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inTIErrupted cooperatively untangles a tie filled with puzzles

inTIErrupted is a cooperative escape game about untangling an incredibly long, puzzle-filled tie without getting caught in such a compromising position.

Joel Couture, Contributor

February 22, 2023

9 Min Read
a pair of people work together to untie a super long necktie
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The 2023 Game Developers Conference will once again feature Alt.Ctrl.GDC, an exhibition dedicated to games that use alternative control schemes and interactions in new, exciting, and clever ways. Ahead of GDC 2023, Game Developer will be talking to the developers of each of the games that have been selected for the showcase.

inTIErrupted is a cooperative escape game about untangling an incredibly long, puzzle-filled tie without getting caught in such a compromising position.

Game Developer sat down with French K155, the development team behind the puzzling tie controller, to talk about the challenges that come from designing puzzles you're supposed to wear around your neck, the practice of creating a controller that feels good to touch, and the thoughts that went into creating the alibis that would enhance the humor of this intimate co-op game.

What's your name, and what was your role on this project?

Nowacki: I’m Clément Nowacki and was in charge of inTIErrupted's game design. I focused my work on the gamefeel and the player experience. I did a bit of code and V/SFX as well.

Famechon: My name is Océane Famechon and I am the narrative designer behind inTIErrupted. My work focused on creating the whole fantasy and story of the game, as well as creating the alternative controller.

The team is composed by IIM students doing Masters in game design, game art, game producing and marketing, game programming, and UX/UI design as well.

How do you describe your innovative controller to someone who's completely unfamiliar with it?

Nowacki: The main asset of inTIErrupted is its 3.5m long tie! It’s basically a hand-sewn escape game that players have to untie as fast as they can. Within a game of red light / green light.

Famechon: Like a game of red light / green light, two players try to untangle a 10 ft tie and find the keys to lock the doors of the room they are in in order to have their own moment of intimacy.

two people work to untie a necktie in an escape room

What's your background in making games?

Nowacki: I’m currently doing a Masters in game design. Nonetheless, I already did 2 years of QA for Focus Entertainment before that.

Famechon: Studying in a Game Design Masters, I had the opportunity to work on various projects as narrative game designer for Celestory and as QA for Cyanide.

What development tools did you use to build inTIErrupted?

Nowacki: We developed the game with Unity. Otherwise, the notepad of my iPad was my best friend for designing things on that project!

Famechon: As the game is part virtual and part material, I was charged with conceiving the interface between the human and the machine. For that I used my hands, a notebook, a pen, and a lot of crafty resources like fabrics, books, wires and electronic systems.

What physical materials did you use to make it?

Nowacki: The list is so long, it’s probably gonna be shorter to name every materials we didn’t use.

Famechon: As I said, we used quite a lot of different materials from fabrics to electronics so it will take another tie's worth of pages to enumerate everything.

What inspired the creation of inTIErrupted, a game of being caught in an intimate moment?

Nowacki: The very first iteration of inTIErrupted was about a solo male who was tired of wearing a tie for work. The game plot was more a criticism of suits and working costumes that may psychologically enslave people and reduce their lives to their functions in a company and the visceral need to free yourself from this system. The idea of playing it in duo came later and introduced a physical proximity between players that was very intimate.

Famechon: The 2-player thing came into the work when we were looking for some trope inspiration to create the lore. I found myself remembering movies where the parents think they can be intimate. The kids are supposed to be asleep but at the last moment something comes up and they end up having to make believe that nothing is happening.

two players wrestle with physical objects near a desk

What ideas went into the tie that players have to get undone? How did you fill it with puzzles that would work with a cloth controller?

Nowacki: The main idea behind the tie was to propose something to get your hands on without having to press buttons. We wanted to create something fun to touch and manipulate. Following this logic, our 'puzzles' are mainly about using your hands.

Famechon: We wanted the players to experience different emotions while trying to untangle the tie. Because, while making a big knot could take a while for the players to untie, we wanted to distract them with mini games made with objects from everyday life so they would have to try to keep their wits about them while they resolved the puzzles. The only thing that could be complicated was to be sure the puzzles wouldn’t weigh too much so they wouldn't hurt our contestant's neck.

What challenges came from creating puzzles that would be durable since players would be tugging and pulling on the tie most of the time? How did you build puzzles to survive this kind of rough treatment?

Nowacki: Our puzzles are quite simple and easy to solve, but also to put back in place. They are mostly about taking things out, so the tie is made to be broken, to some extend. Margaux (Courtois) and Océane did a pretty great job in making the tie overall. It’s pretty solid!

Famechon: In the making process of the tie, we made sure that we had the right structure and materials to make it durable so when the player tugs on the collar it would not break. Also, as the puzzles are made to be separated from the tie, we made sure to have more supplies to replace overused ribbons and plastic balls. Even though our players are adults, I made sure that the game was kind of baby-proofed.

Likewise, what thoughts went into designing the alibi controllers that players must use around the room to avoid getting caught?

Nowacki: We were not satisfied with the tie alone. It was fun to play with, but it lacked a bit of something. Alibis are here to break the players' progression and add movements to the experience. An intimate moment is not only about clothes; it also has a lot of movements. Especially when you’re about to get caught.

Famechon: The alibis were made based of stereotypes in movies where a character is caught doing something they weren't supposed to like stealing, getting intimate, or sneaking out. Like in a French Vaudeville, the players should be in very humorous positions when the family members come to see what they are up to.

two players manipulate the tie while other people watch on

There is a great deal of silliness involved in making use of the alibis. How did you design them to encourage players to be a little goofy? What do you feel this added to the game?

Nowacki: Each alibi is a new way to be uncomfortable for a few seconds. That’s what drove our design decisions. The yoga mat is a great example. It’s two buttons under a mat, but it forces the player to get on their knees, which is a socially-taboo position.

Plus, the space between alibis and the players is also something we wanted to play with. We wanted the player to feel the need to rush toward alibis and anticipate the back and forths in the room more than reacting only. It added a stressful rhythm to the game which is pretty fun!

Famechon: As easy as it seems, the alibis are not that simple to enable. Certain areas must be pressed so the player is considered in a "safe zone." With that in mind, we researched what throwing yourself at a sofa before your cousins came in would look like and how to make sure that you always ended up practically hugging the chair. For the yoga mat it was a bit different because, at first, we wanted to force the player to always put their hands on the mat. But after a few playtests, we found out that leaving the freedom to the player made for much more silly positions than we thought.

Players cannot repeat alibis or they will lose, and the alibis are spread far apart. Why did you set them up this way? What do you feel this added to the experience?

Nowacki: It follows our will to create movement and it forces the player to use a certain diversity of solutions. Otherwise, they’ll prefer the same two alibis: the closest or the ones judged to be easier to use. Sharing a moment with a person you love in a place you shouldn’t is stressful. Playing with the use of alibis and how we force the player to do so are the levers we mainly used to reach this particular and exciting feeling.

Famechon: The gameplay on the tie can get the player to move around quite a lot, so we made sure they had enough space around them to be safe. It was also an opportunity for us to put the objects far from each other so the players have to stop their action on the tie to find an alibi. It adds to this small panicked feeling of "Where are we?" and "Where should we go?" to not get caught. Also, they can take a small pause to look at each other and the screen and think for a short moment on what to do next.

Has building a game around a unique controller taught you anything unexpected about game design?

Nowacki: It is a good challenge to think outside of the box. The gameplay does not revolve entirely around what's on a screen, but more on your relation with the controller and how you understand it. I really like games that try to link what the player is doing in real life and the action in the game. Alt.Ctrl games are built on this feeling; it makes them fun to play AND to create!

Famechon: This project was a breath of fresh air for me, as I wanted to explore new ways to adapt narration and game design. I didn’t know how far a tie could get me going, and it was really so cool to develop this experience that pushed me to explore more a intricate gameplay experience. I didn’t think I could bring so much joy and playfulness with this type of activity. It’s really fantastic.

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