Editor’s Note: This article is one of a series of articles from the award-winning Echo magazine from the Communications department, featured this summer on the Chronicle website.
William Chyr expected to complete his first video game design project and then move on to another art form. He didn’t know he would channel his architectural influences in the process.
âI was doing glass and metal work, and that was just another medium that I was going to explore,â says Chyr, who is a Chicago-based artist. “[I thought,] I’ll spend three months on this and then maybe switch to the paper sculptures to see if that works. It finally took me seven years to complete.
With a game design that draws inspiration from Brutalist-inspired architecture, “Manifold Garden” draws players to an Escher-inspired playground, where structures are both limitless and confined.
Video games have become an art form for artists and designers to blend facets of different media and change the way audiences view their work.
Jonathan Kinkley, owner of Chicago Gamespace, a gallery dedicated to the design and social impact of video games, says many games are the sum of other art media, such as animation, music and cinematography, linked together through an interactive experience.
âI find video games endlessly fascinating and have been since I was a kid,â Kinkley says. âI really think the potential of the medium is just starting to be tapped more broadly, and it is different from other media that came before it. “
For example, narrative titles such as âKentucky Route Zero,â a point-and-click adventure game with surreal and American themes, were developed with episodic acts in mind.
The game’s creators, Jake Elliot and Tamas Kemenczy of Cardboard Computer, looked at the theater scripts as a benchmark for creating the fictional locations and characters surrounding Route Zero.
In 2009, Chyr learned how to make elaborate balloon installations through a student organization at the University of Chicago, Le Vorris and Vox Circus.
After graduating the same year, he moved from one artist residency to another. The work became frustrating, Chyr says, as his sculptures and installations became more elaborate and less contemporary. He felt cataloged by work and eventually he got calls to create company logos rather than art.
Chyr says that âManifold Gardenâ was inspired by the 2012 movie âInceptionâ and was originally modeled on Valve Software’s famous puzzle platform game, âPortalâ. Even the original version of the game was named “Relativity” after the famous lithograph by MC Escher.
In the beginning, “Manifold Garden” was only built on the gravity-shifting game mechanic and consisted mostly of chaining puzzles, until early game tests showed people were tired of repetition and rehearsal. rhythm of puzzles.
âGame design is at its best when it gives you an experience you’ve never had before,â says Jacob Mooney, game designer at Level Ex, a developer who creates video games for doctors. âWe are also responsible for bringing out emotions, but we are also responsible for bringing out specific experiences. “
Mooney, who also makes self-paced board games, explains that creating experiences in video games relies on how the game interacts with the player. It points to “Hades”, a roguelike action Role-playing video game from Supergiant Games, which uses different scenarios and events triggered after the character’s death, to encourage the player to progress further.
Other genres, including strategy simulation games, focus on placing the player in a specific job or profession, says Mooney. For example, the Dinosaur Polo Club’s “Mini Metro” puts the player in the shoes of a city planner, managing destinations and routes for the Chicago Transit Authority.
To alleviate user fatigue, Chyr used influences from architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Tadao Ando to add accents and texture to the âManifold Gardenâ environment and, ultimately, give the player a pause between each puzzle.
âThe game itself is really great and a breakthrough. It’s more than the sum of its parts, âsays Kinkley. “I will never get old that the universe is coiled on itself.”
Combined with the infinite generation of the environment, players can see how the ornamental details of Wright and Ando’s sense of scale guide them both to new areas.
“Manifold Garden” has been available on all platforms since August 2020, and although Chyr says he didn’t expect the design process to take that long, he plans to continue in game design and move on. focus more on operating the studio as a team. .
“It would be great to see my work at the Art Institute [of Chicago] someday, but it’s less interesting to me now, âsays Chyr. “I shipped ‘Manifold Garden’ and the feeling that I have left is that there is a lot more to this medium and the industry that I don’t know about, and it’s exciting.”