As discussed last week, IGF 2012 entries The Fourth Wall and Eyez have the same screen-wrapping mechanic in their 2D games, which is also visually represented practically the same with a blue aura around the screen borders.

This time around, we talk to Eyez developer Hua Chen, who's taking another stab at the IGF after being part of 2009 IGF Student Showcase project Kid the World Saver.

Windows Phone 7 title Eyez was actually a prototype submitted to the IGF 2010 competition. Chen shares that based on feedback he received from the IGF and thesis advisor Kim Swift (Portal designer), he pushed forward with the game to what it is today.

The Fourth Wall:


Eyez entails what the developer calls "spatial paradoxes": Blue-Eye Mode (Screen-wrapping Mode) and Red-Eye Mode (Screen-locking Mode). Since screen-wrapping was explored in the last post, here Chen discusses screen-locking. It is "where the edges of the screen prevent objects from going through, so things inside the screen cannot go outside and vice versa. In this case, the on-screen space and the off-screen space are actually separated."

When the Red-Eye Mode is triggered on, the camera becomes static and the screen-locking mechanic starts working, so Mint can use the hard edges of the screen to protect herself from harmful objects or enemies or perform wall-jumps to reach higher places.

With the main mechanics of Eyez and The Fourth Wall on the table, Chen gives his take on their similarities and differences. "On one hand, these two games share some similar ideas and a few puzzle implementations. On the other hand, however, they differentiate in many ways. For example, if you were to wrap into a wall, in The Fourth Wall you will stop by the edge as if there were a real wall, while in Eyez you will just go off the edge and cancel the screen freezing. So I guess Logan was right: they really are fundamentally different."

Chen proceeds to clarify some of the assumptions developer Logan Fieth made. "Eyez is a puzzle game from the very beginning. The first prototype of Eyez I made in 2009 was a top-down puzzle game. Before I started working on the Windows Phone 7 version, I have thought about making it more action-focused (kind of like a "'Splosion Man with the Blue Eye and Red Eye mechanics"). Unfortunately due to the fact that it is designed as a smartphone phone game and its control scheme is based on touchscreen gestures (sorry, I just simply hate virtual joystick), the tests didn't really work out. So, at least for the moment, it is still a puzzle game."

Chen also shares his own interpretation of what The Fourth Wall is doing. "It seems to me that they are trying to add in more and more different objects and mechanics (some of them actually feel pretty familiar and can be found in games like Portal and Braid) to interact with the wrapping mechanic, which is definitely not a bad idea."

Chen says he has a minimalist approach for Eyez, limiting the number of new elements that get introduced to players and focusing on creating interesting puzzles with those few elements in a smooth learning curve. "For that purpose, I have been cutting out elements that existed in the Torque prototype. Actually this 'less is more' design philosophy was the most valuable lesson I learned from Kim Swift, who designed the first Portal and was also one of my thesis advisors. And this idea can be seen in the spatial design of the game: the maps in Eyez are like miniature gardens when compared to that in The Fourth Wall."