The Turing Test Interview: Of Androids and Electric Sheep

Bulkhead Interactive talks about its recent first person puzzler.

Posted By | On 31st, Aug. 2016 Under Article, Interviews

At first glance, Bulkhead Interactive’s The Turing Test seems like your typical first person puzzler with a mysterious story, not unlike The Witness or The Talos Principle. However, the story is about more than just experiments a la Portal – it’s about proving your humanity.

Howard Philpott, creative producer at Bulkhead Interactive, spoke to GamingBolt about the recent Xbox One and PC release, discussing its inspirations, goals and the methods behind all the madness.

The Turing Test

"We really don’t shy away from the comparison, who doesn’t want more Portal?!"

The game does look pretty interesting. What can players expect from the game itself?

At its heart, The Turing Test is a first person puzzler set inside a research base on Jupiter’s Ice Moon Europa. It’s a first person puzzler that’s wrapped in mystery and intrigue, as you try and find out what happened to the ground crew stationed within the Europa research base. A good comparison for gamers is that the gameplay is similar to great puzzle games such as The Talos Principle and The Witness merged with in depth story sections similar to narrative experiences like Gone Home. Our aim was to take the puzzle and narrative genres and merge them into one cohesive whole!

What can you tell us about the story of the game and how do the puzzles tie up with it?

So in the game in play as Ava Turing, an engineer for the international Space Agency (ISA). You’re tasked by the Europa Mission’s artificial intelligence system ‘T.O.M’ to head to the surface and find out what has happened to the ground crew on Europa. You quickly discover things are not as they seem, and you are required to solve puzzles only a human could solve… a literal Turing Test.

Be honest with us, how much of this is inspired by Portal?

We really don’t shy away from the comparison, who doesn’t want more Portal?! Whilst the look of the finished game is obviously quite inspired, we originally had a massively detailed geometry with a look more similar to Alien Isolation, but we found players would try and interact with everything in the environment that was nothing to do with the puzzles. This is when we decided (around halfway through development, gulp!) to scrap the look and move over to a cleaner and more readable art style.

This is when we looked at great puzzle games like Portal and QUBE, and saw the reason they worked so well is their art styles completely focused on gameplay first, with colour leading the player to interactions. This inspired to clean and almost clinical look of the test chambers, which really merges gameplay readability with the narrative themes of the game. We then break this up after every 10 puzzles with story sections more similar to the original art style. So whilst we LOVE Portal and it has obviously partially inspired our visuals, The Turing Test is still very unique in its narrative and gameplay mechanics!

The Turing Test_01

"Not being a 300 man in house team allows us to be agile and work with focus. It’s a good benefit of being an indie studio!"

How long of game is The Turing Test?

In our recent gameplay tests it takes a new player from 5-7 hours to complete, without looking into the optional content in the game! Of course, a speed runner who has completed the game could complete it much faster. I personally can’t wait to see the times speed runners can produce, we added sprint exactly for that reason.

How did you guys managed to pull this off, despite working on Battalion 1944?

We’ve been working on The Turing Test ever since our first game ‘Pneuma: Breath of Life’ was released in February 2015. We were pretty much near the end of development on The Turing Test when we decided to start work on the Battalion 1944 prototype for Kickstarter. It was always the plan to release The Turing Test shortly after Kickstarting Battalion 1944, so that we could use all profits from The Turing Test towards development of Battalion. We’ve since scrapped everything in the Kickstarter prototype and have been working on remaking everything from scratch ready for the May 2017 alpha.

In short; we have a fast working, passionate and talented team at Bulkhead Interactive inside and outside of the studio. Not being a 300 man in house team allows us to be agile and work with focus. It’s a good benefit of being an indie studio!

Is there any specific reason why it’s only coming to Xbox One and PC, and not on the PS4?

It’s a timed exclusive on Xbox One, Microsoft really love the game and have really supported our studio get the game to their console first. The game was developed on Steam, hence the simultaneous release on PC and Xbox One. We may look to other platforms in the future!

The Turing Test

"The Turing Test is out on the 30th August and I can’t wait to see players’ reactions to the twists in the game."

What kind of graphical options can players expect from the PC version of the game?

Pretty much everything PC gamers expect as the current standard. FOV slider, resolution scaling, the lot!

Is the game going to run at 1080p and 60fps on Xbox One?

The game currently runs at 1080p 30fps. On PC you can completely tweak frame rates and resolutions to suit your system!

How has it been working with Square Enix from a publishing perspective?

It’s been really great actually. They’ve been helping us with our marketing specifically on Steam and aiding us with big booth presence at events around the globe such as Gamescom, Comicon and EGX meaning we’ve been able to tweak the difficulty curve based on player feedback. They’ve also helped us create some really nice marketing assets. It’s allowed us to focus much more on actual game development!

Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?

The Turing Test is out on the 30th August and I can’t wait to see players’ reactions to the twists in the game. The story is not something you can experience through a film or a book. Every single sale of The Turing Test will go directly towards the development of Battalion 1944!

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