Making Puzzles with Ty TaylorA game interview article by: Nick Boisson
If you are a fan of the puzzle game, then Ty Taylor sure has something great for you! I had the chance to speak with Ty about his new puzzle game, The Bridge, and his inspiration from M.C. Escher drawings.
Nick Boisson for Comics Bulletin Games: How did you start making games?
Ty Taylor: I've been making games my whole life, or for as long as I can remember. I used to make board games and card games when I was a kid. But I started making video games in high school; ninth grade when I learned how to program.
CB: You recently released a new game, The Bridge on Steam. Can you tell us a little bit about that game for those who do not know?
Taylor: Of course! It's essentially Isaac Newton meets M.C. Escher. It is a black-and-white puzzle game inside of M.C. Escher-style artwork. The player has the ability to rotate gravity and walk between impossible architecture, much like you would find in an M.C. Escher drawing, to solve puzzles.
CB: As you said, the game is very much like playing through an M.C. Escher drawing. The game is even designed to look like one, with black-and-white pencil sketch artwork. What inspired you to make a game like that?
Taylor: Well, originally, I wanted to make a game about gravity rotation. But I was kind of leaning more towards fast-paced platforming. After a while, I realized all of the fun things I could do with gravity, like alternate gravity dimensions and gravity vortexes. That really lends itself to be a puzzle game.
Also, some gravity dimension ties into Escher's work directly. I've always been a fan of Escher's work, so I had gotten inspired by that after I had gotten the idea of multiple dimensions of gravity. The rest all kind of fell into place after that.
CB: The game is very...I suppose the best way for me to describe it is minimalist, yet very complex in its design. When you had gotten the concept of The Bridge down, was that what you were going for?
Taylor: Oh, for sure. Once the original idea solidified, I wanted it to be as accessible as possible. It has a very straightforward control scheme, which is what I think you are referring to as minimalist. You can walk left and right and you can rotate gravity: that's it. And I did that on purpose. I wanted it to not be complicated and able to be picked up by anyone, even people who don't play video games. I've had the game at conventions with people who do not play video games. They had picked it up and were able to play it, and that is really rewarding. It is exactly what we were going for.
And I wanted to appeal to die-hard puzzle fans, who love the challenge of puzzle games. That is where the complexity comes in. By the end of the game, there is a lot of stuff going on and you really have to wrap your head around it all at once.
CB: How long did it take you and Mario Castañeda (artist on the game) to develop The Bridge?
Taylor: About three years. I was working on it for about four months before Mario joined the team. So, almost three years and it has been in full-time development for most of that time. Quite a lot of my life was going into that game.
CB: I know you have made other smaller games, either by yourself or on teams...
Taylor: This is probably the first game that anyone has ever heard of. All my other games are just prototypes, helping me to figure out what I wanted to do. The Bridge is the first game that I really feel like I finished and certainly the first one that has been played by thousands of people.
CB: Didn't you also have a few games on Xbox LIVE Indie Games?
Taylor: Yeah, but barely anybody goes on Xbox LIVE Indie Games and most games on services relative to Xbox LIVE Indie Games are never really that popular. Those were essentially prototype games. It was me experimenting as I was learning how to program and just putting it out there for people to play.
Nothing I took seriously. [Laughs]
CB: So The Bridge is really the first game that you've worked on with the intention of selling it as a product?
Taylor: Absolutely. I took The Bridge very seriously relative to my other games.
CB: Let's talk a bit about the difficulty in The Bridge and in games, in general. The game starts you off by just giving you the concepts – you can move your character left and right and rotate your level clockwise and counter-clockwise – then the player is thrown into a puzzle. What led you to make the game so challenging?
Taylor: I wanted it to be very appealing to the puzzle audience. I didn't want to make anything that was too easy. And making the puzzles was actually expensive to do. There's a lot of iteration to make a single puzzle, especially the puzzles with the impossible architecture. The player walks in and out of all these crazy geometries that cannot exist in our world. It took a lot of time for Mario and I to put those together and make sure that players will take an appropriate amount of time for the puzzles.
I also wanted it to be a challenge for people who love puzzle games, at the same time. I think we were able to tackle both those issues. I feel that the difficulty curve ramps up just right. I kind of took the approach that every level should be a tutorial for the next, or later levels, while also being a challenging puzzle itself. So even with some of the earlier puzzles, the player will look at these and think, “I know how to solve this one” and “I think that was a little easy,” but they'll have learned something. And what they've learned will be applied later on, where it gets much more challenging.
CB: And The Bridge is your first game with Mario?
Taylor: Yeah, that's right.
CB: Do you guys plan on making any other games together?
Taylor: Yeah, definitely!
CB: Well, thanks a lot for speaking with me and I look forward to seeing what you guys do next.
Taylor: Thank you! Good talking to you.
And if you want to play The Bridge for yourself, it's on Steam for $14.99!
Pop culture geek, Nick Boisson, lives in front of his computer, where he is Section Editor of Comics Bulletin's video game appendage and shares his slushily obsessive love of video games, comics, television and film with the Internet masses. In the physical realm, he works in Guest Relations for Florida Supercon in Miami as well as a day-to-day job, which he refuses to identify to the public. We're thinking something in-between confidential informant and professional chum-scrubber.