February 28, 2012 3:00 AM | John Polson
[Continuing our Road to the IGF interviews, Gamasutra chats with Ty Taylor about his Student Showcase finalist, The Bridge, a 2D puzzle platformer set in an Escherian world.]
"The world is much larger when every wall is a floor..." beings The Bridge's trailer. The thoughtful, M. C. Escher-inspired 2D puzzle platformer makes a poignant first impression and has been turning judges' heads since it entered competitions in 2011. It has received an honorable mention for innovation in Microsoft's Dream.Build.Play Competition and was an Indiecade finalist and nominee for best visuals. The Bridge also has begun 2012 strongly as both an Indie Game Challenge and IGF Student Showcase finalist.
Part of the puzzle platformer's appeal is in its peculiarities; it has done away with the oft-used jumping mechanic to emphasize its puzzles. The developers also highly regard The Bridge's design with the claim that it brings into question the boundaries of reality.
The Bridge's designer and programmer, Ty Taylor, was happy to participate in the following interview about his and Mario Castaneda's student project turned professional indie game.
What served as inspiration for The Bridge?
Overall, the works of the artist M. C. Escher served as a primary inspiration, as both the gameplay and art style are intended to immerse the player into an Escherian world. In terms of other games, Braid was an influence on the more subtle design concepts.
Could you tell me about the team who worked on the game?
Just two people made The Bridge: Mario Castaneda and myself. I designed the game and programmed it, and Mario handled the artwork. We met at Case Western Reserve University, after I had started this project. I created it for a project for my Computer Science degree, and Mario worked on it for his art minor capstone. I'm currently working at Microsoft, and he is getting more art degrees at University of Advancing Technology. This is the first game we've made together, but there will for sure be more from us after The Bridge is done.
What development tools did you use? How long was the development cycle?
All of the programming was done with a custom-build engine on top of XNA, and the art was made in Photoshop. The game has been (and continues to be) in development since August 2010.
Tell me about your design for the the game's title.
The entire game, in terms of the environment, atmosphere, and graphics, is intended to actually be an in-progress drawing, in everything from the scenery to the player himself. This is what the lines on the title image represent-- the subtle un-erased constructs an artist might use to draw something, such as aligning the letters of "The Bridge" in the drawing. The character also has this same effect animated throughout the game.
As for the white "i", this is a play on a core concept of the game, which is gravity inversion. Every time the player walks between an impossible structure, he or she can "invert", to make the character a white, un-shaded, version of the original. The "i" in the title is drawn like this, with the dot on the "i" being a Penrose Triangle seen throughout the game to indicate that gravity inversion is possible.
And what's the significance in the title itself?
With the name "The Bridge," the player expects to find a bridge, but they don't expect how or why. The Bridge can obviously refer to the structure the player must reach in the game, but the meaning behind that structure and its purpose in the game is yet another puzzle for players to solve.
Why do you think The Bridge deserves to win the Student Showcase?
Like all of the other finalists, we've poured a lot of love in this game. The Bridge is a culmination of our love for Escher's work and indie games and the people behind them. As a student showcase finalist, it certainly serves to show that professional quality developments can surface from non-professionals.
Why should the average gamer play your game?
The Bridge is a celebration of the work of just two enthusiasts, something I think the average gamer can appreciate. And should they love it, here's hoping The Bridge is just the first of many indie gems they reach out and try.
What are some interesting things about your game that you haven't talked about before?
Although The Bridge was always about being a puzzle-platformer, this game started out as more of an action game with an emphasis on jumping and gravity-assisted platforming rather than puzzle solving. We wanted players of any skill level to find this game appealing, so we focused on making it a casual puzzle game. This resulted in cutting the stereotypical platformer mechanic, jumping, which emphasized the contemplative puzzle genre over the action genre, something that we both feel does the elaborate level concepts justice.
How do you feel the game brings into question the boundaries of reality? How have players' reactions been?
We feel we've created a living homage to Escher's work, which as still images, can only serve to tantalize. With the impossible architecture integrated into the puzzles, walking on walls isn't just a gimmick; it's a means to traverse structures that couldn't possibly exist but do through the medium of game.
Watching players is fun - as there's always an "aha" moment when they've figured it out and smile as they feel like they've conquered the impossible. Of course, sometimes, that smile switches to an embarrassed laugh when the puzzle outsmarts their solution. It's funny to watch them roll up their metaphorical brain-sleeves and jump right back in!
[This article was originally posted on Gamasutra.]