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.

From this site

13 Comments

  1. Paranoid says:

    The demo really caught my imagination too. Thanks for reminding me this was still a thing!

  2. Laurentius says:

    I rememeber when RPS reported it first time. Loved Alpha demo version, even beaten it, so much potential.

  3. AngoraFish says:

    A quick search of my inbox conforms that I preordered in May 2012.

    My account login no longer seems to work, and this isn’t even the game with the longest blown-out timelines from my crowd funding binge, but I really can’t see any value in continuing to promote the game to others when five years down the track it remains as ephemeral as ever.

    Best of intentions aside, it’s hard to see how there is any prospect of this living up to anything like its initial promise on the basis of an apparent time investment of a few dozen lines of code every second Saturday night.

    • Aerothorn says:

      I’m sure the developer will grant you a refund if you email him.

    • ntk says:

      I find the developer’s approach dishonest and disrespectful towards people who supported his game. He started a kickstarter campagin for Against the Wall, which did get funded, but the rewards for it are now just shy of 4 years behind schedule (!). In the meantime he managed to complete “Nothing Good Can Come Of This” and a number of smaller projects and not even getting the game greenlit on Steam (3 years ago) caused any measurable progress.

      Saying the game is still happening is very generous at this point…

  4. Shazbut says:

    I was mega excited about this. Hope it comes around one day

  5. TheAngriestHobo says:

    I get the feeling that if I ever play this game, I’ll wake up with an extremely stiff neck the next morning.

  6. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Does anyone else remember a scifi novel set on the outside of a giant cylinder (so something like this), involving a protagonist who had a sort of motor bike that had short-range grapnel shooters for wheels (called ‘pythons’ maybe?) so it could drive on the vertical outside of the cylinder.
    It’s been ages since I read it and I have no idea what to google, but this game reminds me of it’s verticality.

  7. Jharakn says:

    I remember playing a game years (probably decades) ago when you had to coax a robot spider like creature across a map and there was blocks like in this game that popped out the wall but disappear back in again after a while. Trying to get the little guy to cross them all in time because all you could do was click him to kind of prod him the direction you wanted to go.

    Can’t for the life of me remember what it was called though.

  8. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    This one, yes I remember this. I hope we’ll get to see a finished version one day.

  9. HallowedError says:

    Thank you for reminding me of this. I tried googling for it years ago but couldn’t find it and didn’t have the patience to try looking for it in the archive. Had no idea it was still being worked on