(previously known as Relativity) is a game that re-imagines the laws of the universe. What if the normal rules of gravity no longer applied? The basic mechanic of the game is the ability to change gravity, allowing you to re-orient yourself to walk on walls and ceilings. In this world, up is down and down is up.
Let’s take a look at what an early puzzle in the game is like. In the gif below, we need to get the purple block to stay on the purple square in order to unlock a door, but the block keeps sliding down. The solution: we lock the blue block in place while in the blue gravity, and then use it as a shelf to hold up the purple block.
What you just saw is the basic gameplay mechanic. But Manifold Garden
is more than just about stacking cubes – there is an entire world full of wonder and impossible architecture for you to explore.
For example, because there is no up or down, the world of Manifold Garden
is a floating platform. So what happens when you fall off? Instead of fading the screen to black and re-spawning you, the world actually wraps around on itself, so you simply land back where you fell off from.
This is just one of the many interesting elements that you’ll discover in Manifold Garden
. My goal is to create an experience that is both mind-bending and visually compelling. Each puzzle is carefully designed to challenge the player and be incredibly rewarding.
Below is the original post written when I first started the devlog. I'm keeping it here as it is for archival purposes. Initially, the game was called Relativity.
During Thanksgiving of 2012, I started working on a prototype that would eventually become Relativity
. Today being the (more or less) one year anniversary of the game's development, I thought it'd be appropriate to celebrate by starting a dev log here. Relativity
is a first-person exploration adventure puzzle game set in an Escher-esque world with six different gravity fields. By turning on and off different gravity fields, you can walk on any visible surface and view the world from different perspectives.
It's a mix of physics-based spatial puzzles (like in Portal), environmental/observation puzzles (like in Myst), and also more cryptic metapuzzles (like in Fez). M.C Escher's artwork is a huge inspiration for the game, so you can also expect lots of staircases, and plenty of mindbending visuals.
I'm primarily an installation artist (you can see some of my work here
), so I initially approached game development from a contemporary art perspective. However, I had studied physics in school, and in addition to working in research labs, had also worked in an ad agency as well as an interaction design studio. So I had some programming experience, some design experience, some art experience, and wanted to bring everything together.
The first prototype of Relativity was originally meant to be a quick and dirty project to familiarize myself with Unity3D. I wrote the demo over the course of four days, and showed it to my roommate and a few friends. The feedback was pretty encouraging, so I decided to improve upon it and see what would happen.
Below is a screenshot from the first prototype. The mechanics wasn't that great, and I spent way too much time choosing textures. Eventually everything was rewritten, but this is where it all began...
The art style has gone through a number of pretty major changes, and even now, it's still very much a work-in-progress. I'm pretty much working on the game completely by myself (everything except music/sound), so it isn't really feasible for me to spend time making concept art. Instead, what I do is, I'll implement something quickly so that it's functional and I can test out the game mechanics, then I go through many rounds of iterations, each time adding small details trying to make it a little better. It's very much a "form follows function" approach to art.
Here you can see the progression of the art style over the course of 7 months:
I'm using Unity3D to develop the game, and scripting with C#. I'm using ProGrids
for designing levels. Both are fantastic tools, and I highly recommend them.
---CURRENT STATE OF THE GAME
Right now, I've got the core game mechanics of shifting gravity field written and pretty well polished. Aside from a few minor tweaks, I'd say it's pretty close to what I have in mind.
In the gif below, the player is shifting from the yellow gravity field to the blue gravity filed, and then back again. Notice how the boxes become active and inactive depending on which field you're in.
At this point, I have probably designed close to 80 puzzles. However, of those, only about 40 are good, and of those, only about 14 are well-designed and polished. I still need to do a lot of iterating on puzzles to make sure that they're challenging but not unreasonably difficult. There's about 3 hours of gameplay in the latest version of the game. I'm aiming for about 40-50 puzzles in the final version, with about 6 - 9 hours of gameplay time.
So far, I've done about 40+ playtest sessions, and the feedback has been very positive. After each session, I make sure to fix a few minor things that didn't work, and add a few minor things to improve gameplay. That's pretty much my workflow for development: iterate, playtest, repeat.
---ABOUT THIS DEV LOG
I'm really looking forward to sharing updates and progress throughout development with you all, and receiving feedback from the community. I spent the last few days reading other dev logs, and have found it incredibly inspiring to see these projects develop and grow. Hopefully one day this log can serve as a resource for other indie developers as well.
I plan on posting here at least once or twice a week. In addition to regular screenshots and updates about new features or puzzles added, I'll also be talking about some of the more technical challenges of development, such as programming custom physics and working with shaders. I'm still learning a lot of this myself, and there are never enough tutorials out there...
BTW, if you do happen to be working with depth and normal textures in Unity3D, I just wrote up this blog post
about working with them that you might find useful.
If you're interested in the game, here are some other channels to stay up-to-date:Website
Anyway, thank you for taking the time to read this first post! I look forward to hearing from you all.