When Niklas Hansson left Activision Blizzard subsidiary Massive Entertainment in 2008, he decided it was time to take a little break from video game development.
He'd been working as the development manager on Ground Control II: Operation Exodus
, and later World in Conflict
, but by now he had a new outlook -- he wanted to teach.
And so, in the summer of 2008 he packed up his things, and moved into his new role as head teacher of games programming at The Game Assembly
educational program in Sweden... but of course, you never really lose that itch for making games.
A couple of years later, Hansson felt the urge rising once again. Along with his wife Carolina, this industry veteran decided that he'd have a crack at making a smaller indie title -- something nice and easy to develop that would only take him half a year in his spare time.
Nearly four years later, and Defrost Games' Project Temporality
has finally been released. It would appear that Hansson's decade in triple-A development taught him that polish was a great factor in making a game, and even as an indie, he was obsessed with giving his game "just one more" spruce up.
"Every time we polished something it just made something else stand out," he tells me. "So to achieve the visual polish we have under those conditions took a lot of time." In fact, Hansson and his team redesigned the game three times over before it finally "felt right."
What is Project Temporality
then? Imagine the general aesthetic and style of the Portal
series mixed with the time-bending and clone-creating of Braid
, and you're somewhere in the right ballpark (although Hansson tells me that he didn't even know of Braid
's existence until about a year or so into development.)
"Every time we polished something it just made something else stand out. So to achieve the visual polish we have under those conditions took a lot of time."
"The original idea for Temporality
was basically 'Let's make a game where you can play with time,'" he says. "In the beginning the game was much simpler and relied more on the coolness of just moving time forwards and backwards, but while working on it we realized we needed more. While the Time-clone concept existed from the beginning, it got more and more fleshed out along the way."
Hansson's team has fleshed out since 2010 as well. The teacher/developer spotted some bright students at his day job and asked them to come onboard, while other friends and family wanted in too. There's now a core team of four staffers putting Temporality
together, along with a handful of other people helping out.
The polishing was a huge part of the four-year development, but Hansson also notes that the story was a significant factor in that timeline too. As blogged on Gamasutra by Daniel Bernhoff
earlier this month, the script for the game has been through the grinder over and over again in the last three years, as the team wanted to get it as spot-on as possible.
In fact, while the writing for the game started in spring 2011, the final script was only just deliver in December 2013. "Our writer takes this story very seriously, and we believe it shows in all the small details in all the journals spread around the levels," notes Hansson.
Given the game's long development cycle, I asked Hansson whether any design elements of the game have changed dramatically compared to the original vision.
"There were two big changes that happened during development," he answers. "One was that we originally had a focus on more open-world map puzzles where you run backward and forward over a map to solve interlocked puzzles."
"It does sound awesome in theory, but in reality we confused the players who were unsure if they had got this part right, or if the error depended on another sub puzzle," he continues. "We would love to do a DLC pack with whole level puzzles, however, as we believe players who finished the main game would be ready for them."
The next big change was the speedrunning elements of the game. While speed-running was always a big factor, initially there were mechanics such that you could make your character jump higher and move faster depending on how much battery power you had left in your suit.
Unfortunately, most players didn't fully understand this, and simply felt like the controls became slippery and difficult to keep hold of. Hansson decided to cut these speedrunning features, and replace it with a star system quie late into development.
Project Temporality is out now on PC
, with a Steam release on the way soon. Hansson says that while the studio is focusing solely on the PC release right now, he'd love to see the game ported to other platforms.