Explanation of new name ‘Manifold Garden’

manifold garden

If you’ve been following the game, you’ll see that I’ve changed the name of the game from Relativity to Manifold Garden.

This wasn’t an easy decision to make by any means. The game had been known as Relativity for almost 3 years now, and had gotten press coverage and been shown at various expos with the name.

However, it was a decision that I ultimately felt very strongly about.

Name change for games in development actually isn’t that uncommon. There are plenty of examples for games which have done this: Nuclear Throne, Antichamber, Donut County, GNOG.

Reading about why and how these games changed their names was really helpful when I was going through the process, so I thought I’d share my own thought process that led me to this decision.

What started it

The game was named Relativity at the beginning because of the M.C. Escher print of the same name.

escher relativity

My idea for the very first prototype was literally to turn the print into a game, so the name made sense.

I remember searching online to see if there was another game called ‘Relativity’ already, and I couldn’t find any results, so that was good enough for me. This was in November 2012.

Fast forward to March 2014. I was in San Francisco for GDC. On Tuesday morning, a friend sent me a link to a kickstarter for a game titled ‘Relativity’.

I decided to reach out to the devs and to ask them to change the name of their game. I explained that my game had been in development for about 2.5 years at that point, and was already slated to be released on PS4, and had been profiled by major game press. I even offered to help them come up with alternative names. They were pretty adamant on the name and refused to change it though.

Here’s the full transcript of the conversation: http://imgur.com/a/GrUaw

Ultimately, after consulting with several people and my lawyer, I decided to ignore the situation. The kickstarter didn’t look like it was going anywhere – they had a few rough drawings up of the main character and were asking for $10K to buy things from the Unity asset store.

(In writing this post, I searched for the campaign, and found that they did eventually change the name to something else. The kickstarter was unsuccessful, raising only $500 out of $10000 with 1 backer)

So, this kickstarter wasn’t really a problem, but it did get me thinking – what if another studio decided to call their game ‘Relativity’ as well? What if it was a bigger studio like Ubisoft? What recourse do I have then?


I started looking into trademarking ‘Relativity’ in the game space.

As it turns out that, Relativity Media, a Hollywood film company, actually has a trademark on the word ‘Relativity’ in the game space.

relativity full trademark

This was quite frustrating, as I couldn’t find any involvement they had with video games. However, they seemed to be incredibly aggressive with trademarking the term. If you search for ‘Relativity’ on the USPTO datatbase, it seems like they’ve trademarked ‘relativity’ for every category under the sun, from fashion to university.

I’m not really sure how they got the trademark of ‘Relativity’ in games without having made any, but that’s a topic for another day.

After talking to a few other game devs and speaking with lawyers, it seemed like these were the options I had if I wanted to keep ‘Relativity’ as my game name:

1. File for a trademark for ‘Relativity’ in games. Considering Relativity Media already had this, I didn’t have a really good chance of success here. A lawyer said I had 1 in 4 chance of being successful.

2. Contact Relativity Media and ask if I could use the name. I didn’t do this, but I highly doubt they would have said yes.

3. Don’t do anything, and wait for Relativity Media to send me a cease and desist. Maybe they won’t even care, or the game is not really a big enough issue for them to be concerned.

After two months of looking into the legal aspect of the situation, I actually decided to go with option 3) and stick with ‘Relativity’. I did add “Willy Chyr’s” to the beginning of the name, to differentiate it further, just to be safe.

(Relativity Media eventually went bankrupt, so I supposed that problem sort of resolved itself).

Actual Reason for Change

While legal reasons were what got me thinking about the name change at first, it wasn’t what made me decide to go with the change in the end.

I started to really think about whether ‘Relativity’ was the right name, and I realized the name is the only aspect of the game which hasn’t gone through a process of iteration and refinement. Everything else about the game, from the mechanics to the aesthetics, have been discarded and rewritten multiple times. The game has evolved so much since the beginning. And yet, the name (arguably a very important aspect of a game), is the same as when I started the prototype.

I also realized I never thought through carefully about the title. It was chosen as a matter of convenience because of the Escher print, but is that what my game really was about now? It made sense when gravity switching was the only mechanic, but what about the other systems and the world wrapping stuff?

Besides, there were several issues with the name ‘Relativity’:

1) It was not very searchable. Between the Einstein’s theory and Relativity Media, searching for ‘Relativity’ was alone was very unlikely to lead to the game. On google, ‘Relativity Game’ did return my game as the first result, but it was difficult to follow conversations about it on reddit or twitter. Try searching for #relativity on twitter and see what you get.

2) Everyone associates the word ‘Relativity’ with the Theory of Relativity, and while my game did deal with the idea of things being relative to one another, it did not have anything to do with Einstein’s theory. I was pretty much constantly having to explain this to people when telling someone about the game for the first time.

3) I really disliked having to add the word ‘game’ to the url or social media handle. I mean, yes, it is a game, and I know this pretty standard practice, but it just kind of felt like unnecessary pigeon holing.

Starseed Pilgrim vs Platform Planter

starseed pilgrim

Eventually, I read this Gamasutra interview with Droqen, in which he talks about how the name for Starseed Pilgrim came about.

“To this day Starseed Pilgrim builds out to PlantingPlatforms.swf”.

When I read this, I realized Droqen could have also called the game “Platform Planter”. This wouldn’t have made a difference to the gameplay or mechanics, and some people might even say it’s a better name because it actually describes the mechanic.

However, ‘Starseed Pilgrim’ is so much more beautiful. It is poetic, evocative, and mysterious. I actually think it’s one of the most beautiful game names ever. In fact, I wish I could call my game ‘Starseed Pilgrim’!

‘Starseed Pilgrim’ isn’t merely a description of the game’s mechanic. Instead, it is about the sense of wonder and the journey of discovery that the player takes, which is arguably much more true to what the game is about. Sure, on the surface it’s a game about planting platforms, but really, it’s a game about diving into the abyss of the unknown.

When I read the interview, I realized ‘Relativity’ was my version of “Platform Planter”. It was a term that described the mechanic. In a way, ‘Relativity’ was just a slightly fancier way of saying “Wall Walker”. Sure, there are different gravities that are relative to one another in direction, and that makes up the core mechanic, but it’s not what the game is about now. It doesn’t incorporate how the game brings together architecture and geometry, and it doesn’t talk about the ecosystem of the mechanics.

‘Manifold Garden’, however, felt like it hit all those marks.

Manifold Garden

So where does ‘Manifold Garden’ come from?


A manifold is a space that when zoomed in, each part of it is Euclidean (i.e. flat), but when you zoom out, globally, it might not be.

One example of a manifold is the surface of a sphere. Let’s look at Earth. Standing on the ground, the world around us appears to be flat. The shortest distance between two points is a line, and two parallel lines do not look like they will cross. If you look at the Earth as a whole though, these properties are no longer true. If you draw two parallel lines perpendicular to the equator, they will intersect at either the north or south pole.

In Manifold Garden, one of the global geometries is having the world wrap around on itself in each of three axes. Traveling in any one direction brings you back to where you started. Going down actually leads you back up. Mathematically, this space is known as a 3-torus (which is a 3D compact manifold with no boundary)


If you drop a cube off the edge, it comes back down from above, and you can see it falling above and below you simultaneously:Box_Looping_World_Wrap_Good_Lo-Res

You’re probably familiar with the 2D version of this from games like Asteroids. When you fly off one side of the screen, you simply come back from the other side.


As you can see from the gif below, the world of the spaceship exists on the surface of a donut aka a torus.


The 3-Torus is like this, except one dimension higher. I can’t possibly show this, as it’s only possible to see the whole thing in 4D. Basically, inManifold Garden, you’re a 3D being on the surface of a 4D donut.

This is just the start. From here, we can start to offset the repeated instances, or even twist the faces to create a solid klein bottle or a half-turn manifold (if you travel one iteration away, the world is reversed).

Finally, besides the mathematical definition, manifold also has these definitions:

1. of many kinds; numerous and varied:

2. having numerous different parts, elements, features, forms, etc.

There are going to be a lot of levels, and they’re all embedded within one another in really bizarre ways, so manifold is also incredibly fitting in this sense.


What about the gardening aspect?

I’ve shown before how cubes in the game can be used to solve puzzles – triggering switches to open doors, holding up other blocks, etc.

cube solving puzzle

The cubes are actually part of a larger ecosystem – they are fruit that grow on trees, and can in turn be “planted” to grow into trees. This is where water, comes in. You can rotate the cubes to redirect streams of water, and by directing water into a cube that’s placed on a special patch of “soil”, that cube grows into a tree. As you progress throughout the game, you’re cultivating a garden and harvesting cubes.


In the above gif, water also reacts to the global geometry of the world. A lot of games have waterfalls, but what happens in a world in which geometry wraps around? The water falls back on itself, and you actually get a waterloop!


So that’s my summary of the thought process that led to changing the name of the game to “Manifold Garden”.

It was legal reasons that initially gave me the idea, but ultimately, when I started to really think about what the game has become and what it is I’m trying to do with it, ‘Relativity’ just didn’t make any sense.

The entire process took 6 months, and involved many sleepless nights, but I kept coming back to ‘Manifold Garden’, and it felt more and more right over time.

The reception with the announcement last week was quite positive.

For the first time, I was actually able to follow conversations about the game on twitter!



Leaf Lerp Color, Dense Towers

Past few days have been insanely busy, especially with the stream schedule, and just a ton of new developments.

Streaming has been going really well. Super stoked about the community that’s growing over at the Twitch channel.

Below are some major updates.

Tree leaf material now lerps between colors when you change gravity

leaf lerp gif

Still have a bug where the lines start off with emission on at start, and then fade away quickly:

line start problem

Cube is growing back on tree with inactive colors. Not sure why it goes back and forth between correct and incorrect color:

cube grow back problem

Looks cool though!

Accidentally forgot to change distance between instances of the world due to a new editor tool that was implemented, and during the stream last night, we “discovered” this level. I love that it actually feels like a city!

tower dense 01 tower dense 02 tower dense 03 tower dense 04 tower dense 05



Filling In Details

Continuing to work on this giant tower level. Filling in the details, and finally got the (almost) right exterior silhouette.

Everything is always in a state of flow, so I never say anything has been finalized.

I fixed the protruding stairs. Removed the piece of floor that was jutting out so that it doesn’t look so fragile.


Really love the staircase that wraps around the outside of the tower. It still needs a lot of tweaking. It needs to be a combination of messy and structured. It can’t look too clean or predictable, because otherwise it just isn’t very interesting:


I love this corner with the columns:


Some more outside shots:

relativity_05 relativity_06 relativity_07

Some interior shots:

relativity_08 relativity_09

Lots of great editor tools being made, and a lot done on the backend to make designing levels easier. There will be a big post about all that soon, I promise.

Stream Archive 

And last night’s level design stream in now up:

Part 1: https://youtu.be/P5EvQy-uP2g

Part 2: https://youtu.be/k7EzUwj4sZQ

Last night’s stream had the most number of viewers so far! It got up to 37 at one point. Really cool to see the community there growing!

TIGSource Devlog Spotlight!


Wow… just wow…

When I saw this posted yesterday, I was pretty much speechless. I’ve been posting on this devlog for over a year and a half now, since November 2013. It has documented so many changes in art styles, weird tech issues, all the events I’ve been to, and so many random thoughts. The game has grown so much during this time, and that entire evolution has been recorded here.

The devlog for me really is more than just a record of the game’s development process, it has been a journal and a screenshot of my life for the past year and a half. Writing here has been one of my favorite parts of the development process, and the community here has been absolutely amazing.

TIGSource for me has always been THE indie game source, like its name is, so to get the devlog spotlight really is an honor.

Thank you TIGSource! Thank you dear devlog readers! And thank you Derek Yu for writing about RELATIVITY!  Tears of Joy

Pillar Tower Level Evolution 

Continuing to work on this level during livestream sessions. It still needs a lot of work, and I haven’t quite figured out the correct proportions, but here’s the evolution of the level so far:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

I really love the staircase that extends out from the center, but still not sure about exactly how that should look. Someone on the stream mentioned that it reminded them of Ico, which is a massive compliment in my opinion, and very much what I’m going for.

The cover for Ico is one of my favorites:


I really love the sense of scale and the feeling of longing that it evokes, so really cool to hear that the visuals in this level are a bit reminiscent of that.

Stream Archive 

Last night’s level design stream in now up:

Part 1: https://youtu.be/m45YLCS-R6c

Part 2: https://youtu.be/3FSv2k_8ibc

And here’s the full playlist of the level design streams so far: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNqAA0dqOV6J2Q3Y26EvfwIrwQJANw64M


Pagoda Pillar Level

Last night’s stream started off as an attempt to put in the finishing touches of a level, and then ended up as a debug session in which we uncovered some changes with Unity’s instantiation code in their latest update. All in all, another typical night of gamedev.

Part 1: https://youtu.be/YqT1O4WKwRU

Part 2: https://youtu.be/EjJTEL0-kCo

Anyway, we did manage to solve the weird bug, but then Unity crashed pretty hard, so I ended the stream then.

Afterwards, I was able to set up the level to run again. It took some tweaking, but I think I finally got the level of scale I wanted in order to convey some sense of mystery:Relativity_01 Relativity_02 Relativity_03 Relativity_04

Gravity Direction Gizmo

Given that I’m making a game that involves switching between multiple gravity fields, you’d think it’d be pretty useful to know which gravity is in which direction in the editor view.

For a long time, I’d basically have to hit play and walk around inside the scene, in order to figure out which gravity is pointing which way. Having the cubes in the scene helped, as I could then derive the direction from their arrows.

It wasn’t a massive problem, but definitely a minor annoyance that came up now and then.

Anyway, I finally got around to putting it on our trello board that I needed a gizmo to tell the gravity direction.

Chris started working on it this morning.

At first the gizmo’s size depended on the camera zoom in iso view (worked fine in perspective), so when I was working at the zoomed out level I normally work at, I could barely see the gizmo:


(it’s a tiny speck in the bottom right corner).

I needed to be zoomed in this much to see it:


Chris then fixed the size and made it constant in size regardless of zoom, but there was still this clipping issue when zoomed out, which didn’t seem easily fixable:

gizmo clip

At this point, we were looking at the default Unity axis gizmo. I remembered at some point I was playing around with changing the colors of the axes in the preference menu.

And then it occurred to me, that instead of writing a new custom gizmo, we could just change the colors in the preference menu, and use that to determine the gravity colors.

It only shows 3 colors, but since I know the colors very well by opposites (blue vs red, green vs yellow, purple vs orange), it lets me figure out the gravity direction very easily.

The bonus is that when I select an object, the axes for moving the object are correctly colored as well: gizmo xyz

Stream Archive

If you missed last night’s stream, here’s the archive:

Part 1: https://youtu.be/GWSW3qhSZuI

Part 2: https://youtu.be/qY3UTwXiKPA

Part 3: https://youtu.be/M-DdeGqc54I

I’ll be putting all my stream archives on a youtube playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLNqAA0dqOV6J2Q3Y26EvfwIrwQJANw64M

And of course, if you want to catch the livestream, it’ll be Monday to Friday from 8pm CST to about 10 pm CST at: http://www.twitch.tv/willychyr

Pagoda Pillar Level

Worked on this level some more today. Here’s the evolution of the level:


Relativity_Game_Screenshot-2015-06-24_19-02-15 Relativity_Game_Screenshot-2015-06-24_19-06-10


More shots of the (almost) finished level:

Relativity_Game_Screenshot-2015-07-02_14-25-28  Relativity_Game_Screenshot-2015-07-02_15-08-57 Relativity_Game_Screenshot-2015-07-02_15-09-17