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Still Under Construction: Against The Wall

Against The Wall [official site] is one of those games that I feel like I’ve been following forever. Thanks to the magic of the RPS archives, we can see that I’ve actually been following it since December 5th, 2011. Back then, I was very excited:

I’ve only played a very early version of Against The Wall, which presents an environment so empty that it’s little more than a proof of concept, but it almost immediately wormed its way inside my head and it’s now near the top of the massive list of things that I’m excited about and will furiously attempt to keep track of.

My attempts to keep track of development were weak, however, partly because the dev process was slow and quiet. But here I am, almost five years later, pleased to see that the game is still happening. And I’m still enormously excited about it.

Here are some old videos, in the absence of any new videos.

If you’ve never heard of the game before, those might be a little confusing. Here’s how it works:

This world is an infinite vertical surface composed of irregularly-sized white bricks. Entire civilizations and ecosystems cling for survival on the side of The Wall, everyone and everything existing under the constant threat of tumbling into the endless sky.

You’re making your way up the wall, using a staff that allows you to pull bricks out of position, creating steps and ledges. If the Tetris trilogy really does make it to cinemas, this would make a decent dark second act, once the tumbling shapes have squashed our cities and taken over the planet.

The most recent update to the devblog is a couple of months old now but I’ve only just spotted it and it confirms that development is continuing. Don’t expect the final version anytime soon though:

The wall is a lonely, lifeless place where you are a small helpless speck clinging to its surface for survival. This world doesn’t know or care about you. it’s a monolith that will continue existing on forever, long after you abandon it. However, at the same time this strange world can be scaled, explored, studied, and eventually understood for what it is.

Actually executing on this vision has been nothing trivial. I constantly feel like the end is in sight, yet in execution it feels like it’s miles away.

Most of the game has been rebuilt, including weather, biomes and block generation, and the actual construction of the world is next up.

Now it’s a matter of placing all the props and polishing the game until it’s release-ready, content and level design. Creating 3D art has always been my greatest weakness. It often feels like a futile exercise, taking me weeks to produce any given asset, and I’ve never been quite satisfied with what turns out. For now, I’ll just use placeholders for everything that I cannot do myself, and just focus on getting the levels playable.

I think my interest in Against the Wall is similar to my interest in ACE Team’s The Endless Cylinder. Both are doing something fascinating with the idea of the spaces that make up games. Against the Wall turns a platformer on its end and asks how that might work, and Endless Cylinder knows that when we’re supposed to go right, we usually try to go left first in case there’s a secret to be found. Do not go left, it says, because there is a meatgrinder waiting for you. The world looks open and inviting but it is being reduced, vanishing, and everything you see is temporary.

I’d gladly wait another five years for the realisation of these ideas. You can actually play a very early version of Against the Wall right now though. It dates back to 2012, and there are builds for Windows and Mac.

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Adam Smith

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