade (TA): Thank you for your time today. Can you tell us a little about yourself, and let us know what your favorite pizza toppings are?

James Kay (JK): Hi, I’m James. I’ve been playing games since the early 80s and I’ve worked in game development for over 25 years now, in the UK and Japan. First as an artist and eventually as an everything developer. I started Score Studios in 2009 and that has been my sole focus since then, professionally speaking. 

I am a pizza relativist; any and all toppings are great. Except pineapple obviously. That’s not a hill I’m planning to die on, though.

TA: How did the idea to bring Story of Seasons together with the Piczle line of puzzle games come together?

JK: A lot of credit goes to Rainy Frog, the publisher, for this. We were brainstorming about what crossovers would work nicely, more just blue sky thinking really, and the idea of Story of Seasons popped up – and it felt like such a cool fit that we decided to pursue it. I am not sure that I could have made it happen without the support of Rainy Frog behind me! 

TA: How did you go about incorporating Story of Seasons elements like farming or building relationships into the Piczle Cross structure? 

JK: Well, the game is mostly a nonogram game. The Story of Seasons elements started out mainly as the inspiration for the puzzles. However, Marvelous were so generous in sharing materials with me I really wanted to add as much as I could. So as you clear puzzles, say one of a turnip, turnips will appear in your farm’s field in the background. But only during the correct season, of course, and as every puzzle you clear advances time by 1 day, you’ll see the seasons change as well. Animals appear, your farmers will start using tools, etc. By the end of the game your farm will be busy and bustling! Puzzles based on characters will unlock their entries in the in-game almanac, where you can learn more about them, their likes and dislikes, and what game they appeared in. 

TA: There are a lot of nonogram puzzle games on the Switch. Beyond the well-known Story of Seasons brand, what would you say makes this one stand out?

JK:  I went a bit overboard with the customizability of the puzzling experience. Some people play nonograms for a challenge, others just to unwind and relax. Some people want completed clues marked off automatically, some don’t. In fact, you can choose to manually mark off clues if you wish. You can use aides, like the hint system to show you where moves are possible, or asking the game to check for any mistakes you’ve made. There is no wrong way to play. Along with automatically filling in completed lines and counting blocks or measuring a number of grid squares by the press of a button I hope Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons can be enjoyed no matter how you prefer playing nonograms.

The puzzles themselves of course benefit from the Story of Seasons characters and animals, so fans of the games will hopefully be delighted as well. 

TA: Which Story of Seasons game is your favorite, and why?

JK: I have sunk too many hours into Friends of Mineral Town. It feels the most classic of the series and really grabbed me. In fact, I was so happy to be able to style Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons mostly after this entry in the series!

I am dying to play A Wonderful Life! but I got a bit busy with developing this game. When things die down a little I look forward to giving that a whirl! 

TA: Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons is coming to both Switch and Steam. Were there any challenges specific to developing one version or the other?

JK: Using Unreal Engine really takes the sting out of multi-platform development. It was pretty trivial creating a Steam version after developing it first and foremost for the Switch. It was important that it run smoothly on Steamdeck, which is where I had a few issues. The slightly different screen ratio and a couple of other small issues had to be ironed out (but they are, and it runs great now!)

TA: You’ve developed a lot of puzzle games over the years. What keeps you coming back to this genre?

JK: Honestly, I just really really love logic-puzzle games. I enjoy developing them because then I get to play more of them. There’s some really good logic-puzzles games out there, but it is never enough! I also enjoy thinking up ways to add to the genre, with quality of life features, customizability, and silly characters and stories. 

TA: Are there any plans to bring Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons to mobile in the future?

JK: Not a Story of Seasons version, no, that isn’t planned. But I did recently find a pretty good solution to the issue I have with nonograms on mobile devices – namely that puzzles bigger than 10×10, when they start becoming interesting, are difficult to read and control on the small screen. I’m keen to try out this new idea I had so perhaps I should do a standalone Piczle Cross for mobile some time, because I’ve not yet come across a game that does it.

TA: Apart from Story of Seasons, are there any other cross-overs you’d like to work on if a magic genie appeared and let you have your pick?

JK: Absolutely! Story of Seasons was already a dream come true and there are some other games I adore that I think would work great as a Piczle cross-over. We (the publisher Rainy Frog and myself) are actually pursuing a couple of these at the moment. It’s always a bit of a long-shot but wish us luck, please!

TA: This is your free space to say anything you’d like to our readers. Any final message you’d like to give?

JK:  Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons is a true labor of love. I adore Story of Seasons and I am so happy and privileged to have been able to make this game. I really hope players will enjoy it as much as I did making it. And if there are any nonogram players unfamiliar with Story of Seasons, hopefully they’ll feel inspired to check the games out for themselves. Similarly, hopefully some Story of Seasons fans will be introduced to nonograms through my game and enjoy them as much as I do! 

And that’s it! I’d like to thank James Kay for his time, and to Derek at Hound PR for facilitating this interview. Piczle Cross: Story of Seasons will be available on the Nintendo eShop and Steam on February 27th, which is pretty darned soon. I’m always game for more nonogram puzzles, and I’ll definitely be playing this one. How about you?

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