Originally, the idea of a 3D world seen from a 2D perspective came from another gaming project Fish first started working on with Shawn McGrath several years ago. The two developed creative differences and eventually parted ways, he says, but Fish kept at it and was later joined by Bédard to create the foundation for what would soon become Fez. DeGroot - known in chiptune circles for his spectacular audio prowess with dual Game Boy Cameras as "6955" - came on board to co-found Polytron as a producer and is creating all of the game's retro 8-bit music. Though the spatial idea of the unique game world was McGrath's, everything else grew from there. Bédard notes the build they showed at IGF 2008 was a completely static world and players couldn't interact with it much physically aside from picking up the red hats - a placeholder item that may or may not make it into the final game. "Now there are physics-enabled objects, pickups, breakables, etc.," he notes. "The world feels a lot more alive."
Getting the world to feel alive has been challenging. Making quadruple the amount of the necessary artwork and designing levels within this odd framework is an exhaustive process, according to Fish. "I don't even want to think about the logistics of the engine," he says. "Everything has to make sense from all directions, and I have to render everything four times, basically." Even so, the added labor certainly makes a good impression in early footage of the game, and the final result is something many players are itching to get their mitts on. Unfortunately, the wait just got extended.
The previously nebulous "2009" release window has just been bumped to a 2010 release, but it's been confirmed Fez will be out on XBLA. Development on the project is approaching the two year mark, Fish says, adding his initial estimated timeframe for making the game was a few months. When the game finally does arrive, it will be a welcome relief for Fish and for the anxious gamers who've been watching the indie project with a growing interest alike. Challenges aside, the creative freedom of working on Fezhas been extremely rewarding, he says. "Everything about this project feels like a huge moral victory for me."
Nathan Meunier is a freelance writer, a regular contributor at The Escapist, and a die-hard indie gaming enthusiast. You can read more of his work at http://nathanmeunier.wordpress.com.