“Have you ever read Flatland?” Marc Ten Bosch, the creator of Miegakure, asked me. His words were camouflaged with a slight French accent so I thought he said “flight line.” Either way, my answer was no. “Well, Flatland is about a rectangle that lives in a 2D world. One day a polygon visits the rectangle and with the encounter it brings the wonder of 3D. The rectangle experiences a dimension of life that he didn’t think existed.” Miegakure is based on that. It asks, and answers, what the world would be like if had a fourth dimension.
Many onlookers snidely remarked that the fourth dimension is time. Traditionally, maybe. In this game it’s not. The fourth dimension refers to…well, a plane of existence. Puzzles begin on a sparse rectangle. I controlled a character, from an isometric view, who can push blocks and jump. Simple enough. Oh, he can also explore the fourth dimension. Through a simple button input, the four planes combine into one rectangle with cross-sections of each world on the surface. To jump to a different area it’s as easy as standing on the appropriate strip and expanding that world. Depending on where I was standing when I expanded and contracted affected the placement of blocks and environmental pieces key to success.
At one point, I encountered a dojo with no open door. Using the fourth dimension, I was able to expand and contract until I found my way inside the sealed off building. “Think of it like a cube inside of a cube,” the creator said to a struggling player. They continued to struggle.
Gamers are smart people. With each new game they play they’re tasked with memorizing routes, moves, combos, routines and rules. So learning the rules of a new dimension shouldn’t be any different than getting through a few challenge modes in Marvel vs Capcom 3. How does one begin to relate the rules of the fourth dimension to a new player without scaring them off?
“I like to be as simple as I can,” he said. “I don’t want the experience to be scary.” Worlds are purposefully sparse. The rectangles I explored were basic in their geometry, but built on familiar concepts. Each plane has a different theme. Sand, snow, grass, and rock. It helped me keep where I was organized since solving puzzles requires running back and forth between planes. “It’s a game so it’s a different mindset. You play it and experience it.”
I pushed Bosch further for an explanation of the game world. He likened it to the relationship between the Dark World and Light World of Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. On a basic level, making decisions in one world impacted the other, much like the shifting of planes in Miegakure.
Next, I entered a level with a block square in the middle of the rectangle. In the corner was the goal. I went to push the block and it wouldn’t move. After being trained for ten levels before to push these blocks I was confused as to why the rules would change without warning. So I shifted planes and that’s when I found out that the block was actually twice as long as I originally thought, but its other half existed in another plane. Solving that puzzle required pushing the block in one plane while cognoscente of the barriers in parallel planes.
This isn’t just a game that Bosch is making, it’s a philosophy he is actively adopting. His booth was barren and small, containing only a TV and a laptop. He hardly interfered with a player unless they asked for help and he reassured them that they could play as long as they wanted. His business cards contained three words, an email address, a phone number, and white.
For as simple as everything is, the fact that there was a map system bothered me. I asked him why someone who’s such a fan of simple things would include UI elements that go against his philosophy. He sighed. “It’s a bit of extra info for those that can’t keep the dimensions straight in their mind.” Such is the concession of a game developer.
I was sucked in and I was so focused on understanding such a radical concept that I completely forgot where I was. I snapped out of this cube-within-a-cube world to see twenty PAX attendees waiting in line for their chance with the game.
I asked him if working on this game has warped his sense of reality. He said, “The idea is that I have to take concepts and see how they could transition to the fourth dimension. You get an understanding of what kind of space your thing exists. You realize the proper way to think about an object is its position on a plane,” like a speeding train, his words and excitement picked up speed. “For instance, a wheel rotates in a space, not on an axle. I have to make this game because I need to understand how the world works. And since, I have a better understanding of our three dimensions. Once you remove everything that accompanies an object, you’re only left with the actual thing. The essence.”
Miegakure will be coming to Steam and possibly one console.