Next Spring will see the release of Pavilion, a indie game that claims to be a “fourth-person exploratory experience” and is under development at Vision Trick, a two man team featuring Rickard Westman and Henrik Flink. Pavilion was first revealed at this year’s Tokyo Games Show and is yet another testament to Sony’s aggressive policy for indie gaming in its ecosystem.
We caught up with the duo to talk about how Pavilion is different from anything that players have played so far.
Rashid Sayed: The selling point for Pavilion is that it’s a ‘fourth person experience.’ Tell us what exactly that means.
Fourth person came out of the fact that we wanted to, in a short term, describe that the player is not in any direct control over the main character. Instead you are manipulating the environment to alter the traversal path of the character. In this matter you could then say that the player is playing himself, which then could be connected to breaking some kind of fourth wall. And for some people the “fourth person” idiom actually makes sense, especially when playing the game.
In the beginning of production we had some long discussions about adopting the term, but eventually we came to the conclusion that we could give it a try. It was short, a bit mysterious, still connected to the gameplay and gave the flavor of being something different, which Pavilion is. It is always hard to describe something that doesn’t really have any clear references elsewhere, without doing a too long presentation of the concept. We can’t really claim to use “fourth person” in the most proper way, but we feel that it is not too farfetched from describing the game.
"Changing the environment is the very essence of Pavilion and the only way to steer or guide the main character. The character has a life of his own and he has certain places which he wants to get to, certain needs and an overall goal which he wants to reach."
Rashid Sayed: What was your inspiration behind the idea for Pavilion?
Most of the inspiration originally came from different game theory lectures, and trying to find depth in the design of the gameplay. Pavilion has in many ways created itself over the years. The gameplay sprung out of a game concept we had been talking about for a couple of years, which eventually wasn’t a good game. But after throwing away all of the bad stuff we kind of found ourselves peeking into a small hole of interesting mechanics. And then when we started to dig further down the hole just expanded and revealed a lot of interesting stuff.
Rashid Sayed: Pavilion will be hitting the PS4, PS Vita, PC and mobiles but not the Xbox One. Microsoft has made changes regarding their indie policy by introducing the id@xbox program. As a indie developer do you think this move will see more and more indies going back to the Xbox platform?
Right now we are working on the PS4 and PS Vita editions, and will have an exclusive launce on those two platforms.
Making it easier for indies to port their games to different platforms will definitely be attractive. In general it is probably a good thing for the big companies like Microsoft to approach the small developers in a less businesslike fashion where focus hopefully can be on accessibility instead of a total profit.
Rashid Sayed: Can you please explain how ‘changing the environment’ plays a big role in in gameplay?
Changing the environment is the very essence of Pavilion and the only way to steer or guide the main character. The character has a life of his own and he has certain places which he wants to get to, certain needs and an overall goal which he wants to reach. It is then up to the player to affect the traversal of the character to open up paths and redirect the character towards his goal, all this is done by changing things in the environment.
"The total time of gameplay will probably be around 3-4 hours, with a certain value of understanding things later in the game that could actually have been put to use in earlier levels."
Rashid Sayed: Can you please tell us aabit about the main character? What is he doing in the game? Furthermore how are his ‘senses’ going to play an important part in the gameplay?
The character is AI driven and will react to things changing in the environment. The character is also the key to progress further into the game. When the character reaches the end of a level there will be a transition to the next. The character’s presence in this world and what he is looking for is something that will be revealed throughout the game and something that we at this point will hold in the dark. But he is very much the center of the gameplay where the player needs to observe and understand how the character reacts to certain things to be able to solve puzzles and make him reach the end of each level.
Rashid Sayed: How long will the game last? Furthermore have you decided on the number of levels the final game will have?
Some levels are still under construction and we are still open to find more interesting things to put in the later levels of the game. So the actual number of levels will be hard to estimate. The total time of gameplay will probably be around 3-4 hours, with a certain value of understanding things later in the game that could actually have been put to use in earlier levels. One of the interesting things about the mechanics is that they are all present from the very beginning of the game, you just need to understand and realize how to use them in different situations.
Rashid Sayed: It seems that music will be an important part of the game and will be somehow wrapped in with the gameplay. How will it exactly work?
The music is mostly there to set the mood and create atmosphere. Tony Gerber’s music fits great into the slow paced puzzle design where thinking and observing is a key factor in solving puzzles. It also ties in beautifully with the visuals and enhances the game as a whole.
"Creating a visual style that would almost feel like venturing into an old painting was one of the first ideas we played with. Where the mysterious landscapes of Arnold Böcklin and Caspar David Friedrich were an inspiration."
Rashid Sayed: Pavillion has some extremely striking visuals. What was the thinking that went into the graphical design for this game?
We both wanted something that would stand out among other games and something that we felt we should be able to pull off, as well as something that we would enjoy making and enjoy exploring. Creating a visual style that would almost feel like venturing into an old painting was one of the first ideas we played with. Where the mysterious landscapes of Arnold Böcklin and Caspar David Friedrich were an inspiration. But inspiration really comes from all over the place. Also the isometric perspective was something interesting to work with and the closest thing to a three dimensional world we could get using two dimensional graphics. Also the amount of detail and the randomness you get from using none-tile based graphics was something that very much gave Pavilion a unique and interesting look.
Rashid Sayed: Lets talk about your experience on working with the PlayStation 4. The new console packs in with massive amounts of memory and unified architecture. How is the x86 architecture making your life easier while developing the game?
This is something that we might have to get back to at a later date, since we just started developing for that platform we can’t really comment on any specifics.
Rashid Sayed: I was taking a look at some of the artworks and screenshots that was released recently and Pavillion does involve some heavy GPU processes like lightning and physics simulation. What are your thoughts on the PS4’s GPU and is it a beast as many developers claim it to be?
We are probably not utilizing its full capacity since we are making a hand-drawn 2d game, with all lighting painted in the actual backgrounds. Even the character and the effects are mostly hand drawn animations done frame by frame. But it would be a lot of fun to explore the PS4 in greater detail in coming projects.
"We don’t feel like there’s any reason for you to buy it twice just so you can play it on your other Sony device if you already own it within the Sony ecosystem."
Rashid Sayed: Are you planning to make this game a cross buy for the PSVita and PS4?
Yes, that is our plan at least. We don’t feel like there’s any reason for you to buy it twice just so you can play it on your other Sony device if you already own it within the Sony ecosystem.
Rashid Sayed: What can you tell us about the PS Vita version? Any exclusive features you have planned for the system?
Right now, content wise, they will be more or less identical. The biggest different will be the input method since the PS Vita has a touchscreen that we will utilize for the environmental interactions.
Rashid Sayed: Is Pavillion going to run at 1080P @ 60 FPS on the PS4? Furthermore, do you think more and more games will run at that resolution/fps on the PS4 down the road?
That is our goal and right now we don’t have any performance issues that would hinder us. But I guess we will see closer to launch if it still lives up to that. I think there will be possibilities for it but developers want to push the visual fidelity as much as possibly so if the game is not dependent on running in 60FPS why not push the visuals even further and go lower on the FPS but still in a reasonable level.
Rashid Sayed: Thanks for your time!
Thank you for showing interest in Pavilion!