After almost four years in development, the bizarre, award-winning indie game Antichamber is almost ready for the light of Steam.
I’m not sure what to make of Antichamber. The game’s website describes it as a “mind-bending psychological exploration game,” which isn’t particularly helpful, nor is the teaser trailer that was released in February of last year. On the other hand, it’s won numerous awards during its drawn-out development process, including the Technical Excellence Award at the 2012 Independent Games Festival, so on that level it sounds at least potentially promising.
The secret will be revealed soon enough, as Antichamber, which has been in sometimes-sporadic development since 2006, will finally arrive on Steam at the end of this month. One of the reasons it took so long, creator Alex Bruce explained, is that testers often had trouble telling whether various parts of the game were features or bugs.
“I’m asking the player to throw away all knowledge of how games work and then create mental models for some pretty bizarre behaviors,” he told Gamasutra. “I once had a tester think that space wrapping around seamlessly was a bug, but had no problem accepting that a buggy physics door that flew off its hinges and disappeared into space was a feature.”
Bruce also has an interesting and rather unique attitude toward puzzle games: He doesn’t like them, and furthermore says that they’re not really puzzles at all because they teach players everything they need to know beforehand.
“That’s not a puzzle. In fact, it’s the opposite of a puzzle. That’s homework,” he said. “Like being told a maths equation, and then proving that you can do it 100 times when the variables change. Games like these want you to feel clever, and will give you all kinds of bells and whistles, achievements and sirens when you do what the designer wanted, but it’s all artificial.”
Which isn’t to suggest that Antichamber will leave you hanging – Bruce said that it’s actually “riddled with hints everywhere” – but the intent is to provide the puzzle and let you figure it out, affirming your accomplishment after the fact rather than hinting at a solution prior to it.
I’m certainly intrigued. Antichamber comes to Steam on January 31 and in the meantime, you can find out (not much) more at antichamber-game.com.