A Col­lec­tion Aside

When MeGhann O’neILL was at PAX Aus­tralia last year, she had the great plea­sure of help­ing to in­tro­duce Wild­fire, which was in the In­die Show­case, to play­ers. This month we bring you 2017’s six In­die Show­case win­ners. They’re a var­ied col­lec­tion, un­re­leas

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The Gar­dens Be­Tween De­vel­oper The Voxel AgenTs • P RICE TBA thevox­e­la­gents.com/gar­dens­be­tween

An ef­fec­tive PAX demo is ei­ther brief, but poignant, or some­thing that can draw a crowd who are happy to watch oth­ers play. In previewing The Gar­dens Be­tween, I can tell you theirs is both. As I wan­dered through a beau­ti­ful place, around a Hills Hoist, avoid­ing the swing­ing lanterns, I no­ticed my fam­ily had gath­ered to look at the spec­tac­u­lar vi­su­als over my shoul­der. “Can I have a turn?” my lit­tle son asked, right when I was fin­ish­ing the last of a few small, but clever, puz­zle lev­els. “Good tim­ing!” I noted. When you find this in PAX’s In­die Show­case, it will be worth the short wait.

To Cre­ative Di­rec­tor/Game De­signer Hen­rik Pet­ters­son, be­ing awarded a place in the show­case is an op­por­tu­nity to en­gage and com­mu­ni­cate with an au­di­ence. He says, “I’ve al­ways been jeal­ous of the cre­ative fields that see and hear a direct re­sponse.” What does he hope play­ers will ex­pe­ri­ence of the game at PAX? “I want play­ers to con­nect with our spa­ces and feel a sense of peace as they un­cover the puz­zles and se­lected parts of the story.” In­deed, the mix of am­bi­ent and ex­plicit sto­ry­telling re­minds me of Old Man’s Jour­ney, where in­for­ma­tion is de­liv­ered in­cre­men­tally, through both lev­els and cutscenes.

Pet­ters­son says, “Our char­ac­ters, Arina and Frendt, are go­ing through their late years of child­hood to­gether. The play­ers will peek di­rectly into some of their mo­ments, but a lot

of the nar­ra­tive de­vel­op­ment is also found within the gar­dens and heard in the sound­scape.” The gar­dens are set on rocky is­lands in which over­sized, but mun­dane, back­yard items are em­bed­ded. In­clud­ing sprin­klers and pot plants, Pet­ters­son notes, “The spa­ces are built from the ves­tiges of life and the gar­dens Arina and Frendt visit re­late to their story.”

Game­play con­sists of walk­ing ei­ther left or right, with both hav­ing tem­po­ral im­pli­ca­tions. The aim is to dis­cern ways to light your lan­tern and keep it from be­ing snuffed out be­fore you need it. As Pet­ters­son says, “The player con­trols time. The rules of the gar­dens binds every­thing to a time­line with the ex­cep­tion of a few en­ti­ties that can move out­side it. The player can pick up a ob­ject from the fu­ture and use it in the past.” To high­light the change aes­thet­i­cally, he says, “We’re us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of screen warp­ing shaders, high-pass au­dio fil­ters and se­lec­tive colour de­sat­u­ra­tion.”

Puz­zling is a bit sim­i­lar to in She Re­mem­bered Cater­pil­lars, where you have to vis­ually note how the level works, as you progress through it, then go back and change some­thing. I didn’t find the demo’s puz­zles dif­fi­cult, but I did some­times find a so­lu­tion hard to imag­ine in advance. Sim­i­larly, I can’t en­vi­sion how game­play will de­velop from this point on­wards, but I’m sure de­sign­ers have their ideas. Pet­ters­son men­tions, “The me­chan­ics came from a se­ries of pro­to­typ­ing ex­per­i­ments we did many years ago. The Gar­dens Be­tween is the 5th or 6th it­er­a­tion on the me­chanic.”

So, be sure to look, and queue, for The Gar­dens Be­tween in PAX’s In­die Show­case. Its gi­gan­tic hoses and wa­ter­ing cans will be hard to miss. Keen to con­nect with an au­di­ence, Pet­ters­son leaves us with some of his in­flu­ences and in­ten­tions for the game, “The sto­ries we love, like Alice in Won­der­land, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Co­ra­line are all based around the ‘voy­age and re­turn’ for­mat. We re­ally wanted to ex­plore that with Gar­dens. The voy­age is usu­ally in­ter­nal and blends fan­tasy and re­al­ity in a way that can be both play­ful and scary.” This is one of the many games that makes the yearly PAX pil­grim­age worth­while.

I want play­ers to con­nect with our spa­ces and feel a sense of peace as they un­cover puz­zles

Hen­rik Pet­ters­son Di­reC­tor / De­signer

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