Tunnel Vision Games have created a beautiful puzzle game, featuring a unique game mechanic, where “the floor is lava”, except there isn’t any lava, but shadow instead.
The name of the game is Lightmatter. I haven’t any release date yet, but it’s set somewhere in 2019. However, even though the game isn’t finished, it already has accumulated four nominations/awards.
To supply some text with the images you’re seeing, the game is described on their website as:
If LIMBO and Portal had a weird baby…
Tunnel Vision Games
And it that isn’t an interesting enough combination, it’s actually pretty accurate too. However, I’ve chatted with Gustav Dahl, producer and programmer at Tunnel Vision Games. The team at Tunnel Vision was founded by five guys from the same study at Aalborg University, but the team, as of present date, consist of eight members in total.
But let’s talk Lightmatter and puzzle games! Puzzle games can be some of the most rewarding games you’ll ever play, but on the other side of that coin is frustration, blatantly teasing you for walking in a circle when the right path was straight ahead.
Metaphor aside, I’ve always wondered if puzzle games are as frustrating to make as they can be to play?
Good question! In the beginning of the project, making puzzles was really difficult. It took us a long time to figure out the process, which was a bit frustrating. Initially, we wanted to base the puzzles around cool environments, but we learned that this approach did not suit our skill sets.
It’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation: do you design the puzzle or environment first? After much experimentation, we found that we are best at designing the puzzles first and then later decorate it with nice environmental art. Our process now is to design on paper or with physical LEGO bricks first, then implement a rough prototype in Unity. We then test it internally to assess whether or not we should continue with a given puzzle. If we find it good enough, we proceed and test it externally, tweaking it until it works as we want. If a puzzle gets the green-light throughout all of these steps, we then sit down and talk about how the level should actually look like and what we want it to convey art- and story-wise.
Making games is generally a difficult and strenuous process, and I’d bet that developing a puzzle game is equally difficult, if not more, but I really want to know, what has been the best moment or moments when working on Lightmatter (was called “See You On The Other Side)?
Playtesting is one of the highlights for us since this is where we can validate whether a puzzle works or not. Seeing a playtester struggle for some time but then realize the solution is always fun. These “aha moments” are what motivate us to continue working on the game.
For full transparency’s sake… I don’t play a lot of puzzle games myself — and to be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of the genre. Sadly never been. Not that I can’t see the appeal, I just don’t get “it”. I’d reckon most puzzle game fanatics would already be all over your game, but how you would you sell it to people like myself — what makes your game stand out or do differently?
I get where you are coming from. Some of the team members didn’t even like puzzle games that much when we began this project! To us, puzzle games are about lateral thinking, or in other words, thinking outside the box. This experience is super satisfying as a player.
What we want to achieve with See You On The Other Side [Lightmatter] is to let as many people as possible to experience this. That’s why we are working hard to strike a fine balance with the difficulty. Also, keep in mind that there are many different types of puzzles. Sudoku and Bejeweled are puzzle games, but so are Portal, LIMBO and Antichamber.
What makes our game unique? We believe our core game mechanic about shadows is quite different from other games. Traditionally, lights and shadows are only used as aesthetic elements, whereas in our game they are an integral part of the gameplay. One way to pitch the concept is to describe it as “the floor is lava … but with shadows”.
Well, as we’ve established, puzzle games and me, we don’t really get along unless I have close to an eternity to finish it. However, that’s not even the hard part, which essentially makes we feel even smaller. But, the hard part about puzzles isn’t solving them, but rather making them. Or so I believe.
I truly believe that in order to make a puzzle game, you’ll have to rewire your brain a tad bit just to survive the madness of figuring out your own puzzle. But since I’m no developer, could you share your top five tips and tricks when making a puzzle game?
So without further ado, here is…
Gustav Dahl’s and Tunnel Vision Games’
How-to: Puzzles Games
#1 Experiment a lot and be ready to fail. We’ve made hundreds and hundreds of puzzle prototypes, but many of them will never get into the game.
#2 Playtesting is super important. You as the designer cannot judge the quality and difficulty of your own puzzle. Having other team members definitely help, since you can playtest each other’s puzzles quickly.
#3 Try different methods and modalities when designing puzzles. Some like to sketch out on paper, whereas others need to build them physically or digitally. Most good puzzles are made in collaboration with other people.
#4 Iterate, iterate, iterate! Maybe the first version of your puzzle isn’t good, but keep testing and tweaking and it might turn out to be something great.
#5 Have an idea of the scope and what you want to achieve with the puzzles. It has taken us a long time to find our “voice” when it comes to puzzle design since we didn’t really know in the beginning what type of game we wanted to make. It’s a tough process, but you will get there eventually.