4D Toys is a toybox with four-dimensional toys

As a stupid jumped-up monkey trapped within three dimensions, I am fascinated and wholly baffled by Marc ten Bosch’s upcoming four-dimensional puzzler Miegakure. It looks amazing and so far beyond me. Thankfully, before Miegakure arrives, Bosch is offering an easier way to play in four spatial dimensions.

On Friday he released 4D Toys [official site], a physics-driven toybox of 4D shapes to play with and get a feel for the fourth dimension. It has optional VR support too, though entering into four-dimensional space as a three-dimensional being seems like a surefire way to get yourself trapped in cyberhell. Have a look in this video:

You’re twisting my melon, man.

But I’m excited by this. A toybox to simply play with 4D shapes and intuit how they work sounds great. They exist in a 3D space (within a 2D display) so we don’t truly see in 4D, but turning 4D shapes over and flinging them around will surely help me prepare for Miegakure. Marc ten Bosch says:

“4D Toys doesn’t take you through carefully-constructed successively harder challenges the way Miegakure does. It’s just 4D shapes, as if you were a very young kid again and given a box of wooden toys. Since the toys are 4D, that’s sort of true: you have no experience playing with 4D shapes.

“Play is undirected and we don’t expect a child to come up with verbal realizations of what they are doing. They can learn about making stacks, and gravity, and fitting shapes into holes, and that could form the foundation for future, verbal, learning. Alternatively, one can just look at how pretty it is, like the waves rolling down the ocean, or the intricate swirling patterns in a fire.

“It’s so exciting to me to see a pile of hypercubes or a rolling 120-cell. Most representations of a fourth dimension are so abstract (a spinning bundle of lines) and my work has been to get away from that. It’s the first time anyone has seen these objects as physical objects that bounce and roll and can be grabbed!”

4D Toys is £10.99/14,99€/$14.99 on Steam. It supports Rift, Vive, and OSVR goggs with motion controllers, as well as plain old screens with keyboard and mouse. It’s also on fruity pocket telephones.

One day, we will get to play Miegakure.

From this site

21 Comments

  1. Da5e says:

    Oh this is RIGHT up my alley. And with technohat support! Glorious.

  2. LTK says:

    So I’m looking at 4D objects in 3D space on a 2D screen. No wonder it’s incomprehensible.

  3. Jokerme says:

    That’s very interesting. We will never be able to see or imagine how a 4d shape looks, but we can still understand how it works. Isn’t that amazing?

    Do 4d objects exist somewhere, maybe in another universe? Who knows, but makes me think about the existence of God.

    • LTK says:

      If there are 4D universes, they wouldn’t be very interesting. It’s nice to have a toybox with simple 4D objects but you can’t build a universe out of them. If you tried to make a 4D solar system, the planets would all fly out of their orbits. Any universe that was born in 4D would never be able to form stars and galaxies, so it’d just end up an inert cloud of hydrogen.

      • BTAxis says:

        Oh I dunno. It seems unreasonable to assume that the laws of physics as we know them would apply in a universe that has a different set of spatial dimensions. There’s no reason why there couldn’t be other mechanics that would allow structures to form in such a 4D space.

    • ButteringSundays says:

      “Who knows, but makes me think about the existence of God.”

      Loki does love his puzzles!

    • Xerophyte says:

      We are, at minimum, extremely thin and long (well, typically) hyperworms snaking our way through 4D spacetime in an elaborate meat sculpture. Only our spatial cross sections look human, but you could take a different cross section for terrifying body-horror if you want. Hell, if M-theory is accurate we’re also vibrating in 7ish more tiny dimensions, which is why we have charge, inertia, and all that other interacting junk.

      I’m an atheist so I don’t quite see god in it myself, but it’s a cool model.

  4. The First Door says:

    Huh, that’s a very interesting thing, especially as someone who numerically (and often ineffectually) deals with higher-dimensional spaces in his day job!

    I know this is discussed in the video a little, so feel free to ignore me, but I found it very odd that shapes were disappearing, rather than appearing like the more common visualisation of a hypercube. It wasn’t until he explained the technique he is using to go from 4 to 3 dimensions is not the same as the one normally used to go from 3 to 2 dimensions that I understood. It’s more common to ‘project’ the 3rd dimension onto a 2D plane, which is why things can move in the 3rd dimension without vanishing in the 2D representation. In this case, he’s rendering only what intersects with 3D space, which is a very different way of visualising it!

    • LTK says:

      It’s not a very good approximation of what it’d be like to exist in four dimensions, true. It’s even weird in the ‘Flatland’ example because we’re looking at Flatland as a third-dimensional observer, from above, while a Flatlander can only see it in one dimension, from the side. So to us, a 4D space would be to a 3D space as a sheet of paper full of doodles would be to a series of dots and dashes on a straight line: an unimaginably large leap in complexity. So maybe it’s better this way.

      • The First Door says:

        Oh, I’m not criticising it! I expect this is a much better way of doing the conversion in order to build a puzzle game around it. I was just confused for a bit because it’s quite a non-standard technique as it loses (I suspect) much more information that a projection method would do. Then again, if you’re after accuracy you start getting into techniques which use words like ‘manifold’ and I end up going cross-eyed and needing a cup of strong tea.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Ben King says:

    This looks super cool and I am unambiguously excited for Miegakure, but there is no way I can handle a set of little physics boxes filled with blocks with a 4D slider on the side for $15. Handily the iOS version is 1/3 the cost which I totally CAN wrap my head around once I get my GF to loan me her iphone for a few hrs. There’s actually a warning about interdimensional rifts on Bosch’s website cautioning against storing your phone inside a Bag of Holding while running the app.

  6. Premium User Badge

    timzania says:

    I have started to believe that Miegakure has already been released, but doesn’t have anything so pedestrian as a release “date” or “time”; that to find and play Miegakure you must have already learned, through playing the game, how to solve Miegakure. Or you must, you know, will have done so, which is the same thing.

    Sadly, I rarely finish puzzle games so I must have will never completed it and therefore I’ll never be able to play it. :(

    • Otterley says:

      Don’t be sad, personally I think that’s one of the best aspects of multidimensional games – they convert our failure to finish them into a non-event. It’s not happened to me quite often, which I find rather neat :)

  7. wizyy says:

    4th dimension is time.

  8. Scrofa says:

    I imagine it would be very amusing to doodle with in VR. I also found those numerous explanation videos on Steam very good and educational.

  9. KDR_11k says:

    Miegakure is STILL “upcoming”?

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      Yeah, that’s what I keep thinking too. It feels like it’s been in development for over a decade, but a quick check on Wikipedia suggests it’s only been around since about 2010.

  10. Rumpelstiltskin says:

    I’m still pretty skeptical about it TBH. Looks like it’s counter-intuitive just for the sake of it, and derives most of its complexity from it. Kind of like if you had an action game where your controls would cycle through several dozens schemes periodically. You probably can adapt to it eventually, but is it really interesting or worth the effort?

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