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Video: Breaking down the seven-year development of Antichamber
April 18, 2014 | By Staff

"Making games is hard. This was the hardest thing I've ever done, and it absolutely destroyed me."
- Alexander Bruce, speaking about the creation of Antichamber at GDC 2014.

As part of the GDC 2014 Independent Games Summit, Antichamber creator Alexander Bruce spoke very candidly about how -- and, more importantly, why -- he went about developing his IGF Award-winning game, the price he paid to make it, and what other developers should learn from his experience.

It was a powerfully affecting presentation, and a video recording of the talk is now freely available for anyone to watch via the GDC Vault.

We've taken the liberty of embedding the free video of "Antichamber -- An Overnight Success, Seven Years In The Making" above, but you can also watch it here on the GDC Vault.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent Game Developers Conference events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers.

Those who purchased All Access passes to recent events like GDC, GDC Europe, and GDC Next already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription via a GDC Vault subscription page. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company by contacting staff via the GDC Vault group subscription page. Finally, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault technical support.

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sean lindskog
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That's a riveting presentation. Partly for the raw intensity with which Alexander talks about his work. Partly for his ability to bring you in to his world of developing Antichamber. And also for seeing both great similarities and great differences between Alexander's motivation vs. my own. I am left feeling a sort of "indie dev kinship" with him, while at the same time sensing we are very different people. I guess that's good, I get to see my own view on things all the time. ;)

Interesting stuff. An intelligent, honest, passionate person with interesting story is the recipe for a great presentation. I am happy for his success, and hope he rekindles the spark for his future projects.

Michael Joseph
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The game resembles a sort of real time 3d IQ test.

I'd not heard of Antichamber before now. After watching this presentation, the game definitely seems to personify much of how you marketed yourself. The game achieves extraordinary uniqueness in it's self conscious effort to defy conventions. I can imagine how this novel release might have been dismissed as an interesting idiosyncratic title with niche appeal had you not been out there advocating for it. And I think the relationships you established and which would later pay dividends in your marketing efforts wouldn't have been possible if the game weren't legitimately cool. Congratulations.

Typically I'm partial to the idea that deserving games will succeed regardless of marketing effort. However, your game is a "must play" indie game that I can imagine having been largely overlooked were it not for your determined effort.

There are many paths to gamedev success, and your story is one positive example of what a want of success looks like.

p.s. if you're going to game the media (gaming the game) as a game developer then wearing a pink suit or sporting a mohawk is at least a transparent and honest way of doing that. +1

Nick Harris
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I'm sorry that this long process has upset him. I've been working for the last twenty years on just the tools for the game I want to make largely as I needed a hobby to keep me busy so that I didn't slip into depression. I've been sectioned twice for psychotic nervous breakdowns arising from my bipolar affective delusion and needed to keep my intellect engaged with something verifiable (such as software development, where a program either works or doesn't work no matter how much you might want it to otherwise), whilst I drew my severe disablement allowance for having been independently judged by a panel of doctors for being totally unfit for the pressures of a regular office job. I've avoided all introspection since the health service ran out of therapies for me to attend and have felt a whole lot healthier not thinking about all the problems that overshadow my life since. I've also largely avoided talking about my project, which has up until recently focused on the design of a new multiparadigm programming language with which to boost my productivity when I came to create the suite of development tools I knew that I would need were I to attempt writing a game with the scale and scope of Universe.

I've never been one for deadlines, but can appreciate that for Alexander Bruce starting off with only A$17,000 in savings and commercial and critical expectations, he was putting unhealthy levels of pressure on himself when he didn't even have a collaborator for the most part who could relate to his endeavours.

I've invested about 20,000 into my project over the decades that I've been working on it and really don't care if it is ever finished. It is nice to just have something to keep me busy, that is the #1 reason to be doing it and it has been more helpful to my state of mind than all of the Group Therapy I attended, or the Prozac I was prescribed for a short time that just made me as unproductive as with the lotus-eaters from the Odyssey and although I didn't much mind I was aware that I was just marking time - so, I exchanged greater underlying anxiety for the feeling that I was no longer wasting my entire life.

Nice as it might be to finish my game, I don't want to rush to complete it to please any impatient audience who is waiting to play it, even if that is only myself. I'd rather not be disappointed in the result, to be sure footed in all of my decisions which are often subject to the most frustrating personality disorders that it has been difficult to make any choice definitive as my mood has often changed when I come back to review past 'progress'.

Anyway, I didn't mean to ramble on about myself quite so much, but his obviously emotional talk together with my recently seeing Phil Fish in Indie Game: The Movie, just made me empathize with their plight and feel grateful that I don't have to find the money to feed myself from a project that could easily be another six years in the making. It is remarkable that these creative individuals choose to apply their skills for the enrichment of videogaming culture, I for one consider Antichamber the first example of the medium that I would consider Art and I only wish its creation hadn't been so fraught. I've done a degree in Fine Art and the hardest part about painting is coming up with a new point of view, only sculpture presents some minor technical obstacles to reification, whereas programming anything of any complexity let alone an interactive non-Euclidean architecture that is carefully paced so that it challenges and teases in amusingly novel ways to suit a variety of different player personas is enormously difficult and only made harder by a mainstream that is geared to promote the big names that pay to advertise on their 'review' sites.