Pohung Chen is one of the guys behind the experimental first person perception puzzle game called Perspective. He is a really interesting dev having “too many side projects” (you know how much we love prolific people!) Now he answers our questions.
1. How long have you been making games?
I’ve been making games since high school. None of them got anywhere until I started college at DigiPen.
2. Where do you find ideas for your games? Tell us something about your creative process.
Ideas can come from anywhere. It can come from seeing an art piece, a dream, a discussion with a friend, or inspirational quotes from @PeterMolydeux. The seed idea usually is not the important part though. Building a game is a journey. Getting that initial demo of your game in front of others and iterating from there has a huge impact on what your game becomes.
3. Perspective is “an experimental first person perception puzzle game”. Where did its idea come from?
We arrived at the core mechanic of Perspective in our very first brainstorm meeting. At first we didn’t have a clue what we wanted to make. We sat around and discussed games we liked, as we wanted to make a game in a space that the entire team was interested in.
The discussion eventually came to cameras, projections, lights, and holograms -- and how those things could make for interesting puzzle mechanics. We wanted to make a game about using cameras and having what that camera views reflected as a hologram in a different space. It was hard to come up with clean rules for that, and it was too much like Portal.
We bounced around several other ideas until we arrived at "you are the camera, and you control a dude who is constrained in screen space."
4. Using perspective in a 3D world to shape the level allows you to create some really nice puzzles. But what about solutions? Have you watched people playing your game? Any creative solution to a puzzle you haven't thought of?
Yes. Fortunately we playtested the crap out of Perspective before releasing it, so we pretty much know the solution paths and fixed the ones that were undesirable. Each level taught the player something specific, we we had to make sure the player learned the set of skills we wanted them to learn before unleashing more complex puzzles on them. Despite this though, some players still manage to find shortcuts in our puzzles (though you really have to try).
There’s a whole community of speed runners and there’s a forum topic on Perspective. DemonStrate, best known for his speed run of Portal, did a good set of routes in Perspective, there were actually surprisingly few exploits.
5. Perspective had great reviews both from players and the press. Any favourite quote or feedback you remember?
There are a few good ones. This tweet was pretty memorable. There were a lot of really heartfelt emails from fans telling us it was the best game they’ve ever played. I think the best is watching raw emotional response of streamers and youtubers though. Lewis and Simon from Yogscast did a three video series on Perspective. This video (SPOILER ALERT) has one of the best reactions to the end game I've seen.
6. Do you like puzzle games? And first person puzzle games? What are your favourites?
I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite genre, but I love puzzle games. A good handful of them push what games can do in meaningful ways, and that’s always a plus. I don’t think there’s anything particular about the first person aspect that makes them more appealing to me as puzzle games. Some of my favorites include: Portal, Monument Valley, Naya’s Quest, Miegakure, and Mushroom 11.
7. If you have to choose three and only three game developers to follow their work closely, which ones would you choose and why?
(2) I've always been inspired by Terry Cavanagh's ability to repeatedly make small, tight, and interesting games. (3) I love that despite the smashing success of Minecraft, notch is still doing small stuff like this.
8. Are you a heavy gamer? What games are you playing now?
I don’t play as much as I used to. I enjoy making games much more than playing them nowadays. Making stuff is so much more rewarding it can be hard to find time to just play.
I recently played Monument Valley, an amazing puzzle game on iOS. Every piece of that game fell beautifully into place. The puzzles, aesthetics, narrative, audio. control scheme all complement each other really well.
9. One last random question. If you could have a cup of coffee with any alien character from whatever book/movie/game you could think of, who would it be and why?
I don't usually drink coffee. But I'd love to hangout with Lamarr to see what it is like to wrestle a headcrab.
*We Ask Indies is an initiative by Beavl, an Argentinian independent game studio putting some teeth into videogames. You can check all the interviews here (caricatures are made by amazing artist Joaquín Aldeguer!).