Does that democratic approach carry over from Valve? Were you able to work that same way?
KS: On Portal definitely, and to some extent on Left 4 Dead 1 and 2. A little less on 2, because we had such a short timeframe to make the game -- it was like a year start-to-finish, which was amazing to me that we actually did that [laughs].
Yeah, I was surprised when it was announced. It was like, "Already?"
KS: [laughs] We were surprised too. It was like, "Oh my god! We did it, we're not running on Valve Time! Holy crap!"
Kind of compare the two studios for us if you could, as far as the development practices between them. What's the same? What's different?
KS: I guess to me, as far as working on this game, it felt more like working on Portal just because we have a really small team and we're all pretty young, and we're kind of goofy. We give each other a lot of crap and joke around every day. And so I really like that a lot.
Valve has gotten a lot bigger since I've left. I know when I was there, when I first started, the company at least doubled in size while I was there. It might have even tripled. So I definitely like smaller companies where I get to know everybody, and know who their kids are, and know who their dogs are, and they bring them into work! And just having a fun, almost family-like atmosphere.
How big is the team right now?
KS: We're 16 people!
That's pretty small.
KS: Yes it is! [laughs]
Is everyone on this game?
KS: No. So the company as a whole is like 40 people, I think? Maybe 50? So there are two projects at the studio. There's ours, that has 16 people, and there's another that has the rest.
So you're the small team.
KS: Yeah. We're the tiny team.
It seems like this genre is going to get a lot more crowded soon. In general the physics platformer has started to take off, especially with the indies. Do you think it could become a proper, popular genre?
KS: I think so! It's the type of game I want to play anyway, so I don't see why not. The more people that actually buy the product, you know, supply and demand, as publishers start to realize these are viable types of games they'll start putting money into them.
How much of these mechanics came out of the prototyping process?
KS: We got a prototype up and running within a couple of weeks with...I think we had fluffy prototyped right away. That was easy to do. And slow-motion was prototyped right away as well. So we just started playing around with a bunch of different ideas.
Once we prototyped a couple dimensions, we were like, "These are really fun!" Then we went to the whiteboard and started brainstorming as many different dimension ideas as we possibly could, figuring out how long it would take to prototype them, and which ones we thought would interact the best with the couple of dimensions we had already.
During the demo, one of the mechanics you showed us -- kind of creating a sine wave by turning gravity on and off and feathering an object across the room -- you said was an accidental discovery during prototyping?
KS: Yeah, totally. Once we had a couple of different dimensions prototyped, it was just like, "Well, let's play with it," in almost a white box room with a bunch of random crap in it. We had a zoo level that just had a box and like, a weird ball-looking thing, and just a bunch of other random shapes in it. And we were just kind of playing around and seeing what was fun and capitalizing on that in terms of figuring out what our gameplay mechanics were going to be in each dimension.
It sounds like most of the development so far has just been finding fun and figuring out what to do with it after?
KS: Yeah. Pretty much.
So you didn't start off so much with a high level concept?
KS: The high level concept was "We're going to make a game about changing dimensions, and each dimension is a tool for you to use in order to manipulate your environment." Then it was a matter of coming up with a bunch of different dimensions and then figuring out which ones we felt had the most permutations of use, and then interacted the best with other dimensions. Because we wanted to, at the end of the game, have all five dimensions present in one space at the same time, and how those would actually interact with each other and get the most switching back and forth between them.
How are you going to deal with it narratively?
KS: Right now it's very dry, because there is no voiceover. But eventually we will have a voiceover for Professor Quadwrangle. He's able to tap into the intercom system and communicate with you through there.