The recent surge in indie games in the past decade has led to a lot of fantastic titles releasing. From Braid to Fez, it’s hard to imagine the industry without these unique releases. Indie games have given more developers a voice, a voice that can be heard without the backing of a giant publisher. And, they’ve also allowed creative people, who previously had no game design experience, to break into the market.
Former magician and balloon artist, William Chyr, is one of those people. His upcoming PlayStation 4 and PC title, Manifold Garden, an M.C. Escher inspired puzzle game that plays with perspective, shows off his roots in visual design. To find out more about the interesting puzzle game, we sat down with creator Chyr to talk about his unique background, what inspired him to get into game design, and why Manifold Garden looks to be one of the most interesting games of 2016.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
We Got This Covered: William, you have a very unique background as a game developer. You were formerly a member of Le Vorris and Vox Circus, where you performed as a magician and as a unicyclist. It seems like you have the ability to pick up new skills very quickly, so how difficult has it been learning to code a game compared to some of your other skills?
William Chyr: I wouldn’t say that I pick up new skills quickly. I would actually say it takes me a little longer than average. It took me a week to learn to juggle, and for most people, it usually only takes a few hours or a couple of days.
It’s hard to compare programming a game with other skills I’ve learned, because there’s so much to know. On Manifold Garden, I work on all aspects of the game, from art to design to tech. Even after three years, I’m still learning something new everyday.
WGTC: Manifold Garden was called Relativity until very recently. What prompted the name change?
WC: There were a number of reasons for the change. The most important was that I felt the name no longer fit the game I was making. The game was initially supposed to be just an adaptation of the M.C. Escher print Relativity, which is where the name came from, but it has since grown to be so much more.
While gravity switching is still an integral part of the game, it now explores more of architecture and impossible geometry, which Relativity just doesn’t encompass. Everything about the game, from the art style to the mechanic, have gone through so many changes, and I felt the name deserved the same level of consideration.
Relativity is also very much focused on the mechanic itself, whereas Manifold Garden captures more of what I’m trying to do thematically. It’s also much more evocative. I wrote a post on my devlog about the name change where I go into more details.
WGTC: How would you explain Manifold Garden to someone who hasn’t seen the game in action before?
WC: What if M.C. Escher had made a video game?
WGTC: Has it been difficult creating puzzles for a game where the physics are constantly being turned upside down?
WC: Yes and no. The actual puzzles themselves are not terribly hard to design, because the mechanic itself is very rich and leads to a lot of interesting stuff.
It’s actually level design that’s very difficult, because I have to take into account multiple perspectives for each level. What if the player was standing on the ceiling, or the wall? Each level ends up being six levels all embedded within one another.
WGTC: Manifold Garden has a gorgeous art style, what prompted you to go for this look?
WC: Architecture is a major theme of the game, so it made sense to have a style that was reminiscent of architectural renderings. Much of the art style is also due to skill limitations I faced early on. I didn’t know anything about textures or 3D modelling, which is why all the geometry in the game is actually made up of boxes. Most of the art style is due to a set of custom shaders I’ve written, which I’ve continually refined over the years.