IGF Factor 2010: Miegakure

Miegakure is one of the most enigmatic designs in all of the IGF. It’s a competition which has been known for highlighting brain-bending designs. Not many have actually gone as far to be based around the conceptual headflips of a 19th century novella. Marc ten Bosch’s Experimental Gameplay Workshop presentation at last year’s GDC was widely commented upon. This year, he’s picked up a nomination in excellence in design. And now, he’s speaking to use. Read on.

RPS: Firstly, a brief intro to those who may not know you. Who are you? What’s your background? Why get into games? Why get into indie games?

Marc ten Bosch: My name is Marc ten Bosch; I’m an indie game designer and programmer. Why Games? I feel interaction really makes this medium so much more powerful than the others. It’s also very important to me that the medium is still new, so that there is still a lot left to be discovered. Why indie games? Making a game alone or in a very small team means full creative control and requires knowledge of many interesting topics in computer science, mathematics, physics, and anything I would enjoy learning about, in this case the fourth dimension.

RPS: And… the game. Tell us about it. What was its origins? What are you trying to do with it? What are you most pleased about it? What nags?

Marc ten Bosch: I knew that position in a game does not have to be limited to three coordinates, and collision detection often isn’t much harder to program in higher dimensions, but what can higher dimensions bring to gameplay? I started prototyping game ideas but only really made progress once I read Flatland by Edwin A. Abbott.

It’s a famous 1884 Novella that explains higher dimensions by analogy to the perspective of a two-dimensional character living in a two-dimensional flat plane (a piece of paper for example). A number of actions we three-dimensional beings take for granted feel like absolute magic to this two-dimensional character.

For example, if there is a circular wall around an object in 2D, it is essentially closed-off, since to reach it one would have to leave the 2D plane. It is also impossible for an outsider to know what is inside. But us 3D beings can see the object from above, and also simply lift it off the ground to move it outside, essentially teleporting it. Now by analogy a four-dimensional being could perform many similar miracles to us living in only three-dimensions. My goal was then to make a game that would allow you to perform these “miracles.” So far, that has worked out well.

RPS: What’s your feelings on the IGF this year. Pleased to be nominated? Have particular love, bemusement or hate for any of the other entries? Is there anything you think is missing?

Marc ten Bosch: Of course I’m pleased to be nominated. Being nominated somewhat confirms I have succeeded in making the game easy enough to understand. The game rules themselves are not actually very complicated. In fact, I could explain them without referring to the fourth dimension at all. But it helps to present them a certain way to make them easy to understand while preserving challenge and fun of discovery.

I hear Monaco is pretty good. I was born and raised in Nice, which is really close to Monaco. I think the extremely realistic rendition Andy is building is very impressive, especially to me.

RPS: How do you feel about the indie scene generally this year? People have been relatively downbeat about 2009, after 2008 being so obviously incendiary. What are the themes, in your eyes? What are people missing?

Marc ten Bosch: I tend to blur the line between indie and mainstream, so I’ll just answer generally. I play less and less games every year because I crave new mechanics as opposed to iterations on previous ones. The Last Guardian is pretty much the only game I’m looking forward to in the years to come. I’m glad developers are recently starting to really explore their game mechanics fully; games like Braid light the way in that respect. In the future, I would like people to start thinking about the meaning of each mechanic as well. Most games are already deep and meaningful, it’s just a matter of exposing this meaning to the player.

RPS: And how does the future look for you? What are you working on now and the foreseeable future.

Marc ten Bosch: I’ll be finishing this game up.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

You can keep abreast of Marc ten Bosch’s work at his site.


  1. radomaj says:

    Delete this comment. Typo! “And now, he’s speaking to use

  2. Brumisator says:

    Hmmm, three separate cube-architecture-based games in a row?

    What is this new fad, cubism?

  3. Vague-rant says:

    Does anyone know how to pronounce this games name?(My-ga-cure?) I was hoping it would have added it in as one of the questions, but alas not.

    I’m not entirely sure how this game works, having read that its 4D (I always assume that to be time control for some reason). Looking at it though, it seems more like overlapping worlds, but that doesn’t really signify a 4th dimension so much as multiple 3d worlds. I guess you could perceive it to be in 4D in the same way you can look at the 3d world as layer of 2d worlds stacked infinitely close together, with one on top the other but I don’t know… Perhaps I’m being too pedantic.

    Nevertheless looks like something I’ll keep an eye out for in the future.

  4. Jenny says:

    The protagonist looks just like the characters from Mother 3, I wonder if its a coincidence or influence. Pretty cool looking game :)

  5. fearian says:

    “I tend to blur the line between indie and mainstream, so I’ll just answer generally. I play less and less games every year because I crave new mechanics as opposed to iterations on previous ones.”

    I don’t want to troll or anything, but this guy is coming across as pretentious as an indie developer can be. :rolleyes:

    still, game looks _very_ interesting..

    • Wulf says:

      Since indie developers have been breaking into new genres, creating new genres, and innovating twists for existing genres for the past few years now, I’d have to say that he’s either been living under a rock or… he just might be a tad pretentious, yeah.

      I’m never fond of developers who downtalk other works in order to prop up their own. In fact, I don’t like to see anyone doing that in regards to anything for any reason, it always gives the person speaking this air of faux personal-supremacy, and definitely a massive ego-field.

    • Dinger says:

      In all fairness, when he says “I tend to blur the line…”, he doesn’t mean that his work blurs the line (he unequivocally places it in the “indie” category), but rather that, in playing games, he doesn’t make a clear distinction between “buying indie” and “buying mainstream”, which is how most of us work.

      When he says “mechanics”, he means mechanics, not genre-bending, not canned narrative, not emergent narrative. Mechanics. He ain’t downtalking nobody. There’s “new mechanics” being tried every year that he’s no doubt unaware of, but then sometimes the most addictive mechanic is working on the codeface.

      Or, to put it another way, here’s a game where the press on it argues that it makes sense, but cannot explain it. Someone I know has played it quite a bit. I asked his frank opinion. All he could say was, “yes it makes sense, no I can’t explain it, and thinking about it makes my brain hurt.”

      If someone wants to argue that games are art, then the proof would be a game that works intuitively, but that cannot be explained easily using any other medium.

      Now, is it fun?

    • Dinger says:

      Now, you want to see him “downtalking” the indie scene, consider this response to when Leigh Alexander asked him the question for Gamasutra:

      I wish mainstream game companies would be more innovative, but realistically that’s not going to happen. So I’m glad to see the indie scene filling that gap. But let’s not forget that the indie scene is producing as much crap as the mainstream; it’s just in the form of 2D platformers instead of 3D first-person shooters.

      He is correct, if undiplomatic. 90% of the stuff that’s out there is crap. The remaining 9% is derivative. The last 1% is also derivative; you just didn’t notice.

  6. Damien Neil says:

    Mee-eh gah-ku-ray. (The first syllable rhymes with “bee”.) Fusion of the words for vision and concealment, and means “appearing and disappearing”

  7. Marc says:

    Vague-rant: that’s exactly what it is.

  8. Devan says:

    The name is Japanese, so the pronunciation is pretty much unambiguous. It should be “Me-ay-ga-coo-ray” with the two “ay” parts sounding more like the ‘e’ in “end”.

    A quick check with my Japanese wife and she informs me that the name refers to “Hide and seek”, and the kanji character in the picture means “secret”.