Dec. 17, 2012 at 12:54 PM ET
You have your 2D platformers, and you have your first-person games, and never the twain shall meet, right?
A trailer for "Perspective" was released in May of this year, and its innovative mixture of 2D platforming and first-person puzzle gaming was enough to earn the video over 600,000 views. The game’s mechanics are hard to explain in words, so I’m going to invite you to view the launch trailer for yourself.
To make a long story incredibly short: "Perspective" is available now, it’s free, and you should play it.
Students creating a very special class project
"Perspective" was created by a small group of students from DigiPen University, leading to the final project being released for free.
"We knew from the beginning that DigiPen will own what we make as a student project," Pohung Chen, the game’s producer and programmer, told the Penny Arcade Report. “If we wanted to turn this into a commercial product we would have to rebuild everything from scratch and create a new IP—basically what Refract Studios is doing for 'Nitronic Rush' on their new project, 'Distance'.”
You move the game’s camera just as you would any character in a first-person title, and then you hit a button to snap the game into its 2D platforming mode. By changing how you view each scene, you’re able to guide your Mega Man-like character to the goal of each section. It’s a sly game, and rams home the idea that reality is simply a matter of perception.
First you’re moving in a 3D space, and then you hit the button, the scene is placed inside a frame, and you’re dealing with a 2D image that you must navigate. This world is controlled by how you see it. It’s a brilliant conceit that has been explored in other games, but "Perspective" is much more reactive and fluid than games that simply allow you to snap between a number of views.
One of the more impressive aspects of the game is how elegantly the rules are taught the player. The first few moments of the game introduce the basic concepts that make up the dual control of the camera and the game’s main character, and then the puzzles themselves begin to teach the gamer how to use more advanced tactics.
“It took a year of iterating on our levels to get 'Perspective' to what it is today. As we added new content, we introduced new uses of the mechanic to the player. We don’t have an explicit tutorial that teaches you everything,” Chen explained. “We tell you the basic controls, and let the player discover the rest using carefully crafted levels throughout the game.”
The team also prioritized creating a short, high-quality experience.
“I think many people at DigiPen are in a mindset, professors and students alike, that commercial games stretch out and pad their content. We definitely didn’t want to do that. At the same time, there are a slew of ways to use the mechanic in interesting ways, and usually the best way to teach them is to isolate them,” Logan Fieth, the game’s level designer, stated.
“My process for creating levels is to create a ton of content, and throw out everything but the very best. It seems to work well, but it requires that you are willing to ‘cut’ a lot of your own work,” he continued. “I’m looking at the level folder right now, and it has nearly 200 levels in it. Only a very small portion of that made it into the game, so there is a lot of learning involved in the creation of puzzles.”
Most of the team will be graduating in the Spring, and until then they’ll be taking a little break; this is the longest project any of them have worked on. After that, onwards and upwards into the game industry.
Until then, Jason Meisel, the game’s design lead and gameplay programmer, is just interested in what people think of the game.
“The game does some things that I think will surprise people, and hopefully that will help it resonate,” he said. “The idea is what got us half a million views on YouTube, because the people who first saw it wanted others to see it. The project will be a success if the people who play it first want others to play it.”
It’s free, it’s fun, my work here is done.
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