June 26, 2012 1:00 AM | John Polson
DigiPen's Team Widdershins basked in beyond fifteen minutes of fame last week, gaining over 500,000 views for the above experimental platformer Perspective. After being revealed as part of Develop's Indie Dev Showcase, early gameplay was outed a bit prematurely, shares the team.
However premature, with no concrete release date for Perspective, the team has a while to change everything. In the meantime, producer Pohung Chen and design lead Jason Meisel chat first with IndieGames to address some readers' comments and to discuss how Perspective is the opposite of games such as Fez, Echochrome, and Super Paper Mario. Pohung also offers his opinion about the saturated puzzle platformer genre in which their game enters.
First, to answer readers' comments from the previous post, Perspective will be free. When asked if their Mega Mister (I made that up) will run on objects like cars, Pohung stated that experimenting with vastly different 3D objects is something they might do. However, "[a] challenge for that is getting the character controller to feel right on complex shapes like trees or bushes."
What influenced you in making Perspective?
Jason Meisel (Design Lead): When we started the project, we didn't have any ideas that really stood out. We spent a couple weeks thinking up ways to do this weird Halloween-themed racing game. However, we knew it wasn't the great idea we wanted, and so we had brainstorming sessions until we came up with the core gameplay of Perspective. Once we came up with that, it was very obvious that we needed to make it.
As for influences, as soon as we started talking about it, we put on videos of Fez, Echochrome, Super Paper Mario, Crush, etc. In fact, a few friends of ours had already come up with Subduction. While they all have mechanics involving the mixing of 2D and 3D, we soon realized Perspective's had very different implications. It ends up playing more like Portal than Fez.
Tell me about these implications.
Jason: Well, part of the fun of the game is figuring the implications out!
In Perspective, what you see is what you get. The visuals actually dictate the behavior of the 2D world. It's affected by things like the skewing or obstruction of objects. Most of those games are 2D games that use 3D for their puzzles, and then they explore what that means. Perspective is the opposite: it's a 3D game that uses 2D for its puzzles. It's about exploring what that means.
What can be considered permanent in the trailer and what is placeholder?
Pohung Chen (Producer): We're pretty happy with the core mechanics and the main uses of it. We iterate incredibly fast thanks to our two amazing designers Jason Meisel and Logan Fieth (Logan worked on another indie game called The Fourth Wall). We're still experimenting with the flow and progression of difficulty in the game. Most of the levels shown were early in the game used to demonstrate basic uses of our mechanic.
It's interesting that so many people think that the game would be too easy beyond the initial "gimmick." I think part of this is it's easier watching someone solve puzzles in a video than solving it themselves. Few of our playtesters manage to solve our harder levels. The real trick here is to ship challenging levels that are enjoyable instead of making frustratingly difficult levels with obscure solutions.
Jason: The "trailer" is actually a video we put together for DigiPen's annual Student Showcase. It wasn't really intended for such a large audience; it is much more a celebration of our work. I wouldn't consider any part of the video permanent.
How much of the game's entire mechanics/tricks have we seen so far?
Pohung: A lot more than we hoped. We planned to do a slower reveal cycle through a series of smaller trailers, but someone managed to find a video on the DigiPen YouTube channel. It got posted on Twitter, which was picked up by Tom Francis, a writer for PC Gamer. It kind of exploded from there, so we are just going with it. We do have a lot of ideas still in incubation that we're hoping to implement within the next few months.
We're also looking at the possibility of user generated content support.
Jason: From inception, we've had tons of ideas for side mechanics that complement the core mechanic in really interesting ways. However, once we were actually prototyping levels, we realized the ridiculous number of different ways to use it. We decided we would concentrate on just using the core mechanic in different ways. I like that word you used, "tricks," because that's what they feel like. The mechanic never really changes, but you keep doing new tricks with it. And you definitely haven't seen all the tricks.
Other than Develop, when, where, and how can people expect to play your game (in demo form or completed)?
Pohung: We've submitted to IndieCade and PAX10 so far, and there's a handful of other competitions we plan on submitting to once the deadline comes up. No other festivals/competitions have formally announced finalists or showcase entries, but some should pop up within the next few months *fingers crossed*.
As for when the game will be available to play to the public, let's go with "when it's done."
So, more puzzle platforming?! Does the genre still present something so unique for innovating?
Pohung: There's definitely a lot of saturation in the puzzle platformer space, and there have been a lot of interesting games that explore wide-varying mechanics in this space. There was a talk at GDC this year by Jesper Juul where he pointed out the "Tyranny of Pixelated Platformers." He noted the saturation of traditional-2D-platformer-with-a-twist flooding the indie games space.
To be honest, I'm not sure why puzzle platformers are special in this way. It is still definitely open for innovation, as with many other types of games. I don't think other types of games are really restricted from this type of diversity. I just don't think enough developers are really trying it. Too many developers are worried about the bottom line and are either being crushed by huge studio development costs or drowning in saturated markets trying to make a quick buck off board game clones.