Some perspective on Perspective
If you’ve heard of the DigiPen Institute of Technology, you probably followed the development of Portal very closely. Yes, DigiPen is that school; where the developers of Portal met and conceived one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time. And, seven long years later, it looks like the college has another massive success on their hands. I’m talking about Perspective, a mind-bending puzzle game that I never knew I wanted until Keith showed me the trailer. Now, I need to play this game.
Perspective is played in both first and third person, as you manipulate the world to help a tiny blue man do…something. We don’t know anything about the story thus far, but I don’t care. In my opinion, Perspective could give Portal a real run for its money. Take a look at this trailer before you keep reading.
Brilliant, right? Controlling two characters to solve puzzles based on where the first-person character is looking sounds like it could lead to some of the best puzzles in gaming. After watching this trailer, I needed to know more about this game. So Keith and I put together a few questions and sent them off to the development team. One of the developers, Pohung Chen, just got back to us with some really interesting answers.
Velocity Gamer: So how did Perspective come about? Is it just a natural result of going to DigiPen and being in that environment, or did a member of the dev team have the idea for Perspective a long time ago and DigiPen was just the right place to get started on making it a reality?
Pohung: We got the idea in one of our brainstorm sessions near the beginning of the project. DigiPen requires us to build our technology from the ground up. So at the beginning, a lot of the focus on was on building the basics of what we need: systems/object management, graphics, physics, tools, etc. During a particularly awesome brainstorm session we went around talking about the kinds of games we love to play and what kinds of games we want to build. Initially, it was all over the place, we entertained the idea of a Halloween-themed surfing game for a while — ultimately, that idea didn’t excite us enough to continue along that path.
Being the geeks that we are, we started talking about cameras, projections, and holograms. Eventually we were able to flesh out how we can utilize a free moving first person camera as a puzzle mechanic. DigiPen definitely provides an excellent environment for coming up with and creating new game ideas. I haven’t seen any successful DigiPen projects that come from one person having an idea that is completely fleshed out from the beginning and then executed perfectly. Some of the best projects come from a lot of experimentation, playtesting, and toying around with different ideas to see what sticks and what stinks.
VG: How will solid platforms work in Perspective? Specifically, how will the engine decide what is solid and what isn’t? Will it just be the blue platforms, or can the 2D character interact with other aspects of the level?
Pohung: There are solid objects, objects that kill the 2D avatar, and everything else is “empty space” to the avatar. Colors are there to visually tell the player what each object will do. The way we pull this off is by rendering a buffer of handles that refer back to the gameobject that pixel came from. This allows us to do a lookup and check what type of object that pixel belonged to in 3D in a 2D buffer.
VG: From what I can tell in the gameplay trailer, there appears to be a 3D character as well. Will control of the characters be switched with the press of a button, or will the control scheme go a completely different direction?
Pohung: You can switch between moving the 2D avatar and the 3D camera by clicking the left mouse button. The movement of the 3D camera is the same as a normal first person shooter (there is gravity in 3D and you collide with solid objects, so it’s not a complete free cam).
VG: There are quite a few puzzle games, like Portal, that owe a lot of their success to the writing and story. We’ve only seen a single gameplay video so far, so is there any fiction stuff (background or foreground) you guys are planning? Or will Perspective be a game in the purest sense of the word?
Pohung: Perspective has some narrative elements. It’s something I don’t want to spoil in an interview, so you’ll have to play to find out!
VG: I know it’s a bit early to ask, but are there any gameplay elements that didn’t make it (or don’t look like they’ll be making it) into the final product? Was anything considered very early on that got scrapped just as early?
Pohung: We thought about making the camera rotate along the view axis (imagine tilting your head) but that made the game way too complicated and the puzzles impossibly difficult to design. There are other elements of the game that we really wanted to try but had to cut from the release because we didn’t have enough time to flesh out, design, playtest, and iterate on them.
VG: Have there been any particularly strong influences in creating Perspective?
Pohung: Portal has been a huge influence in pacing and how we’re teaching the player the basic mechanics of Perspective. We really loved how Portal broke down its core mechanic down into manageable pieces and showed the player how to use each piece in an arc of revelations. This is something we borrow heavily from when designing levels in the beginning of Perspective.
Thanks to Pohung for doing this interview with us! Perspective launches on December 12th, and we’ll try to have a review up around then. You can keep up to date about the game at Perspective’s official site or by keeping them internet dials at Velocity Gamer!