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PAX AUS 2014 – Expand Interview

As expansive and ambitious as some of the indie titles on display at this year’s PAX Australia were, there also some that smartly focused on going for mechanics and that while smaller, definitely offered some refined experiences of their own. Expand is one such game and I chatted briefly to the lead developer behind the title.

So first things first, can you just give us a quick introduction to Expand?

Chris: Expand is a single player video game in which you explore a black and white circular labyrinth. As you move around this labyrinth it will twist, stretch and expand around you. Unlike a lot of games, Expand really focuses on subtlety and subjectiveness and not really telling you what it’s about.

Any particular visual influences here?

C: That’s a question that everyone asks and I actually have to say no. The game started as a game jam game and we didn’t really have a lot of time to put fancy graphics in the game. I had this idea for the game – it came actually from a dream – and I went and I created it and it turns out the best way to represent walls is black and the best way to represent the background is white. It was very clear about ‘you can go here, you can’t go here’ and I put it in the game and it looks really nice and hypnotic so we didn’t need any graphics it it, it just looked really good by design.

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How long do you expect the final game to be?

C: The game will be about two hours long; we think in about two hours we can say this little story and explore all the mechanics reasonably well. I don’t know about you but I can’t finish any games these days – I just don’t have time. I think that if you say a game is an hour or two that’s actually a positive thing for a lot of people because they just don’t have time. You’ll probably be able to play through it in a dedicated session or two.

Can you give us any insight into how you’ll be shaking up the mechanics as it goes along?

C:At the moment we’ve got a few different elements in the game. As you move around the world you have to avoid being squashed. You have to avoid the red balls because if you run into them it’ll reset to the last checkpoint.

We’re also adding a whole bunch of other elements: As you move you shift the property of the world, and we commonly use that when we have larger levels. So when you move out, everything shifts in and when you move in, everything shifts out. On top of that we have scripted behaviors and stuff that we haven’t fully explored yet.

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The music in the game plays a big role in its hypnotic feel. Can you tell us about that?

C: The music is a massive part of the game and just to give you an idea of how important it is, there are two people working on this game and one of those guys is just audio. There’s a terrible thing in a lot of games where the people doing audio don’t get or get much less credit than they deserve and in Expand that’s just not the case.

The music is integral because it feeds into the core mechanics in such a subtle way. As you move around the environments we cue off some of the movements of things based on the music. Unlike music games, we don’t modify the animation based in the type of music that’s being played – we want something that’s cohesive and fits together.

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