I recently reviewed The Bridge, a small indie puzzler that’s gathered a good deal of attention because of its unique art. Creator of The Bridge, Ty Taylor, took the time to answer a few questions for me:
Is there a story behind The Bridge’s conceptual origins?
I originally got the idea to create a game around gravity rotation when I was walking down an incredibly long hallway at work one day. It was a straight hallway, and I knew it would take me about 2 minutes to walk to the other side. I suddenly stopped walking and envisioned myself sitting on the ground, rotating gravity 45 degrees, and sliding down to get to the other end quickly. From that moment I knew I wanted to make a game where you rotate gravity, but the puzzle element and M. C. Escher theme came a bit later.
The game began as a project for your master’s degree. When it began, did you ever expect it to grow into what it is today?
No, not at all. When I was making this, it was for an open project at my school, meaning I could make whatever I wanted. I had already been developing video games for years, and I knew I wanted to take that time to focus on a larger video game project, and so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and get credit for making a game that I was going to make anyway. After a semester’s worth of work, I knew that I was really onto something and decided to continue working on it further. It’s been in development for more than two years since the end of that semester.
Now, you have a project that was cancelled due to time restraints and a lack of interest when you were a student. Is this project something you’d like to pick back up, or can we anticipate something like it in the future?
No, Veggie Vengeance was cancelled because nearly everyone in the team of 20 people lost interest, and it’s not a project that would be worth my time to finish on my own. It was my first large project, and the largest team I’ve lead, but in hindsight, the concept was extremely dull and I doubt anyone would want to play it. For future projects, I want to start with a concept where in one sentence I can get people interested and excited about the game. I was able to do that with The Bridge, and I’m able to do that with some of the game concepts I plan on making, but most of my games before The Bridge weren’t like that, so I likely won’t be touching them again.
You have a good deal of small puzzle games under your belt. Would you say it’s your favorite genre to work on? If not, what’s your preferred genre?
It’s a genre that I definitely gravitate towards. I haven’t thought about it consciously very much, but I think I do tend to like creating puzzle games better. It seems like whenever I come up with a game concept that feels new and original, it just happens to be a puzzle game. This might just be who I am. For as long as I can remember, even as a small child, I’ve been designing puzzles, mazes, etc. for people to solve. Now that I’m a professional game designer, I also gravitate towards doing that as well. Puzzle games is probably the genre that I’m best at creating, but I’d also like to try creating games in other genres in the future, just for variety.
The Bridge has received a lot of buzz for its art style, including Indiecade’s “best art” nomination and the Indie Game Challenge’s “achievement in art direction.” In fact, the game itself is consistently referred to as “Isaac Newton meets M.C. Escher.” Do you feel like this was part of your original concept, or did it evolve into what it is now much later?
Very early on I knew that I wanted it to be centered around an Escher-like style, and not long after that idea, I knew I wanted the artwork to look like an Escher drawing had come to life. I think the art style compliments the gameplay very well in this regard, because players can walk through Escher-like impossible architecture while feeling like they’re inside of an Escher drawing.
The Bridge was the creation of a team of two, yourself and Mario Castañeda. How did the two of you meet?
I met Mario a few months after starting the project. After I knew the direction that I wanted to take the game, and after I had a functional version of the game with my own “art”, I knew that I needed a good artist to make the game attractive. Mario and I went to the same college, and we were introduced through mutual friends after I started asking around for artist. After I saw some of his concept sketches for the protagonist, I knew he’d be perfect.
One of my favorite things about The Bridge is that the puzzles are challenging, but they’re never aggravatingly difficult. Was accessibility to different audiences something you kept in mind during the game’s creation?
Absolutely. One of the most challenging things about puzzle design isn’t coming up with them, but making sure they’re just the right difficulty. Ultimately, this is what playtesting is for. As designer of the puzzles, I wasn’t always able to objectively gage how difficult a particular puzzle was going to be to another player, as I of course knew the solution from the start. After getting dozens of people playing the puzzles, many often got cut or rearranged for being far too easy or far too difficult. It took several iterations, but I’m very happy with how the difficulty curve ended up.
There’s been a lot of talk about how much the game plays like Braid (which was another great indie puzzler). Was the game a source of inspiration for The Bridge, or do you feel like it’s just coincidental?
Braid was a huge inspiration. It’s one of my favorite games, actually. When I knew I wanted to make a puzzle game, I looked towards Braid, which did a lot right in the terms of structuring the game. Braid trims out a lot of fat that’s often included in games for the purposes of making them longer, and so I borrowed some ideas from Braid in terms of structure. For example, the way the game “just starts”, the separation of concepts into distinct chapters, and the elimination of any fears of making a mistake were borrowed from Braid. But that said, The Bridge and Braid are still very different games. What Braid does to time, The Bridge does to gravity and perspective.
The game is currently available for Windows. Is there a chance of ports to other systems (XBLA, for example)?
I can’t promise anything at the moment, but I would certainly like for The Bridge to be available everywhere, and I’m going to work to make that a reality if possible. Ultimately, with distributors like Microsoft and Sony, they control what games are available on their platforms, so the final decision is theirs.
A lot of puzzle games release extra levels after the game’s release. Is this something fans can anticipate, or do you feel The Bridge has run its course?
I released The Bridge as a finished, completed game, and I feel like adding more content for the sake of more content wouldn’t be adding to the game, but rather, creating additional fluff for the just purpose of having “more”. But more very well could be redundant. In The Bridge, you will never do the same thing twice. Each puzzle is very unique. Even if I added more concepts, I feel like they would still need to build on previous concepts, but in doing so, they’d still create a stale-feeling experience after a while.
Are you working on any new projects/new concepts?
I’ve got dozens of ideas floating around in my mind. I’m going to start making prototypes soon to see which of them I feel could evolve into my next large project. I might end up making a few much shorter games in the meantime during this process.
What one thing about The Bridge is your personal favorite?
Watching videos of people’s first reactions when playing the game. When I designed the puzzles, I wanted there to always be an “ah-ha!” moment when figuring out what you’re supposed to do. And the wonderful thing about watching a video where people are narrating what they’re doing is that I can literally hear these wonderful “ah-ha!” moments, which is a fantastic feeling for me as the designer.
For more on The Bridge, indie games, and cool interviews, keep it tuned to KaboomShark.