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Found 18 results

  1. If Dan Smith isn't a name you know in video games, you should fix that mistake as soon as possible. At 18 years old, Smith won a BAFTA in 2016 for his work on a game called SPECTRUM, a solo project he had been working on since age 15. Ripstone Games saw the potential in Smith's game and offered him the backing necessary to fully flesh out the title that earned him such a prestigious award. Now, two years later, SPECTRUM has been renamed The Spectrum Retreat, fleshed out with puzzles, and given a more concrete narrative. With an impending release in a matter of weeks, I sat down with Smith to talk about and play his first commercial video game. The Spectrum Retreat has something of an odd story premise. Without giving too much away, players wake up in the spacious and immaculately ordered Penrose Hotel. Slowly explore the surrounding area reveals that it's a vast complex, empty save for a number of very polite robots that handle the day-to-day maintenance of the facility. However, no matter what you do, the robotic refuse to let you leave the hotel. As this reality begins to sink in, someone contacts you over the phone, a woman who seems to know that something is going on, something bad. She begins giving instructions on how to escape. Unfortunately, the easy way out becomes impassable and she guides you to a restricted area blocked off by color coded force fields. It's here that the puzzle-solving truly begins. The core conceit of The Spectrum Retreat, based on the mechanics from SPECTRUM, revolves around color. Players are able to absorb a color and use it to walk through barriers of that color and then swap it out for a different color. It's a simple mechanic, Smith even said it was one of the first puzzle concepts he learned when he dove into programming, but it's one that has fascinated him enough to build an entire game around the complex puzzles that can be constructed with it in mind. I saw the color swapping create bridges over chasms, walls, and can easily imagine that the uses only become more complicated as crazier geometry and gating mechanisms combine in future puzzles. The opening levels slowly introduce new twists in how space and the color mechanics can be used to create more elaborate scenarios in a slow, accessible way. The goal, according to Smith, was to make a tutorial that didn't feel like a tutorial, with players discovering how to proceed on their own. This approach certainly worked for me; I enjoyed the dopamine tickle across my brain as I discovered new ways to overcome each challenge. A large part of what makes The Spectrum Retreat so interesting is how the color mechanic works with the non-euclidean space of its world, an unnerving aspect of the hotel that carries over into the puzzles. Sometimes dropping down a hole will bring you back to the beginning of a level, but it could also bring you to an almost identical version of the level with a story hint or clue to the puzzle. Certain hallways repeat endlessly, but how sure can you be that its not part of the puzzle when you turn back and find yourself in a new location? Combine this uncertainty with more concrete areas that feature maze-like layouts and the potential for some truly stimulating scenarios becomes apparent. After the demo areas were completed, my character had to return to the hotel to "keep up appearances." However, Smith told me that as the game progresses, the comforting art deco world of the Penrose Hotel will begin to merge with the strange, sterile puzzle rooms, creating an unnerving sense of dislocation. He said that the overall theme of the game would be one that grapples with the downsides of escapism, how we can run so far away from our problems that the methods used to run can actually create far more issues with which we eventually need to grapple. The Spectrum Retreat launches on July 10 for the PlayStation 4 and on July 13 for Xbox One and PC. A version for the Nintendo Switch will launch later this summer. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  2. If Dan Smith isn't a name you know in video games, you should fix that mistake as soon as possible. At 18 years old, Smith won a BAFTA in 2016 for his work on a game called SPECTRUM, a solo project he had been working on since age 15. Ripstone Games saw the potential in Smith's game and offered him the backing necessary to fully flesh out the title that earned him such a prestigious award. Now, two years later, SPECTRUM has been renamed The Spectrum Retreat, fleshed out with puzzles, and given a more concrete narrative. With an impending release in a matter of weeks, I sat down with Smith to talk about and play his first commercial video game. The Spectrum Retreat has something of an odd story premise. Without giving too much away, players wake up in the spacious and immaculately ordered Penrose Hotel. Slowly explore the surrounding area reveals that it's a vast complex, empty save for a number of very polite robots that handle the day-to-day maintenance of the facility. However, no matter what you do, the robotic refuse to let you leave the hotel. As this reality begins to sink in, someone contacts you over the phone, a woman who seems to know that something is going on, something bad. She begins giving instructions on how to escape. Unfortunately, the easy way out becomes impassable and she guides you to a restricted area blocked off by color coded force fields. It's here that the puzzle-solving truly begins. The core conceit of The Spectrum Retreat, based on the mechanics from SPECTRUM, revolves around color. Players are able to absorb a color and use it to walk through barriers of that color and then swap it out for a different color. It's a simple mechanic, Smith even said it was one of the first puzzle concepts he learned when he dove into programming, but it's one that has fascinated him enough to build an entire game around the complex puzzles that can be constructed with it in mind. I saw the color swapping create bridges over chasms, walls, and can easily imagine that the uses only become more complicated as crazier geometry and gating mechanisms combine in future puzzles. The opening levels slowly introduce new twists in how space and the color mechanics can be used to create more elaborate scenarios in a slow, accessible way. The goal, according to Smith, was to make a tutorial that didn't feel like a tutorial, with players discovering how to proceed on their own. This approach certainly worked for me; I enjoyed the dopamine tickle across my brain as I discovered new ways to overcome each challenge. A large part of what makes The Spectrum Retreat so interesting is how the color mechanic works with the non-euclidean space of its world, an unnerving aspect of the hotel that carries over into the puzzles. Sometimes dropping down a hole will bring you back to the beginning of a level, but it could also bring you to an almost identical version of the level with a story hint or clue to the puzzle. Certain hallways repeat endlessly, but how sure can you be that its not part of the puzzle when you turn back and find yourself in a new location? Combine this uncertainty with more concrete areas that feature maze-like layouts and the potential for some truly stimulating scenarios becomes apparent. After the demo areas were completed, my character had to return to the hotel to "keep up appearances." However, Smith told me that as the game progresses, the comforting art deco world of the Penrose Hotel will begin to merge with the strange, sterile puzzle rooms, creating an unnerving sense of dislocation. He said that the overall theme of the game would be one that grapples with the downsides of escapism, how we can run so far away from our problems that the methods used to run can actually create far more issues with which we eventually need to grapple. The Spectrum Retreat launches on July 10 for the PlayStation 4 and on July 13 for Xbox One and PC. A version for the Nintendo Switch will launch later this summer. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  3. Let's go back to the game that kickstarted the trend of weighty indie games relying on small kids in big, scary worlds. Limbo thrilled, chilled, and grilled players around the world when it launched. As a nameless young boy in a world weaved together of monochrome shadows and a vintage filter, players embark on a journey filled with death and symbolism. Playdead's indie darling received massive praise when it released in 2010, but has that charm remained intact over time? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening 'Mysterious Gold Edition' by Rukunetsu, Anton Corazza, and Yusef Kelliebrew (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03738) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  4. Jack Gardner

    The Best Games Period - Episode 101 - Limbo

    Let's go back to the game that kickstarted the trend of weighty indie games relying on small kids in big, scary worlds. Limbo thrilled, chilled, and grilled players around the world when it launched. As a nameless young boy in a world weaved together of monochrome shadows and a vintage filter, players embark on a journey filled with death and symbolism. Playdead's indie darling received massive praise when it released in 2010, but has that charm remained intact over time? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening 'Mysterious Gold Edition' by Rukunetsu, Anton Corazza, and Yusef Kelliebrew (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03738) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  5. I’ve had my Nintendo Switch for just over a month now, but it’s already my preferred way to play video games. As a father, I have very little time to relax once everyone goes to sleep, so I often have to choose between playing video games and just vegging out and watching Netflix or YouTube. With my Switch, I don’t have to choose, I can do both. I’ve also gotten some use out of the system’s built-in portable co-op, playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with my nephews and, more recently, playing Death Squared with my wife – in bed, nonetheless. Death Squared released earlier this year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC, but like so many other independent games, it feels most at home on the Switch. The puzzle game tasks players with moving two or four different-colored robot cubes across grid-based levels from point A to point B. In single-player mode, each joystick on the Joy-Cons controls a different robot (two at a time). Things can get a bit tricky when you have to move both robots at the same time. However, in co-op, with the Joy-Cons detached, each player can naturally control a separate robot independently. It’s simple and intuitive to just pick up and play the game – in a way that only really works on the Switch. Death Squared never over complicates things on the gameplay front. The only input you need to know is how to move the joystick. That’s it. The rest is a matter of learning the various traps and mechanics that are layered on top of that simple premise of getting each robot to point B without dying. The game feels right at home among easy-to-learn but difficult to master Nintendo games like Mario Kart 8 and Arms. As the name implies, Death Squared uses death to teach players how the game works – which isn’t always to its benefit. Each new puzzle layers new challenges onto the formula, oftentimes without warning. For example, you only learn about the spikes that pop up from the floor and kill your robot at the very moment they kill your robot. Playing in co-op, dying repeatedly due to your partner’s impatience, incompetence, or mischievousness can be a good time. But in single-player, the trial and error gameplay can feel unfair and quickly becomes maddening as you gingerly try to navigate around each level while the game’s characters – a man named David and his A.I. overseer – mock your poor performance. It’s all much more enjoyable while playing co-op and can become pretty addictive once it sinks its hooks in you. With each level lasting no longer than a few minutes, once my wife and I got into a groove, we didn’t want to stop playing. With each new conundrum, we became better at coordinating and anticipating the game’s dastardly traps. My wife, who rarely plays games, ended up getting sucked into the clever puzzles and every time I suggested we quit, she would plead for just one more level. While a lot of credit goes to SMG Studio for designing the most enjoyable co-op puzzle game I’ve played since Portal 2, I can almost guarantee that my wife would’ve balked at the idea of playing Death Squared on PlayStation 4. The difference comes down to simplicity. Despite the controls being essentially the same across platforms, the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons present a far less intimidating form factor than the sixteen different buttons on the Dual Shock 4. It’s not that my wife is a simpleton (in fact, she’s much smarter than I am), it’s just that she isn’t as fluent in the language of video games. Neither are most people outside of the gaming bubble that we often find ourselves in. My three-year-old daughter never showed an interest in actually playing video games until I brought home my Switch. Now she can actually finish a race in Mario Kart 8. She hasn’t beaten me yet, but I look forward to the day when she does. So, even though the game is relatively friction-less for newcomers, some frustration rears its head through odd design decisions and technical quibbles. Each of the game’s test rooms (read: levels) are designed as floating constructs in some seemingly dark, vast warehouse. None of the test rooms have walls, so you’ll often just fall off the side of the structure and die when all you were trying to do was navigate in a straight line, especially in single-player when you’re often controlling both cubes at the same time, similar to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. So many times, I knew what I needed to do, but actually executing it was not as easy as it should’ve been. This makes simply going through the steps of completing a puzzle more frustrating than it needs to be. This is especially compounded by the fact that the game doesn’t consistently auto-save. Too often, I would load an old save only to find that I had to start a couple of levels back from where I had last stopped. And when simply moving around the environment can be treacherous, that problem isn’t as minor as it would otherwise be. Despite some of its minor issues, I’m still having a blast with Death Squared, and I think my wife is too. We haven’t made it through all of the game’s 80 plus levels (which is why you shouldn’t consider this to be a full review), but we have every intention of going back and seeing what new predicaments we can solve for those adorable little cubes. I can sincerely say, this is a game I’d much rather play on my Switch over any other system - and the list of games I can say that about is rapidly growing in number. A game as simple and accessible as Death Squared just makes more sense on Switch, but the fact that it’s also a smaller indie title that released to very little fanfare on other systems doesn’t hurt either. With less competition, now is the perfect time for games like this to find an audience. Death Squared benefits from being a kid friendly pick-up-and-play game on a kid friendly, mobile console. Though it isn’t a perfect game, it deserves to be seen and played by more people, and I’m glad it might have that chance on Nintendo’s nifty young console.
  6. I’ve had my Nintendo Switch for just over a month now, but it’s already my preferred way to play video games. As a father, I have very little time to relax once everyone goes to sleep, so I often have to choose between playing video games and just vegging out and watching Netflix or YouTube. With my Switch, I don’t have to choose, I can do both. I’ve also gotten some use out of the system’s built-in portable co-op, playing Mario Kart 8 Deluxe with my nephews and, more recently, playing Death Squared with my wife – in bed, nonetheless. Death Squared released earlier this year for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows PC, but like so many other independent games, it feels most at home on the Switch. The puzzle game tasks players with moving two or four different-colored robot cubes across grid-based levels from point A to point B. In single-player mode, each joystick on the Joy-Cons controls a different robot (two at a time). Things can get a bit tricky when you have to move both robots at the same time. However, in co-op, with the Joy-Cons detached, each player can naturally control a separate robot independently. It’s simple and intuitive to just pick up and play the game – in a way that only really works on the Switch. Death Squared never over complicates things on the gameplay front. The only input you need to know is how to move the joystick. That’s it. The rest is a matter of learning the various traps and mechanics that are layered on top of that simple premise of getting each robot to point B without dying. The game feels right at home among easy-to-learn but difficult to master Nintendo games like Mario Kart 8 and Arms. As the name implies, Death Squared uses death to teach players how the game works – which isn’t always to its benefit. Each new puzzle layers new challenges onto the formula, oftentimes without warning. For example, you only learn about the spikes that pop up from the floor and kill your robot at the very moment they kill your robot. Playing in co-op, dying repeatedly due to your partner’s impatience, incompetence, or mischievousness can be a good time. But in single-player, the trial and error gameplay can feel unfair and quickly becomes maddening as you gingerly try to navigate around each level while the game’s characters – a man named David and his A.I. overseer – mock your poor performance. It’s all much more enjoyable while playing co-op and can become pretty addictive once it sinks its hooks in you. With each level lasting no longer than a few minutes, once my wife and I got into a groove, we didn’t want to stop playing. With each new conundrum, we became better at coordinating and anticipating the game’s dastardly traps. My wife, who rarely plays games, ended up getting sucked into the clever puzzles and every time I suggested we quit, she would plead for just one more level. While a lot of credit goes to SMG Studio for designing the most enjoyable co-op puzzle game I’ve played since Portal 2, I can almost guarantee that my wife would’ve balked at the idea of playing Death Squared on PlayStation 4. The difference comes down to simplicity. Despite the controls being essentially the same across platforms, the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons present a far less intimidating form factor than the sixteen different buttons on the Dual Shock 4. It’s not that my wife is a simpleton (in fact, she’s much smarter than I am), it’s just that she isn’t as fluent in the language of video games. Neither are most people outside of the gaming bubble that we often find ourselves in. My three-year-old daughter never showed an interest in actually playing video games until I brought home my Switch. Now she can actually finish a race in Mario Kart 8. She hasn’t beaten me yet, but I look forward to the day when she does. So, even though the game is relatively friction-less for newcomers, some frustration rears its head through odd design decisions and technical quibbles. Each of the game’s test rooms (read: levels) are designed as floating constructs in some seemingly dark, vast warehouse. None of the test rooms have walls, so you’ll often just fall off the side of the structure and die when all you were trying to do was navigate in a straight line, especially in single-player when you’re often controlling both cubes at the same time, similar to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. So many times, I knew what I needed to do, but actually executing it was not as easy as it should’ve been. This makes simply going through the steps of completing a puzzle more frustrating than it needs to be. This is especially compounded by the fact that the game doesn’t consistently auto-save. Too often, I would load an old save only to find that I had to start a couple of levels back from where I had last stopped. And when simply moving around the environment can be treacherous, that problem isn’t as minor as it would otherwise be. Despite some of its minor issues, I’m still having a blast with Death Squared, and I think my wife is too. We haven’t made it through all of the game’s 80 plus levels (which is why you shouldn’t consider this to be a full review), but we have every intention of going back and seeing what new predicaments we can solve for those adorable little cubes. I can sincerely say, this is a game I’d much rather play on my Switch over any other system - and the list of games I can say that about is rapidly growing in number. A game as simple and accessible as Death Squared just makes more sense on Switch, but the fact that it’s also a smaller indie title that released to very little fanfare on other systems doesn’t hurt either. With less competition, now is the perfect time for games like this to find an audience. Death Squared benefits from being a kid friendly pick-up-and-play game on a kid friendly, mobile console. Though it isn’t a perfect game, it deserves to be seen and played by more people, and I’m glad it might have that chance on Nintendo’s nifty young console. View full article
  7. Rime has been a long time coming. Developer Tequila Works began work on the project nearly four years ago. Originally slated as a PlayStation 4 exclusive, the game is now coming to multiple platforms. Rime centers around a young boy who, after getting shipwrecked during a storm, awakens on a mysterious, uninhabited island. A giant tower at the center of the island beckons the boy. With the help and guidance of a small fox and equipped with a strange, magical voice, the boy must reach the tower and uncover the island’s secrets. At this year’s PAX South, I sat down with Tequila Works Creative Director Raul Rubio and picked his brain about Rime’s development. During our talk, I uncovered several intriguing, lesser known facts about the highly-anticipated puzzle-platformer. Zelda and Ico Were Not Direct Influences “Ico meets Wind Waker” has been one of Rime’s go-to descriptors since the game debuted. Though an understandable comparison, Link’s seafaring adventure had zero impact on Rime’s conception. “I'm disappointed to say no, we didn't look into the Wind Waker.” Rubio confirmed. Tequila Works drew inspiration elsewhere, including films such as the animated works of Studio Ghibli. Raul stated one of the team’s main starting points was Journey. “Not the gameplay of Journey–the experience of Journey. In the sense that in Journey, the important thing was the journey.” Another, more surprising, influence has been the Jak & Daxter series. “In Jak & Daxter 2, you have this combination of platforming, open-world exploration, and, more importantly, you have this relationship between Jak and Daxter.” Rubio explained. “So in this game you have a relationship with the fox and he's your companion, your guide.” The Witness Connection While discussing Rime’s influences, I remarked about how Rime’s color palette and island setting reminded me more of The Witness than of Wind Waker. To my surprise, Raul revealed a relationship between the development of Rime and The Witness dating back to the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference. Both games had presentations at the event centered on their respective art styles: “And the thing is we both attended the other's talks because we were curious, and they found the same challenges we found, sometimes [similar] solutions, but other times we took totally different paths because we have different goals.” Rubio recalled. “And I remember that Jonathan Blow, they asked him literally this: ‘Oh have you seen Rime? Did they take inspirations from The Witness?’ I believe he said ‘Well, you should ask them.’ So now we can say, no, we didn't take inspiration [from] The Witness.” Raul said that until just a couple of months ago, he and his team hadn’t played The Witness. The reason? An employee rule to not play any other puzzle games during Rime’s development. Raul stated this was done to prevent Rime’s puzzle design from becoming “contaminated” by existing ideas and trends. Tequila Works could follow their unique vision rather than fall into the creative trap of only catering to player expectations. Legit Animation Chops One of Rime’s smaller but impressive elements is the boy’s animations. Subtle mannerisms and a satisfying sense of weight when jumping and climbing made me assume motion-capture was responsible. Raul revealed the boy was entirely hand-animated by a three-person team led by veteran animator Sandra Christensen. Prior to Rime, Christensen’s animation credits include LucasArts titles including the Star Wars: Force Unleashed games and Monkey Island, as well as other titles such as Psychonauts. She also had a tenure at Pixar, having worked on A Bug’s Life. A Blend of Cultural and Artistic Influences Creating a game that meshes aspects of different cultures is important to Tequila Works. The small team consists of a melting pot of nationalities, religious backgrounds, and artistic tastes. Rime’s aesthetic blends the individual artistic tastes and influences of the team members into a cohesive package. Raul explained, “Our art director was obsessed with The Master of Light, who is a 20th century Spanish painter. For other people it was Giorgio de Chirico who is the Italian architectural surrealist artist who inspired Team Ico. For other people, it was more like the surrealism of Dali and the negative space that he created. So in the end everything is mixed together.” The architecture and color palette of the Mediterranean coast heavily influenced Rime’s presentation. “It's like going on holiday to Spain or Greece” said Rubio. While such sights are relatively common for the Madrid-based studio, Raul revealed that he hopes Rime will make what seems relatively ordinary to him and the team extraordinary to the rest of the world. Childhood Experiences Drive Everything Rime stars an adolescent boy, and Tequila Works is committed to capturing the whimsy that comes from experiencing life from the perspective of a child. Raul stated that one thing every person has in common is that we were all kids at one point. “So the key to understand Rime is trying to see the world with the eyes of a kid.” Rubio explained. “And you are a child again, you can do things that you did very naturally when you were a child that you forgot when you became an adult.” Raul said he believes that one of those forgotten traits is the ability to be amazed by your surroundings without overanalyzing them the way an adult likely would. Capturing that same sense of wonder when players explore the remnants of the island’s ancient civilization has been one of the team’s key goals. To help realize that vision, Tequila Works studied videos of children playing in parks as a reference for how kids boldly attempt new challenges (especially when adults aren’t watching). Raul elaborated “You try to climb a tree now [you think], ‘Well if I try, I'm going to fall and [I’m] probably going to harm my hip, etc.’ But when you're a kid, you were not aware of the dangers of the world, right? Climbing a tree was something fun, not dangerous. That's the kind of inspiration for us.” Nearly every visible area in Rime can be reached by platforming, so Raul said he hopes that players channel that same child-like boldness when romping around the island. Rime’s controls and animation has been influenced by the protagonist’s young age as well. Raul explained that the balance of making the boy feel “fragile, but not literally helpless” was a balance the animation team was challenged to pull off. Every action needed to feel the way an 8-year old would, which Raul described as being “simple and complicated at the same time." I took Rime for a spin in a hands-on session and came away itching to play more. The puzzles I encountered, which involved using the boy’s voice to activate statues, were enjoyable and fairly inventive. Tequila Works promised increasingly diverse and complex conundrums throughout the experience. Platforming felt great and offers an enjoyable physical challenge on top of the mental aspect. Most of all, Rime’s ambient soundtrack and calm atmosphere make it a genuinely relaxing journey. By the time I finished, I wanted nothing more than to melt away and continue knocking out puzzles at my leisure. If the full experience continues to evolve in exciting ways, Rime has the potential to be one of the year’s premier titles. Rime launches this May for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.
  8. Rime has been a long time coming. Developer Tequila Works began work on the project nearly four years ago. Originally slated as a PlayStation 4 exclusive, the game is now coming to multiple platforms. Rime centers around a young boy who, after getting shipwrecked during a storm, awakens on a mysterious, uninhabited island. A giant tower at the center of the island beckons the boy. With the help and guidance of a small fox and equipped with a strange, magical voice, the boy must reach the tower and uncover the island’s secrets. At this year’s PAX South, I sat down with Tequila Works Creative Director Raul Rubio and picked his brain about Rime’s development. During our talk, I uncovered several intriguing, lesser known facts about the highly-anticipated puzzle-platformer. Zelda and Ico Were Not Direct Influences “Ico meets Wind Waker” has been one of Rime’s go-to descriptors since the game debuted. Though an understandable comparison, Link’s seafaring adventure had zero impact on Rime’s conception. “I'm disappointed to say no, we didn't look into the Wind Waker.” Rubio confirmed. Tequila Works drew inspiration elsewhere, including films such as the animated works of Studio Ghibli. Raul stated one of the team’s main starting points was Journey. “Not the gameplay of Journey–the experience of Journey. In the sense that in Journey, the important thing was the journey.” Another, more surprising, influence has been the Jak & Daxter series. “In Jak & Daxter 2, you have this combination of platforming, open-world exploration, and, more importantly, you have this relationship between Jak and Daxter.” Rubio explained. “So in this game you have a relationship with the fox and he's your companion, your guide.” The Witness Connection While discussing Rime’s influences, I remarked about how Rime’s color palette and island setting reminded me more of The Witness than of Wind Waker. To my surprise, Raul revealed a relationship between the development of Rime and The Witness dating back to the 2013 Game Developer’s Conference. Both games had presentations at the event centered on their respective art styles: “And the thing is we both attended the other's talks because we were curious, and they found the same challenges we found, sometimes [similar] solutions, but other times we took totally different paths because we have different goals.” Rubio recalled. “And I remember that Jonathan Blow, they asked him literally this: ‘Oh have you seen Rime? Did they take inspirations from The Witness?’ I believe he said ‘Well, you should ask them.’ So now we can say, no, we didn't take inspiration [from] The Witness.” Raul said that until just a couple of months ago, he and his team hadn’t played The Witness. The reason? An employee rule to not play any other puzzle games during Rime’s development. Raul stated this was done to prevent Rime’s puzzle design from becoming “contaminated” by existing ideas and trends. Tequila Works could follow their unique vision rather than fall into the creative trap of only catering to player expectations. Legit Animation Chops One of Rime’s smaller but impressive elements is the boy’s animations. Subtle mannerisms and a satisfying sense of weight when jumping and climbing made me assume motion-capture was responsible. Raul revealed the boy was entirely hand-animated by a three-person team led by veteran animator Sandra Christensen. Prior to Rime, Christensen’s animation credits include LucasArts titles including the Star Wars: Force Unleashed games and Monkey Island, as well as other titles such as Psychonauts. She also had a tenure at Pixar, having worked on A Bug’s Life. A Blend of Cultural and Artistic Influences Creating a game that meshes aspects of different cultures is important to Tequila Works. The small team consists of a melting pot of nationalities, religious backgrounds, and artistic tastes. Rime’s aesthetic blends the individual artistic tastes and influences of the team members into a cohesive package. Raul explained, “Our art director was obsessed with The Master of Light, who is a 20th century Spanish painter. For other people it was Giorgio de Chirico who is the Italian architectural surrealist artist who inspired Team Ico. For other people, it was more like the surrealism of Dali and the negative space that he created. So in the end everything is mixed together.” The architecture and color palette of the Mediterranean coast heavily influenced Rime’s presentation. “It's like going on holiday to Spain or Greece” said Rubio. While such sights are relatively common for the Madrid-based studio, Raul revealed that he hopes Rime will make what seems relatively ordinary to him and the team extraordinary to the rest of the world. Childhood Experiences Drive Everything Rime stars an adolescent boy, and Tequila Works is committed to capturing the whimsy that comes from experiencing life from the perspective of a child. Raul stated that one thing every person has in common is that we were all kids at one point. “So the key to understand Rime is trying to see the world with the eyes of a kid.” Rubio explained. “And you are a child again, you can do things that you did very naturally when you were a child that you forgot when you became an adult.” Raul said he believes that one of those forgotten traits is the ability to be amazed by your surroundings without overanalyzing them the way an adult likely would. Capturing that same sense of wonder when players explore the remnants of the island’s ancient civilization has been one of the team’s key goals. To help realize that vision, Tequila Works studied videos of children playing in parks as a reference for how kids boldly attempt new challenges (especially when adults aren’t watching). Raul elaborated “You try to climb a tree now [you think], ‘Well if I try, I'm going to fall and [I’m] probably going to harm my hip, etc.’ But when you're a kid, you were not aware of the dangers of the world, right? Climbing a tree was something fun, not dangerous. That's the kind of inspiration for us.” Nearly every visible area in Rime can be reached by platforming, so Raul said he hopes that players channel that same child-like boldness when romping around the island. Rime’s controls and animation has been influenced by the protagonist’s young age as well. Raul explained that the balance of making the boy feel “fragile, but not literally helpless” was a balance the animation team was challenged to pull off. Every action needed to feel the way an 8-year old would, which Raul described as being “simple and complicated at the same time." I took Rime for a spin in a hands-on session and came away itching to play more. The puzzles I encountered, which involved using the boy’s voice to activate statues, were enjoyable and fairly inventive. Tequila Works promised increasingly diverse and complex conundrums throughout the experience. Platforming felt great and offers an enjoyable physical challenge on top of the mental aspect. Most of all, Rime’s ambient soundtrack and calm atmosphere make it a genuinely relaxing journey. By the time I finished, I wanted nothing more than to melt away and continue knocking out puzzles at my leisure. If the full experience continues to evolve in exciting ways, Rime has the potential to be one of the year’s premier titles. Rime launches this May for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. View full article
  9. Linelight, like its creator, has a uniquely “Brett Taylor” charm about it. His enthusiasm for the heart and soul of Linelight infects those around him. Despite a retail release being delayed until late January 2017, Linelight's strong showing has generated buzz around the game that has had a number of people in professional development and media circles asking one another, “Have you played Linelight yet?” Often indie games represent the most unique ends of the game industry and the people who make them are no different. I had the opportunity to talk with Brett Taylor earlier this year about his upcoming solo title, Linelight. For over a year, Taylor has been grinding out his personal passion project, a game staring a rectangle locked into a series of over 250 line-based puzzles. Though incredibly simple on the surface, Taylor has managed to leverage that core conceit into a dizzying array of clever puzzles with a surprisingly emotional core. It’s the kind of game where all the elements click together, leaving most who play it with a smile on their face. Talking with him, it was clear just how much effort and zeal Taylor had for Linelight. He’s focused, intent, and bending all of his energy toward finishing it, a colossal task for a single developer. How does someone function as the sole coder, animator, composer, director, marketer, and producer? What does it take to finish a game alone, let alone a game that seems to charm everyone in who plays it? Jack Gardner: What inspired you to make something like this? Why, out of all of the things that you could make, why Linelight? Brett Taylor: Linelight actually started as a programming challenge. I was like, "Okay, what if everything takes place in line? What if you're a line and everything takes place on lines? What would that be like? Is there a game there?" My question to myself was how I would program that. And I was like, "You know, I've never done anything like this before. It's very visual, and I'm a very visual person. I'll take a crack at it." I tried it out and [it was] way harder than I thought that it would be. There's linear algebra [in Linelight], but I initially thought it would be very visual. It's super heavy, data-based stuff; way more than I could have ever anticipated - way more than I'm comfortable with. The game's like [a person, saying,] "I'm belligerent, I'm going to be hard to work with!" I'm like, "I can beat you." So I stayed with it, I was persevering. Each of the mechanics in the game, each of the puzzles- there's no redundancy. There's no filler, it's basically as streamlined as possible with as few barriers between the player and the solution as possible. My goal was to remove all the noise from all the puzzles until I basically can't simplify it anymore. It does feel like a relationship, so I speak of it often as if it is one. It was very hard for me to understand and come to terms and speak the same language as Linelight in the beginning, but eventually we saw eye-to-eye; now we have a great relationship. I'm completely serious about this. [laughs] But yeah, I have a fantastic relationship with this game, and I'm so glad that I pushed through. It's been so rich and generous with its mechanics, and the types of puzzles that have come out, emergence. A lot of people ask me, "Where do you come up with all these ideas for the puzzles?" and honestly, most of the time I don't. The puzzles happen naturally. Jack: You're just discovering this game, rather than creating it? Brett: Exactly, I'm discovering [various aspects of the game]. I'm the one unearthing these gems, basically. So I guess my job is to go to patches of dirt where, using instincts or whatever experience that I have, I believe there's a lot of really great stuff beneath the surface and then [dig to] find those things. I never know exactly what I'm going to find; and in Linelight, I found some really cool stuff. I didn't know there would be this much gameplay in this one mechanic. I have so many more ideas, some small things I prototyped, and I had to stop myself from getting too invested in those because I have to finish the game. I could keep working on this forever, but I'm like no, this is my first independent solo release. Jack: So it's solo? It's all by yourself? Brett: 100% me, from code, music, art, design, to sound. Jack: [The visuals] look very Tron-esque. Brett: What's actually funny is that there's not nearly as much consistency in what people saying that it reminds them of, or what it's like so far. I've been getting a lot of different stuff so far. Jack: Which is really interesting because you have a very minimalist design. Brett: Yeah, actually I feel like it's like if you look at a stick figure, a face, it's like "Oh, this looks like that person" or whatever. It's like you can see it, interpret it, in your own way. I literally had my friend's wife say, "Oh, I don't want to hurt the character. He's so cute." I'm like, "First off, how is it a he? Second, it's a rectangle." Jack: It's a cute rectangle, though. Brett: Yes, it's a cute rectangle. The rectangle does more than just exist. It does move and behave. I programmed it and have given it the minimal amount of life it has, so it still feels like a plain rectangle, but it actually is a character and does emote so subtly in tiny ways. Just the way it moves and bends around corners and stuff gives it [a very light] sense of personality. Jack: Which [step of development] been the hardest for you to embrace? Music, coding, sound...? Brett: Production. Being the producer. Jack: Producer? Brett: I actually didn't think I would have an answer for that, but yes. Being the producer of the game is a role I did not think I was going to have to fill, but when you spend a few months telling people its 2-3 months away and you don't… I'm a very punctual person. I don't like being late, but flexibility is important too. But after having done that for a while, I was like I feel like I'm falling into a pattern that I've seen other developers fall into and that's unacceptable. [Delays are] not sustainable, I have to finish the game at some point. So being the producer was super hard because, months and months ago, I, as a producer, was very agreeable to myself. Imagine working on a project and having a producer who, if you asked for an extension or whatever for a deadline, would always say yes. You get nothing finished. I've asked people that before, and they say that sounds great – it’s not. You need someone to hold accountability and have deadlines and boundaries. It's challenging because there's Artist Brett who's - and all of this is happening in one head, which is difficult because I'm arguing with myself - previously, Artist Brett used to win most of the arguments, now it's Producer Brett saying, "Nope, good. Ship it." and Artist Brett's like, "Yeah, alright. Fine, ship it." Jack: So is Linelight done or is this still a couple months out? Brett: It's very close to done. [Editor’s Note: Brett and I talked for a bit about potential release dates and when work on the game would be done, but Linelight is now on track for a release on January 31, 2017, a bit later than he speculated] It’s difficult to estimate because I'm not just making the game, I'm also self-publishing. Jack: Which is its own headache, I'm sure. Brett: It's a lot of nouns. All the adjectives. There's a lot of stuff that I'm doing. So my goal is that if this does really well, my next project I can hire people. I'm not the best person to be doing marketing or PR. I like going into my silo and working and working, sealing myself away. I put my phone away, it's on airplane mode every day, all the time. I don't check Facebook, I don't do any of that stuff. My friends are like, "Did you check out my Snapchat?" I'm like, "Don't take it personally, I don't check anybody's Snapchat." Because I'm super zoned in on that, which is not conducive to somebody who's trying to get Twitter following and stuff and interact with people on Twitter. So [hopefully I’ll be] getting other people to help me with that. Jack: You're mentioning your next project. Where do you go from here? Do you stay with the minimalist stuff or do you go with something completely different? Brett: I don't know, I don't know…. Honestly, this is…. Jack: This is your life right now, your baby? Brett: Well, people have said it's my baby, and I get a little bit like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is a baby. And I am the parent of this baby, but saying "this is my baby" - my self-esteem is not tied to the success of this game, financial or critical, at least to the best of my abilities. Ideally, there would be like- there's got to be some ties there, but not too much. I don't want to get too... it's just a slippery slope. As far as next project goes, I'm assuming a similar process to how this started. I'm going to see what's interesting and then see where that takes me. If it doesn't go anywhere then I'll find something else. Actually last year I had an idea for this game but my goal was to have 10 prototypes done by, I think it was October. So I had a few months of just prototype stuff, and then I would decide which project I wanted to work on. But Linelight kept coming back. I was working on it on the side, and eventually I added some mechanics and I was like, "Whoa! Whoa! This is really cool." and then [the game and I] sort of fell into the relationship with each other I guess. Jack: How long have you been working on it? Brett: It's been a full year. Jack: Full year? Brett: Yeah. So I worked for a casual gaming company in New York City for three years, and I left at the end of May last year. Took a month off or so just to relax and not work for a little while, a month and a half, but I have to be doing something, so I was still working a little bit. But then mid-June, mid-July or whatever, I picked Linelight back up and I was full-time into development. It's pretty much been my full-time thing since. Now I'm doing seven days a week, but it's not all development work. A lot of it's housekeeping stuff because I'm also a business owner at the same time. There are a lot of tasks no one wants to do, and [it’s difficult to find people] to hire to do those tasks because generally nobody wants to, they're not particularly rewarding. Jack: Gotta live. Brett: Exactly. Jack: So I was going to ask, you worked at a casual gaming company. Where did you come from? What's your background? Brett: I've always been indie at heart. I was actually afraid of working at a casual game [company]. I got the job, and I worried that if I started working there I’d get the indie beaten out of me. It was an actual fear, I'm thinking questions like, "Will I start thinking in free-to-play terms?" And actually to a degree, yeah, I've changed what I thought my ethics were out of necessity just to work at the company and survive. It was also kind of fun and interesting seeing what overlap there could be between my interests and a viable product for a casual audience. So yeah, that's my only professional experience in the game industry, but I've been making games since freshman year of college. So it's been about 8 years, since 2008. Once I discovered how to program it was like everything I wanted to do, but couldn't put into words. But I've always been a musician. I was primarily musician, that's where it started. Jack: What did you play? Brett: Played piano and composer as well. I grew up really wanting to write the music for video games, and then I discovered how to program and I was like, "This is super cool!” It enabled me to get the ideas in my head out, and I have a lot of design ideas and all sorts of other stuff. I also like to do music so everything just sort of falls together. Jack: I can compose my own video games! Brett: Exactly! It would be very strange for me to hire somebody else to write the music for my own video games. Though there are some artists in mind that can write in the style that I can't that I really like. Jack: Like who? Brett: Nigel Good. Nobody knows about this guy, but Nigel Good is sort of, I don't want to say like Deadmau5. It's like electronic music, super upbeat, but it's not obnoxiously so. It's hard for me to describe it, but I really like his work. I never interact with anybody else about him. I've never found anybody else that knows about him, and literally his SoundCloud profile says "Canadian school teacher by day, music producer when I have time for it." [Laughs] Grant Kirkhope also has a place in my heart. His work hugely influenced me when I was younger. I started composing in 2003. I've been playing piano since I was 3 or 4, so I was late to the game for composing. But video game music, I was super into that. The musical style of Linelight is very much a juxtaposition of flowy and natural with the inorganic. There's piano music and strings with this glitchy, driving percussion track. If you play the game, you'll notice it, when the enemies come in they sort of represent that soundtrack. And there's no metaphor specifically behind it. I just like the sound of it. There's been no style guide for Linelight. People ask me questions that sort of imply that there would be and there's not. Everything's made to taste, which is not useful advice if someone's looking and asks, "Hey, how do I get into this?" and [I can only say], "Well, does it feel right?" It's not useful, but that is how I've been developing it. Jack: Is there a thematic or concrete story for Linelight, or is it a series of flowing puzzles? Brett: There are story elements. I had much more specific ideas for the story, but I ended up scaling it back dramatically because I realized what makes the game so great is the puzzles. That's the bread and butter of Linelight. That is the core of the game. I'm going to focus on that and, unfortunately, story had to take a backseat. Jack: Well it sounds kind of like the story fell on the same lines as your [minimalist] game design philosophy?' Brett: Yeah, it's definitely a minimalist story. There are bits and pieces of the story that- What's the best way to put it? It's not one big story, it's a lot of little stories and a lot of smaller moments. There's a lot of metaphors in the game just because it's so minimalist it's actually pretty easy to [put them in.] I could probably shoehorn whatever metaphor I wanted into it, but it did come from a deliberate place. There's an ending to the game that is probably the most specific piece of story that's like a very clear metaphor to me. It's all without text, so I'm not asking people to pick up on that, but that's for me at least. Jack: As the creator that's the only important thing, really. Brett: And that people play the game and enjoy it. But it all comes down to "Do I enjoy it?" My least good design decisions happen when I'm like "How are people going to react this? How can I make this communicate to other people? What would be cool for other people to experience?" It's not all about other people. I think of it in terms of like "What would be cool? Does this make sense to me?" I understand that, yeah, I have biases, but for the most part, when I ask the question "What do I think is cool?" that's where the best material comes from. I find that's true for a lot of other people's games as well. I feel like you can really tell when a game, or any sort of creative outlet or media, has come from a place of, the creator made it because they wanted it to exist or that it came from a place that they were excited about. I think most of my favorite games all come from that place, from a creator who had the idea and they just did what they wanted with it. And the game is almost saying, “I'm this way, and you can like me or not like me.” I'm not trying to appeal to anybody in any particular way, which is, casual gaming-wise, sort of the opposite. You want to appeal to as large an audience as you can. If I'd gone about that mission for Linelight it would be a very different game, and, ironically, it would not have appealed to nearly as many people. I swear that's totally true. Jack: You know yourself better than you know other people. Brett: Exactly, yeah, and I know what I like, and, generally speaking, I don't think that my tastes are crazy off the mark from [the tastes of the] majority of people out there. I have a very specific niches, things that I especially like or favorites, preferences. But on the whole, yeah. A big thank you to Brett Taylor for taking the time to talk with me at length about his life as a solo indie game developer and his personal journey creating Linelight. As of right now Linelight will release for PC and PlayStation 4 on January 31, 2017. View full article
  10. Linelight, like its creator, has a uniquely “Brett Taylor” charm about it. His enthusiasm for the heart and soul of Linelight infects those around him. Despite a retail release being delayed until late January 2017, Linelight's strong showing has generated buzz around the game that has had a number of people in professional development and media circles asking one another, “Have you played Linelight yet?” Often indie games represent the most unique ends of the game industry and the people who make them are no different. I had the opportunity to talk with Brett Taylor earlier this year about his upcoming solo title, Linelight. For over a year, Taylor has been grinding out his personal passion project, a game staring a rectangle locked into a series of over 250 line-based puzzles. Though incredibly simple on the surface, Taylor has managed to leverage that core conceit into a dizzying array of clever puzzles with a surprisingly emotional core. It’s the kind of game where all the elements click together, leaving most who play it with a smile on their face. Talking with him, it was clear just how much effort and zeal Taylor had for Linelight. He’s focused, intent, and bending all of his energy toward finishing it, a colossal task for a single developer. How does someone function as the sole coder, animator, composer, director, marketer, and producer? What does it take to finish a game alone, let alone a game that seems to charm everyone in who plays it? Jack Gardner: What inspired you to make something like this? Why, out of all of the things that you could make, why Linelight? Brett Taylor: Linelight actually started as a programming challenge. I was like, "Okay, what if everything takes place in line? What if you're a line and everything takes place on lines? What would that be like? Is there a game there?" My question to myself was how I would program that. And I was like, "You know, I've never done anything like this before. It's very visual, and I'm a very visual person. I'll take a crack at it." I tried it out and [it was] way harder than I thought that it would be. There's linear algebra [in Linelight], but I initially thought it would be very visual. It's super heavy, data-based stuff; way more than I could have ever anticipated - way more than I'm comfortable with. The game's like [a person, saying,] "I'm belligerent, I'm going to be hard to work with!" I'm like, "I can beat you." So I stayed with it, I was persevering. Each of the mechanics in the game, each of the puzzles- there's no redundancy. There's no filler, it's basically as streamlined as possible with as few barriers between the player and the solution as possible. My goal was to remove all the noise from all the puzzles until I basically can't simplify it anymore. It does feel like a relationship, so I speak of it often as if it is one. It was very hard for me to understand and come to terms and speak the same language as Linelight in the beginning, but eventually we saw eye-to-eye; now we have a great relationship. I'm completely serious about this. [laughs] But yeah, I have a fantastic relationship with this game, and I'm so glad that I pushed through. It's been so rich and generous with its mechanics, and the types of puzzles that have come out, emergence. A lot of people ask me, "Where do you come up with all these ideas for the puzzles?" and honestly, most of the time I don't. The puzzles happen naturally. Jack: You're just discovering this game, rather than creating it? Brett: Exactly, I'm discovering [various aspects of the game]. I'm the one unearthing these gems, basically. So I guess my job is to go to patches of dirt where, using instincts or whatever experience that I have, I believe there's a lot of really great stuff beneath the surface and then [dig to] find those things. I never know exactly what I'm going to find; and in Linelight, I found some really cool stuff. I didn't know there would be this much gameplay in this one mechanic. I have so many more ideas, some small things I prototyped, and I had to stop myself from getting too invested in those because I have to finish the game. I could keep working on this forever, but I'm like no, this is my first independent solo release. Jack: So it's solo? It's all by yourself? Brett: 100% me, from code, music, art, design, to sound. Jack: [The visuals] look very Tron-esque. Brett: What's actually funny is that there's not nearly as much consistency in what people saying that it reminds them of, or what it's like so far. I've been getting a lot of different stuff so far. Jack: Which is really interesting because you have a very minimalist design. Brett: Yeah, actually I feel like it's like if you look at a stick figure, a face, it's like "Oh, this looks like that person" or whatever. It's like you can see it, interpret it, in your own way. I literally had my friend's wife say, "Oh, I don't want to hurt the character. He's so cute." I'm like, "First off, how is it a he? Second, it's a rectangle." Jack: It's a cute rectangle, though. Brett: Yes, it's a cute rectangle. The rectangle does more than just exist. It does move and behave. I programmed it and have given it the minimal amount of life it has, so it still feels like a plain rectangle, but it actually is a character and does emote so subtly in tiny ways. Just the way it moves and bends around corners and stuff gives it [a very light] sense of personality. Jack: Which [step of development] been the hardest for you to embrace? Music, coding, sound...? Brett: Production. Being the producer. Jack: Producer? Brett: I actually didn't think I would have an answer for that, but yes. Being the producer of the game is a role I did not think I was going to have to fill, but when you spend a few months telling people its 2-3 months away and you don't… I'm a very punctual person. I don't like being late, but flexibility is important too. But after having done that for a while, I was like I feel like I'm falling into a pattern that I've seen other developers fall into and that's unacceptable. [Delays are] not sustainable, I have to finish the game at some point. So being the producer was super hard because, months and months ago, I, as a producer, was very agreeable to myself. Imagine working on a project and having a producer who, if you asked for an extension or whatever for a deadline, would always say yes. You get nothing finished. I've asked people that before, and they say that sounds great – it’s not. You need someone to hold accountability and have deadlines and boundaries. It's challenging because there's Artist Brett who's - and all of this is happening in one head, which is difficult because I'm arguing with myself - previously, Artist Brett used to win most of the arguments, now it's Producer Brett saying, "Nope, good. Ship it." and Artist Brett's like, "Yeah, alright. Fine, ship it." Jack: So is Linelight done or is this still a couple months out? Brett: It's very close to done. [Editor’s Note: Brett and I talked for a bit about potential release dates and when work on the game would be done, but Linelight is now on track for a release on January 31, 2017, a bit later than he speculated] It’s difficult to estimate because I'm not just making the game, I'm also self-publishing. Jack: Which is its own headache, I'm sure. Brett: It's a lot of nouns. All the adjectives. There's a lot of stuff that I'm doing. So my goal is that if this does really well, my next project I can hire people. I'm not the best person to be doing marketing or PR. I like going into my silo and working and working, sealing myself away. I put my phone away, it's on airplane mode every day, all the time. I don't check Facebook, I don't do any of that stuff. My friends are like, "Did you check out my Snapchat?" I'm like, "Don't take it personally, I don't check anybody's Snapchat." Because I'm super zoned in on that, which is not conducive to somebody who's trying to get Twitter following and stuff and interact with people on Twitter. So [hopefully I’ll be] getting other people to help me with that. Jack: You're mentioning your next project. Where do you go from here? Do you stay with the minimalist stuff or do you go with something completely different? Brett: I don't know, I don't know…. Honestly, this is…. Jack: This is your life right now, your baby? Brett: Well, people have said it's my baby, and I get a little bit like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is a baby. And I am the parent of this baby, but saying "this is my baby" - my self-esteem is not tied to the success of this game, financial or critical, at least to the best of my abilities. Ideally, there would be like- there's got to be some ties there, but not too much. I don't want to get too... it's just a slippery slope. As far as next project goes, I'm assuming a similar process to how this started. I'm going to see what's interesting and then see where that takes me. If it doesn't go anywhere then I'll find something else. Actually last year I had an idea for this game but my goal was to have 10 prototypes done by, I think it was October. So I had a few months of just prototype stuff, and then I would decide which project I wanted to work on. But Linelight kept coming back. I was working on it on the side, and eventually I added some mechanics and I was like, "Whoa! Whoa! This is really cool." and then [the game and I] sort of fell into the relationship with each other I guess. Jack: How long have you been working on it? Brett: It's been a full year. Jack: Full year? Brett: Yeah. So I worked for a casual gaming company in New York City for three years, and I left at the end of May last year. Took a month off or so just to relax and not work for a little while, a month and a half, but I have to be doing something, so I was still working a little bit. But then mid-June, mid-July or whatever, I picked Linelight back up and I was full-time into development. It's pretty much been my full-time thing since. Now I'm doing seven days a week, but it's not all development work. A lot of it's housekeeping stuff because I'm also a business owner at the same time. There are a lot of tasks no one wants to do, and [it’s difficult to find people] to hire to do those tasks because generally nobody wants to, they're not particularly rewarding. Jack: Gotta live. Brett: Exactly. Jack: So I was going to ask, you worked at a casual gaming company. Where did you come from? What's your background? Brett: I've always been indie at heart. I was actually afraid of working at a casual game [company]. I got the job, and I worried that if I started working there I’d get the indie beaten out of me. It was an actual fear, I'm thinking questions like, "Will I start thinking in free-to-play terms?" And actually to a degree, yeah, I've changed what I thought my ethics were out of necessity just to work at the company and survive. It was also kind of fun and interesting seeing what overlap there could be between my interests and a viable product for a casual audience. So yeah, that's my only professional experience in the game industry, but I've been making games since freshman year of college. So it's been about 8 years, since 2008. Once I discovered how to program it was like everything I wanted to do, but couldn't put into words. But I've always been a musician. I was primarily musician, that's where it started. Jack: What did you play? Brett: Played piano and composer as well. I grew up really wanting to write the music for video games, and then I discovered how to program and I was like, "This is super cool!” It enabled me to get the ideas in my head out, and I have a lot of design ideas and all sorts of other stuff. I also like to do music so everything just sort of falls together. Jack: I can compose my own video games! Brett: Exactly! It would be very strange for me to hire somebody else to write the music for my own video games. Though there are some artists in mind that can write in the style that I can't that I really like. Jack: Like who? Brett: Nigel Good. Nobody knows about this guy, but Nigel Good is sort of, I don't want to say like Deadmau5. It's like electronic music, super upbeat, but it's not obnoxiously so. It's hard for me to describe it, but I really like his work. I never interact with anybody else about him. I've never found anybody else that knows about him, and literally his SoundCloud profile says "Canadian school teacher by day, music producer when I have time for it." [Laughs] Grant Kirkhope also has a place in my heart. His work hugely influenced me when I was younger. I started composing in 2003. I've been playing piano since I was 3 or 4, so I was late to the game for composing. But video game music, I was super into that. The musical style of Linelight is very much a juxtaposition of flowy and natural with the inorganic. There's piano music and strings with this glitchy, driving percussion track. If you play the game, you'll notice it, when the enemies come in they sort of represent that soundtrack. And there's no metaphor specifically behind it. I just like the sound of it. There's been no style guide for Linelight. People ask me questions that sort of imply that there would be and there's not. Everything's made to taste, which is not useful advice if someone's looking and asks, "Hey, how do I get into this?" and [I can only say], "Well, does it feel right?" It's not useful, but that is how I've been developing it. Jack: Is there a thematic or concrete story for Linelight, or is it a series of flowing puzzles? Brett: There are story elements. I had much more specific ideas for the story, but I ended up scaling it back dramatically because I realized what makes the game so great is the puzzles. That's the bread and butter of Linelight. That is the core of the game. I'm going to focus on that and, unfortunately, story had to take a backseat. Jack: Well it sounds kind of like the story fell on the same lines as your [minimalist] game design philosophy?' Brett: Yeah, it's definitely a minimalist story. There are bits and pieces of the story that- What's the best way to put it? It's not one big story, it's a lot of little stories and a lot of smaller moments. There's a lot of metaphors in the game just because it's so minimalist it's actually pretty easy to [put them in.] I could probably shoehorn whatever metaphor I wanted into it, but it did come from a deliberate place. There's an ending to the game that is probably the most specific piece of story that's like a very clear metaphor to me. It's all without text, so I'm not asking people to pick up on that, but that's for me at least. Jack: As the creator that's the only important thing, really. Brett: And that people play the game and enjoy it. But it all comes down to "Do I enjoy it?" My least good design decisions happen when I'm like "How are people going to react this? How can I make this communicate to other people? What would be cool for other people to experience?" It's not all about other people. I think of it in terms of like "What would be cool? Does this make sense to me?" I understand that, yeah, I have biases, but for the most part, when I ask the question "What do I think is cool?" that's where the best material comes from. I find that's true for a lot of other people's games as well. I feel like you can really tell when a game, or any sort of creative outlet or media, has come from a place of, the creator made it because they wanted it to exist or that it came from a place that they were excited about. I think most of my favorite games all come from that place, from a creator who had the idea and they just did what they wanted with it. And the game is almost saying, “I'm this way, and you can like me or not like me.” I'm not trying to appeal to anybody in any particular way, which is, casual gaming-wise, sort of the opposite. You want to appeal to as large an audience as you can. If I'd gone about that mission for Linelight it would be a very different game, and, ironically, it would not have appealed to nearly as many people. I swear that's totally true. Jack: You know yourself better than you know other people. Brett: Exactly, yeah, and I know what I like, and, generally speaking, I don't think that my tastes are crazy off the mark from [the tastes of the] majority of people out there. I have a very specific niches, things that I especially like or favorites, preferences. But on the whole, yeah. A big thank you to Brett Taylor for taking the time to talk with me at length about his life as a solo indie game developer and his personal journey creating Linelight. As of right now Linelight will release for PC and PlayStation 4 on January 31, 2017.
  11. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing installation artist-turned-indie developer Willy Chyr about his upcoming game Relativity. It's a really fascinating puzzle game that asks players to really engage and struggle with the concept of infinity and impossible geometry. After three years of development under the name Relativity, Chyr has decided to rename his puzzle-art game Manifold Garden. In our interview, Chyr talked a little about some problems he'd been having with trademarking Relativity, as the trademark was owned at the time by the now bankrupt Relativity Media (who had never made a game before, but owned the rights to a name in the game space somehow). While Chyr decided to go ahead and use the name anyway, differentiating it with the addition of "Willy Chyr's." While this eventually worked out, it made him really start thinking about the name and if it really fit what he wanted the final game to be: In the video below you can see the entire development process of the game to see the different ideas Chyr worked with over the last few years all compressed into fifteen minutes. Chyr concluded that the name was not very easily searched in relation to his game online or on social media. It was constantly thought to have something to do with Einstein's Theory of Relativity or perhaps having something to do with Relativity Media. On top of those reasons, he wanted to find a title that could stand on its own as an expression of the game itself. In a post on his development forums, Chyr goes into greater detail on the meaning behind his name change: Several new gameplay features have also been added to since I had the opportunity to play Manifold Garden. Water has been introduced in a way that emphasizes the unique physics of each infinitely looping space. Whereas cubes in the older version of the game were only used to activate switches, they can now be used to redirect water or even grow new trees that produce new cubes. Another really neat feature is the addition of a photography mode. When players finish all the puzzles in an area, they will be able to take pictures of that area using a slew of different cameras and effects. Chyr has also released a collection of 100 high-resolution wallpapers taken from Manifold Garden, which should anyone be interested in mind-bending backgrounds for their PC. Manifold Garden is on track to release next year for PS4, PC, Mac, and Linux.
  12. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing installation artist-turned-indie developer Willy Chyr about his upcoming game Relativity. It's a really fascinating puzzle game that asks players to really engage and struggle with the concept of infinity and impossible geometry. After three years of development under the name Relativity, Chyr has decided to rename his puzzle-art game Manifold Garden. In our interview, Chyr talked a little about some problems he'd been having with trademarking Relativity, as the trademark was owned at the time by the now bankrupt Relativity Media (who had never made a game before, but owned the rights to a name in the game space somehow). While Chyr decided to go ahead and use the name anyway, differentiating it with the addition of "Willy Chyr's." While this eventually worked out, it made him really start thinking about the name and if it really fit what he wanted the final game to be: In the video below you can see the entire development process of the game to see the different ideas Chyr worked with over the last few years all compressed into fifteen minutes. Chyr concluded that the name was not very easily searched in relation to his game online or on social media. It was constantly thought to have something to do with Einstein's Theory of Relativity or perhaps having something to do with Relativity Media. On top of those reasons, he wanted to find a title that could stand on its own as an expression of the game itself. In a post on his development forums, Chyr goes into greater detail on the meaning behind his name change: Several new gameplay features have also been added to since I had the opportunity to play Manifold Garden. Water has been introduced in a way that emphasizes the unique physics of each infinitely looping space. Whereas cubes in the older version of the game were only used to activate switches, they can now be used to redirect water or even grow new trees that produce new cubes. Another really neat feature is the addition of a photography mode. When players finish all the puzzles in an area, they will be able to take pictures of that area using a slew of different cameras and effects. Chyr has also released a collection of 100 high-resolution wallpapers taken from Manifold Garden, which should anyone be interested in mind-bending backgrounds for their PC. Manifold Garden is on track to release next year for PS4, PC, Mac, and Linux. View full article
  13. During E3 I had the pleasure of meeting with Martin Brouard from Frima Studios to discuss the indie platforming title Chariot. Afterward, I was able to go hands-on for nearly a half-hour. Spoiler: I couldn't stop smiling. --- Martin Brouard: I’m the Executive Producer for Chariot. It’s a platformer, a couch co-op platformer that’s coming out on Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, and PC this fall. Jack Gardner: Awesome! And we can see it right behind you there. From what I understand the general premise is that a king or emperor has died and you're taking him to his final resting place? MB: Right, you play as a princess and you are accompanied by your very trusty fiancé and before going on with your life, you have to, you know, put your dead father to rest in a really nice sepulcher. But the king is actually back as a ghost and the chariot that you are bringing around everywhere; it’s a coffin on wheels. The king is there and he keeps complaining that you are leaving treasure behind or that you cannot possibly think of burying him here because it is not a proper, kingly place. He always wants more treasure and more interesting places, so that’s how you progress through different levels. [There are] five different environments, 25 levels of exploration. And it is couch co-op so you play both characters. You can play solo, but it is really made for having fun with a friend at home. JG: What different mechanics can we expect to see out of Chariot? MB: The big difference between Chariot and other platformers that we know and love is that it’s a physics-based platformer with a chariot is at the center of it. You need the chariot because that’s what picks up all the loot; that’s what is at the center of the game. So, you’ll push it; you’ll pull it; you’ll use this rope mechanic to pull the chariot, to give some rope to your friend to dangle over a precipice. To try to jump into hard to reach areas. There is lots of exploration. You use the chariot to jump on it, to roll down slopes. [You will have] one special item that you choose for every level, one per character, you use these items to do special moves. There is an attractor, a repulsor, a peg so you can attach your rope to a little escalation peg. There’s something that slows down time and speed boots. By combining these items, one on each character, you can pull off some really fantastic moves and that’s where the fun is. JG: And there is no online co-op or just couch co-op? MB: It’s too… it just wouldn’t make sense for us. It’s really a game where you want to have fun with the person sitting next to you. And be arguing over, “We should be going over there,” “No! Let’s go over there. There is probably something hidden there,” “Alright, alright.” It just wouldn’t be the same over the internet. JG: What is your favorite part of Chariot? MB: My favorite part is definitely when you see some hard to reach area and you’re like, “Okay, we’ve got to get over there,” and you need to figure out a way, but there are different ways to achieve that. Sometimes you’ll try to pull out some really crazy move, and you will try and try again. When after fifteen minutes of trying you finally pull off that move, this is just so satisfying. High-fives all over the place and it is a great satisfaction. Also, the humor. Right now this is an alpha-build. It’s not finished. JG: Wow, that looks great for an alpha-build! MB: Thank you! But the voice overs aren’t implemented yet. There is a lot of humor coming from the king who is interacting with you. He is kinda acting as a chaperone, you know, his daughter with this guy. He’s there to keep an eye on you and make sure you don’t leave any loot on the table. JG: And collecting the loot is how you unlock the gadgets and get the different abilities? MB: You actually get the gadgets by finding the blueprints and special collectibles. Between every level you’ll be meeting with a merchant on the surface. He’s a skeleton dude, I don’t think he even realizes that he’s a skeleton, but he’s improving your stuff in exchange for your loot. For example, if you want to go to the lava levels, you’ll need to make sure that your chariot becomes fireproof. For that you’ll need to find blueprints that are hidden somewhere in the game, but then you also need to give the blueprints to the merchant along with some of your loot, which the king doesn’t like too much. When you part with the blueprint and [pay the merchant], he’ll upgrade the chariot and it will be able to float in lava. Same thing with the ice caverns and other levels. You can also improve your gadgets up to three levels. For example, the repulsor which is basically something that throws the chariot super hard with physics, when you are at level three it really shoots the chariot very far. So, if your friend is standing on it and then you’re shooting it, it’s pretty awesome. JG: Are there enemies in the game? So far I haven’t seen any. MB: Well, it’s not a fighting game, but there are enemies. They're called looters. They will not attack you. They will only attack the chariot, try to grab your loot, and run away with it. So your job is basically to dispatch them as quickly as possible or run away before they steal too much of your loot, because that’s also your score. The princess has a sword, so she’s a close-range character and the fiancé has a little slingshot so he is a ranged character. A lot of times, one player will try to get out while the other will defend, so that leads to some fun little combat scenes, but it’s not at the heart of the game. There are four different enemies. Some of them are even trying to steal the chariot! [laughs] JG: Is it an open-world, Metroid-style game? MB: No, no. The way it works is there are 25 different levels scattered over five different environments. These environments are unlocked when you upgrade the chariot, but there are different entrances and exits in certain levels that sometimes unlock speed runs you can complete for special rewards and leaderboards. JG: So how does that work, is there a hub where you access each level? MB: Yes, there is a map that is currently very placeholder, but every time you find an exit it opens up the path to a new level. Sometimes you find different exits in different levels. There is a lot of exploration there. JG: Well it looks incredible. I can’t wait to play it! MB: Thank you very much, you can play it right now! [laughs] --- And play it I did. Even in early alpha Chariot is almost overwhelmingly charming. The art design is great and does a great job conveying humor and lightheartedness even without dialogue. Levels are cleverly constructed to interact with the chariot and the players in interesting ways. For example, there are certain surfaces that will be solid for the player, but not the chariot and vice versa. The rope mechanics and physics feel statisfying and it feels really rewarding to overcome obstacles with a co-op partner. Recently there have been people expressing a desire for non-violent games to play with family or just as an alternative to the omni-present shooter genre. Though Brouard said that there were looters in Chariot, in nearly a half hour, I never saw a single one and still enjoyed myself immensely. I would feel very comfortable sitting down with my young nephews and playing this along with them. Brouard was right, Chariot can be played alone, but it is meant to embody cooperation and going it alone seems miss a bit of the magic that Chariot has to offer. Keep your eye on Chariot. It releases this fall on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC. View full article
  14. During E3 I had the pleasure of meeting with Martin Brouard from Frima Studios to discuss the indie platforming title Chariot. Afterward, I was able to go hands-on for nearly a half-hour. Spoiler: I couldn't stop smiling. --- Martin Brouard: I’m the Executive Producer for Chariot. It’s a platformer, a couch co-op platformer that’s coming out on Xbox One, PS4, Wii U, and PC this fall. Jack Gardner: Awesome! And we can see it right behind you there. From what I understand the general premise is that a king or emperor has died and you're taking him to his final resting place? MB: Right, you play as a princess and you are accompanied by your very trusty fiancé and before going on with your life, you have to, you know, put your dead father to rest in a really nice sepulcher. But the king is actually back as a ghost and the chariot that you are bringing around everywhere; it’s a coffin on wheels. The king is there and he keeps complaining that you are leaving treasure behind or that you cannot possibly think of burying him here because it is not a proper, kingly place. He always wants more treasure and more interesting places, so that’s how you progress through different levels. [There are] five different environments, 25 levels of exploration. And it is couch co-op so you play both characters. You can play solo, but it is really made for having fun with a friend at home. JG: What different mechanics can we expect to see out of Chariot? MB: The big difference between Chariot and other platformers that we know and love is that it’s a physics-based platformer with a chariot is at the center of it. You need the chariot because that’s what picks up all the loot; that’s what is at the center of the game. So, you’ll push it; you’ll pull it; you’ll use this rope mechanic to pull the chariot, to give some rope to your friend to dangle over a precipice. To try to jump into hard to reach areas. There is lots of exploration. You use the chariot to jump on it, to roll down slopes. [You will have] one special item that you choose for every level, one per character, you use these items to do special moves. There is an attractor, a repulsor, a peg so you can attach your rope to a little escalation peg. There’s something that slows down time and speed boots. By combining these items, one on each character, you can pull off some really fantastic moves and that’s where the fun is. JG: And there is no online co-op or just couch co-op? MB: It’s too… it just wouldn’t make sense for us. It’s really a game where you want to have fun with the person sitting next to you. And be arguing over, “We should be going over there,” “No! Let’s go over there. There is probably something hidden there,” “Alright, alright.” It just wouldn’t be the same over the internet. JG: What is your favorite part of Chariot? MB: My favorite part is definitely when you see some hard to reach area and you’re like, “Okay, we’ve got to get over there,” and you need to figure out a way, but there are different ways to achieve that. Sometimes you’ll try to pull out some really crazy move, and you will try and try again. When after fifteen minutes of trying you finally pull off that move, this is just so satisfying. High-fives all over the place and it is a great satisfaction. Also, the humor. Right now this is an alpha-build. It’s not finished. JG: Wow, that looks great for an alpha-build! MB: Thank you! But the voice overs aren’t implemented yet. There is a lot of humor coming from the king who is interacting with you. He is kinda acting as a chaperone, you know, his daughter with this guy. He’s there to keep an eye on you and make sure you don’t leave any loot on the table. JG: And collecting the loot is how you unlock the gadgets and get the different abilities? MB: You actually get the gadgets by finding the blueprints and special collectibles. Between every level you’ll be meeting with a merchant on the surface. He’s a skeleton dude, I don’t think he even realizes that he’s a skeleton, but he’s improving your stuff in exchange for your loot. For example, if you want to go to the lava levels, you’ll need to make sure that your chariot becomes fireproof. For that you’ll need to find blueprints that are hidden somewhere in the game, but then you also need to give the blueprints to the merchant along with some of your loot, which the king doesn’t like too much. When you part with the blueprint and [pay the merchant], he’ll upgrade the chariot and it will be able to float in lava. Same thing with the ice caverns and other levels. You can also improve your gadgets up to three levels. For example, the repulsor which is basically something that throws the chariot super hard with physics, when you are at level three it really shoots the chariot very far. So, if your friend is standing on it and then you’re shooting it, it’s pretty awesome. JG: Are there enemies in the game? So far I haven’t seen any. MB: Well, it’s not a fighting game, but there are enemies. They're called looters. They will not attack you. They will only attack the chariot, try to grab your loot, and run away with it. So your job is basically to dispatch them as quickly as possible or run away before they steal too much of your loot, because that’s also your score. The princess has a sword, so she’s a close-range character and the fiancé has a little slingshot so he is a ranged character. A lot of times, one player will try to get out while the other will defend, so that leads to some fun little combat scenes, but it’s not at the heart of the game. There are four different enemies. Some of them are even trying to steal the chariot! [laughs] JG: Is it an open-world, Metroid-style game? MB: No, no. The way it works is there are 25 different levels scattered over five different environments. These environments are unlocked when you upgrade the chariot, but there are different entrances and exits in certain levels that sometimes unlock speed runs you can complete for special rewards and leaderboards. JG: So how does that work, is there a hub where you access each level? MB: Yes, there is a map that is currently very placeholder, but every time you find an exit it opens up the path to a new level. Sometimes you find different exits in different levels. There is a lot of exploration there. JG: Well it looks incredible. I can’t wait to play it! MB: Thank you very much, you can play it right now! [laughs] --- And play it I did. Even in early alpha Chariot is almost overwhelmingly charming. The art design is great and does a great job conveying humor and lightheartedness even without dialogue. Levels are cleverly constructed to interact with the chariot and the players in interesting ways. For example, there are certain surfaces that will be solid for the player, but not the chariot and vice versa. The rope mechanics and physics feel statisfying and it feels really rewarding to overcome obstacles with a co-op partner. Recently there have been people expressing a desire for non-violent games to play with family or just as an alternative to the omni-present shooter genre. Though Brouard said that there were looters in Chariot, in nearly a half hour, I never saw a single one and still enjoyed myself immensely. I would feel very comfortable sitting down with my young nephews and playing this along with them. Brouard was right, Chariot can be played alone, but it is meant to embody cooperation and going it alone seems miss a bit of the magic that Chariot has to offer. Keep your eye on Chariot. It releases this fall on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC.
  15. I really adore the game 6180 Moon (even though I am just awful at it) for its tight platforming and clever puzzle mechanics. So imagine my delight to find that the developer behind 6180, Turtle Cream, had returned to E3 this year with a rough build of a new game with a new central mechanic that I have never seen before. Long Take is another game that is both clever and challenging. The premise is that instead of controlling the main character of the game, you are merely the camera man who is trying to make the hero look good. Here is where it gets interesting: Everything outside of your camera frame ceases to exist. All manner of hazards from rockets to lasers can be avoided by zooming the camera closer to the hero. However, the proximity of the zoom has to be weighed against how fast the hero is moving. If the platforming protagonist leaves the camera frame, you fail the level and start over again. This means you have to be careful if he decides to go back to collect the last few coins in the level or makes a dash for the exit. This leads to a number of creative puzzles that revolve around where you point the camera. Though I didn’t have an extended play session with Long Take, it shows a lot of promise for such an early iteration of the concept. I only had a couple gripes about what I have seen thus far. First, the player isn't given time to survey each level to formulate a strategy beforehand (only a brief glimpse of everything before automatically beginning), which leads to a number of frustrating and seemingly unavoidable trial and error deaths. Second, I encountered a bug where things off screen continued to fire despite not being visible, which is really debilitating to the core concept of the title. There were a few other minor annoyances along the lines of the second complaint, but I was assured that they were due to the early build and would be ironed out before release. Overall, color me intrigued and hopeful that Long Take will live up to the pedigree of 6180. View full article
  16. I really adore the game 6180 Moon (even though I am just awful at it) for its tight platforming and clever puzzle mechanics. So imagine my delight to find that the developer behind 6180, Turtle Cream, had returned to E3 this year with a rough build of a new game with a new central mechanic that I have never seen before. Long Take is another game that is both clever and challenging. The premise is that instead of controlling the main character of the game, you are merely the camera man who is trying to make the hero look good. Here is where it gets interesting: Everything outside of your camera frame ceases to exist. All manner of hazards from rockets to lasers can be avoided by zooming the camera closer to the hero. However, the proximity of the zoom has to be weighed against how fast the hero is moving. If the platforming protagonist leaves the camera frame, you fail the level and start over again. This means you have to be careful if he decides to go back to collect the last few coins in the level or makes a dash for the exit. This leads to a number of creative puzzles that revolve around where you point the camera. Though I didn’t have an extended play session with Long Take, it shows a lot of promise for such an early iteration of the concept. I only had a couple gripes about what I have seen thus far. First, the player isn't given time to survey each level to formulate a strategy beforehand (only a brief glimpse of everything before automatically beginning), which leads to a number of frustrating and seemingly unavoidable trial and error deaths. Second, I encountered a bug where things off screen continued to fire despite not being visible, which is really debilitating to the core concept of the title. There were a few other minor annoyances along the lines of the second complaint, but I was assured that they were due to the early build and would be ironed out before release. Overall, color me intrigued and hopeful that Long Take will live up to the pedigree of 6180.
  17. In the midst of the insanity that made up E3 2013, I encountered a game called Pinstripe at the IndieCade booth. What followed was akin to a descent into surreal madness of the sort one might expect from a more malign Alice in Wonderland. With little introduction, I was thrust into the role of James Weaks, an absurdly wealthy man who is aboard a train with his wife. After being asked to retrieve my wife’s scarf, I was able to explore the various compartments of the train using the W, A, S, and D keys to move. As I moved through the train cars, I came into contact with various other passengers who chatted about their goals in life, before I was able to proceed. Once I obtained the scarf from several cars farther forward, I encountered what appeared to be a demonic cat. With some cryptic words, the cat vanished and the train wrecked itself in a snowy land. The haunting melodies of Pinstripe’s soundtrack played as I tried to get my bearings. Donning my wife’s scarf against the cold, I soldiered on through the ice. Soon I began to meet other survivors from the wreck, but all of them seemed different, obsessed with their desires. One of the first people I encountered was an alcoholic from the train, who was now obsessed with drinking the honey from black beehives. After retrieving a hive for him to eat, he allowed me through his shelter and I found a blunderbuss. With this weapon I was able to sever ropes and fight the enemies that had appeared; odd tear drop creatures with propellers that dropped oozing bombs. It became clear that not everything was right in the world. Pressing onward, I solved more problems from people who had been on the train and I met what seemed to be a dog from my childhood. I saw the fleeting image of my wife, running in the distance. Shortly after, I was told by the demonic cat that my wife was waiting at the hotel, a building off in the distance. To reach the hotel, I needed to take a boat across a lake. In a scene that brought to mind the crossing of the river Styx from Greek mythology, I was propelled on the boat by a lanky, oozing, black creature with a singular red eye for a head. Upon reaching the far shore, I disembarked (hoping never to see that monster again) and made my way into the nearby hotel where I was greeted by the demonic feline. At this point, my demonic guide revealed that the world was no longer the mortal world, but “a place where the selfish become more selfish” before vanishing into a puff of smoke. More than a little disturbed, I made my way to the top of the hotel, encountering fantastical creatures, like a strange spore-spider creature the size of an entire room. In the process of solving puzzles, I ran across a newspaper with a headline proclaiming the suicide of a certain Mr. James Weaks and a scrap of paper hinting that the pinstripe man might know of a way out of this world. More and more perplexed, I made my way to the room in which the cat had told me my wife would be, only to find a mannequin and the black cat, taunting me for my foolishness and condemning me to spend eternity within the room. Seemingly doomed to spend the rest of existence trapped and alone with my dog, I explored my prison. After fiddling with a singular mirror, a portal to another world was opened and I stepped though with my trusty dog companion. On the other side of the mirror, a crystalline wall arose and would not open, unless someone stood on a certain spot. Gently, my dog explained that it had been my loyal friend its entire life, and it would not stop being so now. Urging me to go on, it stood on the switch and allowed me to proceed – leaving him behind. It was a poignant moment and one that was followed by the conclusion of my time with Pinstripe. At its heart, Pinstripe is a 2D point-and-click adventure game with some light puzzle, action, and platforming elements. Overall, the impression I walked away from Pinstripe with was good. The surreal insanity of the world really engaged me and kept me wondering where the story would bring me next. The sound design and music are worth noting as well, given how well they blended with the simple and understated visuals. The actual gameplay was frankly a bit bland, but it was serviceable and it didn’t really need to be interesting given the intriguing aesthetic, sounds, music, and story. Pinstripe is being developed by one-man team Thomas Brush and will continue development until it is done, aiming for a release on PC sometime in 2013. View full article
  18. In the midst of the insanity that made up E3 2013, I encountered a game called Pinstripe at the IndieCade booth. What followed was akin to a descent into surreal madness of the sort one might expect from a more malign Alice in Wonderland. With little introduction, I was thrust into the role of James Weaks, an absurdly wealthy man who is aboard a train with his wife. After being asked to retrieve my wife’s scarf, I was able to explore the various compartments of the train using the W, A, S, and D keys to move. As I moved through the train cars, I came into contact with various other passengers who chatted about their goals in life, before I was able to proceed. Once I obtained the scarf from several cars farther forward, I encountered what appeared to be a demonic cat. With some cryptic words, the cat vanished and the train wrecked itself in a snowy land. The haunting melodies of Pinstripe’s soundtrack played as I tried to get my bearings. Donning my wife’s scarf against the cold, I soldiered on through the ice. Soon I began to meet other survivors from the wreck, but all of them seemed different, obsessed with their desires. One of the first people I encountered was an alcoholic from the train, who was now obsessed with drinking the honey from black beehives. After retrieving a hive for him to eat, he allowed me through his shelter and I found a blunderbuss. With this weapon I was able to sever ropes and fight the enemies that had appeared; odd tear drop creatures with propellers that dropped oozing bombs. It became clear that not everything was right in the world. Pressing onward, I solved more problems from people who had been on the train and I met what seemed to be a dog from my childhood. I saw the fleeting image of my wife, running in the distance. Shortly after, I was told by the demonic cat that my wife was waiting at the hotel, a building off in the distance. To reach the hotel, I needed to take a boat across a lake. In a scene that brought to mind the crossing of the river Styx from Greek mythology, I was propelled on the boat by a lanky, oozing, black creature with a singular red eye for a head. Upon reaching the far shore, I disembarked (hoping never to see that monster again) and made my way into the nearby hotel where I was greeted by the demonic feline. At this point, my demonic guide revealed that the world was no longer the mortal world, but “a place where the selfish become more selfish” before vanishing into a puff of smoke. More than a little disturbed, I made my way to the top of the hotel, encountering fantastical creatures, like a strange spore-spider creature the size of an entire room. In the process of solving puzzles, I ran across a newspaper with a headline proclaiming the suicide of a certain Mr. James Weaks and a scrap of paper hinting that the pinstripe man might know of a way out of this world. More and more perplexed, I made my way to the room in which the cat had told me my wife would be, only to find a mannequin and the black cat, taunting me for my foolishness and condemning me to spend eternity within the room. Seemingly doomed to spend the rest of existence trapped and alone with my dog, I explored my prison. After fiddling with a singular mirror, a portal to another world was opened and I stepped though with my trusty dog companion. On the other side of the mirror, a crystalline wall arose and would not open, unless someone stood on a certain spot. Gently, my dog explained that it had been my loyal friend its entire life, and it would not stop being so now. Urging me to go on, it stood on the switch and allowed me to proceed – leaving him behind. It was a poignant moment and one that was followed by the conclusion of my time with Pinstripe. At its heart, Pinstripe is a 2D point-and-click adventure game with some light puzzle, action, and platforming elements. Overall, the impression I walked away from Pinstripe with was good. The surreal insanity of the world really engaged me and kept me wondering where the story would bring me next. The sound design and music are worth noting as well, given how well they blended with the simple and understated visuals. The actual gameplay was frankly a bit bland, but it was serviceable and it didn’t really need to be interesting given the intriguing aesthetic, sounds, music, and story. Pinstripe is being developed by one-man team Thomas Brush and will continue development until it is done, aiming for a release on PC sometime in 2013.
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