Hope you all enjoy this interview and get a chance to check out The Bridge.
G2G: First of all, you describe the game as 'M.C Esher meets Isaac Newton'. How did you design a world where physics and gravity work almost like a villain?
Ty: Physics and gravity working like a villain certainly wasn't my intention. Theses weren't meant to necessarily be an obstacle so much as a means to an end. I wanted the unique experience of The Bridge to be in that the only way to navigate the levels was to have total control of the direction of gravity. That was the premise and that was what I designed all of the puzzles around. Given that physics and gravity are the mechanics needed to solve the puzzles, they are more a tool than a villain.
G2G: Back at its initial release in 2013, did you expect to be so popular and intriguing to so many people?
Ty: Not at all. In fact, I started The Bridge as a hobby. Even when Mario joined on about 6 months after I had prototyped it, I didn't expect it to amount to anything. It was only after The Bridge had gotten nominated for awards in IndieCade, Dream.Build.Play, and the IGF back in 2011 did I start to realize that we had something commercially viable on our hands, but I had no idea until after we saw the sales numbers that The Bridge was going to be as successful as it was.
G2G: We find it interesting that the game was born from your degree. Would you recommend these types of courses to younger developers?
Ty: I think a lot of young people think that they want to make games because they love playing games. What most people don't realize is that these are wildly different things. If I'm idle, looking for something to do, nine times out of ten I would rather work on creating a game than playing one. If you also prefer creation and development to playing someone else's work, then I would highly encourage going to school for Computer Science, Game Design, Art, or whatever specialty makes sense for you. However, if you are a game fan who wants to just play games all day, unfortunately there is no such job (that won't make you hate games by the time you're done with it...ie, game testing).
Ty: Disc distribution doesn't make any sense for an indie game, and overall is a dying medium. One magical thing about software economics with digital distribution is that once you make a product, hosting it on a server is nearly free, meaning that 100% of the revenue earned after development costs is profit. Printing discs is expensive (it's something like $7 or $8 per disc due to licensing fees with manufacturers), not to mention coordinating shipping of discs, WalMart's price cut, etc. The Bridge sells digitally for $9.99, and to make the same profit as a disc the game would have to sell for at least $24.99, which doesn't make any sense. The only advantage of printing to a disc is for the free advertising that comes with people idly wandering the isles of a game store looking for something to buy, but it seems now more people are doing this from the comfort of their living rooms on the digital stores.
G2G: What were the main influences on 'The Bridges' unique style of gameplay?
Ty: My vision for The Bridge from day 1 was to make a game that felt like you were walking around inside of an Escher drawing, and the Escher theme was something that impacted most of my design decisions. Like Escher's works, I wanted a mysterious and serene world, but I also wanted surreal structures. The drawing "Relativity" is what sparked the gravity rotation idea and multiple coexisting planes of gravity, and from that point on I blended the two concepts together to create The Bridge.
G2G: The control system is designed well, was it hard to get a balance between that and gameplay aimed at more 'hardcore' gamers?
Ty: I don't think hardcore gamers will reject a game for the controls being too simple. Just look at all of the people who obsess of getting a new worldwide high score in Tetris, which classically has 4 buttons. It isn't the control scheme that defines the challenge of a game, it's the underlying game design, and even though the control scheme for The Bridge can be navigated by someone who has literally never held a controller before (I actually see this all the time), the puzzles are certainly hardcore.
G2G: The backtracking feature is a great addition. Was it always included or a later add-on to include more people in the style of play?
Ty: I added backtracking fairly early on, after creating 3 or 4 levels in the initial development build. The reason for this was that I had created some intricate levels which could take anywhere between 3 and 10 minutes to solve. As I was testing, I would accidentally make a mistake, and the only option at the time was to reset the entire puzzle. This was of course infuriating, and it seemed as though backtracking was the only reasonable solution, turning the infuriating requirement to restart a puzzle to a painless second or two lost.
G2G: As the game goes the puzzles get more and more menacing. Was the hardest part of development to get a good middle ground between Casual gamers and 'hardcore' gamers in puzzle difficulty?
Ty: What I did was design all the puzzles that I could think of, and after I had filtered to only the best puzzles which I felt stood out from the rest, I simply did a lot of playtesting with people who have never played the game before, and recorded how difficult each puzzle was to them. Then I simply sorted the puzzles based on difficulty, which happily made a reasonable difficulty curve. Still, the later puzzles of the game can get incredibly difficult, but by the time you've committed that much time to getting to this point, you're already a hardcore puzzler and you're ready for the hardcore puzzles.
G2G: Are there any features you would have liked to put in to the game that you didn't first time around?
Ty: For this console launch, it's basically the same game as on Steam. There are console-specific features such as rotational controls, cloud-saving, and achievements, but I wanted the base gameplay experience to be universal.
G2G: Quantum Astrophysics won a few awards on the indie circuit for artwork, how closely did you work with Mario [Castaneda] on art design?
Ty: We worked really closely, especially since it was a two-man team. As I designed all of the puzzles, I draw out the isometric shapes in exact coordinates. I then gave him these large plain structures, which he then detailed. I also created all of the shaders, which make effects such as the pencil-like dynamic overlay that adds a certain "freshly drawn" feeling to the artwork, as well as effects like the gravity vortex. But aside from that, the artwork was all Mario, creating and animating the character (hand-drawing every frame of every animation state), in addition to giving each of the individually-drawn levels an incredible amount of detail.
G2G: What system did you grow up playing on? Do you think the games for that console
influenced you as a developer?
Ty: I was born in 1989, so I grew up with an original Nintendo Entertainment System, advancing to a Super Nintendo and N64. I'm not sure these actually influenced me as much as you'd expect...I was much more driven by my own inherent desire to create things. I was drawing mazes and puzzles before I could write my own name, and I've always compulsively built things. I think this was much more of a driver for my career as a game designer than actually playing other games.
G2G: What games are currently on your rotation?
Ty: Mario and I are both currently working on Tumblestone. It's also a puzzle game, but in a very different flavor. See www.TumblestoneGame.com
G2G: Would you consider producing a sequel if you had the chance?
Ty: Almost certainly not. Mario and I have had the chance already to work on a sequel, but we chose not to for two reasons. Firstly, all of my ideas for gameplay went into the original game. It's absolutely all it could be, and as long as I thought a mechanic made sense and could potentially work well with the game, I explored it and considered putting it in The Bridge. If I felt like such a mechanic (or level design) took away from the experience, I felt it was better to leave it out, perhaps making the game short-and-sweet, but that was better than making it long for the sake of having length, at the expense of the quality of the game. The other reason is more personal, which is that after working on something for so long, having it completely consume your life...we wanted to be done with The Bridge. We were ready for a change of pace, which is why we started working on Tumblestone (a completely different game).