It's really fascinating to me that you have these seven different characters with their own unique abilities, but no matter which three you choose for your playthrough, you'll never get stuck. There are unique areas for each character, but there are also areas that you'll go through every time, right?
There are a handful of areas that you'll go through no matter which ones you choose.
Was it tough designing those areas so that they're challenging while at the same time making sure you can get through those puzzles with any combination of characters and their unique abilities?
Yeah, it was, you know, it was really challenging at the beginning, until we kind of latched onto this way to deal with it. What we did was, for those common areas—and also even for the specific areas—we, you know, we designed this whole chain of puzzles that kind of got you through that particular area using absolutely nobody's special abilities. Once we had that all designed, then we went through and said, "Okay, you know what? How can we maybe use the Monk's ability to maybe skip over this puzzle?" So, you know, if you have the Monk and you've got that telekinesis, and you can, you know, grab objects at a distance, you know, if we change a puzzle just a little bit, then we can actually use his ability, and then the player would not have to solve these other three puzzles. And so we went through and we just layered in all of these kind of "circumventions," we called them—that was our technical term—these circumventions that the individual characters could do if they used their abilities. And, you know, some characters are super-powerful with their circumventions, you know, others not so much. I think the Monk is going to be a popular character for speedrunners, because he really has the ability to just leapfrog over a whole bunch of puzzle chains. So that's kind of the design approach that we did, was dealing with all those different characters with those different abilities and, you know, not having it turn into a big puzzle mess.
I noticed that with certain characters you can skip entire sections. It feels like cheating almost, but it really makes you want to replay it.
Yeah, and that was kind of the hope, that, you know, you'd play it again, and you wouldn't choose the Time Traveler. And then you'd maybe hit that place where you used the Time Traveler's ability, and you'd go "Oh! I don't have her anymore!" And then it's kind of like, "Oh, there's a whole bunch of new puzzles that I get to solve!" So, you know, that was kind of the reason—the motivation—behind doing that.
How did you settle on these seven characters? Were there a lot of concepts that got left on the cutting room floor?
Yeah. When I first started doing the designs, I had a whiteboard in my office and I wrote down, you know, probably well over 30 different characters. And they were just quick descriptions, and, you know, what their story was and what their abilities was. And then when JP came on the project and he and I started getting the design going, we just went through that list and we just, you know, we crossed off characters that we didn't think were that interesting, or maybe characters whose abilities kind of duplicated one another. It's like, "Ah, we really don't want both of these people because they tend to do basically the same thing," and we'd cross one of them off the list. And then, you know, eventually, we arrived at seven characters who—we knew we wanted to do seven, so we kind of pared it down to seven. But there were some cuts. I mean, we had a character called The Mobster, and we did all the design work for him, and all that stuff, and then he just wasn't feeling right, you know? His ability wasn't that interesting, so we cut him and we replaced him with the Monk, actually. So there was some paring down that we did, you know, even after we arrived at the seven. But that was pretty much the process.
You keep saying there are seven characters, but really there are eight.
[Laughing] I keep getting called out on that on the internet.
Are you talking about the Twins?
I'm talking about The Cave itself.
Oh, I'm talking about the Twins.
Nah, the Twins are like the Ice Climbers. They're one character.
I'm talking about The Cave itself though. It's the most interesting character to me, because it's the one character whose motivations are a little more obscured. It's like this omniscient power that feels like it's really just fucking with you. Do we get to find out more about it?
Yeah, you find out a little bit more about him, but I don't fully reveal, you know, what he really is and what's going on. It's like, I kind of wanted to leave him a little bit, you know, mysterious. But you do kind of understand a little more in the end about, you know, just his motivations for these characters, and is he just screwing with them, or does he want them to succeed? Or, you know, whatever. That becomes a little more clear, but I've always liked movies and books and stuff where there are unanswered questions in the end, because that keeps me thinking about the story…you know, maybe I can puzzle together, well maybe if I go back and beat it again, I can get all these little clues that maybe answer the question for me. So as a storyteller, I just found that stuff to be very interesting, you know, leaving stuff a little big ambiguous.
And whoever did the voice for The Cave did a fantastic job of conveying that.
It's an actor named Stephen Stanton.
So was there anything else you wanted to touch on before we say goodbye?
Okay. Yeah, no, you were quite thorough with all your adventure game questions, and I could talk about adventure game stuff forever [laughing].