What Have I Been Working On?

The Past Year

About a year ago I started working on an adventure puzzle-solving game. Progress was going good on that for four or five months until I hit a major stumbling block with the design. Because of that, I decided to take a break and work on some video essays.

Sadly, because of my high standards, I had not released much in the prior year as far as videos had gone, so I decided to lower the bar in order to perhaps release more frequently. The results of this decision, a rambling loosely-edited monologue about Dark Souls’ world design, were quite disappointing to me and so I set out to do much better on the next video.

Unfortunately, for my next topic, I chose non-verbal communication in The Witness. This proved to be a challenging topic to pin down, and progress was very slow. Although I had hoped to finish the essay in one month, as of now, it is nearly 9 months later and it remains incomplete.

Around December of 2016, I went on a layoff from my day job and managed to get back to seriously working on the Witness essay. I was making some good progress, the video grew from 2 to nearly 6 minutes in about a month of work. I felt like I was getting close to being able to finally release something of quality.

But when I sat down and watched through all of what I had put together, something became very apparent: I had gotten completely lost in the weeds. I had hoped that by talking about some very low-level design aspects of the game, I could build upon that to speak about how the game’s design works at a high level. But much like quantum physics fails to explain general relativity, what I had was two different types of analysis videos that were cut together, and it felt very disjointed.

This left me with a couple options. I could either move ahead, knowing that the final video was going to be disappointing to me and spotty in its quality. Or I could cut what I had done over the last month.

I opted for the latter. (It may perhaps appear as some deleted scene extra, but it is not a proper part of the full essay anymore.)

This was, needless to say, a huge setback for me. Furthermore, I didn’t have any really great ideas on where I should be going with the essay instead. This meant I was in a major creative quandary, much like I was on the game that I had taken a break from nearly 6 months earlier…

So, I’ve decided to set aside the video essay for the time being, and instead have been working quite well on that other project, which is a game called Taiji.

So, What is Taiji?

Taiji is a puzzle-solving exploration game, focused on player freedom and discovery. As a player, you are free to explore and solve puzzles.

All of the puzzles in the game are solved using a consistent interface: a grid of tiles which may be either on or off. Inputting a solution to a puzzle in the game requires the player to put the tiles in the right configuration.

An early puzzle
Another early puzzle

Although having all the puzzles be this way might seem like it would be dull, this is really just the interface to solving the puzzles. The puzzles themselves might be about all kinds of different things. The puzzles are free to increase in subtlety and complexity, but unlike a traditional adventure game, where the rules change on a whim, in Taiji the player knows from very early on that in order to solve puzzles, they need to interact with these panels.

If you want to keep up with Taiji, you can follow the development blog here.

Dear friend, please play The Witness

So, some of you may have heard me talk about this game, The Witness, over the past several years. I have not finished playing it, but I have played enough to say with certainty that it is both better than even I expected (and I considered my expectations unreasonable) and it is the single best puzzle game ever designed. It is a triumph, and as a designer myself I am so far behind I don’t know that I could ever reach it.

In a word, it is astounding. If you enjoy puzzle games, pick it up on PC or PS4. Don’t read any more about it. Don’t watch videos about it. If you get stuck (and you will get stuck) don’t look up a solution online. Just sit down, get comfortable, play it alone, and prepare yourself for a revelation.

Pick it up on Steam here.

Or get it DRM-free (and support charity in the process) here!

New demo for Duet.

So, I’ve officially named the game now. It’s called Duet. There’s also a new demo, which you can download here. (Sorry, Demo is no longer available, the game is in full production swing now, so the prototype is pretty much off limits to the general public)

Me and my fiancee have been working on some concepts for the art style of the game.

These are very work in progress. They are mainly intended to help discovery of the mood for the game.