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This was part of your Amnesia Fortnight. And you're brainstorming this, and I know you [Lee] came up with this idea and you were like, "Hell, that's a fucking cool idea!" And then you [Tim] were like, "That's really cool, let's do it!"
Did you think that it would eventually end up being a game that would be signed? Or were you like, "This is maybe a little esoteric"?
LP: I guess I felt like I wanted to take a creative risk. I've been in the game industry for a long time, like Tim, and I enjoy working on high fidelity experiences that don't necessarily have the most unique creative direction, but are still really polished and everything...
But I kind of felt like, "You know, if we're going to spend two weeks and try and make it work, I want to take it seriously and see how I could make this work."
And we approached it from day one, when we were making the demo with the tutorial built in, and trying to make just a simple act of stacking and unstacking a compelling gameplay mechanic experience too, in addition to the theme.
Even though it was a little out there, at the same time I felt like we've worked hard to try and make the form and content point to the same types of things. It makes sense that you stack because you're a stacking doll, and that's sort of a physical, simple thing that most people culturally know -- what a stacking doll is. So even though it's may be odd that you're in a world of them, it makes sense on some level. It's not just sort of juxtaposing two random weird things into a fantasy game.
TS: And it's not like Lee's pitch was devoid of some sort of a commercial or business idea, too. Because it was yeah, definitely creatively satisfying, experimental, but it was also us thinking about a casual audience, and how could a casual audience enjoy something that also a more hardcore audience could enjoy?
And that's why a lot of the game design focuses on the multiple solutions to the challenges and this kind of replayability. Because if you're a more novice player, you can just play one of the solutions to any of the puzzles, and get through the game still. You could find an easy solution to a lot of the puzzles.
But as you start getting into it, you realize what you really want to do is get all the solutions to the puzzles, and you start seeing these little hints of like, "I bet I could use that character here". And so, I think a more hardcore player, or somebody who's used to playing those tough adventure game challenges will not rest until they get all those tricky challenges. So I think Lee was definitely thinking about how to access a wide market and not lose the old market of adventure game fans.
You're preserving that adventure game design aesthetic. You're really seeing it start to pop back up now recently, in different ways. It was like it went to sleep for awhile or something, but now it's back, I think.
TS: I always said that there's bits of adventure games that never die. Like story and character, it just got absorbed by other games -- like ambiance and stuff that you used to only find in adventure games. But there were some things we left behind.
One of them was games that move at your own pace; that was one thing adventure games had. Like a lot of us don't like -- aren't that really very coordinated or fast. Like I can't play first person shooters really, I'm not that good at them. Especially multiplayer, I just get creamed.
And there's something nice about adventure games where you kind of sit there and have time to scratch your chin, and think about what you want to do, and solve puzzles, and nothing happens until you move. And that definitely is something that most games don't do.
And in Stacking there's always stuff going on -- it's always active, but you don't have to worry about being killed. You can sit there and really think through all the different solutions you want.
LP: Or just play for awhile. One of the things I love is just letting the world itself tell some of the story. And so games that let you spend some time just exploring the world and looking at the detail and having them all built to support the narrative, to me is just a really satisfying thing.
But a lot of times games are so focused on giving you a rollercoaster experience and yanking you through this space in one way that it's hard to have that moment. Even some action games, games like BioShock, that do let you spend a little more time exploring the world, I always find really satisfying to have that layer.
To me that kind of heralds a bit from adventure games, and I wanted to make sure we included some of that in Stacking as well. So we try to provide layers of things to do, second to second, that aren't necessarily solving puzzles or advancing just a single narrative.
It's interesting to look at the way you approach the design in this game because it goes from the very simple, concrete mechanic of stacking, which, like you said, everyone's going to be instantly aware of. And then that moves to all of the super abstract things, like the more achievementy level of multiple solutions to the puzzles. You're covering your bases, design-wise.
LP: I always had this track in my head of when we were designing the game about like, "Well, could I make a game that I would like and my wife would like and my daughter would like?" as opposed to targeting publisher-defined genres that may or may not exist in the downloadable space. I just sort of thought, "Well, I like to find a lot, I like to explore environments, I like to collect everything, I like to kind of try different angles on the same thing", some of the habits of a core gamer.
My wife loves puzzle-solving, but she likes kind of being led from puzzle to puzzle and only doing enough because she likes watching the characters and the story progress. My daughter -- she's a young kid -- she just likes things that look cool and having fun playing with stuff.
So when designing the game, I was like, "I think we can have a track here." And ultimately, it all is about a little more of what I call "a pick up and put down experience." Something that you can kind of have some bite sized fun at that does build to something bigger, but if you're going to put this game and come back a week later, you wouldn't be overwhelmed and lost. And I think that's important, with all the games on the market. And I love that about downloadable games; it's a little bit more compact that way.