GDC Talk and Day of the Devs

manifold garden GDC

GDC is going to be really busy for me this year. I’ll be giving a talk for the first time, as part of the Level Design workshop, and also, I found out last week that Manifold Garden will be on exhibit as part of “Day of the Devs’!

GDC Talk

My talk is going to be part of the Level Design Workshop, and will be on Tuesday, March 15th, at 3:00pm, in Room 130 in North Hall. This is the day before the main conference starts.

[url+]Here’s the official page on the GDC website[/url], if you’re using the scheduler and want to add it to that.

level design workshop

I’m really looking forward to this, as GDC talks, and especially the level design talks, have been very helpful for me as a designer.

It’s cool to finally have an opportunity to give back.

I’ll be talking a lot about what it’s like to work with weird geometry in Manifold Garden, different problems I’ve faced, and various techniques I’ve discovered which have been helpful.

Day of the Devs


Also, super pleased to announce that Manifold Garden will be playable at GDC as part of Double Fine and iam8bit’s ‘Day of the Devs’ exhibition.

I still find it pretty hard to believe that Manifold Garden will be a part of this. The list of games they’re showing is fantastic:

  • Below by Capy Games
  • David OReilly Game 2 by David OReilly
  • Headlander from Double Fine Productions
  • Day of the Tentacle Remastered by Double Fine Productions
  • SUPERHYPERCUBE by Kokoromi
  • Return of the Obra Dinn by Lucas Pope
  • Dreams by Media Molecule
  • Bound from Plastic
  • Hob by Runic Games
  • ARENA GODS by Supertype
  • Manifold Garden by William Chyr
  • Severed by DrinkBox Studios
  • Line Wobbler by Robin Baumgarten
  • Rez Infinite by Monstars + Resonair

GDC is going to be pretty crazy this year. If you’re going, definitely let me know. It would be great to meet up!

Temple Level

It’s a been a while since my last update here. February has been a really busy month.

Been working on a level which I’m calling the “Temple” for now. It’s inspired by Walter Netsch’s Behavioral Science Building on the UIC campus:


and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple:


With Netsch’s piece, what inspires me the most is the varying levels of elevation, and the way the building’s profile expands and contracts. It feels incredibly distinctive to me.

With Wright’s piece, I really like the use of columns, and the almost fractal like feel of the building – the larger columns on the outsider corners, then smaller versions in the middle, then smaller blocks on the columns themselves.

Someone on one of my dev streams pointed out the irony (?) of making a level based on the Unity Temple while using the Unity Engine…

Here are some pics of the level building process:

ManifoldGarden_2016_02_04-15_31_09 1216x684 ManifoldGarden_2016_02_04-23_58_13 1588x893 ManifoldGarden_2016_02_05-14_36_00 1589x894 ManifoldGarden_2016_02_05-15_20_33 1589x894 ManifoldGarden_2016_02_09-17_11_56 1826x1027 ManifoldGarden_2016_02_09-18_44_21 1826x1027 ManifoldGarden_2016_02_10-13_22_33 1589x894 ManifoldGarden_2016_02_11-01_15_07 1589x894 ManifoldGarden_2016_02_14-21_33_48 1324x745 ManifoldGarden_2016_02_14-22_06_29 1324x745 ManifoldGarden_2016_02_16-00_46_37 1589x894






Dark Mode and Portals

In dark mode, the growth process is reversed. When you bring the dark mode box to the dark mode tree, it shrinks down into the seed it grew from.

Tree Growth Inverse


Also, David has started working on portals. We’re no longer using the system I set up about 2 years ago, but instead going with building something from ground up to work with all the other mechanics.


Now you’re thinking with portals!

Dark Mode Design


This past weekend, I had another Game Design Critique / Design Klub meeting. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s basically a full day game design meeting with a few other Chicago game designers. It’s modeled after the Depth Jam that Jonathan Blow had done several years ago. The first meeting was done just a little over a year ago, which you can read about it in detail here.

The specific design problem I presented to the group for Manifold Garden was about invert mode – How should the mechanic work? How to enter the mode? How to exit? What should one do while in there? What do they think of its role in the game?

The discussion was incredibly helpful and I came away from the meeting with a very clear sense of what invert mode should be. Oh, to begin with, it’s now called Dark Mode instead of Invert Mode.


I created a very specific build of the game that allowed you to mix and match a bunch of different mechanics in dark mode – reverse player gravity direction, reverse box direction, change which surface is colored, etc. This was mostly for the other designers when playtesting, so they can get a feel fro the different combinations and see which ones work best together.

Discarded Exit Modes 

Here are different exit modes that didn’t work, and why. For all these cases, you enter into the dark mode by picking up the dark mode box.

Discarded Exit Mode 1: Light Mode Box Pick Up

light mode box pick up exit


In this mode, to exit dark mode, you simply pick up a light mode box. You position is not reset when you do this, you are exactly where you are when you pick up the light mode box. However, the dark mode box is sent back to the original position.

Problems: If there isn’t a light mode box around you (which can easily happen), you end up stuck in dark mode. Also, having to search for a light mode box in order to return can be very tedious. It’s also not super obvious that picking up a light mode box will send you back to light mode.

Discarded Exit Mode 2: Continuous Fade

continuous fade

In this mode, as soon as you enter dark mode, the screen starts to slowly fade to white. It takes about 60 seconds. Once the screen is fully white, you are reset into light mode. During the fade period, you can do whatever you want.

Problems: This turns the task in dark mode to be a timing puzzle, which I don’t really like in general, and also goes against the spirit and style of all of the other puzzles in the game. Also, there is not instant exit from dark mode, which can be really annoying. If the player decides they don’t want to solve the dark mode puzzle just then, they have to wait around for the fade to complete, which can be really annoying. The timing also puts a constraint on how complex the puzzle can be unnecessarily.

Discarded Exit Mode 3: Falling to Fade

falling to fade

In this mode, in dark mode, world wrapping is disabled. You cannot see other instances of the world. When you fall of the world, instead of being wrapped around, you just fall into the abyss. The screen then starts to fade to white, and you are reset into light mode.

Problems: This removes the visual of repeating worlds, which is a big loss, and also doesn’t allow players to jump off and wrap around, which is one of the coolest parts of the game. This also makes level design in dark mode incredibly difficult, because I would need a continuous path from “bottom” of the level to the “top”, which is not at all how the level is designed for light mode.

The Mode I Decided To Go With

drop box to fade

In this mode, in dark mode, when you drop the dark mode box, the screen begins to fade back to white. It’ll take about 2, 3 seconds to fade completely to white, at which you are set back to light mode. However, as soon as you pick up the dark mode box again, it reverses the fade and you are back in dark mode. If you want to return to light mode, simply drop the box.