An Alternate Dimension

 
 

Marc ten Bosch talks to Steven Balbirnie about his new puzzle game Miegakure, and the fourth dimension

When asked about the meaning of such an unusual title for a game, Marc ten Bosch’s reply makes it clear that Miegakure’s title encapsulates the entire concept behind the game: “Miegakure means ‘hidden from sight’ in Japanese. It’s one of many traditional garden techniques used in Japanese gardens. As one walks along the garden paths, the placement of the garden elements is such that the garden can never be seen in its entirety. This creates in one’s mind the illusion that the garden is larger and more complex than it is. I thought that this was beautifully similar to how the game only allows you to only see three dimensions out of four, and hence the player can never see the entire level at once, and has to navigate the space to get a complete view, while keeping a mental model of it in their head.”

Miegakure is a puzzle platformer that operates in four dimensions, a difficult concept to grasp, though ten Bosch’s explanation of the fourth dimension is intriguing. “There is a famous 1884 novella called Flatland that takes place in a world whose inhabitants can only see two dimensions out of three. It’s interesting because this gives an idea of what might happen in the four-dimensional case. But thanks to computers we don’t have to imagine anymore, we can just see it on the screen, and interact with it.”

Addressing the fact that time is usually perceived as the fourth dimension, ten Bosch goes on to explain that “time can also be represented as a number and in Einstein’s theory of relativity we have found that it is powerful to treat it like a fourth dimension. However time is different from a fourth dimension of space in many ways. For example, we perceive it as always moving forward. This game is purely about another dimension that works exactly like the first three.”

In Miegakure, the presence of four dimensions will allow the player to interact with the game’s world in a way like no other platformer, with the main character of Miegakure capable of four-dimensional movement. “At any given time the player can only see three out of four dimensions, so movement works like any other 3D game where you can walk around and jump. The difference is that by pressing a particular button, you trade one dimension for the fourth one. As you do this, the world appears to morph around you because you are now seeing it from a different perspective. After the switch movement still happens in 3D, but one of your three dimensions is now the fourth one. Pressing the button again trades the dimensions back. This allows you to move in four dimensions using only 3D movement,” says ten Bosch.

Using four-dimensional movement as a game mechanic will allow Miegakure to implement some truly ingenious puzzles and ten Bosch’s description of four-dimensional movement gives a flavour of the kind of puzzles that players will face once the game is released. “I’m treating four-dimensional movement like a super power. What kind of feats could you accomplish if you could move in 4D? Would you use it for good or for evil? You could appear inside of any closed building without touching its doors. You could move objects without anyone seeing you. You could appear to float in mid-air. And so much more that I don’t want to spoil. The problem is understanding how, and that’s where the puzzle aspect comes from.”

Designing a game with an extra dimension to incorporate is bound to be a challenging experience, though it is clear that this an experience which ten Bosch thoroughly enjoys: “I come from a computer graphics background, and generalizing 3D computer graphics techniques to 4D is a fun kind of challenge, just within my reach. Game design-wise the game is constantly implicitly teaching new concepts and I think the challenge is the same that any teacher has, which is to have a very clear understanding of these concepts in order to teach them in a very clear way.”

Marc ten Bosch is also interested in opening up the possibilities for players to design in four dimensions as well, stating: “I would like to allow players to create their own puzzles. I would love to be able to play my own game and be surprised by some of the levels people create. With the way levels are built right now, it shouldn’t be very hard to do. Also, designing a level requires a stronger understanding than playing one, so as a teaching method it would be great.”

The game’s development has progressed in leaps and bounds since ten Bosch first unveiled it in 2010 with Miegakure’s mechanics and visual aesthetics evolving in tandem with ten Bosch’s increasing understanding of the fourth dimension.

Miegakure looks as though it may be one of the most innovative puzzle games that the industry has seen in years, and as ten Bosch says: “What I have revealed so far is only the beginning.”

You can follow the development at http://miegakure.com, or find Miegakure on Facebook and Twitter (@MiegakureGame).

 

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