April 24, 2014 10:15 AM | Staff
I've played pretty much every first-person puzzler under the sun, so it's rare for me to find a game in this specific genre that really throws me a curveball.
Glitchspace is from Scottish developer Space Budgie, which launched the game on Steam Early Access earlier this month. It's described as "a first-person programming game," and the moment you begin playing, it's not difficult to see why. Each obstacle in the game can be manipulated via simplistic visual coding, using classes, booleans and values to shift the world around at your every whim.
Need to pass through a block? Set the collision detection on the block to "False." Want to reach that platform way up above? Aim at the platform you're currently standing on, and ramp up its Y Axis value. All of this is done through a first-person coding interface, and it all gels so wonderfully.
So who the heck is Space Budgie then, and where did they come from all of a sudden?
"Space Budgie started out at the University of Abertay last year as six people who wanted to start an independent studio," the studio's Karl Inglott tells me. "We all studied games related courses at the university and were due to graduate that year."
The studio's first game, called 9.03m, was released last September -- it was an experience that aimed to humanize the victims of the Japanese tsunami. The game was an instant success for the group of six, and immediately managed to find its way onto Steam, raising more than $10,000 for charity.
With this initial success under its belt, Space Budgie prepared for the next game, with one mantra in mind: "Make games to benefit people in more than just entertainment."
"As a company, our mantra is to make games to benefit people in more than just entertainment."
"We want people to play games and take something away with them," adds Inglott, "such as a new outlook, knowledge, or change the world in some way."
That's why Glitchspace, which has been in development for around 10 months, is the team's next step towards that goal. The game asks, "What would the player do if given the ability to change the code in a game?"
"This spawned the idea of a programming gun that fired code," explains the dev. "We designed an open world multiplayer sandbox game initially, and this was prototyped with a near functional programming gun, multiplayer, and an enclosed procedurally generated world. It was lots of fun!"
Alas, the Space Budgie team was unable to secure funding for the game, and the scope of the experience had to be significantly scaled down.
"We decided to go with a puzzle platformer, as this would allow us to integrate lots of what we thought was important to the concept, whilst making it maintainable within our means," notes Inglott.
Of course, other games have attempted to incorporate coding into the actual video game experience, including the ill-fated Code Hero. Says Inglott, he's glad that Space Budgie didn't attempt to go down the same path as the Code Hero team.
"It's funny, because we had started planning out a Kickstarter, but decided to drop it because of the scaling down," he notes. "I'm glad we didn't roll with it."
"We wanted to go with a simple approach to the programming," he adds. "Scratch and Kismet were our main inspirations for creating 'Null' (our programming language), but we needed to try and simplify it further, otherwise we risked making the game too complicated, and thus creating a barrier for enjoyment."
Thus, Glitchspace's programming language 'Null' is a fairly accessible experience, that is focused around a small part of what programming is all about. Still, it does offer players an idea of how to think like a programmer.
"For our original open world concept, we had considered making the programming visual as we have currently, but with a code-based option in the game for those who want to delve into the coding on a more traditional manner," notes Inglott.
Space Budgie is currently at a crossroads in terms of its future. Glitchspace has just launched on Steam Early Access with around an hour of content currently in place, and the idea is to build that up to a final release later this year.
"We had started planning out a Kickstarter, but decided to drop it because of the scaling down. I'm glad we didn't roll with it!"
But the team itself is quite divided right now, again due to the aforementioned funding woes. While all six were working on the game to begin with, one left to get a paid job partway into development, while three others have gone back to studying for them post-graduate degrees.
In fact, the whole game is currently being put together by lone programmer Albert Elwin, with Inglott providing the marketing, PR and business-running elements.
"We still have a fair amount of work left to do," notes Inglott. "The environment needs a lot more attention to make it a more alive, and we need to get the rest of the level content finished! We're eyeing up the idea of possibly getting it onto some other kit, too."
And the team is already eyeing up is next big project after Glitchspace -- a game that revolves around the Great War.
"I cannot say much more than that right now, but we're really looking forward to it," he adds. "We would also one day like to develop the open world variant of Glitchspace, although that may largely depend on how the puzzle platformer version of Glitchspace does on Steam."
You can grab Glitchspace from Steam now.
[Mike Rose wrote this article for sister site Gamasutra]