Road to the IGF: Guardian of the Gears

Guardian of the Gears is a puzzle platformer of giant mechanisms, letting players loose in a world of interconnected machines to tinker with.

This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series. You can find the rest by clicking here.

Guardian of the Gears is a puzzle platformer of giant mechanisms, letting players loose in a world of interconnected machines to tinker with. As a robot with a wrench, players will have to manipulate giant puzzles that span huge areas, changing the environments around them with their solutions

Gamasutra had a talk with Kaden Nugent, producer for Guardian of the Gears, to talk about the difficulties that come in creating puzzles of this scope and how they resolved them, as well as the benefits that come from making the player's actions have such large effects on the world.

What's your background in making games?

We have a mishmash of backgrounds as our team comprises 11 students from around the world. For the most part, our game creation background is limited to our passion for video games and our time in college. We all worked hard for 3 years at DigiPen Institute of Technology before creating Guardian of the Gears throughout our senior year. Creating this game was yet another amazing learning experience for us.

How did you come up with the concept?

Guardian of the Gears morphed over many months to become what it is today. It was important to us to try and give off the same nostalgic vibes of the 3D puzzle-platformers we grew up with. We also just wanted to hit things with a big wrench.

What development tools were used to build your game?

We used Unreal Engine 4, Maya, Substance, Wwise, Visual Studio, and the most important development tool of all, Google, of course.

How much time have you spent working on the game?

Guardian of the Gears’ development spanned just over 10 months of countless hours of hard work.

What challenges do you face in creating a world that feels like a single machine? In making the world feel like all of its parts are connected?

One of the most difficult parts was making sure that when the environment moved, the player wouldn't get stuck. We had lots of puzzles where big pieces of the level would move, and the player could sneak into areas that they shouldn’t. We tried our best to find and plug all those holes.

Guardian of the Gears' puzzles can affect large portions of the environment. What is different when creating puzzles of this scale as opposed to something smaller? In creating ones that feel so grand in scale to the player?

Bigger moving pieces are much more rewarding to the player. However, it can be difficult to show the player what has changed since the moving pieces are so large. With small puzzles, a player can see all the moving pieces at once without us having to grab their head and say, "Hey! Look at this thing that moved!" So, for the grand scale movements, we grab the player’s head a bit, but we tried to keep it to a minimum.

What draws a player into a world for exploration? How do you capture that desire to explore through your design of Guardian of the Gears?

A little bit of mystery! We have some dialogue that bookends the Guardian's journey, but for the most part, a player freely roams around without much direction other than a beautiful environment to explore. If they want to learn more, they can pick up the pink story trinkets throughout the levels. These trinkets give one-line hints about the Clockworks and the Guardian's purpose.

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?

We have all been very busy with college, graduating, and finding jobs, but as soon as we get some free time we will certainly look at the other amazing IGF finalists.

What do you think are the biggest hurdles (and opportunities) for indie devs today?

Time. There is never enough time to get everything done in such a competitive industry. If only we had a large wrench to hit these clockwork gears and add some extra hours into the day...

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