Grassroots of Gaming #1: Indie Developer Sagar Mohite
Sagar Mohite (SM) is an independent developer currently creating Hyperspace, a science fiction puzzle game that embodies the visualization of multiple dimensions and planes of existence. Sagar agreed to be interviewed by me (KU) so that we could find out about his upcoming game and get an insight into what it takes to be a developer.
KU: How would you describe what Hyperspace is?
SM: Hyperspace actually started off as a data realization project that I was doing. Just to explore how we might be able to visualize higher dimensional geometries in our world… Hyperspace is currently a science fiction game that essentially a 12-dimensional game, it features 10 spatial dimensions and two time dimensions. By dimensions, I mean actual coordinate dimensions that are visualized in our 3D space.
KU: How does the game go about exploring the different dimensions and having players go through them?
SM: That was the hardest part of the game, designing. My first task was actually getting a game engine that can take higher dimensional objects and project them into 3D space. Just like a shadow. The projection engine I am using is called Perspective Projection… That was super quick, but actually designing the gameplay around a complicated world, which was even honestly very hard for me to interpret, that was super interesting and challenging.
The way it works right now, you start off with a two-dimensional level, and each level is a simple recon mission and you collaborate with another version of you that is occurring with you on a separate time dimension. Which is called an alternate in the game.
If you are in single player mode you basically have to pause one alternate to make choices for the other one at the same time. So the idea is to basically collaborate with your alternates to find missing pieces of a puzzle and meet and put them together to advance to the next level.
KU: Essentially you are maybe playing multiple games at once but, working together for a common goal?
SM: That’s exactly what it is. As you finish levels, you basically advance to levels that involve higher dimensions. The first couple of levels will be two dimensional levels, then you move on to three dimensional levels, and then you move on to four dimensional levels, and so on.
Until three dimensional levels, it’s sort of like a traditional gameplay, in the sense that you know where the other person is and you know where you are. There are tracking mechanisms where you can pull a map and find the other person and meet them again once you are done with your mission; to put the puzzle back together afterwards.
Once you expand to sort of like the four dimension territory and above, it sort of gets complicated because of the way the rendering engine works.
KU: How do you think new players to the game will be able to get used to it or get the hang of it?
SM: That was essentially one of my first experience, I was play testing it as the developer, I myself found it extremely hard to navigate. Which is why you get around this by having very good navigation controls.
You’re basically easing into the complexity of this world. You always start with a two-dimensional world and then slowly move onto higher dimensions as you sort of get the hang of it.
From initial play testing, I realized that after playing it for like 30-45 minutes they [play testers] were able to sort of navigate to levels 7 and above very easily. Because they were comfortable and got used to the perspective and placement of space and time around these worlds.
KU: What do you think is the most unique aspect of Hyperspace?
SM: A lot of the things that are rendered in my game are higher dimensional objects, they are mathematically well defined higher dimensional objects.
From a stylistic point of view, I am sort of basing the game more on Journey, or those exploration games than say Portal. Which involves straightforward missions that you have to finish. Even though there are missions in my app, they’re more of an exploratory nature.
You sort of explore the beauty of the landscape around it rather than having core well-defined missions. Those exploration missions will also sort of have a gamified experience where you will be able to collect powerups and objects that sort of allow you to transform the world and bend the space-time continuum around you.
That to me is the most interesting part about this game, and why I am so interested in developing it.
Sagar had spoken to me prior to the interview about an augmented reality (AR) version of the game. I asked him more about it during our interview.
KU: What is your primary goal with launching this campaign?
SM: From a developers point of view, that [the AR version of the game] is going to be much easier to develop for me personally, its going to be probably 2-3 weekends worth of work to get the first prototype out there; and then some more development time and design time to sort of get everything sorted out and launch it for the mobile.
The most important part is making this accessible, getting stuff out there on consoles and doing marketing for it. It has a much higher overhead to it than just realizing an AR game for mobile… this is essentially also going to be sort of like a feedback collection, that will allow me to understand how people are interacting with the higher dimension space of the game. Getting it into as many hands as possible is also another goal of it.
With the new AR kits and core batteries that have come out for Android and iOS, I think it is becoming increasingly easy to make something in augmented reality. It is going to be super easy for me to port my game engine into an AR-based phone, also it is very lightweight, so it can easily run on phones.
KU: How would you like to incorporate the game into virtual reality (VR)?
SM: The game as it exists is essentially designed for VR, and all the visuals you are seeing in the trailer.
I’ve tested with VR and they are extremely trippy. This is another problem I am dealing with, while the environment is extremely immersive and bizarre, VR technology where it is and the game being so surrealistic and trippy, has made me and a lot of people sick.
That’s my biggest problem with VR right now… It’s a very difficult problem and it is more of a hardware solution than a software one.
There are definitely things you can do lessen the trippiness or the surreal nature of the game which is also sort of difficult given that the projections that are happening in the game are all procedurally generated and I have very little manual control over how things are rendered, depending on how players will interact with their environments.
That is also a challenge with VR.
KU: Are you the sole creator of the game?
SM: As of right now, I am the only one. I am however looking for people who would be interested in collaborating, especially designers or sound engineers.
KU: Are there life or job experiences that have gotten you to where you are?
SM: One of the things I was doing in 2013 was essentially trying to use code to generate visuals.
My background is in computer science, graphic design, and visual design. I sort of wanted to combine both the concepts and make generated visual art.
Hyperspace is actually my second game, the first one being a hobby project that turned out to be a learning experience. Creating art without restrictions
KU: What pushed you to be a developer?
SM: I started programming when I was 13, the reason I started programming was because I wanted to make an animation for this flying plane, the animation was written is C++ which is essentially not really meant for animating objects because it is a lower language.
That’s why I ended up using this sort of data-based approach to animating because I was restricted with this language (C++). That’s when I realized I can do so much more than make a flying plane.
I enjoy programming and I loved making visual things because they give me immediate feedback and gratification for work.
KU: What is your greatest source of inspiration in life?
SM: So honestly, the answer to that would be science fiction.
To see and visualize how the future of our science would be, is super interesting to me and that’s sort of what keeps me going regardless of thinking about where the project is heading. I try not to think about such things when I am developing or designing a project.
I just flow with where things are going, the entire feeling of developing or getting that through. A lot of my works are inspired by pop culture and science fiction references and stuff like that. Hyperspace in particular, a lot of the environments have been inspired by a book called Deaths End, it’s a Chinese science fiction novel which won the Chinese Hugo Award.
It’s a part of a famous trilogy called the Three Body Trilogy. In that particular book, there are these sort of higher dimensional environments that humans are forced into.
KU: If you had to give a piece of advice to people considering becoming a developer, what piece of advice would you tell them?
SM: Honestly at this point, I would say you just have to start doing it, if you want to be a game developer then you have to be a game developer.
It’s not that hard, all the resources you would need to get started, regardless of what level you are at in terms of having the technical skills, regardless of what level you are there are resources, a lot of resources available online these days for free.
It just essentially comes down to giving it time and just giving it time to learn things step by step. If someone really wants to be a game developer and start developing, I would highly recommend that they just start doing it.
KU: What would you say is your favorite video game that you’ve played?
SM: I love Journey, from the visual point of view, this experience of being in a game and not essentially craving to have objectives or numbers or scores or badges but still enjoying it was super interesting to me.
I also loved Portal, Portal is one of my favorite games, and then I also love RTS (Real Time Strategy) games. Even all kind of strategy games, I love Diablo, Age of Empires, and all those sort of strategy games.
Hyperspace Cinematic Teaser
If you would like to follow Sagar’s work or contact him, you can follow his social media accounts. @SSM on Twitter and on Facebook @Sagar Mohite. You can also stay up to date on Hyperspace’s progress by checking out its website here.